6.05 / May 2011

May Day

listen to this story

I chipped my bottom front tooth wrestling with Codrut in his fancy flat in the center of the city. Codrut was the son of a secret police officer who was not so secret and who was not an officer (he was an interrogator; a genius at pulling out fingernails with needle nose pliers). In the days that we found out we were going to be let to emigrate, Codrut-my best friend and my best tooth chipper-stopped talking to me. Despite that, I gave him my skateboard, which was bought by my mother from the Sears catalogue the previous summer. The skateboard was before my mother disappeared in Detroit and never came back with the promised sweets and candies and Buster Brown shoes I was looking forward to wearing and parading before all the fellows at recess. The toys and the clothes were before that too.

After arriving in Detroit, I wrote letters to all the fellows I had known since first grade. No one responded. And I understood why. The secret police would request meetings with their parents if they wrote back. The secret police would probably request meetings anyway. This is what happened, then, to all the ones you left behind. They all had to somehow defend themselves from the acts of treason you committed.

Years later, maybe in 1993, I received a letter from Codrut. He had taken part in the demonstrations against the Party the December the Iron Curtain finally fell. He had been shot in the spine by an army officer and was now riding in a wheelchair made in Germany. He was an engineer working for Renault and was going to be in Detroit for a conference on aerodynamics and design. And would I meet him for a few drinks at Bookies Bar and Grille on Cass Avenue if I had the time and if I could forgive him for banishing me after I’d left. Surely I understood the immense pressure he and his family came under after I emigrated.

The first thing I ever saw on colour television in the States was Battlestar Gallactica. I didn’t understand why, from time to time, it would end, and commercials would come on. My first friend in America was Mike Gaydos. After a few months, I got in with some other fellows who started teasing me for being friends with someone named GAYdos. And so, to fall in line with the others, I began to ostracize him as well. Mike eventually moved to Virginia Beach, after we beat him up mercilessly one winter afternoon before class. Because of his last name. They called him a faggot. And I kicked him, along with all of them. So I could fit in.

Alex Pruteanu is a former newswriter for the U.S. Information Agency (Voice of America English News and Broadcasts). He has also worked as a television director for MSNBC and CNBC (director of Chris Matthews' "Hardball with Chris Matthews" show), and a freelance writer for AOL/Digital Cities. Currently, he is an editor for an online formative assessment system pioneered by NC State University.
6.05 / May 2011