Not a month since I moved to where I live now and I woke up with a few heavy cars parked on the alley, very quiet usually. A place that seemed to be isolated from the noise of the city, only in a few hours was occupied by the noise of heavy cars and dozens of people.
Not knowing what it was about (because I wasn’t reading the local press at the time), I poked my head out the door. As if he understood my perplexity, a worker, whose vest was written “supervisor” came to me and cheerfully informed me: “You will have a brand new street. The project is just for this piece, from the beginning and a little beyond your home. That’s all. ” And he returned to his team.
The whole thing lasted only two days. One day they removed the old layer of asphalt and applied a new “fragrant” one, and the next day, early in the morning, they applied another, but smaller in texture. As the heavy cars climbed onto the platforms of the trucks, three people, with a kind of cart endowed with a pump and a barrel, drew bright white lines that reflected the October sun. That was shortly after noon, when I left to do some business around town.
On the way back, I found on the street, still blocked for traffic, only a pickup truck and three workers stirring around a canal cover. They were a few feet from my door. I heard them speaking in Romanian. I greeted them happily and exchanged a few words, and then asked them if they would accept a tea or a coffee with some biscuits. They gladly accepted. They drank coffee and tea (as they preferred), ate biscuits, finished their work and left. The silence returned to my street. The winter deepened the silence, and the spring made it a painful silence, due to the lock-down. And the silence continues even now, as I write, a year and three months later.
The other day, I took a tricycle ride through the city centre. It happened between two rounds of English rain – cold and stubborn rain. There’s a construction site in the centre. Some workers bent in the cable ditches speak loudly in Romanian. I would have liked to exchange a few words with them. I thought of something warm for them: a tea, a coffee … But isolation is starting to take effect: what if they don’t get it because they’re afraid they won’t get infected? if they want to protect themselves from any contact with those outside their group? And I went on. And I didn’t talk any more. I was left with my thoughts, they with their work of untangling English cables.
On the way home I wondered if the very reason I hadn’t offered them tea or coffee was realistic enough, if my fear was realistic enough. I realized that no, because they would have drunk tea or coffee, not the cup that contained it. And that saddened me. I realized I was starting to change, I’m already changed. And not for the better. I’m more afraid than I can love.