house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Evil Eye

Back home, after the crafts fair, head buzzing, I fall –no, worse – plunge into a bizarre headache. Dizzy, aching, can’t-stand, shivery, void: dzzzzzz, says the crippled consciousness. One syllable, please, just-one-syllable, because M. seems to want to know what’s wrong: 

‘Aughhh’, I say.

‘What is it?’ and he really should not grasp my waist because now, clipped to him so to speak, I feel I can bend like paper, like grass, and fall. Hanging from his shoulder, I manage a whole wealth of syllables, as follows:

‘Evil. Eye.’

The man demands explanation, in hushed and horrified tones. Oh blast. This is where I can recall but not remind. I’ll have to tell him the story. The visit – from an employee of my father’s – had been agonizing: marzipan cake and gladioli, platitudes and school-related compliments. The woman was tall and thin, sat with a stiff back and seemed to honk and wheeze a little (although surely not) when she talked.  As soon as she left, I got faint and dizzy, aching all over like now. 

Mum called Stella and I know nothing about passing out on the bed, only that I opened my eyes to find this prune-face peering in as if she were looking over the high stone side of a well, and I were a sheet of water too deep to reach.

‘Oh madam, she’s got it bad, this little one….’ I heard her say. She was a village woman who’d come to Bucharest for a medical check-up and stayed on, ‘to help around the house’. 

‘I got what?’ I croaked.

‘The evil eye!’ they both declared at the same time.

Coal was burned and dunked in water to confirm the diagnosis (‘it’s bad’, Stella muttered, ‘a real bad ‘un’). And as I lay there feeling stricken, heroic, important and doomed, she sat on the floor by my bed and whispered prayers above my forehead. I opened my eyes and stared in fascination at her fleshy, trembling lips.

Stella would only stop praying to address curses at the evil-eye-perpetrator, in this case easily, almost eagerly identified as our visitor. ‘It’s envy, madam, pure jealousy madam, that horse-woman madam, may the evil eye turn on her, when she smears that flashy pink lipstick on, the she-devil’… and so on. They exchanged meaningful looks, my mother holding a bowl of water and floating coals, Stella spinning her endless string of prayer and curse. 

Stella’s theory went as follows: the ‘real target’ of the evil eye was not I, but my mother, ‘for being so young and beautiful, and married to my father, such a great and good man, and having the two lovely children and working in that grand school, the best schoolteacher in town too, of course the lumpy-clumpy horse-woman would wilt with envy, what with that pink lipstick and those thick ankles and thus unsurprisingly single and with a rebel child out of wedlock, madam, I would not be surprised’..

It was a great story, in which I had saved my mother by sacrificing myself to the evil eye, and now she, Stella, was going to save me, ‘the sweet lamb, so help her God’. 

And I was saved, but seem to have retained to this day a certain weakness for catching the evil eye, like some people attract mosquitoes, bad boyfriends or lightning. And now, with Stella gone and all the other village women too, all I have for a cure is this curious (!) man who listens to my story and then lifts my head with one hand and in the other holds a glass of water (but no burning coal) and a small silver sheet of paracetamol.


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