Public Republic random header image

The Lighting Technicians

January 17, 2011 by · No comments

Kristin Dimitrova

Photo: calliope

Theodor Bogdanov was powdering his face.

“Sometimes I think he is following me. No, I’m sure he follows me. Hiding in the doorway of the house across the street, waiting for me to come out. Then, as I’m trying to figure out whether the drizzle is worth an umbrella, and I’m gathering strength, literally gathering strength to make the first step, he pops up in front of me, holding a plastic cup of coffee in his left hand and a cigarette in his right, and I wonder whoever gives him those cigarettes. He’s never asked me for one. He’s never asked me for change either,” said Theodor during the intermission, holding a plastic cup of coffee himself.

The dressing room mirror was shining on him with a pleiad of changed light bulbs but this did not cheer him up. A week earlier, however, on seeing half of the bulbs burned out, he had been thrown into despair. He kicked up a fuss to the property-person whom everybody called Aunty Tzveta and she put down a few figures in the inventory book. Aunty Tzveta was used to being shouted at with opera voices, so she waited until a spotlight projector went out and ordered all the materials at one go. If something works, there is nothing to comment about it.

“What have you got against the man? He never asked you for anything, did he?”
Mira stood behind Theodor, holding his sword. She had come under the pressure of three text messages and two phone calls to watch Don Carlos one more time, and from the inquisition scene at that, instead of staying at home in front of the TV with a bowl of freshly baked sunflower seed in her lap. Mira was an ear-nose-and-throat doctor and preferred to provide physical help. Yet her Marquis of Posa, staring in the mirror at the possible flaws of his overall make-up, needed her mental support in the face of the audience.

“He doesn’t have to ask me for anything. All I’m trying to say is I just constantly expect him to ask me for something. Money, cigarettes, whatever people like him ask for. The neighborhood philosopher! The moment I see him – skinny, shaggy, his grey beard sticking in all directions – I just…”
“I know, I’ve seen him.”
“Who hasn’t? But he gets in my way deliberately.”
“You are a bit nervous about the show. It’s going pretty well, I think.”
“No, no, no, no, no! It’s too early to tell. The prison duet is still ahead, me dying and everything. This man, I repeat, gets in my way deliberately with the sole purpose of bringing me bad luck. Some force makes him cross my path. He looks like the bad side of life.” Theodor wrapped himself in his cloak and fixed his belt. “We are supposed to live in a good neighborhood, everything new and tidy, but this guy obviously crawls out of some cellar and runs to stand in people’s way. And every time I meet him, it’s the death of me. A very bad omen. Have the Germans come?”
“They are on the second row.”
“They won’t like me, I tell you.”

Mira kissed him on the wig, careful not to smear his face with her lipstick. Theodor looked mighty and cross with his darkened eyebrows.

“You are an ultra mega singer. Surely they’ll like you.”
“Baritones like me are on every corner.”

A few days later, while they were riding a rented twin bicycle in the park, the telephone call came. The Tannhauser overture blared out of Theodor’s pocket, yes, yes, yes, he repeated several times in the receiver and stopped pedaling. Their progress ended in a very sunny spot. Mira tried to drive the bicycle to the tree shadows but couldn’t climb the slope on her own. Theodor put away his phone with the expression of a fresh convict.

“There won’t be an official audition. The Germans didn’t like anyone.”
“I guess it’s their own problem,” Mira said, happy to be on the move again. They were both troubled by the weight gaining side effects of the first years of family life but none of them had the will to work out alone.
“It’s because I ran into the bum again. Pest! Whenever I see him on my way out I know there’s nothing good to expect. On our tour to Belgrade the bus broke. My tail-coat got burned on the opening night of La Traviata. No, please, don’t interrupt me. Everything seemed fine in Paris until I got this laryngitis from hell. I saw him just before I took the taxi to the airport.”

Theodor was pushing the pedals with a fierce determination.

“Wait a moment, your colleagues hoped to get noticed as well. Princess Eboli was beyond herself, really. But there you go! Nobody got invited. You don’t expect your friend to have hung around everybody’s doorway, do you?”
Theodor gave it a thought.

“Maybe they have their own omens of failure. My omen is the tramp.”

After finishing work Mira took a walk around the neighborhood. The new blocks of flats, with their inventive angles and generous balconies, were trying to show that they weren’t your regular concrete lodgings for recently urbanized workers. Their ground floors made a lavish display of shop windows, their roofs climbed the air with artsy penthouses, and only the streets plowed up by the construction trucks reminded the local dwellers not to get carried away.

She saw him by a garage. He was sitting with a cup of coffee on the tall border around a row of decorative bushes, smoking something filterless. His legs, dressed in ancient blue jeans, dangled from time to time to some inner rhythm. His pale eyes, the color of thin clouds in the morning and high temperatures in the afternoon, locked on her as soon as she turned down the street. He had no reason to expect that anyone would like to talk to him.

“I’m looking for you” Mira said.
The tramp looked at her like a public servant within his reception hours.
“On what business?”

His voice sounded educated. In the last years many different people dropped out of the social ring dance and could not join in again. They got fired, they buried a loved one and stopped taking care of themselves, they got turned out of their homes, they took to drinking, they suddenly lost faith in the universal competition. Was this man one of the voluntary or the violated dropouts? Mira had imagined their meeting only as far as this point and she hesitated for an answer.

“I’ve come to ask you for something. I live nearby.”
He nodded, reaching out for a handshake.
“I am the district light supervisor.”
“Something like a technician?”
“Something like that.”
Mira felt distrust. She usually redirected such patients two doors further down the corridor to fill in a test form for starters. They both went silent for a moment, facing each other.
“Do you by any chance know a Theodor, tall, with a goatee?”
“A singer.”
“I’ve seen him.”
“How do you know he is a singer?”
He shrugged. He was waiting for her to continue.
“Now, please, do not walk on our street for about a month because he is preparing for an important audition. Then you can walk there again.”
“Because you might need to walk down our street on your way to… another street.”
“No, I mean why I cannot walk on your street if he is preparing for a – what did you call it?”

Mira got confused. The day was gradually turning into a deep blue memory but it was too early for the stars. The wind brought the smell of lime trees.

“He… he has put it in his head that you bring him bad luck.”
“Really? I thought he brought me bad luck. Every time I see him, some trouble happens. Even problems in the installation come up and I have to remove them. Local problems, you know.”
Mira watched him anxiously.
“I’d rather not go into detail” he finished and took a deep drag on his cigarette.
Mira returned home fully discouraged by her stupid idea to seek contact with the “neighborhood philosopher” or rather “the district light supervisor”. She baked some fresh sunflower seeds and sat watching the crime drama. Theodor would come at least an hour and a half later. She knew she would not mention anything to him about her meeting.

The bearded man finished his coffee in one gulp. He walked down an alley between the buildings and disappeared into a metal door few people ever noticed. Inside, it smelled of dust and pigeon feathers. He turned on a small switch on the wall and the deep staircase under his feet flooded with the dim light of the electric bulbs locked beneath wire cages. He descended the stairs, leaving small clouds of cigarette smoke behind him, and went down the winding corridors. One of them reached a large concrete room. In its right corner there was a system of cylinders stretching their heat-insulated pipes to the ceiling. In its left corner there was a wooden chair with armrests of a design which was no longer in production but looked very comfortable. A big-handle switch stuck out of the nearby wall. Somebody had drawn a chalk clock by the door. The dial was clumsily but conscientiously numbered with Arabic numerals. The late light of the day found its way in through the narrow windows near the ceiling, after it had slalomed through the bush stems outside.

The skinny man walked in hastily and looked at the clock on the wall. Its chalk hands were pointing at ten minutes past nine.

“Oh, dear, dear, dear” he murmured to himself, “I always get late in the summer. This one is having bad luck, the other one is having good luck, and I am about to lose my job.” Carefully he pulled down the switch handle and didn’t let it go until it reached its lowest point. Then he sat on the chair, leaned back with pleasure and lit up a new cigarette.

The narrow windows darkened into an inky twilight. The clock showed fifteen minutes past nine.

Related posts ↓

No comments so far ↓

  • Nobody has commented yet. Be the first!