Well, today I did it. I bought a fan. For the merest outlay of 160 lei (just under $13) I now sit blissful before it while it blows upon me with all of its third button, top speed, non-rotating, full blast force. I am not sweating. There is no sticky film upon my skin. Hair, no longer weighed down by leaden droplets of perspiration, wafts pleasantly about my head. I need not hold at bay the physical exhaustion that comes of plying one’s limbs through a thick batter of humid, heavy air. My tee-shirt is dry, not glued to my back, stomach, and chest with an amalgam of water, salt, and the body lotion I habitually (stupidly) apply after showering. And unlike the only other fan I have met in Moldova – in the school room where five of us studied Romanian all day – I don’t have to share it. It is my personal fan, all mine, blowing solely upon me.
One would imagine – erroneously, of course, but then I would venture to say that one’s imagination has not had the opportunity to visit Moldova – that Moldovans would be eager consumers of those cheap-ass wire mesh rotating fans that grace every college dorm room, strip mall retail establishment, Chinese food take-out, double-wide trailer living room, and even some outdoor campsites (in Texas) across America. After all, their inexpensive and great at performing the function they’re specifically designed for – COOLING PEOPLE OFF IN HOT WEATHER, PEOPLE!!!
One might imagine that there would be lines of stalls in the piața selling fans – small fans for your table, hand held, battery-powered fans for the microbus, monster fans for the kitchen, ceiling fans for the bedroom, perhaps even weather-proof fans for the garden. Canny vendors would set up shop at the rutiera stop, capitalizing on the freshly boiled meat continuously exiting those stewpot infernos. Fans would beckon forth from the ubiquitous corner alimentare: Come within, get cool (and buy some bere while you’re here!)
But no. No fans. There are a few for sale – maybe four or five vendors in the entire piața offer them, the piața being a swap meet, trading post derivative which surely boasts several hundred thousand types of product, at the very least. The vendors that do sell them have only one or two on hand. They don’t sell very many to Moldovans, you see.
Perhaps they only think to stock them when the newest batch of Peace Corps Volunteers wanders through mid-summer, wilting and pitiful, mopping their faces with baby wipes and bleating out “Ventilator, vreau sa cumpar ventilator, va rog!” The sweet gentleman who sold mine to me was careful to demonstrate all of her features, depressing each of her three buttons, pulling up the lever that set her head a wagging, turning the one that tilted her head up and down. He wasn’t quite sure I had ever encountered one of these odd contraptions which manufactured its own breeze. It wasn’t a popular item in his inventory, I guess. And why not, you might logically cry? Why don’t they sell a million ventilators when Moldovan summers simulate the conditions inside a wool sweater worn over a wet suit wrapped in a down parka baked in a pizza oven somewhere in Death Valley in the middle of August?
Because of The Current, they will answer.
The Current. That mysterious force that inhabits any flow of air, most particularly as it passes over and around the human form. The Current. Responsible for aching backs, stiff joints, raspy lungs, sore throats, throbbing heads, and achy eardrums. The Current. A viral laden beast that permeates one’s orifices with its sly wisps, seeding the body with illness, debilitating one’s muscles and sapping one’s strength. (Perhaps it was The Current that made ill my knee.)
Once, in July, my LTI walked into class with saggy bags weighing down her eyes, her arms drooping listlessly, her feet dragging invisible anchors behind her. “What’s wrong?” I queried. “You look so tired.” She told me that she and her husband had been up all night with their 18-month old baby, who was so sweaty and miserable and tormented by heat that she spent the entire night thrashing and sobbing. They had opened all the windows and doors, removed their clothing, and laid down on the floor with her seeking some relief. “Don’t you have a fan?” I asked, dumbly. Well, yes, she said, somewhat puzzled, but you could never expose a baby that young to The Current, you know. She then dragged herself from the room, oblivous to my stupification.
Well, all I can say at this moment is The Current is a seductive little Circe, her silky arms slipping mistily about me, whispering dreams of air-conditioned lobbies leading to refrigerated rooms stocked with cool tubs of ice where winter maidens brush frost crystals from their hair. We have all the curtains pulled, she and I. The room is a cool cave, hovering just outside a glacier. Her whirring blades mesmerize me, spinning my head and swirling the memory of weeks of blazing heat until they evaporate into nothingness. The Current carries me into thinness and lilting steps and clarified air and breezy sighs.
The Current is my friend and my little Circe is her medium. To hell with my knee.