Clare Duffy writes from Victory Square

Just visited the cathedral over looking Victory Square. There are two rooms at the entrance to the church, each contain two large shallow baths of water. Candles are left to burn there in prayer, in hope. The candles’ wax drops continuously and randomly into the water. Creating in these two small, low ceiling-ed, vestibules a spick, spickle, tick sound of hot droplets of wax cooling suddenly. An old woman puts her hands into the water and dregs the spent candles. Pulling the many shaped, brown, wax melts towards her, like autumn leaves in a goldfish pond. She puts them in a black plastic bucket, on which is written AN and then from the same bucket she pours more water into the baths.

She is an ancient church woman.

A couple passing the church cross themselves three times.

A man with a newspaper makes the most abstract of crosses.

These are other Romanian benches.

A man in a brown suit takes off his hat and clearly signs three times.

I’m sitting now on the left hand side as you face the National Theatre on the second bench in Victory Square. The benches are spacious. Generous. The capacity of a sofa: white, wooden, thin slats, painted and repainted. But still corners and edges are dug away. The Orthodox Church at the other end of the square has just rung the half hour. No excuses for not knowing what the time is here! There’s a square pillar at the end of the gardens, which the benches line. It’s got a cube clock at the top.

There are eight old men sat on or standing around the bench opposite mine. The tallest one just stood up and said “Ceausescu”. There’s a man sitting on the bench to their left in a long black robe, with a long dark beard on his young face. He’s reading. I suppose he is an orthodox priest. Or perhaps a seminarian.

Apart from the man who said “Ceausescu”, all the other men wear hats, either caps or trilbies. They wear mute colours: blue, grey, brown cloth. One man in a green baseball cap, wears jeans. Four of them carry plastic bags. One has a leather case. But he is young and has just joined them.

Five of them get up to go and make their way into the square. Then another one goes off to the right. But then he stops. His mobile phone rings, he ambles to the right, where McDonalds is. With his elbow up high, keeping the phone to his ear, plastic bag swinging. He’s not so sure on his feet. And now he’s in the sunlight going towards the right hand side of the theatre.

I’m a bit cold in the shade and there is a breeze. 25 degrees today though.

There’s a statue of Remus and Romulus sucking from the She Wolf in the centre of the square: a nod to Timisoarian Roman history.

The sides of the bench are made from pink concrete with chips of white quartz stone. Some lichen grows particularly in the cracks.

There are red berries in the fir trees lining the gardens. And now that I’ve noticed them I can smell the pine and hear the water of the fountain so clearly.

There’s only one man left now on the bench from the large party of discussion only twenty minutes ago. He sits, feet apart, head forward reading a magazine, which he’s holding between his knees. His belly falls down into its white and brown check.

The first bench on his right has three men, then on his left sits the seminarian. A man in grey has just sat down, holding his knees on the next bench, then there’s a young man in a red cap tapping his brown trainers. He is restless, but doesn’t seem to be waiting for anything in particular. He holds his hands together. Next an old woman, calm, reading a book: then a middle aged man turning a paper, the edges of which are just suddenly illuminated by the rising sun. My face in the sunlight now and the shadows of the manky, ill looking pigeons flutter across my white bench.

I put my sunglasses down. This is nice. It’s 10. 54.

I imagine that the world of Socrates were not so dissimilar to this. Where a philosopher asked people in the public square what they thought about reason or reality.

What is reality? I might ask any of these bench people, if I could speak Romanian. What might they say? How much would it be coloured by the events in this square 18 years ago? Freedom is the ability to decide for yourself what reality is. And how wonderful it must be to argue politics with your mates, where other men and woman have died fighting for that freedom.

The boy in the red cap is rocking slightly now. The bells are ringing. 11am. There’s a gardener sucking up leaves and rubbish with a big, grey trunk and a noisy, noisy motor.

The boy in the red cap has gone. He was the only one sitting in the centre of his bench. Perhaps by sitting in the middle of the bench he hoped that no one would be tempted to try and share his bench, with him.

Another deep conversation has developed between four men on the bench to my left. They emphasize their points with hand gestures, folded arms, sitting back in their seats or standing up suddenly.

Socrates was tried in a square like this. He approached the public bench with his other view of reality and morality, but was found to be wrong. What kind of reality you see from a pubic bench can be a matter of life and death. To my right is the great cathedral filled with candles. To my left is the great theatre, filled with its electric lights. The two buildings over look my bench like proud parents.

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