“Love, let’s do something fun this weekend, something exciting!”
Normally, when Monica utters these words this is my cue to break out Venn diagrams showing “fun” in one circle and “exciting” in another non-overlapping circle to illustrate that these are mutually exclusive activities. And before she gets a chance to interject “logical” and “reasonable” arguments, I remind her that one of the costs of basking in the awesomeness that comes with being married to me is my need to devote adequate whining and pouting time to each request before addressing the next. If we start throwing out suggestions willy-nilly, chaos would undoubtedly ensue.
“Besides,” I continue, “Friday is Stir Fry night, Saturday we torture ourselves into a stupor on the treadmill, and Sunday is obviously Netflixing or football.”
“You know there are enough hours in the day to do more than one thing, right?” I’m sure she means to be rhetorical, but the look on her face tells me she kinda wants to make sure we’re on the same page.
“Yup, I get it. No need to brag about your multitasking mastery. But maybe you’re forgetting the dirty dishes, and laundry and…” (I sometimes draw a blank on the rest of my househusband chores, but I’m sure there are plenty of other things I’m supposed to do.)
I finish with the coup de gras. “And of course, we have to watch 40 hours of Netflix each week if we want to get our money’s worth.”
These points may not be as persuasive as you’d think, but it’s important that we keep trying. That’s how we grow.
However, this is prime vampire hunting season. My househusband chores can wait, and as much as it pains me to slack off on Netflixing, this is the year. I can feel it. We’re gonna find Dracula.*
Now, when Monica suggests we do something fun and exciting, I’m ready with date night suggestions…
“Wanna go check out a cemetery?”
Bellu Cemetery, established in 1858, is not old by European standards. However, it is the final resting place for many of Bucharest’s elite and notorious. If we were going to find a vampire in Bucharest, this would likely be the place.
Once we crossed the wrought iron gate at the cemetery entrance (no fees, and all 3 guards waved us through without a second glance), we felt the temperature drop by several degrees. Monica said the cooler temps were due to shade from the trees and huge stone mausoleums, but I knew better. This was the chill of death.
We walked hand in hand down the wide cobblestone path, pausing before ornate statuary commemorating Olympic athletes, classical musicians that even I have heard of, and politicians. Monica pointed out a simple wooden cross surrounded by fresh flowers and candles. It looked so humble bordered by tall, tightly packed mausoleums on all sides. “This is the grave of a Gypsy King” was painted on the beam.
Is this a Nazi mausoleum?
Buried behind several more recent tombs was what looked like a neglected crypt. I recognized the symbols for the German Iron Cross on either side of the entrance and remembered that Romania allied with Germany until 1944. The door was gone. “Love, look! We can check out the inside of one of these things. Don’t you wanna know what’s inside?”
“We KNOW what’s inside these crypts. Dead people. And dead people smells.” Her playful sense of adventure was gone. “You’re not going in there.”
“Be right back!” I handed her my backpack as I scurried across a narrow path between tombs so I could look inside. From the threshold, I could make out a plaque with 4 portraits on the back wall. The names weren’t legible, but I recognized two final dates: 1937 and 1943.
I was so focused on trying to make out the details on the plaque that I nearly stepped on the body of a sparrow lying at the bottom step. How did you get here? I was amazed. No animal would leave this poor bird that intact.
“Hey Love! There’s a hidden staircase back here!”
“Don’t you DARE!” she shouted from the cobblestone path, not caring if anyone else heard her.
“Be right back!” I said again. There was no way I was turning back now. Besides, she was the one that wanted fun AND exciting…
The staircase was ridiculously narrow and steep. I held the camera in one hand and braced against the wall with the other. Before I reached the first turn it was nearly pitch black I had to use the flash on the camera for light. How deep does this thing go?
By the second turn, the air was cool and damp. Musty. Fortunately, I didn’t smell that fruity pungent reek of the recently deceased, but there was an unmistakable odor of spices. I kept going but thought, this is the part in the movie where the ominous music starts and the audience begins screaming for the idiot to get the hell out of here.
There was no longer a wall on my right. I was randomly flashing pictures to see where I was going and what was around me. I’m sure the crunching sounds underfoot as I slowly felt my way down the remaining steps were just plaster that had fallen from the ceiling and walls, but my imagination had switching into overdrive. Am I walking on bones?
Monster or Madness
Then, during one of those random flashes from my camera, I saw 2 bright spots glowering back at me. I took enough time to notice that they were attached to a coal black body. My body had decided that this was more than enough “fun and exciting” and began scrambling back up the steps before my mind could process what I’d seen. The steps were so steep I was using all four limbs to scurry back up. (Those are not crushed bones I’m feeling on my hands. Definitely NOT bones.) The camera banged against the steep steps and my breath was racing. I couldn’t hear anything chasing me.
I made the last turn and light began to flood my surroundings again. Still no sound of anything following me back up. I nearly stepped on the sparrow’s corpse in my rush to get out, which caused me to trip through the doorway. It would have been better if I fell. Instead, I was caught in an awkward, flailing stumble.
I still hadn’t regained my balance. Monica rushed forward to catch me.
“Are you OK?” Monica asked.
“Yeah. Stairs are pretty steep, guess I got winded from the climb back up.”
“You look more than “winded.” You look freaked out.” She already made the transition from concerned spectator to playful wife. “But I guess any date that ends with you running into my arms is a success.”
An (Almost) Happy Ending to Date Night
I tried to explain my creepy encounter beneath the crypt. As we scrolled back through my hasty photos, I wondered if I might have captured photographic proof of a supernatural guardian. We could be as famous as the people that were abducted by aliens!
She zoomed in on the photo and examined it closely, “Yup. That’s pretty scary. Looks like a small piece of the wall collapsed.” She rubbed the camera screen as though trying to erase a smudge. “You were running from…dirt.”
Successful date? sure.
Successful vampire hunt? Not so much.
*Those of you that caught my last post know that I proved Mr. Traian is actually a vampire. But I’m sure he’s not the only one…