Everyone seemed to be going to Romania. Well, not everyone. Just Eric Schindler and Sabina. And my cousin, Laura, who’d won the court case over her father’s estate, and was traveling to Sighisoara to help her brother, Eddie, decorate one of his new houses. I myself was going to Jerusalem for a wedding, but that’s a whole other story. Two months had passed since my trip to Romania. During that whole time I’d been in pretty steady touch with my dublura, Maria, with whom I Skyped once a week. I think both of us were fascinated by the sight of our identical faces on the screen.
It was through me that Maria had been introduced to Eric Schindler. She refused to have anything to do with people she didn’t know, but I assured her that Eric was okay — a cousin of mine from Toronto who was in Romania to meet his other cousin, Eddie, whom she already knew. Plausible enough. Ostensibly the two cousins were talking to one another about becoming partners in Eddie’s real estate business. They hoped to get some advice from Maria. “Crazy,” Maria said to me on Skype. “I know nothing about such things.” Her English had improved, but often her daughter Andra was in the background, helping her with words. “I think they really want to see you because of our amazing resemblance,” I said. I hadn’t mentioned Eric’s discovery, via genetic research, that Maria and I were, in fact, distantly related.
A few days after Eric’s visit, Maria and I had a disturbing Skype session. Visibly shaken, she told me that Eric had been “impertinent” and asked rude questions about personal matters she preferred never to talk about. “This man is a spy,” she said. “How could you have introduced him to me?”
I played dumb. Eric was an amiable, bumbling writer and historian.
“You don’t know who he really is then,” Maria said. “A dangerous man who causes trouble. It makes me wonder who you really are — what you really want from me.”
I wanted nothing, I assured her. I was just an artist, like my mother, who painted portraits. We hung up disgruntled and on bad terms with one another. I silently cursed Eric for screwing up the interview. Maria was difficult (in many ways I’d be happy never speaking to her again). But on the other hand she was fascinating. I was addicted to seeing her face, identical to mine, on the screen. Two days after that last, uncomfortable Skype session she requested another one. With tears in her eyes, she told me that Sabina, who was supposed to have arrived at her house in Brasov the previous week, had never shown up. No one seemed to know where she was.