Floricică was my friend in nursery and in the first year of school. He failed that first year and so we lost contact forever.

Floricică was a lisping and blabbing Gypsy that my Grandma looked upon suspiciously: ‘Out of all the children in your class, you had to pick THIS one to play with!’

Floricică fascinated me because he used to say swear words and tell naughty jokes… of which I could not make much sense anyway, given his impeded speech.

I can’t remember his first name or his face. But we shared the root of our surnames. Floricică means ‘little/tiny flower’ – a very ‘Gypsy’ surname, people used to say.

I vaguely recall some of Floricică’s speech rhythms and his spitting-a-little when lisping.

One piece of memory has stayed vivid though.

Sat around a dwarf table, in nursery, drawing: myself, Floricică and two other kids. Besides, a huge terracotta stove. In-between the stove and the wall a narrow space full of dust and spider webs. And in there a hat.

The teacher asked sharply: ‘Whose is that?’. No answer.

A few days later, sat around the same dwarf table and the teacher asked again: ‘Whose hat is that?’. Floricică put his hand up: ‘It’s mine, Miss!’. ‘What are you waiting for then? Take it!’ replied sharply the teacher.

Floricică received the hat, and whispered to me afterwards: ‘It IS mine! My mum washed it really, really well (he mimicked the movement of Mum’s hands washing), with lots of soap, rinsed it really well and one day, I lost it in there!’

I wonder where you are now, my dear Floricică?