Writing a story. Sounds easy enough. After all, it just means bringing a thick clot of a conjecture of people, places and happenings into the realm of the realistic and probable. Like when your mom asks you why you’re late coming home from school, she is almost ready to indulge into accepting an unplanned late arrival of the teacher as a good and plausible response. Yet your answer is that Continue reading
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The thing which I hate to love is that I pay too much attention to anything else but me. I can tell the colour of the eyes of the stranger standing ten meters from me, I can feel the glassy cup of mint tea going cold minute after minute of staring ouside the smoky window in search of traces of life, I can peek into the book the person next to me is reading on a long travel by train. Curiosity? A deep lack of the definition of privacy? I like to call it learning. Learning to keep cool like the mint tea, learning to discern clarity from behind the smokiness, and definitely learning what books NOT to read.
Giving way to a precarious, but yet finely developed sense of interest, I watch and, as long as my memory allows me, record and keep. I record faces, I collect sensations, but I always fail to understand the why in the context. Take for example this oldish lady I saw one afternoon while having a mojito and trying hard to muse over the hidden meanings of Huxley’s prose. In her 40s, give or take 3 years, she was reading a fashion magazine, the current issue stuck on an article about colours in the garderobe. Colours were definitely this lady’s thing. Bright red hair which may or may not have been freshly died, dark makeup and lashes heavy with mascara and lips tainted with red, neatly cut fingernails painted in a yellowish green. Decent clothes, however, a classic black skirt, cut just a bit above the knees and the light green of what I assumed to be a tunic flashing underneath a simple black masculine jacket.
All things considered, I asked myself why. Why would a person like her read fashion magazines in a place like that on a late summer afternoon? By place like that I mean a jazz bar. Even though bar is a word I would just relentlessly use. It was actually a small, hidden and lovely brownishly adorned room at the back corner of a somewhat big building. But because the weather was indulging those days, they had taken the show out, but not in the street. Let’s say it was an open promenade which could engulf within itself the echoes of Edith Piaf and three tables in Art Nouveau style surrounded by chairs having nothing in common with the present day.
Now my fail to grasp the sense of the context is completely understandable. Jazz bar, oldish but fancy lady reading a fashion magazine and me with Huxley’s book, plus the third table which was still waiting for a meaning. Why? The daylight was getting dimmer. My fingers were playing with an old scarf I had thrown around my neck just before I had stepped out of the house. An old scarf which my heart wouldn’t let me give away and so my practical senses wouldn’t allow me not to wear it. Dark green and stingy at the touch, my attention slowly shifted to this piece of cloth. The why in the context. One more element which could add more confusion or, on the contrary, give meaning to everything.
It was the moment when I brought myself back into daylight clarity. The oldish but fancy lady reading a fashion magazine. Edith Piaf notes tumbling in the still warm air. The Art Nouveau decor. It all fit together, I was the intruder. Me and my old scarf. Me and my questions. The mood for mojito suddenly melted.
When they closed the jazz bar for the day they could do nothing else but throw a forgotten old and green scarf in the box with “lost and found”. Nobody ever claimed it.
The air heavy with thought and my sight somewhat blurred with rum. Trying to focus on a single point in the small space in which I had confined myself seemed to be difficult. Bottles on the walls: liquor, beer, wine, whiskey. Paintings hanging on the walls: postmodernism laid down by children, black and white photographs, portraits of people long gone. Objects floating on the floor of the small room: old chairs, tables stained with the passing of the years and alcohol, the well-known green armchair in the right corner. And the music whispering in my ears: Jack White, The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Band of Skulls, even the annoying reggae. So many other countless artists which found their way in my iPod after so many afternoons and evenings spent on the green armchair or on an old chair.
Firing off a new life in Ingolstadt was something else entirely. I remember my thrill when only a few weeks would separate me from a new job, some new friends, a new living. Then the weeks turned into days, the days into minutes. The sand in the hourglass of my expectations started counting up from zero when I set foot on Bavarian soil. The loneliness which I had so much longed for, the clear time to enjoy the new city and the lack of sharing responsibilities were at hand.
After two weeks in Ingolstadt the excitement had worn off. Danube, check. Ducks on the Danube, check. Shops, check. Museums, check. Greek restaurants, check. Finding a flat, check. Practicing German, bored already. With the dictionary at least.
It must have been the end of May when I discovered it. It was a time when I was reading a lot. I already knew the parks and the banks of the Danube, I needed a new place to rest what always was a new book. And there it was, slightly askew from the city center, slightly unnoticeable, slightly something else. Just like my new life.
It became the refuge of my Sunday afternoons, of my Saturday evenings, of my pre-weekend drinks. Would have become my Monday morning, too, hadn’t it been closed. The place to go where there was no other place to go to. Getting free Mojitos must have contributed to the attraction, I have to admit. So did the free, unforced conversations with people whose names I didn’t even know and who were never to be seen again, the smile of the stranger whom I asked for a light, the southern wind softly caressing my hair while warm afternoons turned into chilly evenings as the sunglasses were no longer needed.
I took to drinking black tea with rum there, I never before knew such a fatal combination existed. But this happened later when I no longer needed only my books to spark up a controversy. When on the oter side of the wall people started showing up and real arguments were thrown in the face of my sometimes infantile ideas. I soon didn’t have time for reading or contemplating the beverages on the walls anymore, I had to come up with arguments to back up my boredom with Kafka or my sympathy for the classical ballet. Each hour and minute was electrifying.
Only the tea and the rum stayed the same, just together now. I see strange faces lately there, I see new colours on the walls, I see some new chairs instead of the uncomfortable, but familiar ones. The atmosphere is still there, the smiles still painted but the the place seems to have grown out of its old heart a bit. Maybe I see my own changes reflected by the dull walls, my own ideas whom I can’t afford to be infantile anymore. It’s been a year.
I met a friend on the street the other day. I saw her from the distance, shopping bags in her arms, iPod headphones white against her black coat and probably lost in her everchanging world of who got married last weekend and what new club is opening the next Friday. I could tell she also saw me, when her lips drew back in a big smile which uncovered her teeth, which she had got whitened at this dentist whom she met in a bar some time ago. I knew all that because she hadn´t spared any details when we talked on the phone last time.
A “Hi, my dear!” came along with the pouting of the lips. “Oh you always look so serious and lost in your thoughts. Do you have a new boyfriend and didn´t spill yet? We have to go for a coffee next week and tell me all about it. Ah, I forgot again, you don´t drink coffee. Damn it, I´m late for my dentist appointment, but I will chat for a sec with you. Where are you coming from?” So much information I had no chance to react upon. But her memory reminded me why I liked so much chatting with her. “I´m coming from my place actually, I needed to go out a bit, no special reason”. A few words were the best chance I had with her. “Oh, dear, you really need to get out more, even though I have to admit your home is just lovely. But especially now, when…”
A word she said focused my attention in an instant. Home. This was her word, not mine. I had said “my place”. That simple 4-letter word has somehow managed to see its way out of my vocabulary. I wondered whether I should read the dictionary without music in the background. A poor shot at a joke, for deep down in my conscience I knew I lost the feeling of being home years ago, when I left for university.
Leaving my parents´house at 18 was something which seemed normal to me, long awaited and in various circumstances imagined. After such a long time being tied to a single house, a single place drew the need for freedom out of me. Little did I know then that freedom was a state of spirit, not of space. Moving in a dorm room with another 4 girls in that very same room was the wildest thing I could imagine. No parents, no curfew and most importantly, people around me with whom I could talk, talk and talk until their mouth started to hurt. The first two years were bliss but then heaven came into existence. A dorm room with another 3 girls in that same room. Privacy in the weekend started to become more and more important. No, not for studying the Maths coursebook.
But my hometown was still so close, just an hour away of driving. When the opportunity arose, I didn´t wait too long to make a decision. Cluj was becoming too small for me, a girl who silenced the voice of poetry by turning up the volume on reason. I had followed then a job offer which landed me straight in Timisoara, the big city which could only open the road to all the lights and promises of Europe. I started to make new friends and the relationship with my boyfriend started to look up. But because everything must come to an end, so did my excitement with this new city. Romania was becoming too small for me, a girl who traded her country for the western materialism. Things were turned upside down, but I was too preoccupied with finding a manufactured freedom to realize it.
I think it is then when I forgot the meaning of home. There is no such thing as home when life is drained of passion, love and beauty, when search and purpose are just empty words. I didnt´t have these things to sell them, so I sold my knowledge for a new job, a new city, a new country. A new beginning. The novelty of life sparked a new sense of life in my veins, the so-many-times-redefined freedom was finally mine. Now I have financial security, I have a house, I have a freaking big TV and plans for future trips. Prosperity at work, prosperity in the personal life, dreams to become so much more. But somehow I´m missing something in this new and shiny life. Something which needs only some brushing.
And that simple talk with my friend on the streets of Ingolstadt brought all my senses into focus. Why was I using euphemisms? Why was I blind to see that now I feel l´m back on the main road, that the purpose lies there, in the horizon? And this simple 4-letter word has now a definition and even a few synonyms. The wandering though life, the roaming through various beds and cities is over. I have my passion and my love back, the smiles spark in my eyes, the sun is shining again. I am happy, but sometimes too busy to realize it. Home is not my place, home is where my passion lies, home is where my dear ones walk in house shoes.
“Diana? Hellooo? I´m asking if you like my new sunglasses.” The sun was shining, I needed my own sunglasses. “Sorry, this sun just came out of nowhere, it´s hurting my eyes a bit. I think I´m gonna go back home and fetch my own.”
*Photo by courtesy of Ana Toma.
“Seulement un thé noir pour moi s’il vous plaît”. Some words which I know in French saved me from an embarassement which I always have when I have to speak English in a non-English speaking country, especially when I know that I should know that damned language. In this case the country was France and the language was, obviously, French. Being in a street cafe in Provence and having a black tea while simply watching people passing by has a bohemian flavour to it. I can bet the waiter figured it out in an instant that my nationaliy was not a French one because he smiled and then he delayed bringing my black tea for about 15 minutes. I could only curse those times when I texted during French classes instead of actually writing down words and paying attention to the accent.
I took out a book and put in on the table, as a decoy, for my purpose for that afternoon had been well-established ever since I had left the cozy hotel an hour before. My phone was packed with photos taken secretly over the last few days. I had decided to be a spy, I had decided to spy on people and capture them in my phone and then take over their lives by writing about them, or atleast about an imaginary “them”. I needed fresh food for my creativity, the bread of the abstract had gone stale. And then I started reading, but not paying a single gram of attention to the words. My eyes were scanning the crowd, sometimes intrigued by the latest fashion, sometimes smiling to strangers, sometimes bemused by a French couple walking hand in hand towards the bridge, perplexed when the couple was unisex.
When I saw her. Long white skirt, see-through from knee down, roman style brown sandals and blue summer blouse which let her back be warmed by the afternoon sun. She was just walking, no obvious purpose to the faint smile playing on her thin lips. The big, branded sunglasses covered almost half of her face and it was impossible to tell where she was looking or what she was thinking about. Then a sudden thought tainted my focus: “This girl has only got herself and she draws her strength from herself”. The solitude of this thought stroke me like a thunderstorm came out of nowhere. Solitude. Longing. Freedom. She was free from everything, she was a history teacher buried in unearthing the past. She was a painter looking for the next perfect model. She was a piano player and she could hear the tunes of the last Chopin in her head. She was everything I could never be or have been. She was the perfect picture of happiness which then for me was resumed to art and music and memory. She was the personification of a feeling which in that moment was pulled from me, turned into clay and then built up into this Eve. And I was in that instant empty. Empty of all my desires, empty of all “could-have-beens”, empty of all regrets.
I had forgotten my whole purpose, people passing by started being void carcasses, my whole focus shifted to the Eve which was now my lost happiness thrown out of me. By myself. I had done it. And my path could now begin all over again, with new dreams, new force, new life, all extracted from new little me. And I did not need other people, I did not ned other lives when I had the new power, when I had the sun shining in my black tea, when I had the lavanda fields glittering purple in the horizon. And I smiled. I truly smiled, knowing all I would be from then on was be happy. happy and grateful for having myslef and my abstract and weird visions, happy for being reborn.
I honestly wanted to hug and kiss Eve. In my mind she is Eve for me, even now. Eve who by her sin which were my past feelings, saved me from my hell. But of course I didn´t. I wasnt´t in the mood of explaining why I was insane. In French. So I was content with taking this photo. Her face is now lost in the shadow of the years. But this single shot and that single moment gave me the happiness which had its ground then and which is built even now. The happiness of being myself and of being content with that, enclosed in myself and letting the world and its people fade to their fate and to my imaginary.