Thursday, June 11, 2009

No Direction Home

I have been thinking about you today.

I remember your garden, all slovenly and marred by weeds. There used to be roses in there and we made jam out of them, the nectar of gods. But the poor flowers were unhappy in disorder and eventually gave up and died. Why did you not care for them? You were brawny and callous, yet indolent and passive. You gulped your cheap beer while you watched time and rust and mold take over your treasures. Should I have condoned that indolence with kind words or should I have stayed on to watch you sink, in the name of camaraderie? I did neither.

Your house was quaint, if I remember well. You had hammocks and cots, a fireplace with wood. I still remember the smell of burned things, the crackling of the fire and our silence when we looked into it. There were evenings when we boiled wine with cinnamon and looked through steamy windows and sighed. We had cheese and tomatoes for dinner and watched television from wicker armchairs. So bucolic were we in our small quarters.

When was it that I began to sugarcoat the memories? Perhaps I have always done this. Perhaps everybody does. After some time, genteel impulses make me think ‘bucolic’ instead of negligent, ‘peaceful’ instead of careless. Euphemism is the bane of accuracy. I have not forgotten how you left your clothes lying haphazardly, how you forgot to take out the garbage and how you adamantly refused to recycle.

If it had been just you and me, I would have felt cozy in your house. But it was not. Your friends were loud and raucous. They mocked me, snapped at me, slammed the door in my face. Their gratuitous spite made me feel inadequate. I tried to blend in, but we were like water and oil. After a while I stopped trying to be friendly. I got in line. I was bitter. But it did not make me happy.

I used to complain a lot about you, but the truth is that I learned to overlook a lot. In that context I had a simple choice between tolerating and going insane. Sometimes it is easier to live with problems than without them. You are happier. Confrontation, insuccess, dissatisfaction kept us busy. Here, where those petty ideological obstacles are absent, I have too much time to ponder other things. Time to be depressed. Maybe Pascal was right when he said that people seek clash and controversy to escape thinking about themselves.

And how many sunsets did we see together? After all is said and done, that is the only thing that remains unsullied in my mind. The beach, the sunset, the white shirts puffed about us in the mild breeze and the hippie guys with their guitars. The Black Sea with its dark eye guarding us when we dance the night away on its shore. The anthem was Billy Idol’s ‘Rebel Yell.’ That smell of saltwater, fried anchovies and dirty sand is forever gone. I have not found it anywhere else, as I am sure I never will.

We had some good times, you and I. I wish that Americans made pills for nostalgia, especially for the irrational kind. I could use a fistful. I find that we engaged in a kind of mutual betrayal that left us both scarred. Alas. I am not here to assign blame, but to remember. Today I missed you, Roumanie.

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