Tuesday, November 10, 2009


There is a special smell in that house. Not an ugly smell. Not smell of old people. It’s her perfume, her hand cream and smell of clean, of scrubbed, not of new. I wonder what they are doing now. I imagine them as peeved about this unyielding rain as I am. She is in the kitchen, knocking wooden utensils about, pots clamoring for want of space. She’s wearing the plastic bonnet that hangs on her forehead, on her glasses, pressed hair sticking out of it in tufts. She pushes it back with her clean wrist. I say she looks medieval and she shoos me out of the kitchen. “You’ll catch smell of food,” she says. And then she embraces the “good” coats in the hall-stand and takes them to the other end of the house, lays them on the bed in a distant bedroom, lest they catch “food smell” too.

He’s in the living-room, sitting cross-legged on one of the two side-by-side armchairs. He holds the newspaper as you’d hold a map. Through thick brown-rimmed glasses he peruses important pieces of sport news, I am sure. No, I’m wrong. It was economics he was reading. Should it surprise me: as if he doesn’t spend every day teaching that to an amphitheater of students. If I don’t make an audible noise he doesn’t detect my presence until I’m in the middle of the room. “Whatcha doing?” he asks. “Looking for something to read,” I say inspecting the bookshelves. Then, inquiring: “Have you seen Foucault’s Pendulum?” He ignores his paper to look at me, then at the bookshelf, a considering look. I’ve already moved to the other bookshelf, too fast to follow, and in a microsecond declare with satisfaction: “Found!” “So fast, you are,” and it takes him a moment for the sudden changes of situation to register. I crash in the armchair next to him and read the preface. Curiously he peers into my book, newspaper paused. “Umberto Eco,” he enunciates, then “Ecco,” with an Italian ring. “Ecco!” he chants. I laugh. He with his newspaper, I with my Ecco.

She speeds through the living room on her way to the balcony. She is going to water the geraniums. “Why don’t you turn on the TV?” she says in passing, seeing us both sitting there in silence. Cold air is now coming through the open balcony door, numbing my toes. “Nah,” I say. Then I follow her to the balcony to see what she does.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Will I walk the long road?
We all walk the long road... *

There are four cardinal points. Borne of the East I head West, a genuine person of contrast. I’ve been wondering today about eschewal. Immigration is a big eschewal, and so is vagabondism. When we run from something we head in the opposite direction, with the caveat that we don’t always know what that antipode is. We understand distance, that much is elementary. Where would you like to work, she asked me. I don’t know – far. New York, Chicago? No, I was thinking Montana – or Seattle, even. Do you like rain? I don’t know – I’d have to try it for a long time. There are a lot of things I’ve left to try...

I told her yes, I’m looking forward to graduating. Why. For the same reason that Thoreau left Walden, I answered. “It seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one.” She laughed. I don’t expect her to understand. And here I stand at the carrefour of thoroughfares, one busier than the other, and I’m still drawn to obscure little alleys. The compass wavers and careens, aberrantly, more and more to the West. It calls, like a lonely wolf, like a long road.

* Eddie Vedder - Long Road

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Aller guten Dinge sind drei. *

We hurry across the road that should be called Church Road, considering how many such edifices lay along it, but is actually called something else. It is the Styx that we traverse toward places that, although within a stone’s throw, make us feel we are off campus, a wonderful feeling sometimes. There are three of us, the exiles who roll their Rs, the Eastern Europeans. On the other side of the traffic cosmos we meet another trio, fellow students, whom we ignore. They do the same.

In the fluffy chairs at Starbucks bleak thoughts surge and envelop our nebulous minds. We realize how busy we’re kept in this “school,” that we don’t have time to think about gloomy realities. Maybe it’s a good thing. Maybe it’s coffee that brings them back, blast it, this intoxicating harbinger. “When I was in the hospital this summer,” she says, and it’s not until I hear these words so simply stated that I feel fortunate, grateful for things I’ve taken for granted. What is a good body? A body that doesn’t hinder you from doing the things you want to do. If I am real good, will I be young forever? Will I, Santa?

Darkness is pervasive, now as present inside as outside. We tread through the thick night in quasi silence ruminating, glee somewhat amputated by too earnest a conversation. We chase gloom away with trifling topics that turn, invariably, into serious ones. We’ve gone rabid tonight. “They don’t tell me when they go out anymore,” she says blankly. “Last year it would have hurt me, but this year, this year I just want someone to talk to.” Just like that, a playback of a former version of myself, and I want to offer some reassurance that I never had then, some kind of promise that I know I won’t keep. What could I say? “I’ll come to visit.” That’s not true. “There’s Facebook.” And of what use is that? So instead of lying I admit the scarcity of her options, I steer her toward the only sane path I’ve found for myself: “There are always the profs, you know.” She knows. And on this final note we part. The last vestiges of Eastern Europe left in this prestigious institution, two almost alumnae and one halfway there, the most resilient, but I suspect also the loneliest, of all.

* (German) All good things come in threes.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Two is

All alone, or in twos,
The ones who really love you
Walk up and down outside the wall. *

How many families I have.
How many chances I think people should get.
How many fingers I raise in class when I’ve something to say.
How many times I’ve been broken up with.
How many passions I feed.
How many people I trust.
How many countries I’ve lived in.
How many books I carry along when I go out.
How many clubbing nights I’ve had in Macon.
How many twos are in my age.
How many scars I have.
How many it takes to tango.

* Pink Floyd – Outside the Wall

Sunday, November 1, 2009


We’re one, but we’re not the same
We get to carry each other...*

One was the prefix of my age before all this madness started. Fall, vacillating between amber and grey, breeds melancholy. I miss being twelve, when the difference between the sexes was merely a technicality. None of that “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” crap. Pragmatic children we were. I like to play with Lego. Got Lego? I’m yours. Yours, until somebody shows up with more Lego. And then I’m gone. Bucketsful of plastic polyhedra, geometry in pieces, cocktail of primary colors enough to steal anybody’s mind. The little people aligned with their disposable hairdos, braids or bangs or red devilish curls. Restive fingers mix-and-matched torsos and hair pieces and heads. From the great Lego massacre a large unisex population emerged, so we built a large bus and shoved them all in it. It never occurred to us that the Lego people would rub against each other in a less than innocuous way, or pick-pocket their peers. It was so elementary then. Lego people riding the bus. No agendas, no stealthy foes or amorous carnival.

And now? Now there is a protocol for everything. Even for poetic things, with poetry itself submitting to the frivolous, compromising its esthetic accoutrements.
For spontaneity. Now we have so much to say that we no longer pay heed to obstacles of form. They bore us. And so does romance. What credibility is left to romance when we convey maudlin facts with emoticons and announce we’re engaged on Facebook. Expediency and productivity concern us deeply, dating is a conveyor belt of fiascos and successes that end up, invariably, in fiascos. The praxis of love has changed, but has its nexus too? Independence has a component that blinds, success too bright perhaps, fools us that we stand so tall on iron legs. I need no one, I proclaim. Come on. Longing is everybody does, the object palpable or merely envisioned. When veils come off, claims dismantled beneath the heavy reality that defines each of us, a truthful definition, all that’s left to do is to carry each other, because nobody is strong all the time. And “I need you” is not a shameful thing to say.

* U2 - One