Thursday, December 31, 2009

Turn the Page

A peaceful birthday, I’d say. Everything in moderation, as you wisely taught me. No excesses today, I promise. Fruit cake in the morning with elders and stories that come with lots of sighing. Earmuffs on and steady on the treacherous sidewalk I walk with her offering my arm for support, while she tells me what my estranged cousin has been up to. Ah stories. I miss them all, as I miss everything that’s past tense.

After that, a walk in the park followed by a problematic attempt to get coffee somewhere on New Year’s Eve. All doors closed but our tongues quite open and lively, so we’ll sit and talk about men and love and all this rigmarole of life once more. Men are stupid, she’ll say, and I’ll laugh wholeheartedly at her thesis in which she wholeheartedly believes. And are we, distinguished females, any different? Resolution for 2010: find out.

A subway ride, with little boy sitting across from me ogling me with resolve. He is wondering why I am holding a rose. He whispers the question to his mother, she sits there silently looking at me. I look up from my book and meet her furrowed brow, as if she’s pondering or she consummately dislikes me. Cheer up, woman, it’s New Year’s. And it’s my birthday.

Of course, there is someone who calls too late. Someone who forgets altogether. Someone who pretends to forget. And really, perhaps I’d have spent tonight with you if you weren’t so histrionic and sloppy. If there were anything genuine coming from you rather than irreverent, irrelevant passes I already reprimanded. Do you even listen? We could drink wine and watch artsy movies, comment like in the old days, you’d see that there are other forms of caring aside from lewd ones. But I give up tonight. I’ll be where I am wanted, not because of hormones or loneliness or doubts of self-worth, or to increase the attendance number. I’ll go where I am wanted quite honestly. Guilt and atonement be damned, I’ll put them in the 2009 trash bag.

Wait – they are clamoring for me to open the champagne. We are starting the countdown. Fireworks sound like it’s the end of the world. It’s not the end, people. It’s just another day. It just happens to be the last day of the year. But we don’t get so worked up about the last day of every month, do we? The date is nothing but a number, and so is age. I am just informed that I am older. But I don’t feel it. Do you hear me, baby? I don’t feel it.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Ghost Town

How many times have you told me to come over for New Year’s? How many times have I asked you not to get me any present? It’s clear by now that we don’t understand each other. There are things you can only talk about with me, you say. But I find it as unfair to be somebody’s confidant as it is to be more than one person’s dream girl. Naive souls, I’d say, and at this point I’d positively have to tell you how high school you are, even at the cost of your irritation. But no, you’ll beseech me, you know. Oh, you know I am all that. And I’ll say you know nothing, and we’ll argue like this all night, because there’s no putting us in each other’s shoes, not for a second.

Well, why did we crowd to see the people in the past? Because I miss you guys! their plastic voices sound, and you know that’s not the reason at all. We came to point fingers delicately and laugh with gusto. Look at that blonde! Ha ha ha! Didn’t she use to have bigger boobs? Ha ha ha! In the meantime I’ll certainly be pierced by disapproving looks from the girls, since I’ve decided to be once again one of the guys, but sorry girls, what was I to talk about, boys and make-up? There is only one flavor of nonsense I’ll swallow in one night, and I’m afraid it was accounted for when I agreed to come to this carnival.

It’s ridiculous how we choose to meet in the same places, go to the same cafes as before. Not even their tearing down that perennial McDonald’s at Universitate will stop us, we’ll find another to have profound talks that are just like slicing the sausage, as she’d creatively compared. What kind of metaphor was that, anyway? We analyzed too much poetry in our days, it drove the meager sense we had into mutations of the fabulous. I leafed through old notebooks and was in constant jaw-drop to discover the last page, which is a kind of school epitaph for any respectable student. Saccharine lyrics, bad cartoons and curlicues, a cheap escape from scholastic boringness. Did I really write the name of some guy on four pages? I’m sure you’re wrong, she’ll say embarrassed, and she’ll burn it all to get rid of the evidence. Hand me the matchbox, will you. What – is there another way to deal with the past?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

In Foreground

Not to forget. This is the primal purpose of writing. Mine, at least. I’d forgotten Bucharest, like one forgets the name of an actor. What is it, Tom-something...? A momentary lapse of memory and then it comes back, in pieces that put together make a memory. One memory, like a page from a book I am leafing through without much interest. One, like a drawer with things thrown potpourri inside, that has to be forced to close so we seldom open it because, well, things fall out. And it’s just too complicated.

The subway has been renamed. I almost missed mine because a nasal voice in the ceilings spoke a destination I hadn’t heard of. But I hopped in, at the last minute, long after the conductor had informed that the doors were closing, and he probably scolded me under his breath, seeing me in his rearview mirror. Names with communist resonance have been replaced by benign names of abstract concepts and anonymous pedagogues I learned of when consulting the encyclopedia of Romanian relics. Fears are always in the names, the wrongs ignored, should there be no veneers thrust in our faces for dramatic reaction. If we don’t see them they’re not there. It’s always names we have to fight. Words. We have swords for those, different tiles to cover up old titles of subway stations. Or not even that – adhesive bands will do, as I’ve seen. We’re damn brave when it comes to words. And then we’ll say, as if it’s always been this way, that this train is traveling to “Precision!”

After I saw you to the bus station, left you with the precious books I brought you, I walked home. High Heels cafe is as stilted as its name advertises, the windows a moving caricature of authenticity. People inside talk hungrily, affectedly, as if they’re saying witty things, making funny jokes. Their partners are playing along, responding with hilarity at the prompts, faces stretched from ear to ear, meanwhile checking their watch under the table. To get to the eerie tunnel that takes me to my street I pass a sex shop. Neon lights spell its name vertically. They have redone this one too, I see, in all glass windows, candidness that says we’re not so prudish after all.

The eerie tunnel’s now only an alley, for two thirds have been occupied by a new edifice, a makeshift house for the workers who are drilling down the road. There’s a sensor light on the corner of the house that lasts exactly two seconds. In the quiet darkness of the grey tunnel the light scares you more than a human presence would. And then my street, albeit now throttled by tall new buildings, is an eerie tunnel in itself. Hot steam comes out of a sewer, dissolves into the cold air, and as I walk through it for a couple of seconds it envelopes me and I’m warm. And then my nose turns numb again, liquid forming at its tip, and it’s getting ready to snow, which it does the next morning. Now it’s winter proper, I suppose, even in this city that’s, in all its foibles, the antipode of pure white.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


This is me. This is me eating bread. I close my eyes and hear Shreeti informing me, ingenuously, that there’s cold rice in the fridge, if I want some. I’m way past strangeness, I know. I open my eyes and I’m back here, on Europa’s horn, dipping bread in butter, yes, dipping it alright. Alexandra does not agree with what I’m doing, as I know very well. But what she wouldn’t give to be here eating this soft, fluffy French bread with this fatty, authentic butter, this I know too.

I am on the fifth floor of an apartment building which we will leave soon. We live close to the airport and I often hear planes passing overhead, they rush with an unbalanced sound around them, as if the sky’s vibrating and they’re struggling to equalize. In the dark it is a tickling sound, as if it’s me who’s leaving, safely, so I imagine myself on my way to something and I relish the thought, even though I don’t really like to travel. But in the day time the arrival of the planes reverberate in quite different tones. There is a primary school next door and our balcony overlooks the school yard, where children play during recess and cheer loudly, with infantile sounds and merriment. If you don’t know what they are, the planes sound like waves. Ripples of water coming with elan, breaking against the shore, fragmented in smaller and smaller waves that abate slowly. The laughter of children overlaps with this ambiguous noise and there are moments when I could swear that the beach is right outside the window. Children are playing in the waves, the sea is prodding the shore. It reminds me of Rollercoaster Tycoon, that marvelous addiction I managed to debar myself of, the guests yelling in awe and wonder and the aquatic rides doing their number with jazzy, mechanical sounds. So this is what I hear when I sit here eating bread.

Ever since I failed the NaBloPoMo challenge I’ve been wary of this blog. It’s become the protagonist of my nightmares. It chases after me, catches up and beats me up. Could I be seeking more sources of validation? Could I? Every thing that’s convivial’s sooner or later infected with seriousness and here I am, one more thing I have to worry about. I wish I’d bring this back to where it was only a place of thoughts, a desultory collection, when nobody read what I wrote, when I didn’t start sentences with “My blog...” Some light things are better just being left light. Did I even understand the concept? Could I be taught?