Gara de Nord

It’s about 12 years since I arrived at Gara de Nord at 6 AM, having crossed the Danube on a night train in the spring, in a crazy scent of … jasmine? I’m not sure, some very sweet, aromatic flower in warm, moist southern air. Probably not jasmine. I don’t know what grows on these riverbanks, having crossed them only in the dark.

We then took a long, exhausting subway ride through various monumental communist quarters of Bucharest; on the trams I was noticing the unique shapes of the derelict balcony architecture in the rising sun. You tried to have intellectual conversation with me at 6 AM, in the subway, after I’d been on the night train – my brain was in a daze, and only processing images, smells, the new flavours and sights.

“Atentie, se inchid usile!” … I guess this refrain from the Bucharest metro is burnt into my brain forever through the endless repetitions of it I’ve accumulated over later years.

Writing this “memoir”, I remember the stack of memoirs – his own published novels – your dad was keeping in his library. For some reason I remember a stack of them on the balcony too, but maybe just the 3 exemplars I took back West despite barely being able to decipher enough Romanian to follow the rough storyline. The books are probably still at my parents’ place. Your father’s memoirs from a research stay in Eastern Berlin, of how his lover escaped to the West. I’m writing this [memoir about my lover from Bucharest who escaped East] from Berlin. I think I’m in Eastern Berlin, but close to the wall.

Decades later still digesting my own flight from East to West; reminiscing how for some reason the Balkan air made me feel real, while Western European landscapes still put some (essential) part of me to sleep. I preferred my flight East into your partly bizarre, nostalgic world. Your memories of the revolution, bizarre documentaries about Asia, travels to Gagauzia, your library of “characters” (in which I also figure as an entry now), individuals, our mutual communist era nostalgia, how immature I was, how you [perhaps] found your path at 30; how envious I was when you, heck, ended up in Indonesia … later in Singapore, while I kept digging my books in England, lost inwardly at that time.

I’ve recently been wondering where you are now. I never google people, I find it tactless, but I actually did it, only with you, to see that all digital traces break off a couple of years ago. [I wish I could make mine disappear so neatly; I think even with my name change anyone can find me.]

Maybe you’ve gone back to the jungle, as you said you’d do if you can’t stand your renewed immersion into corporate life; having an indigenous wife helps, at least that’s what you said, you can always survive in the jungle. You probably can’t imagine how envious that makes me. Not the wife. But the kind of adventures I wanted to have, if I had actually been capable of any serious travel without continuous nerve-wreckage and breakdowns.

Years later at least I got why (because my physiology isn’t standard, and is far more prone to sensory overload and a bunch of other things that come as a package deal with my “gifts”, with the artistic sensitivity that you found so fascinating, and a bunch of other ‘sensitivities’ that you perhaps had no clue of because I only admitted them to myself a few years ago).

It hurt very much, but it still felt unquestionably right.

I think I remember the precise moment, thought when I called you into my life. I remember the song I was listening to on my headphones standing in an overcrowded “marshrutka” (improvised tottery minibus) trying to get to or I think from uni in the toxic smog of Sofia’s afternoon traffic jam. I really do think that one thought called you. Looking back, did you (we) fulfil that call?

I actually think I did it for you, even though I hurt you. But I hurt you so badly that you (the very, very gentle beast) got angry and went off on your own way (into some jungle, on islands, temples, graveyards, who knows what), and that was good for you. When I saw you two years later, the mere physical vitality struck me.

I would give a bit to know the next chapters of your life story.

Maybe I feel like I could learn from them, glean some wisdom.

Not sure which. I’m just curious how fairytales continue after the “happy end” that I witnessed last time I saw you.

I knew you had the same intensity. You had tried to kill yourself a couple of times, you found that shameful or at least were scared of mentioning it (I think in Tineretului? some vast desert-like park with dry-burnt non-grass, near some shrubs, in a desert of cheap Ceausescu-era mass-housing high-rises) but I guess to me at that stage it just meant the right level of passion. After you’d given up on that, you put the same energy into living, deliberately. “Programmatically”, you’d say, only in my mid-30-s do I get a bit what you mean. You’d learnt to take firm decisions, stick them through despite pain. You had my level of pain tolerance, but in addition you also had an inner sense of direction. A better combination.

I remember us walking in the ghastly, huge old garden of the mental hospital (Alexandru Obregia?) once or twice. There were actually crazy people there in white gowns and fluffy pantufas, meandering around the reasonably well-maintained hedge-and-bench labyrinth with empty stares, phantomesque, playing their roles well. It was hot I remember. You were telling me the same old stories. About the bread factory.

All of this was worth a novel.

Now my small friend here in Berlin (I think you met her in Warsaw for half an hour in front of the Jewish community centre, tho I’m not sure it existed then) announced on facebook that she’ll write a novel about her emigration adventures in Berlin. Heck, if your father was a novelist you certainly wrote (write?) good stories in real-time, real-life. I did too. Sometimes I still do. I miss that colour.

I added my own crazy colours later, in my late 20s, early 30s. I had my own depressions, frantic flights across the Atlantic, a psychic summer in Finland, encounters with a variety of bizarre characters, the continued magic [which you found irresponsible] of being provided, somehow, what was needed, despite having no clue what I was doing. Still, those earlier colours were more saturated, warm, more deep reds, oranges, earth tones, more glow, a bit of otherworldly glow. On my own, I live far more slowly. Above all, the oriental flavour is missing.

You paid your price for all that, though.

I’m currently paying my (a) price too, I do wonder if for that price I’ll acquire something similarly valuable. I feel some strength coming [back? or just coming] from whirling in spirals the amalgamation of the pain of all these years, and the earlier years, to which I had no access, perhaps the future, too; while I felt earlier (even before I met you) that time is not linear, my shamanic travels were brief, and I didn’t know what I was doing. I was begging to bump into someone who could train me. Of course I didn’t (or did very partially). I trained myself in the end. At least I can, somewhat, slither smoothly forward and back in time like the late Mircea Eliade.

I do not fear grief. I think you figured that out much sooner.

I do not fear depression. Getting older, I feel less pressure to avoid risks of a certain kind. After all, the loss is limited, in a sense.

Were these 10 years a mourning period?

I thought, intellectually, that I could lose you (I could never make up my mind on whether I wanted you or not anyways) but – as idiotic self-help books say – I could keep some of the colours, I could learn to give them to myself.

Bullshit, I couldn’t.

Sure, I could give myself trips of various kinds. They feel more blue, steely, grey, sometimes black. They don’t remind me of the cloth bazaar in Istanbul or of the gypsy quarters. Anyways, even travel isn’t like it was these days now that we have cell phones and tourists.

We paid sth off.

I had no clarity about anything then.

I wonder what we paid off.

My ignorance was like a block of soap. Slowly, with the repetitive delicacy of barbed wire, it started scraping off. After a couple of years, it started. It took me another 5 years or so [of agony with my other nutty adventures] after you left to learn anything. Maybe 7 years. I wonder if I could have learnt in a better way, in less than 10 years, without just bursting shrapnel everywhere. I don’t even know what it was.

Maybe one of the unspeakably alien, non-earthly spirits, such as the one that manifested last night in my dream. But frankly, no. It was ignorance on my side, lack of emotional education combined with complete emotional hypersensitivity. I’ve made up on the education, somewhat.

I feel lonely.

I miss someone who is similarly reckless, and who shares some of my tastes.

Perhaps I’m still looking for someone to do the work instead of me.

Despite all, I am thinking that two pieces of self-knowledge helped me. Sure, I was self-obsessed but in the end because there was actually something to discover.

You didn’t have the patience to wait for me growing up, that in the end makes sense. A younger person who acts like I did (I think) made me understand this … they drive you nuts, in the end you realise you’ll only waste your time. Still, you leave a lasting impression.

I wonder if I’ll manage to pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar (or whatever it is Jesus said), in my adult life, and re-establish a few years of sanity or at least the vividness of experience that came with not realising there was anything to pay.

Still, if I knew how to call something like this again – and this time walking it without lacing every step with the unnecessary idiocy of that barbed wire feeling – I’d re-call it. My soul called it. For some reason it was older then. I’m not sure what it’s calling now, but after a few years of trying to placate the Romans, maybe I’ve learnt a bit of the necessary discipline, though in completely unnecessary areas.

I do feel like the moon turned, and there are 7 lives, even though Eli my neuroscience prof insisted there’s only one. What do they know?

I still wonder if I mourned this for 10 years, without realising. After all, what did I realise? What do we realise beyond this narrow rim of occasional glow around a cloud or along the horizon?

Still, the images of this decade flicker forwards and backwards through my mind like the pages of a book, like they say happens in the moments before death, and they become – heck knows what, but this was insane and I still wonder, how on Earth could I be so lucky so early and also how could all this be like a novel and why do I not have a sense of separation in time? Space?

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