Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Eternally Unshaken.

It happened during a series of devastatingly cold weeks in January. One month after the American presidential election, I left the United States in search of the truth. I found the truth personified at the bottom of the staircase under the subway map in the station in Bucharest. The truth was eating a baguette as the trains went by, as the people passed, constantly in motion. She was stationary. She was sitting on the stairs beneath a glorified promotion for an American film when she saw me. “Are you lost?” She asked me. It was a question I thought about long after she asked it, one I had asked myself many times before, and still ask myself today. It was then that I found the truth in its most honest form. I found Ligia Miranescu.
She took my hand, led me into the street, and introduced me to her brother, Gheorghe, as no American treasure. During a time in which the whole world had its starry eyes on me, while my country screamed like a car alarm, crumbling beneath political turmoil, Ligia looked away from me. Her dark eyes were pointed upward, toward the Balkan sky. But she looked away too long, and Gheorghe hurdled a snowball at her head which landed on her chest and exploded upon her coat in a conflagration of crystals. On her ears, on her nose, on her hat, on her scarf.
But Ligia doesn’t brush it off. She just leaves it there and begins to smile. Covered in snow, she sparkles beneath the streetlights. Ligia comes from where the sun never sets, in the marriage of the East and the West. She is indescribably beautiful, eternally unshaken, and unapologetically Romanian.
The subway rumbles beneath our feet. In that moment, running down the staircase, we are alive in another lifetime. Now, we are the ones in motion as the world around us nears a full and complete stop. We are flying down the stairs into the subway station where we first met, not too long ago. But wasn’t it? A day ago? A lifetime ago? We rush past the magazine and newspaper stands covered in red, white, and blue. It reminds me of “home.” I don’t want to leave and before I have no other choice, Ligia Miranescu tugs me into the subway car.
“America needs you,
America kisses you,
Never forget that America misses you.”

They both kiss me in a rushed and improper goodbye as I’m able to leap out of the closing doors of the train before the voice can come over the intercom- “AtenĊ£ie!” From the window, the truth calls to me and says- “Amanda, remember! Polytechnic station! Don’t get lost!”

I wave as the train flies along the tracks. I am lost in the most beautiful way.

In Eastern Europe.


January 2017

In Eastern Europe, time is measured in packs of cigarettes. Lengths of conversations are determined by the amount of smoke in the air around you. Perhaps there is an equation to solve for these amounts of time. Or perhaps not, because it passes differently for each person. In Eastern Europe, cigarette breaks are not few and far between, but when they are over, people return, slowly, to their offices. The lights flicker above their desks.

In Eastern Europe, in a town called Bucharest, time moves slower. Especially in the winter time. Temperatures are sub-zero and the inter-molecular forces, the velocity of the particles in the air slows down. Although the speed of sound has surpassed us, the streets and cars seem inaudible. I am able to play guitar by the open window with my fingers, although my calluses are blistered from the cold, and I can hear myself. It's quiet.

In the streets, children hold to their mothers' arms, silently, and shuffle through the snow. For a moment it seems so quiet that the only possible conclusion I can come to is that everyone in this entire town is just holding their breath. Waiting, perhaps. Waiting for a bus or a cab or a train. Waiting- for metrou line number 3.

In Eastern Europe, there is a train. It runs along the third metrou line of Bucharest's underground subway system. There is a train that runs all the way until the "1st of December." No. Not the date. The place. Do not be mistaken, for in Bucharest there is a station called 1 Decembrie, 1918. I later learned that this was the national day of Romanian unification, "Great Union Day" they call it. It's the day when Transylvania, Bessarabia, Bukovina, and the Romanian Kingdom became unified as one country. But it's almost as if travelling along that subway line meant that you were transcending space and time. It's almost as if during the unification of those Balkan regions, time and space were also being unified, so that if you decided to travel through space on metrou line number 3, you were also deciding to travel through time, nearly 100 years ago.


And you could believe it too. Because in Eastern Europe, babushka, bunica, la nonna of the East, wears a fur coat. She is old and elegant. Her hands have seen the cold snow and her face has felt the dry wind of the northern Balkans. A vision of her could properly convince you that the year is in fact 1918, that the country has just been unified, along with time and space.