Run, Forrest, run!


A teenage boy wearing thick glasses, no jacket over a thin white blouse and flip flops over his grey socks is feeding bread from a plastic bag to the seagulls on the river bank. He tears big pieces of the soft loaf and throws them in the air, pausing from time to time to take hungry bites himself.  When both the boy and the birds finish their lunch together, he folds the plastic bag and hides it in his fist before shoving it in his trousers pocket and crossing the street, disappearing among the old houses on the other side of the road. My baby is sound asleep against my chest, tucked in the elastic wrap and I can feel his warm breath against my skin. I stop in my walk to watch the scene. I know it’s one of those moments that are going to turn into lasting memories and stick with me for a long while.

Just like my midwife’s coffee scented breath in the wee hours of the morning as she’s blowing softly on my face during labor, while I’m feeling my baby’s head with my fingertips before he finally comes out later.

Or his heart pounding like a racing horse’s under that pink flowered tree in the park, as he pulled me closer and closer, giving me long kisses before allowing a short distance between our mouths and resting his eyes on my lips while uttering the question he’d been rehearsing so many times. It was a cool evening after a rainy day this spring and I felt like peeing.

Or seeing that second line on the pink test at 4 am on March 8, sitting on the toilet in his bathroom and trying to live through the next day as if everything hadn’t completely changed forever.

Or his warmth when I cuddled in his arms on our first night together and my chest exploding from the incredible heat as he so full of himself assured me: “Relax, I am here for you.” Back in Harmony street, early December…

Or sitting in my seat on the bus taking me from Konya to Cappadochia, my dark red fingernails matching the fresh bruises on my face, and the whiteness of the skin on my neck reflected in the clean window. November 1, last year.

Or landing in Cambodia in such perfect darkness that night in February last year, my 85 year old Swiss friend sitting beside me, a long saliva string with sparkling beads hanging from the corner of his mouth all the way down to his shirt, while I’m struggling with such a strong combination of anxiousness, curiosity and fear.

Or that rainy evening in March last year, landing in Istanbul to meet a beloved friend on her birthday after a delayed flight. Looking for flowers and cake in the airport and ending up with a huge lolly pop in my hand as I’m walking up to her in that impressive crowd in the Ataturk airport to surprise her from behind. Her smile and her tight hug bringing back old feelings of guilt.

Or coming out of the shower, wrapped up in that white towel, water still dripping from my hair down my bare shoulders, and seeing that silver mist fill up that shabby candle lit hotel room in Istanbul where I stayed for a whole week a month later. “My happy time”, as my Syrian friend called it. “You’re happy, Dana”, he explained, “that’s why you see this fog in the room. It’s called happiness.”

Or crossing that bridge lined with flower pots somewhere in Cluj in the summer of 2015, construction noise filling up the area and dust sticking to the skin on my feet, my sandals getting sweaty on the hot asphalt.

Or a particular evening in August two years ago while carrying stuff on my bike from my former home when I moved in Harmony street and I heard this little girl say: “Look, mom, the lady is going on holiday!” and I felt she was making such an accurate description of my situation in spite of the distance between us.

Or that morning back in my former home, probably in the spring of 2015, folding laundry and sprinkling it with warm, fresh tears on the stretched out couch in the living room where I’d just spent my first night alone, out of the bedroom. “This is so damn hard”, I told him, “Help me”. “Do you want me to help you stay or help you leave?” he asked picking up a T-shirt, tears rolling from his eyes down his cheeks and crossing paths on his chin, making it shiver uncontrollably.

Or that narrow road in Crete about ten years ago, after dinner in that beach tavern where those Greeks suddenly spoke no English at all when they brought us our overcharged bill. The day was losing strength as night was closing in, and so was I losing respect for the man driving next to me.

Or that creepy studio I lived in for a few months when I finished university, with its dirty armchair by the balcony door, where he sat, legs spread, arms resting in his lap, lowered chin and faint voice. That “I don’t love you anymore” that threw me out of my own life like a dog kicked out of a yard when its people are tired of it.

Or that “I love you!” spoken to me as if it were a huge and painful problem, sitting at the desk in my room back in my home town, while I was still in high school. I didn’t know how to answer that, so I closed my eyes and hugged him and just copied a detached attitude I’d seen was successful and repeated what someone else had said to me not long before: “What am I going to do with you?”

And so many others, like a big box with a wide selection of pralines – different sizes, shapes and flavors. I wonder if Forrest Gump had a similar perception when he remembered “My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

PS Yeah, that’s me in the photo.

October is my favorite month

“Come here, stand like this, closer to the lady, yes, I want your hand here, good, lower the bouquet, smile, yes, now a little kiss, hold it, hold it, ok, now here, like this…” the ‘military’ lady at the city hall is directing everything so that she can take “just a few pictures, not many, just a few!”

As soon as we get inside the marriage room, she takes over and informs us she’s going to take photos of us whether we like it or not.

“It’s ok”, I try to stop her, “we already have our own photographer, so it’s not necessary, thank you.”

“That’s why I’m telling you it’s just a few photos, not many, and it’s gonna cost you just 100 ron, not more.”

We later laugh when we remember her, in her military style, giving us orders about how to stand, where to look, when and how long to kiss for the camera. Eventually, her photos didn’t turn out bad at all, though. But the military lady’s style is in such a sharp contrast to our dear friend’s, who’s actually a lawyer and took a day off from her office so that she could be with us and give us this wonderful gift of taking our wedding pictures in such a loving, soothing and embracing manner! And she’s a very talented photographer, indeed!

Oh, I got married, yes. It happened on a perfect Indian summer day, 17 October, in our 37th week of pregnancy. Only 7 guests (what a number!) – our parents, our godparents and the very good friend who took photos. I’ve always had a special connection to number 17… And it was one of those days when you are so happy and truly believe nothing can ever go wrong again, everybody seems friendly, you feel great and look your best standing up tall in your pink shoes matching the pink flower in your hair and the rose bouquet in your hand and basically can’t stop smiling.

He proposed in May, under a very special tree, with pink flowers grown right on its bark, in a garden where we often used take long walks. My ring has a small emerald stone, embraced by a loose silver knitting. We’ve been through so much since May and it does feel as if the relationship had to grow and ripen until autumn so that we could take the big step. I didn’t feel fearful at all, which is such a blessing after so much inner turmoil, anxiety and so much questioning.

Not bothered by other people’s expectations and projections, I am enjoying the freedom and confidence a higher level of maturity brings. Having gone through a lot of comparing and feelings of inadequacy, getting the urge to run away so many times, I feel stable now, I feel like I’m right where I’m supposed to be, where I have chosen to be, with my new partner, taking a new name that I love, living in a new house that we’re making into a home, wearing new clothes and new shoes, on a brand new day, in my brand new life. Exactly what I was dreaming of.

Nothing is what it used to be. Before the wedding day a lot of memories from my past lives visited and even haunted me for a while, making me nostalgic, sad and even regretful at times. It felt as if all the past ghosts wanted to visit and say goodbye before I stepped over the threshold and into my new life. No, the whole thing was not just a formality (as I initially thought it might come down to).

When we first stepped into the church, exactly one month and a day before the wedding, I knew that was it – we’d found the place. It was a beautiful Saturday morning, still quite warm, and we had an ultra sound appointment at the medical center next to the church, on the same street as the university I attended more than ten years before. The receptionist told us the doctor was late, so we went out and decided to visit the church. Such a pleasant, quiet and warm atmosphere! When the priest – white haired, kind, smiling and sociable, probably in his late fifties – came out and gave us a brief introduction in the history of the church (dating since the late 1700s), I was sure.

Among other fascinating pieces of information, he tells us it’s the only church where a woman has ever been allowed to preach in the orthodox church – Olga Greceanu, who also painted part of the church. It’s my church, I’m thinking, feeling happier and happier about the discovery. “When I first entered the church, more that twenty years ago, I just knew this was my church.” the priest adds, and I know for sure he’s one of my kind. Which later proves right, as he performs the wedding ceremony and then comes out of the church with us to tell us more stories and we are all amazed at so many coincidences, which make us exclaim one more time: “It’s such a small world!”

I was happy my parents were there, although I admit the thought felt a bit irritating in the beginning. Their presence, with their warm smile and affection, their hearts pounding and palms sweating, their discretion and decency, their respect, strong support and warm love – everything made me feel I am so lucky to have them as my parents, despite the more difficult childhood years and the conflicts we’ve had. It all melted away in the light of new love and newly found common ground – a magical place where I felt our hearts met.

This week, the 38th week, I’m feeling slower and I’m getting tired more easily. It’s an interesting feeling – not being able to rush. Slowing down always brings me closer to myself, helps me become more aware of my breath, the sensations in my body and my thoughts. I notice the rush around me as I’m walking in the street and I’m feeling so lucky to be in a totally different world. It’s as if I were the center of the tornado sometimes. Still and heavy, a pregnant whale floating in the vastness of the ocean casting its waves on faraway beaches. Sometimes the heaviness of the belly or the sudden baby kicks hurt, but they’re still so beautiful. Well, a whale is luckier since she doesn’t have to take toilet trips every two hours (be it night or day), like I do… I’m still feeling so beautiful, in spite of the heaviness.

On the other hand, the nesting instinct (of which I used to think was a mere marketing invention or at best a pretext for bored housewives) having taken over me, I can’t stop making preparations, although I know the best way to spend this time is simply to rest… “Maybe you can find the time to stop and enjoy the last week you’re carrying your baby inside you… It’s a miracle you have there.” a friend writes and I decide to follow her wise advice.

So… I’ve made lamps for the entire house, a felt and wool raining cloud to hang over the changing table, I modeled angel wings and houses out of clay and started planning Christmas gifts and decorations (the earliest I’ve ever started preparing for Christmas.!), I’ve sewed a felt ball and stuffed it with wool for the baby to play with, washed all his clothes, of course, ordered the closets, drawers and shelves…

And so much more. I keep thinking after I finish preparing, we can just relax, take naps, cuddle and enjoy the nest. And that after the baby comes, we can focus on him and not worry about anything else… I know it doesn’t really work like that, but that’s what I’m dreaming of.

You know, I’ve discovered that even when you are in charge of your own time and you can set your own rhythm and schedule, if you’re used to being busy, then you’ll be busy all the time, you’ll always have a long to do list you just can’t get to the bottom of because every day you add more and more tasks to it. I feel like laughing at myself for that, but still cannot help overdoing it. And walking long distances, which still feels great.

taking long walks in the third trimester of pregnancy

My birthday is coming up this Monday, so I’m evaluating the time since my last birthday and find it amazing! It’s been the year with the greatest changes ever! But this is for another blog post, coming up soon unless the baby decides to come out sooner that that. By the way, I expect birth to be the most amazing experience ever, intense and smooth and also funny (why not?) and moving and rewarding. Oh and then Christmas as a new family… I’m feeling so grateful for such precious gifts!

PS Photos of the big day (taken by our friend) are still on their way.



A meeting with an old friend, flooded in light

“You’re basically doing all the right things”, the ophthalmologist tells me after the examination, having almost blinded me with her strong light, taking the deepest look into my eyes anyone has ever taken.

The flood of light when I get out into the sun and the snow is so painful I can barely keep my eyes open and I’m feeling a little bit confused trying to make my way to the park to meet some of the kids in my class. There are no contours and everything seems to float and move all the time, as if I were trying to focus and the camera just won’t keep still.

“Mrs Daniela, Mrs Daniela, I missed you so much”, he says running towards me and jumping into my arms. I forget he’s grown and, hugging him tight, I lift him at my chest to make keeping him close easier on my back. This embarrasses him, so I quickly put him down and tell him how much he’s grown (though I’m not so credible anymore, since I could lift him).

“Me too, my darling, me too. Let me look at you” and I’m searching for his eyes and, through the blinding light still pouring in, I can still see that part of me I’ve always seen in him and that part of him I see in me every morning when I look in the mirror.

He’s so sensitive it almost feels like his skin has been peeled off his chest and his heart has no way of defending herself against the world doing all it does just by being itself. He takes it all in and lets it storm throughout his entire being. His heart is so big everyone and everything fits inside and there is still room for more. I wish mine were brave enough to be like that all the time. Leaving the doors and the windows wide open through the lowest and the highest temperatures.

He lives in India now with his family. A travelers’ family. We’re from the same family, so not even for a moment do I feel we have ever been apart. And I do feel, with all my heart, that there is a strong connection between us and it will stay strong and live through many life changes. I knew it since the first time I saw him – a strong, intelligent and scared eight year old, blinking all the time and hiding his eyes from mine. I knew he’s from my ship. We’re still sailing together.

Thank you, Rareș.


One more time with feeling. A journey through Brighton and my own heart

I must confess I wasn’t actually looking forward to watching the documentary about Nick Cave’s latest album. I hadn’t even listened to the album, to be perfectly honest. I knew it was much about the pain of losing his fifteen year old son last year. I knew he’d fallen off a cliff in Brighton. Didn’t know it was LSD. In November, right after I’d been in Brighton after my birthday.

Got on the train from London and I’m feeling so excited taking in the damp landscape as the train is cutting through fields and small towns in a more quiet and rural England. I can’t wait to get to the sea. A Romanian couple are talking loudly a few seats away and I’m feeling so self-sufficient in my quiet bubble, reading, writing and taking pictures.

In Brighton a friend is waiting for me. I met him in Bucharest in a pub one night a few years ago. We had a friend in common and later found out we were born in the same area – the Jiu Valley, Hunedoara, each from his small mining town. I met him once there, on a winter holiday. We went up on some hills together and licked a sweet, clear liquid off some naked tree branches.

He meets me at the Brighton station and then takes me on a walk along narrow streets lined with pubs and shops and I get my green leather bound diary from an antique book shop and my Rumi poetry book from this big fancy book shop. I can still remember the moment I found it and my fingertips touching it for the first time. Such great desire for this book. A lover seeking a lover. A few months later my friend writes telling me he’s found a nice, old, copy of Rumi’s and wants me to have it. I tell him I’ll wait for it till we meet again, so he can give it to me in person.

We make confessions and have a pleasant time as he’s taking me to the sea. Even before I step on the pebble beach and feel her smell, like a woman’s smell when she hasn’t showered for a day, my eyes are flooded and I look away for fear I might look stupid. But the sight of the sea does that to me every time. I suppose I should live next to her for a while to find my cure. Or just let her make me cry like this every time. As if I were meeting an old lover I could never fall out of love with.

“I have a surprise for you”, he tells me and walks me to  what I recognize to be the Royal Pavilion, where a friend of his from the gay community lets us in before the huge crowd queuing at the entrance. You know, everybody knows everybody in the gay community. (Or rather everybody has known everybody. At least once.) Therefore, it’s like a big family, people help each other. So we have this wonderful, quiet and private tour and I am impressed and grateful. Her majesty feels she’s getting what she deserves.

visiting the royal pavilion in brighton

“Do you know Nick Cave lives here?” I ask my friend, but I can’t remember his answer a year later. I’m thinking about Nick Cave as we’re having lunch in this Thai restaurant and then a beer in a queer pub and can’t help admiring the view. I wonder if I could actually recognize him if I saw him in the street. I’m thinking probably not.

Having left my friend in Brighton, after one more pint in a pub on the corner opposite the station, I am smiling alone in my blue seat on the last train back to London. “I love you”, I text my gay friend, but the text won’t go through and I’m left looking at the reflection of the luminous phone screen in the black wagon window. My body would like to lie down in the arms of someone loving and just let go. Still, I must be alert and awake and make my way back to my kindergarten friend’s house in London.

As I’m walking on my own to the cinema in Bucharest tonight,  I pass by this loud tipsy couple speaking English. She’s way younger than him and Romanian, while he seems to be an American. Both are tall and lean and their movements seem a little bit disorganized and careless, zigzagging across the sidewalk and dodging various obstacles.

“Yeah, you know, because nobody’s perfect. Not even me”, she says and speeds up a few steps in front of him.

“Really? You’re not perfect?” he asks sounding genuinely surprised.

And I smile and walk on, checking out the Christmas lights on their first night. I was supposed to meet someone tonight and it got postponed. A long awaited encounter. So my stomach is still not very tense and I still don’t feel like I have anything to lose. It’s just a projection at this point. I’m a silent passenger walking among these people, under these lights, along these streets, in this cold. Nobody’s partner. Perhaps somebody’s dream. Still not met. I am anonymous. I can very well disappear. Only I feel so balanced and confident. There’s nothing that can shake me right now, as I am walking to the cinema.

“Most of us don’t wanna change, really. I mean why should we? What we do want is sort of modifications of the original model. We keep being ourselves, just hopefully better versions of ourselves. But what happens when an event occurs that is so catastrophic that we just change? We change from the known person to the unknown person. So that when you look at yourself in the mirror you recognize the person that you were, but the person inside the skin is a different person.” Kick Cave begins in his serious voice, perhaps a bit coarser and fainter than I used to know it. He’s sitting at the piano and the camera is moving around him and the strong contrast, black and white image infused with high pitched violin sounds quickly hypnotizes me and I lose track of who I was when I came to this place.

“Ah, Brighton! I was there. Right there. Brighton peer. Last year in November, after my birthday.” I lean and whisper in my friend’s ear and she looks surprised when she turns smiling to me.

brighton peer at night

And that sensation of being torn and shred to pieces comes back. Or the memory of it, rather. You know, when you feel you’ve freed yourself to the point of becoming nothing more than a piece of rag being blown by the wind and drifting aimlessly, unable to grab hold of anything stable.

“Somebody’s gotta sing the pain.” Nick says and I finally get it. Somebody’s gotta be here to represent the pain, the darkness, the hardship. Someone’s gotta validate these experiences and honor this part of life so that the darker side can have a voice and therefore can make room for us to perceive the lighter side, too and make the difference between the two. In a world of duality, light cannot exist without darkness. Nor can pleasure without pain. Or happiness without unhappiness. So we need these special representatives that offer creative media for the dark side to come to the surface and feel justice is being done. The same way we need representatives for the bright side. And ways to express both. I just think the darker positions sometimes are harder to fill in. At the same time, I also feel there’s a great danger it might actually be quite on the contrary.

“I shall never love again.” my friend in Istanbul confesses to me after his girlfriend left him. Again.

“Yes, you will, habibi. This is what you told me the day I first met you. And that was when I knew I would love you. You will love again. And it will be wonderful.” I tell him without any shadow of a doubt. “Do you wanna know how I know that? It’s because I have been there. Broken to pieces. Trembling and suffocating, crying and shouting with pain and crawling like a worm. And I will never stop loving. No matter what happens to me. My heart will always stay open. Always. Because it’s wonderful.”

“We decided we would be happy as a form of protest. We decided to be happy and our happiness would be an act of revenge, of defiance. And we would be kind. To ourselves and to the other people.” Nick Cave explains towards the end of his documentary.

And I remember that so did I. So why am I so afraid then? I need to keep reminding myself of the simple things, things I’ve been certain about and that fear makes me forget. My stomach seems to insist on coming down with gastritis. Simply because it finds it so romantic. I am not afraid of travelling alone to remote and hostile places. What if I run? I’m so good at running! I can just disappear. Before things get out of hand. Before I lose myself, before I become too vulnerable. Having nothing leaves nothing to lose. And all the possible freedom. I don’t actually need anyone, do I? No one to complete me. I am whole. Shams confirmed. Yet, I remember my decision. And I’ve decided to be happy. And to be kind. To the others and to myself. Not as a form of protest. But as a way of living. Inshallah.

34th birthday trip: day  1 – Bucharest to Istanbul

I have a special talent turning perfectly good lovers into best friends. So I am looking forward to meeting one of my best friends in Istanbul today at noon. 

The sky is clear and sunny as I leave Bucharest and, as always, I cannot get enough of the sky view. No matter how often I fly, I still think it is one of the best views you can ever have.

No one on the airport in Bucharest asked anything or made any loud remarks about my face. Nevertheless, in the typical Romanian tradition, everyone was staring and whispering. Absence and distance, a cold and safe net in which we get stuck in mid flight, like in a spider’s carefully woven web.
About Istanbul and hopefully photos, in a later post.