It’s a hot summer’s day in Bucharest

And Bucharest is terrible on hot summer days. It looks as if a dragon’s breath has run over it at light speed, several times.

And I’ve just got off the tram on this long boulevard lined with tall, grey communist apartment buildings and I’m looking for a newly opened bookshop. It is part of a very elegant bookshop chain and it’s supposed to be here somewhere.

I finally find a passageway between these two dusty buildings and there it is. Behind the busy boulevard, a dirty plot, with holes in the dry mud and plastic bags flying around like in that famous scene in that American movie I forget the name of. You know, almost, just almost art. Garbage everywhere. I make my way to the door of the bookshop.

Inside there is a bourgeois atmosphere. Elegance, the scent of connoisseur’s tea, of freshly printed books, the polished squeaky wooden floor, the carefully chosen, well placed warm lights. The place feels like a lonely member of an aristocratic family that’s lost his way in a blue collar neighborhood.

And nothing happens. I don’t meet anyone special. In fact, I don’t meet anyone at all. Apart from the shop keeper, I am the only one there. I don’t remember buying anything remarkable, though I probably did buy something just to make the shopkeeper feel better (yes, I often did that and still do it sometimes).

How in the world have they opened this bookshop in this horrible place?

And why the heck does this memory keep popping up in my mind, more than ten years later, while I’m out playing with the kids, doing house chores or whatever? Nothing happened! Why do I keep seeing this? When I was there, I never imagined I would remember anything about that experience. Because it was totally unimpressive. And, again, NOTHING happened.

And as I’m talking to a friend about it the other day and as she’s really listening, I hear myself asking THE question: what did I feel then?

The answer was already there and it struck me like a bolt of lightning:

A deep lack of belonging. A sense of the outcast, the margin, the uninvited guest, the rebel.

Story of my life.