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.

You should come with me to the end of the world

“Is there any chance you might come to Cambodia with me one day?”

“Cambodia?!” I ask, turning on my mental gps and trying to locate it on the map. Is it in Africa? I wonder, but I quickly cover up my confusion with a smile and decide the best answer to a question you don’t know the answer to is another question: “Why would I want to go to Cambodia?”

“Because it’s beautiful…” he replies squeezing my arm.

We’re walking together in Cismigiu, the oldest park in Bucharest. He’s my oldest friend. 84.

A long conversation follows as I’m trying to figure out why he wants to take me to the end of the world, since I can’t afford to pay for almost anything on such a long and faraway journey.

“I tell you, if I were fifty years younger, you’d be having a very hard time trying to get rid of me. But I’m not, so I can just be your friend”, he says laughing, trying to assure me of the terms of our relationship and help me relax into the proposal. But I still find it difficult.

“You like travelling, don’t you? So why then can’t you accept that life is giving you a present?” he finally asks the question that manages to convince me to say yes.

“Really?” he asks. “You are coming?” Now he’s the one who’s surprised. It’s the first time he’s met someone who’s as crazy as he is, it seems.

This is who I am. Once I know it’s something I want, I jump in head first and I go all the way. There’s no half measure with me. And I am brave enough to go to the end of the world with someone I’ve known for a very short while. I am thirsty for life. I have been so since I decided to live, after having been so close to death in early childhood.

It’s been one year since my journey to Cambodia. And it was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. It has changed me. Now, a year later, I’m going on another journey. This time with a partner. Not a friend. Not just a lover, either. Someone I’ve decided to give a chance to. It’s hard, I’m not gonna lie. Every day I am a battle ground for these two inner forces – the one saying I should leave and travel on my own and the other one, the softer one, that wants love and companionship and dreams of domestic bliss, both on and off the road. I try to love them both. Last year this is what I asked for, keeling in all the temples I visited: “Send me my partner. Send me my travel companion. And I will serve You forever.” This is what I got.

PS More about the current journey and the one in Cambodia soon on the blog.

PPS The title of this blog post is a line from a song by Aphrodite’s Child that I like – End of the world.