I was telling you in a previous post about a book I’ve been working on recently. Good news! It’s almost ready – if editing is ever over! – and I am really looking forward to sharing it with you soon.
For now, here are some fragments from the introduction and a few photos of the first draft. Let’s see if you can guess the title!
There are quite a few homes I have lived in throughout the years, each of them bringing back memories not only of a certain place, but especially of a certain moment in time.
It started in my hometown, Bucharest: the flat in the communist block in Pantelimon neighbourhood where I spent most of my primary school years, the flat on Unirii Boulevard where we moved in 1990 and lived throughout gymnasium, the studio in the Writers’ Block where I lived while in high school, the flat in the Tower Block, at United Nations Square, while at the university, and finally, the flat close to Alba Iulia Square, where I lived – always with my family – for seven years following graduation.
My wish to live abroad came true in the summer of 2010, when I moved to Amsterdam. My first home away from home was a loft on Antillenstraat, in De Baarsjes neighbourhood. While each of the homes I have lived in has a special place in my memories, it is this loft in Amsterdam I feel particularly connected to. Not only because it was my first home abroad, but because it was the place where I lived on my own for the first time.
This book is a glimpse into my life for the two and a half years I spent in the loft, with the ups and downs that came my way in a time resembling, in the beginning, a second childhood, and later on, a fall from paradise.
The first time I’ve heard about the loft was on a rooftop in Bucharest. There was this friend of mine who had recently moved to Amsterdam and who came back for a few days to visit his family. It was a warm evening in 2006, and we met for drinks on top of Bucharest National Theatre, at a terrace called La Motoare. A gin and tonic in hand and the night sky above us, my friend started to tell me about his new place in Amsterdam: “The moment I stepped inside the loft, I knew I wanted to live there. Some places you can just feel.” I was all ears. My friend continued: “There is this huge terrace behind floor-to-ceiling windows, and you need to climb a ladder to go to bed. From the bed you can look all the way down, and you can also see outside, through the windows. It was love at first sight.”
I didn’t leave the loft until November 2012. I remember stopping by one day after work, for no particular reason. I was no longer living there, but I still had the keys, which I was to hand over to the new tenant soon. Apart from some basic furniture, the place looked empty, echoing the smallest of sounds – like a theatre hall after the show ended.
There was a time for everything in the loft, for good and for worse. There was no door to shut behind when I left that evening – it never had been – but there was a curtain to drop down.
“Welcome to Antillenstraat!” the old lady on the first floor greeted me on that afternoon in August, when I moved in. It is an invitation I am extending to you now, in this book. I put together – chronologically – photos and texts from the time when I was living there.
With the exception of some neighbourhood shots, all the photos in the book are taken in or from the loft. Just like the written parts, they are, first and foremost, a reflection of my emotional landscape, rather than an artistic interpretation of the place. As for the texts, I have done some minor editing only, as the intention was to let them reflect my original feelings, unaltered, with the risk of sounding a bit naive, exalted, desperate, or maybe infatuated.