Browsing through the photos I have taken and the texts I have written throughout the year, it is easy to remember the best moments of 2018. Apart from travels, literary and artistic revelations (books, movies,) some of my favourite recollections are simple moments with my friends, the dialogues we’ve had, the laughter we shared.
I made a list. Each title is a link to the story, the words in italics a fragment from it.
I regret not knowing about David Wojnarowicz earlier in my life. For those times when nothing else seemed to work, I could have turned to his words and let them talk for me. Like I do now. Little do we have in common in terms of, among others, background and lifestyle, and so I might fail to understand him thoroughly, and yet his words speak to me like no others I have ever heard.
And then the movie starts. The setting, the two, the encounter. The heart beating faster, the nights sleepless with desire. And desire. And desire. When your eyes are focused on the desired one and everything else is blurry. Finally, love happens. It is uncontrollable, it is like magic, it is the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to you. Your lover becomes you and you become your lover. “Call me by your name!” You kiss, you make love, you kiss, you make love. You talk on repeat about the delicious first moments when he said… or he did…, and you said… or you did…, and none of you knew what the other one thought and would have given anything to find out. You watch him sleeping. You cannot believe how happy you two are. When he is away, you wear his shirt – his skin against yours. With love comes the fear of loss, and eventually, loss. When you realize it is over for good, pain becomes the only way you can cope with life. The loss of the loved one. The realization that never again you two will touch, kiss or make love. And there is no consolation for that. All you can do is cry and remember. “I remember everything.” And when you smile again it is because you realize just how lucky you were to have found love – even if in the past tense.
Among other things, Alina loves to be a host. She would effortlessly throw something in the oven, get some drinks on the table, put on a nice dress and some lipstick, and wait for the guests to arrive. Food, conversation, and pretty clothes – three of her favourite things into one activity.
It started there. The first sunshine of the year. The laid-back visitors lounging on the monument at Largo de São Paulo, while Nico and I sipped on lemonades at the terrace in the square – stone, people, birds, and sun. Ships floating on silver waters. Pastel coloured neighbourhoods looking down from the top of the hills. Under the skin, I felt my blood getting warmer, boiling and circulating these sensations all throughout my body. A feeling so familiar, like falling in love. I took it home with me. It was the closest to myself I had been in a long time. It has stayed with me ever since.
Today, enjoying the sun on Jharda‘s rooftop in the 9 Streets, a cold drink at hand, I realized I no longer had a problem with routine. Routine is no longer an obstacle between myself and my creative realization because the creative ideas have left me or at least they are on hold. Then the idea to go to Westerpark and see the trees in bloom came. We sat on the grass underneath a tree and looked at the children playing happily in the park. I felt happy, too, for no particular reason. “Whoops! A cherry flower hit me,” said Jharda, and I burst into laughter almost immediately, repeating her words and imitating her voice. It was raining with cherry flowers and sunshine.
It’s a matter of resonance. I finally understand why I feel so much for Berlin – not only the city, its people as well. I like Berliners. I watch them with curiosity and admiration. Young people, families, children… The best place to watch them is the U-Bahn. I like how they talk in a low voice. I like that they read. I like the way they dress, out of synch with trends, in sync with themselves. I like how couples hold hands and lean on each other’s shoulders. It’s beautiful. It’s refreshing. It’s inspiring. So this might be it, I concluded. It’s about resonance. I resonate with Berlin and, most importantly, with its people. I am next to them and I know our thoughts are similar. This makes me feel good. It connects me with them and, in a broader sense, with their city. We are edgy, yet we are kind. We are considerate of the other while enjoying our own freedom in the city that allows us to be ourselves. We make eye contact. We like to wear black. We like to hold hands. We like the U-Bahn. We love Berlin.
May, Modica (Sicily)
It is only now, as I am sitting at this table in our beautiful baroque house in Modica Alta, a cup of tea at hand and a crystal chandelier hanging from the high, vaulted ceiling above my head, that I am finally starting to feel I am in Sicily. Through the window, the amber coloured façades are glowing in the dark. It is hard to put into words the atmosphere of this house and this majestic old town. Walking back home after a late dinner, I felt as if in the Middle Ages, passing beneath stone arches and historical street lights, step after step, up the hill. There is hardly anyone on the streets and we cannot understand why. We don’t know. We don’t care. We love it here.
May, Palermo (Sicily)
How exactly to put into words the joy of being in Palermo for the first time? The sea and the shipyard on one side, the misty mountains on the other, the people’s laughter, the scooters, the music flooding out on the streets from bars and restaurants, the wooden shutters and the geraniums on our balcony – so much life and so much beauty to take in.
“Smell this jasmine,” I told her trying to come up with some sort of composition.
“Like this?” she said, burying her nose into the plant.
“That’s too much, I cannot see your face.”
“Damn it!” She stepped back. “Better?”
Some people have special powers. With them, even the most common scenes of life – going for a walk, having a drink in a cafe, sharing a pizza in a city square – become cinematic, movie-like. These people can make magic happen. Better than in the movies, better than in the books, because this magic is for real. And I can’t imagine life without it.
~ Spending my birthday in Paris ~
Ana is one of my muses. It is absolutely effortless to take good photos of her. I went to her place Tuesday after work. She waited for me with dinner, then we had coffee and chocolate on her sunny balcony in Amsterdam West. On the sounds of fado from her mother country, we moved from one room to the other, taking photos of her in what she referred to as homey circumstances.
August, Bucharest (Romania)
And then I met Dragoș for a drink. We haven’t been together in Bucharest in a long time. Just like when we first met, in 2004, I waited for him in front of Unirii metro stop. We walked up to Universitate, on the same route we had taken back then. We did not go to La Motoare this time because La Motoare no longer exists. Instead, we stopped for a drink in the garden at Dianei 4. He looked handsome. He was going on a date afterwards. With him, I felt as if coming back to myself. Everything suddenly felt better, as if feels when people open up to me and I open up to them. When we hugged goodbye in front of the National Theatre – a long, warm hug – I felt drunk. It was not the alcohol – I only had one beer. It was happiness. The city itself seemed to open up to me again, and walking down to Unirii with music in my ears, I felt connected to everything and everyone around me. I thought of Dragoș, ready to love someone new. I thought of me, so different than the old, Bucharest version of myself.
August, Vama Veche (Romania)
This summer, I experienced my first sunrise in Vama Veche. I put the alarm clock at 05:40. The beach was full of people and they did not wake up with the alarm clock. They were there since the night before, dancing and drinking. The music was still on because the music never stops in Vama Veche. “Here comes the sun!” the crowds cheered when the pink horizon produced a bright pearl right above the waterline. Some jumped into the water throwing their clothes on the shore. Others were just watching. I was happy to be there and share the moment with all those strangers, who suddenly did not seem so strange anymore. After sunrise, when most people went to sleep, I walked to a beach bar to get myself some coffee. I could hear bits of conversations around me: “What do you mean you go to the room to take a pee?” a guy asked his friend, almost in shock. “Go pee in the sea, like everyone else!”
Elizabeth and I spent the last hot day of this summer in Amsterdam together. We met at her place for lunch and coffee, then walked along the city streets for hours on end, chatting, taking photos, losing our way a few times. “This was supposed to be a day in my life, something I do regularly, and here I am, going the wrong way.” We laughed about it and repositioned ourselves. There was no wrong way, we just kept on forgetting we were on a mission.
It’s my day off and I took the tram to go to the only appointment in the calendar. I wish I stayed home instead. It has been raining since morning, the kind of rain you know is not going to stop any time soon. Today reminds me of what the coming months are going to look like and I am not enthusiastic about it. With nothing else to do and in no mood to go back home yet, I walked. I took photos of the rain. I smelled the last flowers of this summer. And I realized I was there for real. For a whole hour, I did not miss anything.
Commercials were over and the movie started. The black and white, slow-motion images of the dirty dancers, sensually invading each other’s personal space, arching backs and lifting legs. The song, sending me back to high-school, when I first saw the movie, on videotape: “The night we met I knew I needed you so / And if I had the chance I’d never let you go.” Jharda and I could not refrain from making some exaltation sounds, like groupies, covering our eyes to avoid more embarrassment. Dirty Dancing. We were seeing Dirty Dancing. Sometimes during the movie, I realized Cinecenter had become my living room, and Jharda my companion for this favourite activity of mine, in this favourite cinema.
“Why do we always come to see this kind of movies together?” I asked her during the hot, “Cry To Me” scene. Jharda shook her head and laughed.
The street lights were still on as we walked into the Red Light District minutes before sunrise. The trash, the vacant windows, the hungry birds, they all reminded of the night that had just passed, its presence still tangible, sticking to the skin, sleazy in the morning air. At 8 am sharp the church bells sang their century-old melody. No one on the street, except for a few suspect characters: a man with a cello, some young people with cameras, two guys on a bench throwing bread crumbs to the birds. Did they just come, like us, or were they about to leave and finally get some sleep?
October, New York
New York – the city of superlatives in the country of superlatives… Expectations were high when I arrived, four days ago. Only New York could put me on a plane for eight hours. I could not get my head around the fact that I was finally here. As I lay in the hotel bed soon after arrival, gazing at skyscrapers through the window, I thought the city was a blank page to me. I had absolutely no history and no memories here. How strange. David Wojnarowicz is the reason I came to New York. I wanted to be in his city. I wanted to walk the streets he once walked. I wanted to be closer. Ever since I discovered his art and especially since I read his books – memoirs, journals, biography – something has changed for me. There was a connection. There was inspiration. What I feel for David Wojnarowicz could be classified as love, I suppose. I feel for him. His words bring tears to my eyes. I miss him. I never met him.