Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Different Day

As he was getting out of the taxi, he saw the little boy who sat on the street selling oranges. He was shouting at the top of his voice,
"Five cents for one, fifteen cents for five, twenty-five cents for ten!"
He didn't pay attention to the boy, but as he was passing by him, he pulled on the man's sleeve and asked,
"Would you like to buy an orange, sir?"
"No. Let go of me, you little monster."
And he shook the little boy off.

The little boy, whose name was Jonas, had lost his father when he was two years old, and of course, couldn't remember him. His mother was always somewhere as she said, to "work" the whole day, and when she came home, she always fixed herself a glass of bourbon and sat on the couch the whole night, watching the beaten and battered black and white TV. She didn't make too much money at her work, so she told Jonas,
"If you don't want to die, boy, you's might as well work in the street selling oranges an making money."
He tried to look happy and smile when offering his oranges, but the weight of his sorrows was suffocating him and when he returned home to his mother with his penniless pockets, he dreaded the beatings that now were becoming a routine.

It was Christmas Eve and everyone was hurrying through the frost-ridden alleys, eager to sit down in the comfort of their home and their ever-burning fire.
The little boy knew that his mother wasn't home at this time and that she wouldn't be until very late in the night. She had probably forgotten that it was Christmas, and that morning, when Jonas was about to start his daily begging, she slurred at him,
"Thothay, don't thry ta come in unthil tamara. Ith will be loched."
He knew that unless he ate his oranges, he would die of cold and hunger. As he began to peel the fruit, his frozen fingers began to defrost.
Jonas looked up and he was surprised to find the man that he had seen earlier this morning looking down on him. The man was staring at one of the few oranges that were left.
"Here."
And he reached out his hand that contained one whole dollar. The boy's eyes became as round as saucers. He was about to reach to the last three oranges, but the man stopped him, saying,
"I don't want no oranges. Here."
And he dropped the dollar in the boy's outstretched hand.
"Thank you," he stammered.

When Jonas arrived home, he woke up his mother who had fallen asleep with a glass of scotch in her hand.
"Look, Mama, a man gave me one whole dollar! Look, Mama!"
"I'm looking, I'm looking", she grumbled.
But on her face was a smile and a twinkle in her eyes.
"Come on, boy, let's go get some holly. You know, it's Christmas today."

Friday, November 10, 2006

Love

There are some words in every language that have been used so much and have so many dictionary meanings that no one knows what they mean anymore. One of those words is hate, and of course, the opposite, love.
There are three different kinds of love: family love, friendship love, and relationship love. I suppose everyone is clear on the first two meanings of love, but the third one is much more difficult to understand. I could say that many teenagers think of love as two young people staring into each other's eyes and feeling like forever or as two broken, bleeding hearts.
When you're thirteen, you think that the intense crush you have is love, or that the few pleasurable moments you spend holding hands and making out with your boy or girlfriend is love. I suppose as you get older, the meaning you conceive changes over time.
When you think you want to spend your whole life together with someone, you marry and have babies, and instantly, you become parents. Some are enchanted by this fact and some are annoyed and frustrated by the constant shouts at random hours in the night. As the child grows up, you are confronted with more problems than you dreamed of. Your husband (or wife) doesn't listen to you anymore and your child has just begun her (or his) adolescence. Suddenly, you are facing a reflection of yourself and you try to correct your mistakes of so long ago with shouts and pleas.
As you grow old and your grandchildren stop visiting you because of the impending difference of age, you sit back in your hundred-year-old rocking-chair and open your book of memories and remember all of the good and the bad times with your spouse. You remember all of the times that you cried and laughed, all of the times that you sunk and all of the times that you rose, and as the day ends, you go to sleep with a smile on your face. You remember all of the times that you thought that the world had come to an end, when your love kept you holding on, and the times through despair, that had finally come to this moment of twilight. 

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Portraits of Agatha C.

It seemed to her that only in English did she not feel like thinking. In all of the other classes, she was joyful and friendly. Only in this class was she quiet and aloof. And it seems to me, she thought, that I haven't felt like thinking this whole week. Maybe it's just my moods taking over, she reassured herself. She looked at her black nail polish. It suited her well. Since she could think of nothing else to do, she opened her notebook and started writing about it.

When she had awakened, she remembered that today was Friday, and that tomorrow would be Saturday. She got up and started to dress. She stepped outside at 7:15 and started walking to school. Today, I have Choir. Better get ready, she reminded herself. She dislodged her tongue from its comfortable place at the back of her throat and started to sing.
"Standing on the bridge, waiting in the dark, I thought that you'd be here by now."
The cold wind entered her mouth and chilled her throat. But she kept on singing.
"There's nothing but the rain, no footsteps on the ground, I'm listening, but there's no sound." (1)
When she arrived at school, she ran her tongue over the top of her mouth, and got ready.

When she arrived home, she called her mom, ate, and settled down to do her homework. She turned on her Ipod and started to listen to it. When she finished her work, she turned the volume up higher and listened until her mom came home. They ate in silence and then she went to bed. The next day when she awoke, she realized that it was still dark out, and she remembered that it was Saturday.

"When I was in sixth grade, I was the last one to be picked for any team."
Instead of feeling sorry for her friend, M-- laughed.
"Ha, ha! Leftover!"
She had wanted to cry when M-- had said that, but she refrained from doing so and swerved her attention to the board.

What had always puzzled her was the fact that she was friends with M--. It seemed to her that M-- was an insufferable girl who always thought that she was more mature than she really thought she was. When she was excited sometimes and was talking fast, M-- always cooled her down with an abrupt,
"Shut up."
When she offered criticism, M-- turned her head away and ostracized her. And when someone had insulted M--, she just glared at them with a glare filled with daggers, thinking that if she stared at them long enough, her hate would make them melt.
Sometimes, she wished that she could slap M--, tell her to shut up, and be done with her. But she knew that M-- would hit her back and continue hitting just because she felt like it. She just couldn't abide the truth.

She loved the feeling of loneliness, but at the same time, abhorred it. She didn't like to be around people, but at the same time, she was lost without them. When her mother came home, she felt like staying in her room and just shutting the world out, but instead, the smiles were pushing, until the mask sprouted from within.
So, when her sister insulted her role model, she just couldn't take it anymore. She knew as she slammed her door that she should have stayed there and gone on with the conversation, showing no signs of emotion. She also knew that this moment would be recorded by phone to everyone in the world.
"Oh hi Kristen, do you wanna go to hang out next Friday? Ok. Oh, wait. Oh my gosh, I just have to tell you what Agatha did..."
But on the other hand, she knew that she couldn't have held back the tears. She wasn't that strong.

She dreamt herself to sleep. She dreamed of future situations, where she would meet her favourite celebrities and dreamed made-up characters she liked to call "my angel and my demon". She finally realized that she wasn't that mature after all. She was saying fancy things that made absolutely no sense just to make herself feel more important. The only place she was slightly mature was every night before she went to sleep. Her dreamland was her escape.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

AFTER: Untitled

Once upon a time, in a land very far away, hidden in the woods, there lived a clan of elves. they were an inch high, and made their houses from maple tree leaves and ate the berries that were in the bushes. The king and queen were good rulers and their people lived happily. the king had two boys and one daughter. The girl, Lucinda, was the most beautiful elf in the clan. She was barely seven years old when her older brothers went to join the army to fight in the war that was raging in the neighbouring clan. Now, her only company was her friend, the ladybug, April.
One day, while the little elf was playing in the grass, April came to her side, and told her,
"Today, I have to leave. It's my mother's birthday back home. You may come with me if you like."
"Oh, please! Please take me with you!"
So on they went, over hills and rivers, for many a day and many a night. Finally, they arrived in a very populated ladybug city. Inns, houses, shops, pubs, and formal buildings littered the leafy streets that made up the village of Rowan.
That night, April told Lucinda,
"Tomorrow night, there is a ball. It will be very beautiful. Would you like to come with me?"
"Oh, yes, please."
April wore a satiny white dress made from daisy petals and Lucinda was dressed in the red velvet of a rose petal. Everyone at the ball stared at their beauty. April was complimented and asked to dance by many gentle-bugs but Lucinda was approached gingerly and looked at with suspicion. She was not one of them, and her dress made her look different.
After the ball had ended, the guests went home and the two friends were about to leave also when Lucinda decided to stay and chat with the hosts. April left and Lucinda looked around but couldn't find anyone.
She felt lonely and was about to leave when she found a door slightly open and out of curiosity, she opened it, and gasped...The room was full of jewels. Around every chest that held the treasures were wasps, ready to defend them from any intruder that would dare enter. But because it was late, the guards were asleep.
No one will notice if I take a little jewel, Lucinda thought. So she took a small pearl, the size of a dot. And she crept out of the room without awakening any of the wasps.
She went back home and went to sleep.

The next morning, Lucinda awoke with a dreadful headache. She saw April holding the little pearl.
"Where did you get this pearl?", April asked with wide-eyed astonishment.
So, Lucinda told her the shameful story. When she had finished, April quietly said,
"In my kingdom, the thieves get their hands cut off. You should return the pearl before they find you."
And with these words, she left.

As Lucinda entered the village of Rowan, she gasped in horror. The buildings were shattered like the broken bones of a giant. The smoke that curled from the black chimneys was not cheerful like the time when Lucinda last came to the village, but was sorrowful like a widow's dress.
She hurried to the beautiful mansion that had hosted the ball and entered through the two oak doors. She stumbled to the treasure room and screeched suddenly to a halt. The skeletons in tattered, black robes that were her hosts stood before her. Lucinda fearfully opened her hand, revealing the pearl. Suddenly, toying smiles crossed their faces. The little pearl had changed into ----

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

INTERLUDE: Not Today

I don't want to think today.
In English, we're in Poetry.
And we're reading philosophical poems.
I don't want to think today,
because I'm afraid if i do, 
the sun will come reaching through
to grab me by the hand
and take me away to Heaven.

It's not that I don't want to go to Heaven,
or that I don't want to die. 
Because in Homeroom, I killed myself
so I didn't have to make people laugh.
I wanted to lie down and sit there,
and not think about anything.

I want to be blind.
I want to see darkness.
I don't want to see people,
bloated people.
Sometimes, I want to stab them,
until they die.

Sometimes, I feel silent,
and I want to be left alone.
But then the real world crashes down on me,
and it kills me.
And I want to cry.
But, I can't, because I'm dead.

Sometimes, I feel like Wednesday Addams,
like killing people for pleasure,
or being silent and not being bantered. 
Halloween scares me, though.
The candy makes me sick, so I want to throw up.

Sometimes, I want to hurt myself,
Make myself feel pain, make myself cry. 
I don't want to be a leftover.
I want to have friends,
I don't want to be here,
I want to write.
But sometimes, my ideas are like quicksilver 
and I can't keep up with them. And then,
comes writer's block, but that is so much more
agonizing.
Like a song. A couple of days singing that song, can't
getting rid of it, sweating, but you can't stop.
And then, it's gone.

You're alone.

And sad. 

Sometimes, I feel like shit. 

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Valerie

She sits there watching her reflection in the window. Her light brown eyes intently follow the birds that squawk terribly at each other. She looks like the statue of femininity. You call her gently.
"Come on, Valerie. Get away from there. You can't watch birds all day long."
But she doesn't even move. You sigh and go to your mother.
"Mom, Valerie isn't going to move. She's staring out the window."
"Well, let her be, Sarah. You know she won't appreciate it if you disturb her."
"OK. Whatever."
But as you leave the room, you have a slight hope that Valerie has moved. But she hasn't. She's still in the same position, watching the birds.

It's the first time in a long time she frets. She's nervous. She doesn't know what's going to happen to her. Sarah had quieted her down with the words,
"Don't worry, Valerie. Nothing bad's going to happen to you. We'll take you somewhere nice and after that, we'll give you a treat. OK?"
And Sarah patted her on her head.
But the mention of the treat didn't calm her. She started whimpering.
"Sarah, go and calm her down."
"OK, fine."
As the mother reached the hospital, Valerie started screaming. As Sarah tried getting her out of the car, Valerie started howling and fighting.
"Calm down! Nothing bad is going to happen to you!"
But finally, the mother placed a bag over Valerie's head to muffle her screams.
"Thanks, Mom. She almost killed me."

"It seems to me that Valerie is suffering from an interesting disease."
"Disease? What do you mean, disease?", wailed Sarah.
"Calm down. What disease?", the mother asked.
"Oh, well, I didn't mean physically. I meant mentally. Actually, it's not a disease as much as it's a problem. You see, Valerie is trying to get away. She's trying to tell you that she needs to be alone. But of course, the only way she can express that is in ignoring you."
"But why does she stare all day out the window?"
"Have you been feeding her properly?"
"She doesn't want to eat. She doesn't touch a bite."
"Have you taken her outside?"
"Well, Valerie has never taken to the outdoors. She's always preferred inside."
"Hmmm. I see. Interesting. Well, all you can do now is to leave her alone, and in time, she will slowly regain her normal self."

"So now, what are we going to do?"
"You heard what the doctor said. We're going to leave her alone."
"But what if she dies of hunger?"
"She won't. She'll know when to eat."

But months passed and still, Valerie showed no signs of regaining her normal behaviour. She ate little and grew very thin. Her ribs were visible and her eyes were sunken. But she still stayed near the window, watching the birds.
"You know, birds aren't that interesting to watch."
"Maybe she should go outside."
"I don't know. I think she would be scared."

"Oh my gosh, she's so cute!"
"Yeah, but she doesn't do anything all day long. It's no use talking to her."
Sarah's friends entered her room and for two hours, "studied". Then, they came out again, giggling.
"It's kinda hot in here, isn't it?", one of them said.
"Yeah, it's burning!"
The girl opened the window and to everyone's astonishment, Valerie sprang out the window, rand to the end of the street, and disappeared around the corner.

When Sarah's mother came and found out what had happened, she calmly said,
"Cats are very strange."

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Lucky Number

Remember when you were little and you said,
"When I become thirteen, I'll be able to do anything I want!"
You waited and waited and you dreamt of the blessed day. To you, thirteen was the age where you entered life, high school, and adolescence. You had dreams of kissing your first boy, sneaking out to go to parties, and standing up to rich and snobby girls. And your parents had told you,
"Don't get your hopes up. You'll have to cope with puberty, peer pressure, and exams."
But you wouldn't listen to them. You knew that when you became older, you would find a way to get around these things.
Three years later, you can't believe it! One more week and you will officially become a teenager. You plan your birthday party with care. You'll invite some of your friends and even some relatives. You'll order pizza and buy ice cream and cake and...Oh, Mom, I need gum! What for? I just do. And gum. Your friends say that they'll warp your locker with pink paper but you know they won't. They know you too well. Your grandparents call from Europe to wish you a happy birthday and they ask if the present has arrived yet, and you say no.
Saturday comes. You spend your day waiting for tomorrow to arrive. The minutes and hours seem endless! Finally, the day ends and you go to bed. You wake up the next morning and guess what...it's your birthday! You smile and look at your clock. It's 7:00 A.M. No time to go back to sleep now. You climb out of bed and pick your book to read for a few hours. 9:00 comes and you spring out of bed. First, you tell your parents,
"I'll go outside and then...PARTY!!!!"
After a few hours, the guests start arriving. Some of your friends call to say that they can't come. they have to baby-sit, or they're grounded, or that they have to go somewhere. Oh, well, it won't matter. The presents pile up, big and small, but all wrapped up...and the pool becomes filled. You step in too and you start to play with the other children. Like this, three hours go by. It becomes too dark to see, the guests say goodbye and you are left alone with your presents. You rip the wrapping paper apart, eager to see the wonders inside: clothes, books, games, and jewelry. Some of them you like, some of them you don't. But after all, it's the thoughts that count. You smile and your parents congratulate you and say,
"Now you're thirteen. How does it feel like to be a teenager?"
And you respond,
"It feels great!"
But lying in bed, you realize that it doesn't feel great. It doesn't feel like anything. You haven't changed, you haven't grown taller or matured. You're still the same old person, except older. You feel sad. Today, you are thirteen and one day older. But the world won't change. It'll stay the same.

That's what I think about twenty-three years later, when my daughter comes to the age of thirteen. After all the celebrations and parties, I go to her and tell her,
"Enjoy being thirteen. After this, many things will change you, emotionally and physically. this is the only year that is special. Enjoy it for a year. It's your lucky number."

Friday, March 10, 2006

A Story of Heartbreak

I. 

This time, it's hazy. Five years ago, when he had come here, the sun was shining and the flowers were blooming. The animals had smiled as he had walked by, and the water had a turquoise-emerald shine to it. Now, the flowers had transformed into weeds, and the animals were nowhere to be seen. The water was a ghostly mist, where the lifeless fish dreamed of the flies that used to be. The trees were old and crooked, as though they were listening for a sound from the mud-stained earth, hoping for a whimper to be heard, so that they could calm their own grief.
She walked through the half-drowned daisies and sat down on a sodden rock. She looked up towards the sky. The clouds were gray, no ray of light squirming through them. The scene was a Renaissance once. The girl with her light golden hair down on her shoulders and the sad landscape that matched her mood were as one soul. They breathed the same breath, they thought the same thoughts, they cried the same tears. But the only thing that they did not do together was laugh.
Long ago, I laughed at something. but what was it?, she wondered. But she didn't want to remember. Then why had she come here? Was she just a tired traveller, or was she someone, just anyone, who had lived here before and who had endured a heart pain and left? Who was she? Did she remember? She didn't want to.

II. 

It had been a beautiful day outside, just after a spring shower. The flowers were raising their heads and conversing with the sun. The squirrels were chasing each other and the robins were fighting over a helpless worm that wished he wasn't that important. She had been sitting on the footstool, plucking the chicken and singing "My Heart's in the Highlands". He had come with the wind playing with his hair and whistling an army tune. She had looked up and seen a silhouette climbing the hills and had dropped the chicken and rushed towards the cottage, shouting, 
"Mama, mama, there's a stranger coming!"
And her mother had said, very calmly,
"Go and finish plucking the chicken. And when the dogs start barking, shout at 'em and tell 'em to shut up."
The girl stepped outside again and noticed that the man was closer. She could see that he was wearing a kind of tunic made from red cloth. He was carrying a pack of brown, worn leather and, as she sat down again on the stool, he came nearer and asked:
"Is this the only dwelling along the road?"
"Yes, it is. If you are tired, you may stay here for the night. My mother will care for you."
"Thank you. You are very kind."
He had a proper Oxford accent, and one could see that he was from the university. He smiled at her and went to talk to her mother. She was blown away as if something very good had happened, but now it was gone. The way he had looked at her, did it mean anything? Of course not, stop dreaming, and pluck the chicken, she scolded herself. but that scene remained imprinted in her head and she went to sleep dreaming of the man.

III.

Those months that passed had been the happiest of her life. He said that he would come back. He promised. But he never did. She waited and she waited--summers, months, years. And it took her a long time to find out that he had tricked her. At first, it was just a nagging idea, coming through the pink clouds of sunsets. And then, it grew and grew, and she finally had to tell herself the truth. He was never going to come back. 
And now her she was, five years later, at the same place. She felt like she had no reason for life. He had taken her heart and tore it apart. She looked towards the cottage. It was a ruined heap and the family cemetery was covered in weeds. She walked slowly towards it. When she arrived to her mother's grave, she dropped a rose, and whispered, 
"I cannot see my grave. Where is it?"

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Once Upon a Time

You sit on the sand and try to write a story. "Once upon a time..." is a fairy tale beginning. Once upon a time, there was a king. There's always a king. And he has three daughters. The youngest is always the most beautiful and all the boys want her. Once upon a time. There's too much wind, and too many voices. Voices and voices and voices...speaking, whispering, shouting, screeching hysterically, laughing. Always laughing. They never keep quiet. You write a name in the sand. Of course it's your name. And then you wipe it with your foot. You gaze at the sea. Will you drown? You don't suppose so. You stand up and walk towards the water. It laps towards your feet. You test the temperature. Just right. You step in and go in deeper and deeper. Now the waves crash up to your waist. Oh, bother. Your skirt will be wet. Wet and salty and clingy. It's all right. It will dry out. No reason to despair.
Look, look! What was that? It jumped. Look, there it is again. Fish! Fish in the sea! Of course, fish in the sea. Where else would they come from? Look, another one! And another! Do you see them? No?! But look, it's there! How can you--Look! Why are you staring at me like that? I'm not mad. There are fish in the sea! Why don't you believe me?
You stalk away angrily. You come to the wet sand. You find a stick and trace your name. A-L-I...Oh, now, how annoying. The letters are gone. No use writing anyway. The tide will take it away. Where? Where will the sea take your name? Far, far away in lands of green and seas of blue?
The sun is setting and your hair is red. Oh, how beautiful it is. The light is shining on your hair so beautifully. Oh, how splendid. You walk to where you left your notebook. Once upon a time, there was a girl with red hair...You wonder if it's true. Of course! There are millions of girls with red hair. What kind? You mean orange hair? You've never seen a girl with red hair before. Oh, well, it is a fairy tale. Nothing in it has to be true.

You walk to school on a hot, humid morning. It's the first day of school and the anxiety that's been with you for the past seven years comes again in your stomach: butterflies. You hate it. You absolutely hate the first day. Of course, there are your friends who are there to say, "Hey! What's up? How was your summer?" And you to respond, "Oh, it was OK." When it really hadn't been, because the only thing you had done was listen to the radio and read and write. You wrote and you wrote until you thought your hand would break. You wrote so that the imaginary magazine would be satisfied with your stories and give you enough money for a week. You wrote. You wrote about death, depression, love, sadness, happiness, children, teenagers, adults. You wrote and wrote and suddenly you had achieved twelve stories in two months, each one a small novel. And you read. You read the same books over and over again but you didn't mind. The Catcher in the Rye, Fahrenheit 451, The Little Prince, and your own stories. And after the summer had passed, you had begun to wear eye shadow, only it wasn't eye shadow, they were real circles. But nobody noticed because you covered them up. You covered them up with a smile and a laugh and saying, "Oh, yes, my summer was all right", and going on with your life. But at the end of that horrible day, you would go home and cry and you would remember the faces of the girls looking at you in disgust. Oh, how horrible it was! And then you would talk to yourself, telling yourself it would be all right, and thinking that no one heard you, but the walls were paper and the neighbours were listening with their ears glued to the wall. And they would hear you, but there would be no response, and they would know. Yes, they would know. And the news would be all over the city that, Oh did you know, did you know, that Alice talks to herself? And everyone would say, Oh no, I didn't know that, and laugh quietly and they would tell their daughters and then you would be made fun of. But then you would smile that smile, the smile that showed your teeth, but your eyes were dark and full of hatred. And they would leave you alone.
You would go home again and write and write and the ideas would be pouring from the sky--ideas not rain. But you would write and write but the page would not end and you would cry in despair, but the words would flow from your pend and would not stop.
You would go to bed and wish that you would not wake, that you would sleep forever, but then morning would come and the birds would begin to sing. Oh, how you wished you had a gun to shoot them. The day would start and you would go to school again and you would steady yourself by the wall, because you felt a bit faint and then...

...you would wake up because it was all a dream, but yet it wasn't because you remembered that you had gone to school yesterday. Or was it last year? Yesterday was such a long time ago. And you would look at the clock, expecting to see it was 7:30 A.M., but instead, it would be 5:00 A.M., and you would shake the clock and think you were dreaming. But you weren't and after five minutes of reassurance, you would get out your notebook and begin to write. You would write because you had nothing else to do, and because you needed money. You desperately needed money, but the editor would say, "I'm very sorry, but we're looking for something modern." Modern. The modern stories were about tea parties and ladies that would gossip and talk about fashion and gentlemen who would be gambling and losing. Your stories were about craziness and fish and fairy tales and paper walls. Your stories weren't modern.
And you wished you could scream but it was 5:00 A.M. and you just couldn't. You were losing your sanity and you needed to cling to a piece of reality, a little piece of something that would tell you that you weren't falling into depression. So you ripped the walls and you screamed and you smashed the mirrors and the windows and you bled and you bled and you screamed and cried and laughed. You laughed. And the people came in swarms and fell back at the blood and the ripped wall and open mouth and the eyes. The eyes. Those cold, blue eyes. And you told them, "Once upon a time she laughed." And they thought you were insane. But you weren't because once upon at time she did laugh. She laughed at the world. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Important Things

                I take the subway for the first time this day. At 12:00, everyone is in a rush to get somewhere. I jump on the local train seconds before the doors close behind me. I take a seat and let the show begin. I watch each face, carefully trying to find out the mysteries of each life. All I find are stone cold gazes, blind to the sight of beauty. The girl in front of me is listening to music: hip-hop, I think. I can hear the “Oh, baby when you talk like that” Shakira voice and I watch the video cli over and over again in my head. 1 That’s the only thing they give on TV and after seeing the clip five times a day, you get tired of watching it. I turn my head, and sixty-year-old woman coughs slightly, and then goes back to stony silence. Her bags swing from side to side as the car is thrust from wall to wall, pieces of metal coming off. The warbled voice announces,
Staţia următoare este Titan.”2
The doors open and almost everyone rushes off to work, to market, or to the strand, a water hole, where teens and twenty year olds can talk about nothing and tan themselves in the boiling Romanian sun.
My eyes slightly widen as I look around me. Only a couple of people are left, eyes closed, drifting to a place where stress cannot find them. the sight is so similar to New York—I forget that not only am I in a different country, but in a different continent. I open my eyes and see as many people as I saw when I got on the train. Every day, I stay two hours in the subway, looking at faces that I will never see again in my life. It’s amazing how many people there are. How many people who are afraid of telling anyone anything, or communicating with anyone, because they “have a busy life and I don’t have time for such trifles”. Am I the only one who has time? Who do you think I am? Do you think I’m a grown-up who has nothing to do? you do. I know what you’re thinking, reader. How? Because I know that all of you are the same, all of you have the same narrow minds, neither of you trying to recognize that there are other, more important things than money and cars and oil. There are more important things than war, and killing and winning a game. The really important things are the trees that you grow, the toy that you love, the music that you make. You are the one that has to do the important things. Not anyone else.
The graffiti on the walls grin at me. I see a “Fuck U” and a “Goths Rule by Dark Priestess”. In New York, the walls are clean, but the floors are horrible. Gum and paper are embedded in the shiny cement, making a fossil out of a man-made object. Maybe a thousand years from now someone will find the gum and say,
                “What is this white, hard thing? It looks like …gum.”
                And they will think,
                “What idiots we were back then. We didn’t know anything. Now we have much more than we had. We’re smarter.”
                But they won’t realize that they aren’t smarter. They’re stupider. TV and video games have broken their minds and made their heads spin with guns, violence, and heavy metal.
                The doors open for the hundredth time this day and a man the age of forty begins to play a tango on the violin. The music resounds to the graffitied walls and echoes back only to my ears. Everyone else’s ears are stopped up with a worm that has eaten their brains and instead has put a TV in their heads. They cannot hear the beautiful music. When the song finishes, a man gives the musician 10.000 lei, which is less than 50 cents. I look outraged and I begin to stand up to give the man at least 50.000 lei. I push the banknote in his hand and he looks amazed at me. He stares at the money and looks back at me, only to find me smiling. He stammers,
                “M-m-mulţumesc.”
                “Cu plăcere.” 3
                The train screeches to a stop and the man stumbles out with his present. I laugh and the whole car turns its head and stares at me. The sound of laughter is a sound that they have never heard before. They look at me as though I’m an alien. As though I’m a zoo animal. I’m not amazed or embarrassed by this act. I’m used to it. I get off at the next station and walk up the stairs to find that the light and the blue sky blind me. I look to find the mall and enter the store where I work: Leonardo.

                Seven hours later, I go home the same way I came and knock on my door. I’ve forgotten my keys again. They’re probably in my room on the shelf. My mother opens the door and says,
                “How was work today?”
                “Ok. Same old, same old.”
                “I still don’t understand why you’re doing this. It’s summer. You should be sleeping the whole day, not working.”
                “I like it. And anyway, I’m making some extra money.”
                “But you don’t need to.”
                “I know. That’s the beauty of it. I don’t have anything to do with my summer, anyway.”
                My mother shakes her head but says nothing. We’ve gone through this many times. She’s always the one who walks away confused.
                I go up to my room. My sister is listening to MTV. Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” is playing at full volume. I shout,
                “Put it down!”  
                My sister looks at me and answers back,
                “Why?”
                I go up to the TV and shut it.
                “ ‘Cause I said so. Get out. This is my room. What are you doing in it>”
                “Your TV is better.”
                “So? You still have no right.”
                “Mom said I could.”
                I sigh.
                “Whatever. Just get out.”
                She slams the door and mutters,
                “Bitch.”
                “I heard that!”
                I fall on the bed and close my eyes. Today was a normal day in my life. But yet, it was special. How? Because I did something. I realized something. I laughed and felt something. I look at my stuffed teddy bear. He smiles his forever smile and looks at me with shining eyes. He knows. He knows what life is. He has a heart. Anyone would say that I was mad. But am I? I love my teddy bear. I would do anything for him. Just that, just that feeling, is something important. I hug Little Christmas and I kiss him on the nose.
                               
                The next day, I look around for the violinist. Ten minutes later, he comes in the car. He finds a seat and looks around. He sees me and smiles. I smile back. He comes and sits next to me and we talk about this and that until the subject comes to yesterday.
                “Why did you give me so much money?”
                “Because you played well.”
                “But no one gives me more than 20.000 lei.”
                “I gave you more.”
                “Well, yes, but why?”
                “Because you played well.”
                The doors open again and I step out. When I look back, I see the man has a look of wonder and confusion on his face. I laugh. The answer is so simple really. I gave him so much money because he did something truly important. He filled a heart with gladness.
1 At that time in 2006, Shakira’s single “Hips Don’t Lie” was one of the most played songs on the radio.
2 “The next station is Titan.” [Romanian]

3 “Thank you.” “You’re welcome.” [Romanian]                I take the subway for the first time this day. At 12:00, everyone is in a rush to get somewhere. I jump on the local train seconds before the doors close behind me. I take a seat and let the show begin. I watch each face, carefully trying to find out the mysteries of each life. All I find are stone cold gazes, blind to the sight of beauty. The girl in front of me is listening to music: hip-hop, I think. I can hear the “Oh, baby when you talk like that” Shakira voice and I watch the video cli over and over again in my head. 1 That’s the only thing they give on TV and after seeing the clip five times a day, you get tired of watching it. I turn my head, and sixty-year-old woman coughs slightly, and then goes back to stony silence. Her bags swing from side to side as the car is thrust from wall to wall, pieces of metal coming off. The warbled voice announces,
Staţia următoare este Titan.”2
The doors open and almost everyone rushes off to work, to market, or to the strand, a water hole, where teens and twenty year olds can talk about nothing and tan themselves in the boiling Romanian sun.
My eyes slightly widen as I look around me. Only a couple of people are left, eyes closed, drifting to a place where stress cannot find them. the sight is so similar to New York—I forget that not only am I in a different country, but in a different continent. I open my eyes and see as many people as I saw when I got on the train. Every day, I stay two hours in the subway, looking at faces that I will never see again in my life. It’s amazing how many people there are. How many people who are afraid of telling anyone anything, or communicating with anyone, because they “have a busy life and I don’t have time for such trifles”. Am I the only one who has time? Who do you think I am? Do you think I’m a grown-up who has nothing to do? you do. I know what you’re thinking, reader. How? Because I know that all of you are the same, all of you have the same narrow minds, neither of you trying to recognize that there are other, more important things than money and cars and oil. There are more important things than war, and killing and winning a game. The really important things are the trees that you grow, the toy that you love, the music that you make. You are the one that has to do the important things. Not anyone else.
The graffiti on the walls grin at me. I see a “Fuck U” and a “Goths Rule by Dark Priestess”. In New York, the walls are clean, but the floors are horrible. Gum and paper are embedded in the shiny cement, making a fossil out of a man-made object. Maybe a thousand years from now someone will find the gum and say,
                “What is this white, hard thing? It looks like …gum.”
                And they will think,
                “What idiots we were back then. We didn’t know anything. Now we have much more than we had. We’re smarter.”
                But they won’t realize that they aren’t smarter. They’re stupider. TV and video games have broken their minds and made their heads spin with guns, violence, and heavy metal.
                The doors open for the hundredth time this day and a man the age of forty begins to play a tango on the violin. The music resounds to the graffitied walls and echoes back only to my ears. Everyone else’s ears are stopped up with a worm that has eaten their brains and instead has put a TV in their heads. They cannot hear the beautiful music. When the song finishes, a man gives the musician 10.000 lei, which is less than 50 cents. I look outraged and I begin to stand up to give the man at least 50.000 lei. I push the banknote in his hand and he looks amazed at me. He stares at the money and looks back at me, only to find me smiling. He stammers,
                “M-m-mulţumesc.”
                “Cu plăcere.” 3
                The train screeches to a stop and the man stumbles out with his present. I laugh and the whole car turns its head and stares at me. The sound of laughter is a sound that they have never heard before. They look at me as though I’m an alien. As though I’m a zoo animal. I’m not amazed or embarrassed by this act. I’m used to it. I get off at the next station and walk up the stairs to find that the light and the blue sky blind me. I look to find the mall and enter the store where I work: Leonardo.

                Seven hours later, I go home the same way I came and knock on my door. I’ve forgotten my keys again. They’re probably in my room on the shelf. My mother opens the door and says,
                “How was work today?”
                “Ok. Same old, same old.”
                “I still don’t understand why you’re doing this. It’s summer. You should be sleeping the whole day, not working.”
                “I like it. And anyway, I’m making some extra money.”
                “But you don’t need to.”
                “I know. That’s the beauty of it. I don’t have anything to do with my summer, anyway.”
                My mother shakes her head but says nothing. We’ve gone through this many times. She’s always the one who walks away confused.
                I go up to my room. My sister is listening to MTV. Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” is playing at full volume. I shout,
                “Put it down!”  
                My sister looks at me and answers back,
                “Why?”
                I go up to the TV and shut it.
                “ ‘Cause I said so. Get out. This is my room. What are you doing in it>”
                “Your TV is better.”
                “So? You still have no right.”
                “Mom said I could.”
                I sigh.
                “Whatever. Just get out.”
                She slams the door and mutters,
                “Bitch.”
                “I heard that!”
                I fall on the bed and close my eyes. Today was a normal day in my life. But yet, it was special. How? Because I did something. I realized something. I laughed and felt something. I look at my stuffed teddy bear. He smiles his forever smile and looks at me with shining eyes. He knows. He knows what life is. He has a heart. Anyone would say that I was mad. But am I? I love my teddy bear. I would do anything for him. Just that, just that feeling, is something important. I hug Little Christmas and I kiss him on the nose.
                               
                The next day, I look around for the violinist. Ten minutes later, he comes in the car. He finds a seat and looks around. He sees me and smiles. I smile back. He comes and sits next to me and we talk about this and that until the subject comes to yesterday.
                “Why did you give me so much money?”
                “Because you played well.”
                “But no one gives me more than 20.000 lei.”
                “I gave you more.”
                “Well, yes, but why?”
                “Because you played well.”
                The doors open again and I step out. When I look back, I see the man has a look of wonder and confusion on his face. I laugh. The answer is so simple really. I gave him so much money because he did something truly important. He filled a heart with gladness.
1 At that time in 2006, Shakira’s single “Hips Don’t Lie” was one of the most played songs on the radio.
2 “The next station is Titan.” [Romanian]
3 “Thank you.” “You’re welcome.” [Romanian]