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]

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