On May 27, 2011, I was embarking upon my very first solo escape away from home, in a town that was supposed to be larger than life, teeming with newness, sparkling lights and endless opportunities. Though I’m not trying to use my age back then as an excuse, I was young and dumb, as most 17-year-olds are. In addition to these glorious attributes, I was also morbidly depressed. My class had just been awarded the first prize in an international green energy competition, and as a result, all my classmates were jubilating over their upcoming trip to Rome, where the award ceremony was going to take place. All but me.
Why? Because since I was underage, I couldn’t leave the country without parental consent, which was impossible to obtain, given that my mother was working in Germany at the time, didn’t speak one word of Goethe’s language and hadn’t managed to save enough money in order to afford a trip to the embassy or better yet, one back home. She had no idea how German bureaucracy worked and neither did I. Besides, we were both too ignorant to beat the bushes all over the Internet or to give a phone call at the Embassy, attempting to find a solution, which is why we commonly and comfortably agreed to simply let it go. Therefore, out of the 33 pupils in my classroom, I was the only one not to attend the award ceremony in Rome, in recognition of my highly appreciated essay on climate change and renewable energy. What’s more, since life has always taken immense pleasure in making fun of me, the free seat on the plane and the empty bed at the hotel, which were supposed to host Ancuța’s ghostly and pitiable absent silhouette, were given, by the power vested in her by the State of my class master, to our history teacher – a phony hag whom I had passively-aggressively loathed for the previous three years. Useless to say that she hadn’t made any contribution whatsoever to our project, her sole qualification in this matter being the fact that she and my class master were sort of joined at the hip. When confronted with my not-so-subtle frowning upon her decision, the latter explained: ‘She speaks English and I don’t, I thought she’d help us a lot on the streets, asking for directions, bla-bla-bla’. Right. Absolutely right. It’s not as though there hadn’t been a bunch of fully qualified English teachers in our high school, among whom she could’ve smoothly chosen another one to travel with instead of the history harpy. Or as though about 80% of my class hadn’t spoken decent or even flawless – :clearsthroat: Livia :clearsthroatagain: – English. Or as though Italians could give the slightest damn about your English skills whatsoever – while in Italy, you eat like Italians, walk like Italians and, of course, talk like Italians. Ergo, it seems more than logical to have brought with you in Italy a history teacher as an English interpreter. Oh, poor Ancuța though. If only she hadn’t been this stupid peasant having no clue how life works and how one can be taken advantage of in utterly vile ways.
Never mind. While my former history teacher was preparing to enjoy a genuine Italian gelato and admire the historical sites she’d been prating about for years on end in front of the blackboard, I was packing my bags, buying myself a train ticket and brushing up on my dissimulation aptitudes with view to my upcoming trip to Bucharest. I let my grandma know that I was going to spend the weekend at a (girl) friend of mine, who was a first year med school student back then. To whom it may concern, I had never (and have never, to this day) met this person; we only used to speak sporadically on Yahoo! Messenger and she even unfriended me on Facebook in the meantime.
But how could I have possibly told my grandma the naked truth – that I was going to sleep in a dorm room along with three guys? Three guys with dicks and balls, and beer that could get you drunk, and sperm that could get you pregnant.
Three fucking (or not) guys.
Oh boy(s). I remember, painfully and nostalgically at the same time, almost every single detail of those eerie days. I remember my uncouthness and that I didn’t bother wearing a bra when meeting G. and G., the roommates of a certain Bobby Finkel in whose bed I happened to crash. I was wearing this teeny-tiny tight gray undershirt and a pair of varicolored shorts, which were covering like barely twenty percent of my thigh’s length. Yeah, I know what you may think, but I swear I wasn’t a whore, nor did I have any whorish intentions. It just seemed to me the normal thing to do and it didn’t feel awkward at all, although now it does. I was 17 and dumb, mind you.
I remember the mountain bike hanging upon the ceiling, the huge posters depicting artsy chicks cladding the walls, the red bedframes and the shabby ball one of the G’s – let’s just simply call him G1 – cropped up with into the room from a football session in the university campus. My first memory of him is that of his kindness and of his curly hair, though when I come to think of it, I believe he’s only been curly in my imagination. Dear Lord, what a thrill to be able to log on Facebook from his computer, which had about 142 tabs open. Albeit it didn’t sound like one, I took it as a compliment when he told me that I looked prettier without glasses – oh, those horrendous, narrow, black-rimmed glasses that were supposed to give me an intellectual look and had failed lamentably to do so. I find it funny that he was introduced to me as the guy who was going to fly across the ocean and spend the whole summer in the States. ‘The whole summer?! Are you for real? To do what?’ ‘Mostly work. And then travel.’ ‘Say what?! Is it possible? If so, I wanna do it, too!’ Obviously, I never have. It was too much for me. But May 27, 2011 is undeniably the day when the bud of wanderlust started to sprout beneath the ardent soil of my wishes. The day when I found out there’s an ocean you could cross, if you wanted really badly. The day when I discovered that there’s another world out there, which has transgressed the musty pages of the geography atlas and positioned itself in the lives of normal people, who don’t own fortunes, nor are they particularly privileged compared to me. The day when I confronted the beautiful and intrepid craziness that makes you think that in a time to come, maybe, hopefully, you will go all Cristopher Columbus too, notwithstanding that you hadn’t even been capable of making it to the so easily reachable Rome, a 90-minutes flight away from home. Oh, Gosh. That day meant so freaking much.
The other G – that is, G2 – couldn’t stand calling me Anca, because that name was bringing back foul memories from his dating history, so he called me otherwise, but I no longer recall how. As evening fell, we all went to the mall to buy stuff to eat (the guys had also put into their basket a 400 mL bottle of shampoo and, if my memory serves me right, no alcohol whatsoever. Kind of weird, I know). Anent myself, I’d only picked three Raffaello coconut balls and a Kinder chocolate egg, a mere trifle that wasn’t worth a receipt of its own – which is why G1 suggested I could place my products alongside theirs onto the conveyor belt, but I kindly declined his offer.
Back at the dorm, Bobby Finkel shared an orange with me in his bed, and I was so taken aback by the delicacy of this gesture that I imagined there would be a lot more we were going to share in the near future; but he made sure I had clearly and thoroughly understood that it wouldn’t be the case. Afterwards, all four of us went outside for a night football session in the campus – but firstly, we passed by a gas station across the street to inflate a little that shabby ball G1 had brought with him earlier in the day. It was May 27 and cold as hell, and I had drastically changed my whorish appearance, having put on a blue sleeveless blouse and a floor-sweeping skirt, all white and loose, which Bobby Finkel wittily qualified as anti-rape attire. They started playing football under forty-eight yellow lights peering at us from twenty meters above ground, and there I stood on the sideline, watching them with my arms clenched and blowing on my fists from time to time to warm them up, instead of embarking on a flight to Rome to indulge on pizza Margherita, gelato and touristy sightseeing.
When we left, Bobby Finkel noticed I was shivering and put his arms around mine for the first time ever. I no longer felt so sorry for not having been able to make it to Italy – although that night, he slept on the floor and I – in his bed, drooling uncontrollably upon his freshly-washed pillowcase smelling of hyacinths. It looks like he also threw up later on, because he had taken a few gulps of some unidentified wish-wash alcoholic beverage; the circumstances of this predicament had been swept away from my mind, but not from G1’s, due to whom they have recently been revived in mine as well.
Sleep is what I mostly plied myself with during that queer sojourn in Bucharest, for the mere reason that I had nothing else to do or who to do it with. Bobby Finkel said from the very beginning that he wouldn’t show me around – since he had much better stuff to do, such as playing League of Legends or studying for his pre-session exams -, while G1 suggested I should go visit the Botanical Gardens, which were located really close – but as I said, I was 17, dumb and for the first time on my own in such a big city; in consequence, I didn’t have the guts to engage myself in such a risky enterprise, for fear of getting lost. I contented myself with visiting the mall, having for lunch a big serving of fries at McDonald’s, a salad and a McFlurry, and then for dinner – a 40-cm pizza Margherita, as a surrogate for the treats I couldn’t pamper myself with in Rome. I spoke with my friend C. on the phone, who was astonished to find out that that asshole hadn’t taken me anywhere. After dinner, I went for a long (or so I thought) walk along the Vasile Milea avenue, approaching the Grozăvești headquarters, whose existence I had ignored up to that moment. In fact, when I saw a Carrefour sign far away in the distance, I got a bit scared and I instantly dodged it, thinking I had reached the dreadly outskirts – for in my mind, it didn’t make sense for hypermarkets to be located downtown, they were supposed to be only in remote areas, as the only large store in my hometown was. As I was heading back towards the dorm, listening to California King Bed on my mp4 player, I was smiling and talking to myself, telling me that in ten years’ time I’d conjure up all this gush of events and feelings and that I’ll make fun of them. I was endeavoring to put up a brave front and convince myself that I was fine, in spite of the bitterness and the emptiness that had conquered my everything. Baby’s all dressed up with nowhere to go, that’s the little story of the girl you know, as the song goes.
The following night, I reheated in the microwave some of the leftover pizza, watched a football match and drank beer on the floor. I was supposed to spend two extra nights with the three guys, but since I didn’t feel as welcome as expected, I decided that I should shorten my stay and go home first thing in the morning. I relinquished in that room, as a souvenir of my presence, some cheese and tomatoes, half a bread, a knife and a hair tie. Perhaps most of my hopefulness and naivety as well. Bobby Finkel didn’t even bother to open the door for me, let alone display any interest in how I was going to make it to the train station. We briefly bade each other farewell, G1 insisted that I should fill out a feedback form concerning my stay in their room, and off I went.
I swore I would never come back, but I did one year later; and then again, on two or three different occasions – every time to no avail. I’d always leave that building and that world with a lingering impression of vacuum, which would absorb into its vortex the singular morsel of genuine elation that should have stayed with me forever – knowing that the ocean is still out there, as blue and frozen as it used to be on May 27, 2011, waiting for me to cross it and embrace its blood-curdling expanse.
Six years without two days later, on May 25, 2017, on Ascension Day, I laid the crucial brick in the bridge that will finally take me to the other side. When all hope was gone and all attempts discarded, when I wasn’t even giving it a thought anymore, May 27, 2011 came back to me and treated me nicely, as it should have done back then. Six years without two days ago.