Struggle. Love. Cry. Hope.
For Romanian click here.
A novel first published in Romanian (Eikon 2017), available in English (translated by Mihaela Alecu) on Amazon (click on the image).
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“Did you know that at first Boston was bigger than New York?” Bryan asked Azade as he started the car. “Yeah, it was for a while. But we have to thank the Dutch. Who knows what the Big Apple would be now, if they wouldn’t have set one of their economic centers here, in the New Amsterdam, as it used to be called. Their colonial politics was at it was, no comment, but the important thing is what was left after them, like this wonderful city, which changed his name to New York in 1664, when it was conquered by the English. Even though now it is the biggest, no, the hugest, and probably the most important, anyway the most notorious city in the US, it is not even the capital city, it is not even the capital of the state that bares its name.”
“I know, it’s Albany,” said Azade.
“Exactly,” Bryan endorsed. “But, New York City was at first the capital, for a while, starting in 1785. Back then, in times somewhat murky, the U.S. Congress kept moving, gathering in different locations. And in 1789, since the U.S. Congress was established by the Constitution, the capital only moved three more times: the first time to New York, the second time to Philadelphia – it had been here before as well; and since 1800, it was finally established in Washington, initially part of Maryland, then D.C.”
“What does D.C. stand for?”
“For District of Columbia.”
“I suppose that ‘Columbia’ comes from Columbus… as there were in Europe,” Azade’s face lit up, “the Latin names: Gallia, or Britannia and so on.”
“Yes, that is correct! Smart girl!” Bryan smiled.
Azade took a break, then she returned to the capitals.
“I knew about Philadelphia,” said Azade, “of its famous Bell, and the Declaration of Independence, but New York was really a surprise!”
“You see,” said Bryan, “we should visit my Philadelphia too, and Washington, so many reasons for you to remain in the US.”
Azade smiled. She stood thinking for a while.
“It is not as simple as you say it,” she started. “First, I am a bit scared, for two reasons: one: the raising intolerance, because ‘owls are not always what they seem’, she quoted a TV show; two: I am a little overwhelmed by this country’s dimensions. I constantly have the impression that at one point that certain something that holds it together will no longer exist. And this thought scares me…”
“But you have no reason to be scared, believe me. It is just a misleading impression! There are over two hundred years that point to the contrary…”
“Secondly,” Azade continued nodding without contradicting him, “trips to certain places are not good enough reasons to stay there. What if I were to move to every country that I get to visit?” she highlighted in a more ironical voice. “Which would then be my country? Or how could I ever visit something new again?”
“You are right,” said Bryan. “But, I mean, there are so many things to be seen in America! It is so simple to see them when you live here.”
“But there are so many thing to see in Europe as well,” Azade did not give up.
“You are right again. Indeed, we are off to a wrong track. There are beautiful places all over the world. This is not the definitive argument when you decide to move to another country.”
“For you,” Azade asked seriously, “what would it be?”
“Hmm, tough to say. I believe, however, that love. If I was to find love, let’s say in Switzerland and my lover would not move here with me, although I can’t find any reason against it, I would very seriously consider moving there myself.”
“Interesting. I didn’t expect so much romance from a pragmatic like yourself.”
“Do you find me pragmatic?” Bryan asked her surprised.
“Well, aren’t you?”
“I never thought about it. What makes you say that?”
“Let’s see. You secured your school tax and first job with Air Force, right?”
“Right,” he said.
“You are specializing in one of the most practical, if not the most practical specialty in medicine, Radiology. Correct?”
“It is,” he said penitently. “But I am not convinced that Radiology…”
“And then,” Azade continued relentless, “isn’t pragmatism one of the national traits?”
“Hmm, this I couldn’t say…”
“At least its philosophy was born here. I don’t know if the term itself is American, but I know that the founder of Pragmatics as a philosophy, Charles Peirce, was American.”
“Yes, we’ve just passed his state,” Bryan smiled.
“Massachusetts, of course.”
“What do you know, what a coincidence.”
“Yes, it’s just that he was not from Boston, he was from Cambridge. However he actually studied Chemistry, not Philosophy at Harvard.”
“But his great passions were Logics, Mathematics and Philosophy,” Azade added. “In fact that is how he is known, I for one didn’t even know that he was a Chemist…”
“That is true, I don’t know any of his works from Chemistry.”
“You see?” Azade smiled.
“You are right!” Bryan smiled back to her.
“But let’s get back to our main subject. Namely, to you,” Azade laughed even louder.
“Oh, I thought you forgot,” Bryan sighed.
“You wish, mister!” exclaimed Azade.
“Wouldn’t you like us to have a coffee break, look there’s a service area in 5 miles, and my practical spirit…”
“Pragmatism, bless it,” Azade laughed.
“Yes, my inner pragmatism, more exactly the pragmatic I am wants to have a coffee.”
“Okay, let’s do it!” she continued on the same cheerful tone.
Not long afterwards, Bryan signaled right and reduced the speed. He then exited the highway and he stopped in the service area. There were several restaurants and cafes, so they could take their pick.
“Do you want a snack as well?” Bryan asked her.
“I do, if you do,” he said.
“And I want if you do!” she stated bluntly.
“Oh my God, you are very stubborn,” he said.
Of course, he was smiling and he said it in a loving tone.
“You think?” Azade batted her lashes quickly.
“You are terrible,” Bryan told her on the same tone.
“I am, aren’t I?”
“Better than to be a pragmatic like yourself,” she laughed.
“Ha, ha. Alright, then I will decide, because we are fed up with poetry, and I will take two muffins. Four. Two for each.”
“I don’t think so!” said Azade shortly.
Bryan stopped, hesitating.
“Meaning, what, you don’t want muffins?”
“No,” laughed Azade, “I want muffins. I was talking about…”
“Aha,” he got back on track.
“Just wait, until we’ll start with poetry,” she said quickly. “How can you say ‘we are fed up’?”
“You scared me,” he continued his previous idea.
Then, thinking about what she said:
“It was just an expression, a pragmatic expression!”
“But why are you so defensive?” Azade turned back.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you got scared immediately, although I was only joking. You are a little unsecure, mister.”
“You think? This too, now?”
“Come on, don’t be upset.”
“Now I am moody too?”
Azade shook her head, “no”, then she thought that maybe she had pushed it too much with this wonderful young man, without really knowing him, and therefore without realizing what could actually be a sensitive spot.
“Got ya,” laughed Bryan, seeing how serious she got.
“What?” she cried, quickly calming down. “I can’t believe I fell into your trap…”
Bryan was laughing as he was getting closer to the pult. Azade stayed one step behind, laughing at him.
The lady behind the counter became cheerful as well.
“Hello,” she said smiling. “What can I get for you guys? A cheerful day, today, isn’t it?”
“It certainly is!” answered Bryan, getting a little more serious, to be able to order. “We would like four muffins and two coffees to go, please.”
“Right away. Anything else?”
He turned to Azade, who was now sitting almost glued to his shoulder. She nodded that she didn’t want anything else.
“That is all, thank you.”
The young woman told them how much it was, Bryan paid, then he picked up the paper bag where the four muffins were, he handed a coffee to Azade, he took the other one, they greeted and they headed towards the car.
“Let’s go,” he said, “it’s a long way to the City.”
“Scoot,” said Azade.
“Yes, let’s scoot.”
Then he yelled like a cowboy. Azade displayed a long smile. Bryan thought that maybe that was a good sign.
The wheels were biting the highway and between them and New York there was only a space that was getting smaller every second.
“If we could teleport,” started Bryan, sipping his coffee.
Azade was eating a muffin, so she couldn’t say a thing, she settled just nodding yes.
“That would be a practical thing,” added Bryan.
Azade almost snorted in laughter, she almost chocked on the muffin. She struggled as much as she could, she chewed fast and she swallowed.
“Hey, what do you plan to do?” she chided him as soon as she could talk. “Do you want me to choke?”
“No, but since you brought it up, what could be so bad about it? I get a chance to practice the Heimlich,” said Bryan smiling.
“No, thank you,” answered Azade.
Then, after giving it a thought for a second:
“Until you stop the car, until you get off on your side and come to my side, nice rescue!”
Bryan considered the scenario himself:
“Yes, it would probably be painful for you, but it wouldn’t be too late. Then again, don’t forget that I know how to resuscitate.”
“Yay, lucky me,” Azade continued playing. “Now I know why I accepted to take the trip with a doctor instead of a football player.”
“Do you know any football players?” Bryan didn’t want to be tricked.
“No, but that’s not the point.”
“That’s right; the important thing is that you came with me!”
Azade picked up the cup and she took a sip of coffee.
Then there was silence in the car. You could only hear the hum of their car’s wheels and that of the other cars that were running more or less orderly, but still quite civilized on the highway.
“Say something,” said Bryan to break the silence.
“Now that you’ve convinced me I am a pragmatic, tell me more, how else am I?”
“I think you are alright.”
“That is a good thing,” she assured him. “You are a true friend, reliable. You are smart, you make good jokes.”
“Good, good, I am starting to like it.”
“Of course,” Azade tried to turn it around; “you still have to work on how you treat a lady. But one thing is sure: that you cannot change anything about your physical appearance, it stays as you were built by nature.”
“Oh my God,” he said imitating Jerry, “touché pussy cat.”
Azade laughed, Bryan laughed as well, the car was again filled by a cheerful atmosphere, replacing the previous moment, probably the first since they knew each other when they needed an impulse to break the silence.
“Now you have to say about me,” Azade continued.
“Hmm, this is a tough one,” started Bryan. “I would need the skills of a poet to describe you in words, and the talent of a painter to describe you in colors.”
“Come on, be serious,” she stopped him.
“Well, I am, he said. The truth is I never met someone like you. I don’t want to boast about it, but knowing you is one of my big accomplishments.”
“You are avoiding the subject, I can see what you are doing,” Azade did not give up.
“Yes, you caught me. You are too smart for me to be able to trick you.”
“Okay, that’s a good start,” she laughed.
“You laugh at my good jokes,” he continued, “and your laughter is so pleasant that I would joke constantly, just to hear it.”
“And you are, just like now, stubborn and you don’t give up until you get it your way.”
“That is not true, I always yield to others.”
“And even then when the other don’t want to do it your way, eventually you convince them and you make them think that you are making them a favor by accepting what was your idea to start with.”
“Hmm, I don’t know what to say about that… is that good or bad?”
“I think it is good. This way you secure you success without upsetting others.”
“Why would the others be upset?”
“It sometimes happen, you know?”
“Like for instance?”
“For instance,” he thought, “if you had more job offers, and you could only choose one. I am sure you could refuse the others with such tact that they won’t even notice.”
“It is not really like that. You are making me feel manipulative.”
“No,” he argued with her, “it is not manipulation. It’s subtlety. You are skillful like a deer that jumps gracefully over obstacles.”
“But sometimes deer don’t get away with it, like Bambi’s mother,” said Azade.
“Indeed, it happens in cartoons as well as in real life. But this is not your case, I wasn’t talking about hunting, I was talking about gracefully avoiding obstacles.”
“It is interesting what you are saying, until now I never considered job offers to be obstacles.”
“Don’t take it literally, it’s not about this offer, made by Professor Smith. This is part of the opportunities, not of the obstacles.”
“That is what I thought.”
“Good, you see, you have another quality. You agree with me, which is a great quality.”
“You are turning it in your favor again,” Azade smiled. “But I like that about you.”
“Thank you,” he said.
“How much until we get there?” she asked.
“About two hours,” said Bryan. “Are you bored?”
“Not at all, I could go like this forever.”
“I am happy to hear you say so! I like going on trips by car as well.”
“I prefer a car, for manageable distances, of course, because I get the chance to see new places. You cannot see a lot from the plane. It’s true that you cannot see allot on the highway either, for example the cities, but I can exit to visit them anytime.”
“Whereas by plane,” Bryan added, “you cannot really exit.”
“Not really? Not at all! At least not until the finish…”
“I like it that you are happy all the time,” she added.
“I like being happy all the time!” he confirmed. “And I like you all the time,” he added.
“I like you as well,” Azade added. “I am happy I met you, I’m glad we got to know each other.”
“I am happy too!”
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