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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“Shall we go?” Azade asked him.
“To the hotel?” he woke up as from a dream.
“Yes, to the hotel. It’s rather late for anything else,” she smiled.
“Ah, no doubt about it. You are right!”
“Is everything alright?” Azade took note.
“Yes, of course,” Bryan answered quickly. “Do you want us to walk? Or should we take a taxi?”
“Let’s walk, I can manage that much.”
They spent a good few hours walking through Central Park, until late after midnight. They discussed a lot, each one telling about his childhood, about their favorite foods, birthplaces, music, family, literature, and friends. They avoided talking about work, including their jobs as well. Bryan tried several times to bring up another delicate subject, love, and making love, but Azade skillfully avoided it each time.
“So,” Azade asked as they were walking towards the hotel, “what’s the plan for tomorrow?”
“In the morning I was thinking we can take the subway to the World Trade Centre Memorial. We’ll start there. After we see it, we’ll walk a bit on the seafront, to the pier where we take the ferry to Staten Island.”
“That is where The Statue of Liberty is, right?”
“Exactly! We’ll climb to the crown. I was lucky to find tickets, I don’t know why but the number of tickets for the crown is limited, a lot smaller than that of those for the pedestal.”
“Interesting, I didn’t know that they are distributed like that, on different sections,” said Azade.
“Yes, and those who don’t want the pedestal, can visit the statue at ground level.”
“Aha, okay, good to know.”
“On return, the visit to Ellis Island is included. There we will visit The National Immigration Museum. Maybe you know, maybe you don’t, but that’s were immigrants were first taken. My grandparents for instance, were among those let to enter the US through there. They used to tell me, when I was little, how happy they were when they were allowed to enter the US.”
“Do you remember those wooden chests displayed at Prudential Tower?”
“Of course,” she answered.
“They had two such chests, I think I can remember them, but I’m not sure I’m not just overlapping some memories. When I grew up, I couldn’t find them. Anyway, what I meant to say is that, that is about all these poor people had when they came, searching for a better world, for a new beginning. Millions and millions of people. I personally don’t think I have any friends or acquaintances that don’t have forerunners among those immigrants.”
“We should get to know some Native Americans as well,” Azade said. “I like them so much, and I feel so sorry for what happened to them.”
“Yes, the European conquerors were ruthless to them. Such a shame, for how many things were lost with them…”
After a moment of silence, Azade asked:
“And then, where to?”
“When we return from the island, we can go to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or if that is too many museums for one day, we can leave it for Sunday and instead we could go up The Empire State Building.”
“Yes!” cried Azade. “We’ll leave The Metropolitan Museum of Art for the next day.”
“And, let’s not forget, before or after The Empire State Building we will enter the famous Grand Central Station.”
As they talked and made plans for the next day, it felt as if time went by quicker. The two got to the hotel after approximately half an hour of walking. The cars continued to pour on Manhattan’s streets.
“Sinatra called it so well in his song,” said Azade.
“Yes, it’s true. This is New York. The city that never sleeps…”
When they got in front of her room, Azade stopped for a while, before unlocking.
“Bryan, I had a wonderful time today,” she said. “I don’t know how to thank you for this trip to New York and for the entire program you prepared. And for this evening’s surprise… I would have chosen the same musical, if you would have asked me to do it!”
“The pleasure was all mine,” Bryan answered sincerely.
“At what hour is breakfast tomorrow?”
“Around 8-9, is that alright? Will you have enough time to sleep?”
“Yes, of course, I’m used to sleeping less. Then let’s split it in half, 8:30?”
“It’s very good. I’ll come pick you up at eight thirty.”
“Alright,” she said, “and again, thank you. I cannot wait for tomorrow!”
Azade gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“Good night,” he answered.
Azade entered the room. Bryan stood there in the doorway, on the hallway, for a few more seconds, like a lost person. Then he eventually entered the hotel room. He brushed his teeth, then he took off his shoes, he took off his blue-jeans and his T-shirt and threw himself on the bed, wearing nothing but his boxers.
Bryan was confused. He didn’t know if it would be better or worse to confess the young woman the feelings he had for her, which went far beyond the limits of friendship. He didn’t know if she had similar feelings that she was now hiding due to her education. He would have liked her to be less mysterious and exotic, to be more straightforward, like all the girls and women he had met in the US so far. But, on the other hand, he was thinking that it was exactly the mystery and egotism that made Azade so interesting, and her beauty and elegance, so desirable.
There were moments when Azade was sitting so close to him, that the closeness was almost intimate. When she was walking her hand through her hair, often, or when she was touching his shoulder, rarely, or that unique moment when she caressed his hair. When her lips seemed to ask for his kiss, and he wouldn’t, because her words were saying something different.
Ah, words. Bryan would have wanted everything to be simpler, to be able to talk to her about all the things that were going through his mind. But in reality he was scared. He feared her reaction that could have led to an irreversible alienation. Even though it could have also led to the much desired closeness he was hoping for. However, the fact that there was no certainty, made him act defensively.
He knew she wasn’t like other women he met, with whom he had fallen in love and who had loved him, that she wasn’t like a fortress waiting to be besieged and conquered. And she wasn’t the besieger either, and him the fortress. Because otherwise he would have surrendered from the first moment, without a fight, Bryan smiled.
What if she is waiting for something, he thought. But what is she waiting for? And why doesn’t she indicate more clearly that she is waiting for something… maybe she is not waiting for anything, and everything is in his head…
Everything was going so well between them, even though there was nothing there. Bryan didn’t want to mess a thing. He knew that for anyone else, for any of his friends this would have sounded weird, and they would have considered him a chicken, and would have called him names. But he wasn’t like that. They would have tried something long before… but what would they have accomplished? Nothing, he encouraged himself.
He knew Azade too well, to be able to guarantee that none of those he knew could have gotten so close to her as he did. If that is not enough, he scolded himself, “then I don’t deserve her friendship!”
He fell asleep with this thought in mind, thinking about Azade. He dreamt about her and he loved her in his dream.
Azade, on the other hand, was tormenting herself thinking about the job offer she had received. She understood that such an offer was meant to make her life easier, not more complicated. She would have to give up so many if she would decide to move here. On the one hand, she liked Zürich. On the other hand, she liked Boston as well. But she had gotten used to Switzerland, here she felt like a tourist. There she had a lot of friends; here she had Bryan who was so close to her.
However she didn’t worry about friends. Everywhere she went she made reliable friends, who received her among them like one of their own. Here she focused more on work, primarily because the fellowship was limited in time and then because, having Bryan so close to her, she didn’t feel the need to make other close friends as well. She was satisfied with the amiable relationships she had with everyone, but, thirdly, considering it objectively, she couldn’t afford to spend time on anything else.
In Zürich there was Ana, her best friend. Here, Bryan, her best friend.
Although she hadn’t received any clear offers to continue in Zürich, her path there was quite well secured, ever since she had started her residency. She was the only one hired throughout her residency. The others were usually hired temporarily, for periods of one year, having to renew their contract each year, or to move to a different hospital. It was good both for mobility and flexibility, including for choosing a specialty, but Azade found this system to be tiresome. And she had escaped this situation, because she was appreciated by professors and doctors, even more so by the auxiliary medical staff with whom she worked and she was also equally appreciated by her colleagues. She didn’t think she would encounter any difficulties in finding work at her hospital in Zürich. Or in any other hospital in Switzerland.
In fact, Azade realized, she had never focused on this, until she received Professor Smith’s offer. She thought of her parents, what would they say? Probably they would consider it a dream came true, for her to get to practice and teach medicine, and to do scientific researcher in such an appreciated university in America.
Her dear father, her beloved mother. She was so lucky to have such parents. Whom have left her be as she was, not like others wanted her to invoking tradition instead of discussing objectively. It is so simple, Azade though, to invoke the argument of authority, and not that of common sense, not to mention Logics. When someone feels comfortable in a certain situation, because it secures a favorable position, far from the problems of everyone else, and most of the time, far from the poor, then any support is welcomed, be it divine or human, and no one is so foolish so as to willingly renounce that position. Azade couldn’t understand how the world had gotten, and by that she didn’t only mean that part of the world she was from, so mean. People hate their own kind, and they would be capable, some even do it, to kill so easily other people, in the name of ideas that aren’t even theirs, or in the name of beliefs that they never questioned, or because, just like that, that is what they are asked to do.
No country is perfect, she said to herself, but there are some where living is more enjoyable, and not a continuous struggle for survival. Why wouldn’t she chose one of those, if faith brought about her such an opportunity?
But if she were to put aside the job, which after all is just as good in Boston as in Zürich, and to choose between these two democratic countries, which one would she chose? Where would she feel safer?
She couldn’t complain about anything in Switzerland. Maybe just that sometimes people act so close to the rules that they become rigid. Sometimes laws are outdated, or they aren’t good and need to be changed. Cling faith in a system is just as dangerous as religious fundamentalism. Because it is blind! And in Switzerland people get the chance to change rules, maybe more democratically than in any other country.
But, her thoughts were running from one idea to the other, she felt safe in Boston as well. Although the US is famous for the high rates of criminality, she felt quite safe in Boston. It is true that she didn’t venture to unknown places, and while travelling she always had Bryan by her side. But, overall, she could say that Boston was just as appropriate.
Her thought gave her no rest. Boston was so far away from her parents! There are almost four thousand kilometers from home to Zürich, there are another six thousand kilometers from Zürich to Boston. Overall there are ten thousand kilometers. And she couldn’t even know if her parents would be able to receive a visa. Although they are against terrorism, in general, and especially against that in their region, the fact that they were original from there was enough reason for many to regard them with suspicion. Skin colors is what most strangers encounter first. And if these strangers are a bunch of ignorants, as there are so many in the world, who consider all “Arabs” to be one and the same, then it wouldn’t even mater if her parents could receive a visa because if they would they would be regarded as enemies anyway. Or as potential enemies. It would no longer matter that those potential individuals that will consider them enemies would do so out of ignorance, it would be enough for one of them to be more racist than the other, or more of a psychopath than others, and since all Americans have access to guns, they might “seek revenge” against her parents.
Azade knew that it wasn’t reasonable to think such thoughts, but she couldn’t stop those negative thoughts, that were displayed in her mind like the scenes of a movie.
This she could not handle, she thought, knowing that her parents, first of all, would suffer because of her, or, in the second scenario, even worse, would die because they came to America for her… Not being able to see her parents again would be too much. Just as it would be inacceptable to see them less frequent than now, if they were to remain home.
On the other hand, if she were to remain in Europe, she would have plenty of chances to bring them closer to her, either in Switzerland, if they would receive residency, or, if not, at least closer, for example in Germany, where they have so many friends.
And she could see Bryan again, as he might be sent to the basis in Germany, which was close. Whereas if she were to stay in Boston, when he would leave, she would be alone. And after the Air Force contract expires, maybe he could move to Europe as well. After all, as Woody Allen used to say, it is a much friendlier place.
Her thoughts continued to focus on Bryan. That was how she fell asleep eventually, thinking about him, but she didn’t dream about him that night.
Azade dreamt she was at a computer, typing. She dreamt the cursor on the monitor winking and writing the letters as she type them in. And she dreamt that everything she was writing became reality. She wrote “beach”, the word appeared on the screen, and the image of a beach became reality. Azade deleted the word, which disappeared from the screen, and together with it went the image of the beach as well. Interesting, she thought while dreaming, is that she could see herself, she could see the cursor and the letters appearing on the screen and she could see the image transformed into reality, at the same time. Although there were three different sequences, she could encompass all three at once. She knew that she couldn’t express this into words, but she felt it was a revelation. This must be how they felt, Azade from the dream said to herself, the Christians who met in Nicaea in 325 to exile Arius, and to proclaimed homoousios, namely that The Son is the same as The Father and the Holy Spirit. The Trinity, although three in form, was one in substance.
Azade was writing on the computer and she could see herself writing: ‘Azade was part of the Air Force now’. Of course, on the computer screen letters appeared. But, at the same time, the story she was writing, was becoming alive, like a movie. ‘However Azade was not a doctor, she was a soldier. She had a brand new uniform. The wind was blowing softly from somewhere slightly lifting a small cloud of dust. Azade was not alone. A man, unknown, was sitting by her side. He didn’t seem to be a soldier, because he was dressed like a goatherd. He asked her:
“The president of the United States, he is human as well, isn’t he?”
“Yes,” she answered.
“Then, does he clean his rugs with the vacuum cleaner?”
“I don’t think so,” she answered, as if the question was as normal as it could be in that decor. “I suppose he has people who do this for him…”.’
Azade selected the text and deleted it. Better go with the beach, she thought. She did it.
She was now on the beach, but strangely she was again wearing a military uniform. She looked around, that man was nowhere to be found. I probably forget to type him in, she said.
The wind started to blow harder, sand was rising threatening. The waves were yeasty, biting from the shore. Azade however was completely peaceful. That was until the man appeared telling her:
“Look, I’ve came for you to save me…”
Suddenly he seemed to be Professor Smith from Boston. Azade looked at him surprised, she took his hand and she found herself in her parents’ home, holding her father by the hand. Her mother was standing, next to him, white as a sheet and motionless like a statue. Neither one of them was saying a word; they were both watching her silently.
The alarm clock woke her up abruptly. At first Azade didn’t realize what was happening, where she was. She took her hand to her eyes, pressing them. She got out of bed, and she looked through the window. The unmistakable image of Times Square enlightened her. She smiled, happy that it was just a dream. But her mind was still lingering upon it, trying to understand the incomprehensible.
She went into the bathroom. She thought, the water that falls on my head under the shower is always good.
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