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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During breakfast, Azade told Bryan her weird dream, as much as she could remember.
“Do you think it means something?” she asked him. “That it might mean something?”
“I for one don’t think so,” said Bryan. “I know there are thousands of theories, more or less famous, a lot of books, even more so, an entire industry for interpreting dreams, but personally I don’t think they are in any way relevant or, how to put it, a form of prediction.”
“Neither do I, of course. I think it lacks any sort of scientific basis. But sometimes, and this I cannot deny, dreams disturb us so much.”
“Indeed, that is true. But only because they are connected to something that disturbs us – more or less – in real life. It can be a small thing, that gets away unobserved during the day, but which becomes a real tragedy during night.”
“I agree with you,” Azade told him. “That is my opinion as well, but I wanted a confirmation from you, to calm myself. It was truly disturbing…”
“I guess that mainly that part about your parents…?”
“That is right. Just imagine it, look at me. What is it that you see?”
“Is this a trap?” Bryan joked.
“No, it is serious. Come on, say it!”
“Well, I see a very beautiful young woman…”
“With big, black eyes, with long curvy eyebrows, and lips…”
“Alright, alright we’re not getting anywhere like this. And the skin?”
“Yes, thank you!” she taunted him. “I mean the color!”
“Not tanned, but darker. I couldn’t really say black, because it is not quite like that, but I could say darker.”
“Eh, it sounds kind of gloomy. Tanned is better.”
“Chocolate color,” Azade laughed, then she turned serious again, “now imagine that my skin is lighter than my mother’s. Do you get it?”
“And now she was white, completely. But not like you blondie, like a wall painted white. A person only gets that color when she…”
“Dies,” said Bryan in a sad voice.
“Yes, when the blood stops running.”
“But come one, get a hold of yourself,” Bryan insisted, “remember that it was just a dream.”
“I know, I am constantly repeating that to myself. And yet, I am worried.”
“What time is it there?”
“Well, it’s a seven hour difference, here is almost nine, therefore it is late at night.”
“Alright, when it is going to be a reasonable hour you will call them, at around, I don’t know, at what time do your parents wake up? Around seven, or eight?”
“Surely at around seven, but let’s say eight, not to scare them if I call too early. They will think that something is wrong, I never call them in the morning, and usually I call them in the evening.”
“Alright, in that case can you wait until tonight? Not to scare them?”
“I think it would be best. I’m sure nothing is wrong, otherwise my father would have called.”
“Well, yes, of course! You see!?”
“That is right,” Azade’s face brightened. “My father would have called, no matter the time.”
“Well, now that it is settled, did you finish eating?”
“Oh, yes, of course.”
“Alright. Let’s go to the subway.”
After they went out of the hotel, Bryan made a sign with his right hand.
“This way,” he said.
“Alright,” answered Azade.
Almost half an hour later, the two were in the square where not long before, the two twin towers of World Trade Centre were watching like two giants the entire area of New York. There was intensive work and the site was surrounded by fences. The construction of the Freedom Tower, the new tower of the complex, built in the memory of the former towers, that was named One World Trade Centre, was close to being finished.
“Wow, it is going to be such a beautiful building,” cried Azade.
On the board there was a sketch of the project.
“Here,” Bryan showed her, “soon the 9/11 Memorial is going to be open.”
“That is more likely!”
“And here,” continued Bryan, “in the area where the twin towers used to be, there will be two other monuments, North Pool and South Pool, with the victims’ names marked on them. Their footprint is going to be exactly where the twin towers used to be. And water is going to poor through them, to wash our pain, but especially that of the relatives of those who were killed.”
“What happened here is so sad!”
Azade placed her forehead on Bryan’s shoulder, to be able to drop a few tears unhindered and safe from prying eyes. Bryan was caressing her hair and encouraging her.
“When will the Memorial be opened?” Azade asked a few moments later.
“It should be ready to commemorate ten years from the tragedy.”
“That is in September 2011, soon.”
“Yes, if you will stick around, we can come to the opening! I promise to bring you!”
“Thank you,” answered Azade simple. “Too bad it’s not ready yet, I would have liked to see it now, to bring my homage.”
“You are wonderful!” Bryan told her, but in such a low voice that Azade didn’t hear him say it.
They kept a moment of silence, and the two said a few words in their minds, each what considered to be necessary.
“I am ready, we can go,”’ Azade said at one point, “if you are ready as well.”
“Yes, of course, let’s go.
Bryan took her hand, Azade grabbed his arm.
“I would rather hood you like this, may I?” she asked. “Holding hands seems too… I don’t know how,” she added.
“Yes, if that is how you like it.”
“Thank you. This way I feel you are closer,” she told him.
“Are you cold?” he asked her.
The weather was no longer on their side, like in the previous day. Clouds were gathering above New York. But it was still alright.
Bryan hastened a little, to feel warmer. The ferry was not far away. From the seafront they could already see The Statue of Liberty watching over the entrance to the city, as she had done for such a long time. Azade was looking at the statue and groaned.
“For over a century,” Brian started, while waiting for the ferry, “The Statue of Liberty greeted those who came here with big hopes.”
“Generally,” added Azade “those oppressed by fate.”
“That is correct. But America was the land of their new country, which they all got to love.”
“I wouldn’t say all,” Azade smiled mysteriously, “but I don’t want to contradict you.”
“No, you are right,” he said quickly. “I think I know what you are thinking about!”
“Yes, you are thinking about the great number of slaves, that got to the United States and that didn’t get anything good out of it!”
“Indeed, your guess is correct.”
“It is a dark stain in the history of the United States…”
“And I can’t believe it took so long to stop, and it was so difficult to do it.”
“Well, yes, slave owners were rich because they had slaves. How were they to renounce willingly at their workforce…”
“What troubles me the most is how they treated those poor people, and there were millions, can you imagine how scared they were?” said Azade. “To kill them, to torture them, to humiliate them as they did, to do with them whatever their masters wanted to, without the slightest sign of remorse, inhumanly, I find it incredible! After all, they were their own kind…”
“The problem was that the white believed the black were not their own kind, some of the slave owners didn’t even consider them humans.”
“I think it is about evil, absolute Evil dressed in human skin. But not something like the Devil, this would be too easy an excuse, blaming a supreme force, exterior, but almighty, or, whatever, almost, God being the only exception, who is the most powerful. Therefore, I don’t mean that Evil, but an evil inherent to human beings.”
She paused, as for deciding whether to continue or not, because she was visibly affected.
“I have asked myself many times,” she decided to continue, “if human nature is bad or good. I think there is no definitive answer, I still hope it is good, but history proves it is bad.”
“I think it is both bad and good,” added Bryan. “It only depends on certain conditions, both internal and external, to display either one or the other dimension.”
“Yes, but wouldn’t it be better if humans were to be good, to start with? Just good, that is it?”
“It would, but as you can see, that is not possible.”
“Why not? I refuse to believe it! Why can’t we eliminate one and for all, the evil inside of us, tell me?”
“I am sorry,” Bryan smiled bitterly, “but I have no answer to that question.”
They both stopped talking, down beat. The ferry which arrived with a strong and thick sound, woke them up from their depression and brought a hint of optimism.
“Let’s go visit The Statue of Liberty,” said Bryan, energetic, “to put our sorrow behind us!”
“Yes, that is what we should do,” said Azade.
A cold rain begun. The ferry started carefree. Inside it was warm, so the two decided to stay there and not to go out on the deck.
“Maybe we go out when we get closer,” said Bryan, “if the rain stops.”
“Maybe we will go out even if it doesn’t stop,” Azade said decisively. “We are not going to get scared by rain,” she added.
Bryan smiled and nodded yes.
“Do you want a hot chocolate?” he asked her. “Or, maybe a coffee?”
“No, I will let you have coffee. But a hot chocolate would really work!”
Bryan went to the bar of the ferry and came back after a few moments with two glasses that spread cheerful fumes, to cheer up Azade.
“Thank you,” she said, picking up the glass.
“You are welcome,” answered Bryan.
Azade took a sip of the sweet, hot liquid. She could feel it poring directly through her veins, warming up her blood.
“It is very good!” she said and she thanked him one more time.
“I am glad,” he answered. “The coffee is very good as well. Do you want to taste it?”
Azade looked at him for a second, she didn’t know if it would be appropriate or not to drink from his cup.
“Come on, I am not sick,” he said joking.
“Alright, be it.”
She took the printed cardboard glass and she tasted the coffee.
“It is very strong,” she said.
“Yes, therefore, very good.”
“Do you want a taste too?” she asked pointing to her glass.
“It is sweet, isn’t it?”
“Kind of sweet, yes,” she laughed.
“Then no, thank you!” he answered.
He was a bit more relaxed, seeing that she was smiling again. He had gotten to know a lot of hearted people, but he had never known someone to care so much about problems that not only that they weren’t hers, but had happened so long ago.
The statue was now revealed in all its splendor.
“Wow, it is much bigger than I imagined” said Azade.
“It is big, yes,” answered Bryan.
“Come on, do you want to go outside? To see it better?”
“Yes. How could I not?!”
It was crowded on the deck, all the tourists were taking photographs of the statue.
“May I take your picture?” Bryan asked her.
“Of course,” said Azade.
Bryan took out his small pocket digital camera; he framed Azade’s face and the statue somewhere behind her. He took a picture, then he looked at it.
“Very nice,” he said.
“Let me see,” said Azade.
Bryan showed her the screen, where Azade saw herself with wet hair, still a little out of spirits, however with a large smile in the corner of her mouth, a little shivery, but happy. All in all, she was happy.
“It is enough,” she said returning him the camera. “Let’s go in, it is kind of windy out here.”
“Yes, it is a little cold. I didn’t think that we should have brought warm clothes.”
“I do not get sick easily, so you won’t have my catching a cold on your conscience.”
The ferry docked easily, while the tourists were queuing at the exit.
When entering the ensemble, they received audio-guides. Azade installed hers and she turned it on. All throughout the visit she listened carefully to the audio recording. Every now and then she pointed with her head, happy and smiling, to something for Bryan to see as well. And until she got up to the Crown, she was really happy. She could watch New York from up there, piercing through the clouds, and coming out, just like before, a winner. Azade cried again, like a child who knows no impurity:
“Wow, everything is so beautiful!”
She hugged Bryan again, he squeezed her harder in his arms, filling his lungs with her perfume. Azade thanked him again for bringing here.
“I hope to be able to make it up to you,” she said as she freed herself from the grip. “Maybe you will come visit me in Zürich?”
“Sure, but what am I supposed to get from here? That you have reached a decision?”
“No, I was just saying that in case of… It won’t be until tonight that I will take a decision, tomorrow morning I will weigh it and if it stands, then it will be final. And as I have told you, I will let you know on our way back. So that we get enough time to discuss.”
“Oh, God, you are incorruptible.”
“Ha, ha,” laughed Azade. “By that do you mean: impossible?”
“I didn’t say a thing,” laughed Bryan.
Azade kicked him with her elbow, and then she prepared to descend, in order to go out on the pedestal. The weather outside wasn’t improving. Rain drops were falling frequently, small, swift and cold. Azade parched.
“Do you want me to give you my coat?” Bryan asked her.
“No, thank you, you are kind, but it is not necessary.”
“Let me know if you change your mind!”
“Of course. Thank you.”
Bryan bought Azade a souvenir, a miniature of the statue.
“Here, so you can take it with you, to remind you of our trip to New York!”
“I will never forget, anyway! Thank you! I want to give you something as well, so that you will know it’s from me.”
Azade looked around the souvenir shop until she found something she liked. It was a small glass globe with New York, when it was turned around flakes would fall, not white, but silver.
“Do you like it?” she asked him.
“Very much,” he answered.
“Then this will be your gift.”
“You are welcome!”
They had ten more minutes left until the ferry’s departure. So they sat down, this time for tea, in a small place nearby.
Then they said good bye to the statue and they went on board.
“Next is the National Immigration Museum. As you already know, the immigrants were not allowed to enter New York directly, they were first sorted here. Some were refused and sent back home, like those chronically ill, or at least those with a criminal record, but not only them. Can you imagine, after such a long trip, as it was back then, across the ocean, in those miserable conditions of IIIrd class, because I don’t imagine them refusing those travelling in Ist class, to be informed that you have to go back home.”
“It must have been horrible.”
“Extremely! There was however another category, that of those slightly ill, who would remain in the hospital on the island. But, I think they had horrible conditions…”
“This is a sad museum, isn’t it?”
“I think so…”
“Do you mind if we don’t go? Or, if you want, you can go, and I will wait for you, but I don’t think I want to visit it anymore. It’s too much for one day.”
“No, no problem. I’m not keen on seeing it either. We’ll see it some other time,” he said energetically. “It would be better for us to do something fun!”
“You don’t mind?”
“Not at all, believe me.”
“Okay then. Thank you.”
And the two remained on the deck of the ferry, whereas most tourists got off. Others went on board, the ferry continued its way back to the shore. Azade wasn’t upset anymore; on the contrary, after they got on the shore she was happy again and as lively as ever. Then the rain surrendered as well.
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