They, just like me, seem confused and awake at the wrong time of the day. The sound of morning birds singing while I’m not asleep yet always make me sad. That clear-cut, delicate song in a silent city reminds me that I have just stolen a couple of hours from the darkness of the night, and now I’m stealing a few moments of sleep while the rest of the city is slowly awakening.
This weekend I finally decided to organize my photo library. I have to admit, I’m far behind the digital revolution and I still haven’t migrated all my files to the cloud. It’s not a surprise, given that I get a mild panic attack every time my Samsung uploads photos from my phone to the online account. Almost fainting, I need to compulsively check the privacy settings of my photo albums to make sure they’re not for all two of my Google+ followers to see.
So my digital spring cleaning was happening on my hard drive, and flipping through countless folders, sub-folders and files was a nightmare. I discovered thousands of photographs from my four months trip to South Africa that I haven’t even properly looked into, random Skype snapshots, inappropriate selfies with ex-boyfriends, imported WhatsApp photos that somehow found their way to my folders…. I felt like all my life in images is trapped in this little black device, never having seen the light of my Facebook Wall and never having felt the flattering tickling of other Facebookers’ likes.
Since I was a little girl an idea of a scrapbook enticed me very much. A possibility of choosing a selection of images that best reflect the milestones in your life, briefly sum up the biggest achievements and show off the greatest adventures. This would be a kind of collection of highlights that Facebook automatically (and randomly) pulls from your profile at the end of each calendar year and composes a neat sideshow that your friends would then eagerly comment on.
Scrap booking in itself is a soothing practice. There is something therapeutic about going through memories, selecting the ones dearest to your heart, and imprinting them forever on colorful pages (given that a scrap book does not fall victim of a natural disaster of some sort, be it fire, flood or just plain human forgetfulness). Decorating the photo with drawings, descriptions, and quotations gives it a more multi-dimensional aesthetic quality. The picture then merges with the written word, with literature or tradition, and by doing so grounds your memory in history, imprints it in the flow of time.
But I never made a scrap book. Or, rather, I started many but could never keep on pasting fresh memories onto the blank pages. Doing so has a certain finality to it. Acknowledging something as a memory paralyzes a still living, vivid experience. I could never bring myself to lock my memory between two covers and, literally, close a chapter of my life for good, admitting that from now on it can only lend itself to nostalgic reminiscing.
I much rather collect bits and pieces of my memories in form of cinema tickets, bills from bars with too many wine glasses mercilessly printed on them, and cards from restaurants in which I would end up by pure chance. I would then place all of those pieces of paper in random places only to come across them months later between book pages, in my calendar, or in a pocket of my summer coat, and suddenly be entirely overtaken by this one specific memory.
Watching a scrap book, a photo album, or an entire slide show from holidays past is like getting drunk on memories. You just down all of them at once, only to find yourself in a state of melancholic hangover of the soul afterwards. Moderate dosage of memories, re-living one of them one day, reminiscing another one a week after, is much healthier. It keeps your emotions alive among your daily routines and can brighten many of your ordinary days.
You have to know that when it comes to room search, there is only one place destined for each brave person that dares to find it. If it wasn’t for the guidance of helpers who made me remember my goal, I would have never completed the task.
The first Middle Man I encountered on my way was a helpful, rather round man from the Ottoman Empire. He offered transportation in his vehicle mysteriously smelling of dust and smoke. We moved from place to place while he was telling me about conflicts with his wife from a far away Christian land. All households he showed me were inhabited by people of exotic origin and decorated accordingly. There was a Persian owner with preference towards female tenants; he claimed that his own gender ought to be distrusted. There was also a single mother, her face hidden behind a colorful piece of cloth, with a prematurely obese son.
The Middle Man tempted me prices that are very negotiable “for such a nice girl like yourself”. But I didn’t let myself be deceived. I knew that a kitchen counter crammed into an attic room of 13 square meters is not a studio. I knew that a lower price is not worth having everything smell like fried chicken every time I cook. But the time was running out and I had to keep believing that the Room was still waiting for me.
The next Middle Man was a young gentleman of dark eyes and ebony skin. He was a resourceful man who, except for guiding seekers to their perfect Rooms, was also selling inexpensive footwear. He tried to make me abandon my search by offering splendid food and drinks. He tempted me with his youthfulness and good company, but I knew I had to keep going despite cold and hunger.
And finally there it was. I stood in from of a breath-taking wooden house in a small village outside of town, admiring the tree branches touching the ground and windows sparkling in the sun. An old man with a long, white beard opened the door. “The Lord of the Rooms!, I thought to myself in amazement. He greeted with me words: “Come in. I have been expecting you.”
Published: Univers no. 08, 7 February 2013
Friday, 11 pm, Kandinskybar
“Would you mind sitting on my coat?” a man in his mid-30s asks a girl sitting on a bar stool. She looks at him blankly. Even though she usually understands Dutch, at this moment she doubts her language skills. To make sure that she heard correctly, she chats with the man for a while. Apparently the overcrowded bar provides no more space to hang a coat and the man wants neither to lose it, nor put it in a dirty corner. She is still not sure, though, if the man’s question derived from his pragmatism or from some strange sexual preference.azc Regardless of the reason, she spends the rest of the evening warming up a stranger’s coat with her behinds.
Friday, 2.25 am, Weemoed bar
A late night in a bar full of cigarette smoke. There are only few blurry contours of youngsters, bursting with laughter from time to time. Two of them, perhaps in their late teens, are sitting at the table. After sharing a cigarette they start kissing lazily, as if in slow motion. The girl withdraws her lips from the ones of the boy, and asks: “Why don’t we go to Barcelona? Like, right now.” The boy looks at her through tired, narrowed eyelids. He turns to a stranger at the same table, and asks his opinion. “Go! Go, for crying out loud!” the stranger cries out loudly. The fortuitous couple kisses and walks towards the door, tottering.
Friday, 3.30 am, outside
The street is almost empty. A few tired people are walking down the street, carelessly kicking empty bottles. Three young men are unlocking their bikes. One of them starts ringing his bike bell, playing a simple rhythm. The other one joins with a different beat. After they get some attention from the passersby, the third one starts dancing to this bizarre bike-bell song. The sun appears on the horizon.