Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Stigma

We all want to be the D word.
And you can always be Different. But try being Divorced!
It's better than being Different! It's bad and bad is always sexy!
My dear People of the Journal,

Let’s do this. I know the topic is going to fire me up against my best intentions so expect the unexpected haha. Honestly, I did not come up with this, as my mind is pretty much made up when it comes to the notion of “divorced woman” but there is this special man in my life who sent me a link at some point. “Meya (he’s not misspelling it, he just calls me that haha), here is a good list of reasons to like divorced women.” This came consequently to my bitching of not finding someone who can keep up, whom I don’t scare away and doesn’t think I’m so friggin’ good and great and nice but they don’t stick around because they’re not good enough.  NOTE: between us, that’s bulshit! That excuse probably worked when I was 20, not when I’m 32! If I landed a man who was so marvelous and awesome, even if in reality I realized I was probably not as beautiful and top nudge to have him, I’d still wouldn’t sell myself short that way. If he’s there and wants me, well fucking go for it! He must’ve chosen me for a reason, who am I to say no?!?! So how does that work for some men?!?!?! “I’m not good enough for you”… I would only give credit to two men in my life who ever really meant that. For the rest… if you insist, maybe I did get the wrong guy. Excuse me. Moving on.

Anyway. Back to the main point. So. The status of “Divorced”. Talking from experience, I tell you it classifies you as some sort of outcast, a special breed of human. There are online dating websites for divorced women or divorced people. Why? Are we different from the single, never married, widowed people? I think people end up putting up websites like these because they feel only other divorced people can understand the kind of pressure society submits us to and so it’s easier to connect with someone who’s been there and knows how it feels, so they don’t waste anymore time explaining that in fact they’re normal.

I mean, you all know someone who in some random conversation about someone else you both know goes likes this about single/divorced marriage porposals:
“Have you heard about George? He’s getting married.”
“Ah, that’s great news!”
“Yeah. She’s pretty. Seems nice. She’s been married once before.” Then shakes his/her head slightly and the tone in their voice drops down a bit. “I hope it’ll work out.”
“Well, that’s not important, I mean who cares. Who knows what happened. It’s important they get along now.”
And then the other one tries to make it look better. “Yes, yes of course. God bless!”

My answer to that: Fuck off! When conversations like these go down as to someone who has never been married before wanting to marry a divorced woman, they make it sound like they are sending the innocent to the slaughter house. We’re no Black Widows waiting for the next victim people, what’s wrong with you! “She’s been married once before!” So what?! You have no idea what happened in that marriage. No one will ever know except for the two people directly involved in it. Even when you think you know, you don’t, believe me. Maybe she left him because he was cheating or was abusive or simply turned out to be a different person than what she expected. Maybe they separated on mutual grounds with no foul play. The reasons are limitless and not all cases imply that someone was a cheater, an abuser or was bad or evil in some twisted way.

Being divorced doesn’t make me weird, not trust worthy, evil in some manner, avoidable, questionable, emotionally crippled and overly demanding due to my “misfortunate experience”. 

Ok, picture this. You’ve got people staying together for ten years, as a couple, living together, sharing a life together, just like a married couple (no kids - we take the simpler version). No different to married life, except for the paper making it official. Suddenly, they break up. All their friends will go on for like six months with how terribly sorry they are, they will take sides, they will try to find explanations, they will perhaps fight to get them back together. Eventually, things will quiet down and they will start saying, it’s ok, it’s good it happened now and not after you guys got married, there is plenty of fish in the sea and so on and so forth. Matter forgotten.

Now. You get a married couple for a year and a half, or three years let’s say. Make it five. No kids, same situation like the other couple living together. They divorce. TOTAL FUCKING DRAMA! Whispers, gossip, blame, thousands of unanswered questions, the world turns upside down, nothing will ever be the same, lives are scarred forever. Why? Because they signed ZA PAPER.

Well, excuse me. What changed between our lives as a couple to our lives as a married couple? We married the same people, with the same parents, same jobs, same friends. We kept everything intact only we signed a document that in the eyes of the world means more than it is actually worth. Ah yes, and we went to church. I’m sorry. I am sure God wouldn’t want us to stay together in a miserable marriage and have miserable lives and turn our kids’ life into a miserable existence just so we don’t get a divorce. I am a single parent child and I tell you a child can be hurt in many ways. Couples divorce and continue to be great parents to their children even when they have separate lives. Couples stay together when they don’t want to anymore using the children as an excuse and everyone is unhappy. Couples divorce and children get caught in the middle and suffer. It is all up to us, as parents and persons to find a way and behave humanly and respectfully enough to make it through without turning into revengeful animals. I didn’t have children nor had I anything to share in particular with my ex, and still I felt the need to crack a skull or two here and there. I never said it’s easy. But where there is a will, there is a way. I know that for sure.

The idea is, people make too much fuss and point fingers when they don’t know what they are talking about. And they manage to make you so self conscious about your status that you take it home with you. You are divorced! And you’ll stay that way for the rest of your life. Is not that I want to forget it; I just don’t want to be constantly reminded of it. It wasn’t a happy moment in my life.

You fill in a form, you get Single. Married. Divorced. Widowed. Can I check single? I am single right? Watch few of the comments I found on different forums as to this small legal issue and judge for yourselves:

E.g. 1
Of course you can call yourself single, you are. But why if you do that and meet a nice person you'll end up having to tell him/her that your divorced and that's the end of the relationship. Not because you are divorced, but because you lied. 
People feel that if one will lie about that they will lie about anything. Do you want that?

Ok, let’s take the first one. What if I met a nice person and I’ll have to end up telling him that I am divorced and that would end my relationship – because I have lied. Well, that’s not a nice a person then. The only time I’d feel the need to tell anyone that I have been married and now currently divorced is if I had children because obviously that changes the entire equation. Other than that, I don’t see why the fact that I have not mentioned I am divorced would make me a worse person and a liar. If he liked me before knowing, why would it matter? He’s not committing himself to my divorce is he? Plus, even if I didn’t tell the guy, I know the world would make sure he finds out so he can face me with this “terrible truth” because society works that way sometimes, unfortunately.

Of course, people who date you might want to know why you divorced in the first place. So they watch out - you know - for whatever! But how will you know I’m not lying about the reason? And how will I ever explain the finest nuances of a life I lived with someone else and that is incredibly difficult to pin point and dissect? I would probably make it worse in trying to explain myself than if he just took me for what I am and judged me for what I do and behave like in my relationship with him. We’re not talking here about people married 7 times and divorced just as many times. That perhaps would make me wonder too, even though I try to refrain from judgment. After all, there are people born out there who will be eternal love seekers, always ending up with the wrong partners because they are too dreamy. Who am I to judge? I obviously didn’t do that well myself.

Anyway. NO. I wouldn’t jump to say, first thing, I am divorced, whenever I like a guy. It would only deepen the sign society already labeled me with, searing it further more on my forehead. But I would at some point, if things got serious, because I am aware of the fact that for other people this counts for some reason. My ex was married before. I never questioned him of what and how. And of course some people blamed me when I got a divorce. “Maybe if you knew why he divorced in the first place, you’d have been more cautious.” I’m sorry. I don’t want to view my relationships that way. He was married to someone else entirely and I cannot judge that through my relationship with him. And I don’t want to be judged that way in turn when I meet someone new. In fact, when I met my Knight, I never mentioned this at all. When our relationship evolved and more so because he is much younger than I am and thought it would be something that could potentially scare him haha, I said “It’s perhaps time for me to tell you I was married. Obviously now divorced.” I expected his next question to be “What happened, when and for how long?”. Instead, his remark was: “ Ok. How many kids are we talking about?” Made me laugh so hard to be honest and in fact, made me like him more because that to me meant a healthy mentality, for one and second, he wasn’t scared. I said “No kids” to which he replied, “that’s good in a way because it would have complicated things a bit.” Of course it would have. But that was the only conversation we ever had on the subject. I can take that. That is normal. What’s not normal is to be questioned about it as if it was something bad. It’s not bad, it’s sad that it happened, but it’s a good thing if it was the right decision to take. “Boala lunga, moarte sigura” (“Lengthy sickness leads to certain death”). You know how it goes. And lies/excuses for pain killers won’t save a marriage nor make it better. Nor will never ending hope and expectations of a change in personality in your partner. People don’t change and then again you don’t want a changed person. You want to love them the way they are because we’re all beautiful in our own way and surely they’ll be beautiful for someone else and you’ll be beautiful for another. The tricky part is finding that one other.

E.g. 2
When you have been married, you have a history and to say that you are single is intentionally misleading. If you are divorced, be up front and honest about it because that is what you are. if you are single, that alludes to having never made that commitment.

Ok. Second one. Seems a bit more truthful. Yes, being divorced makes you have a history. And yes, it shows you have been committed. But aren’t we committed in every relationship we take, even as singles? If there is no commitment then we’re just doing it for fun and sex. Fine. I’ll take it that too haha. And the fact that I have a history makes a difference? People, as mentioned before, can have a history without being married. If they lived together for 15 years and had a child but never got married and then got separated, isn’t that a history to consider? But it doesn’t make them divorced right? What if someone goes single for like 7 years? Doesn’t that make you wonder what’s wrong with them and why their history shows so much blankness from an emotional point of view? But again, they’re not divorced, they’re just single, slightly weird right? Well, ladies and gents, I refuse to believe my prior official commitment to a man and my history therefore makes me any different than any of you out there not going through the same thing. Our history implies many things and just because society can’t properly and legally label it doesn’t classify me as different and doesn’t oblige me to “be honest” and confess to my divorce every time I sign a paper or meet someone new.

E.g. 3
You are single if you're divorced. There are two categories: 
Single, never married 
Single, divorced. 
As simple as that.

Third one. Hell to the yes! That’s what it is. Single, never married. Single, divorced. Single nonetheless. I would like to be left the choice to speak about my divorce, such a private and sometimes hurtful matter in fact, not because people must be warned about me and because I must come up front with my “history” – whatever the hell that means for some people! – but because I believe the man or person before me disserves to know I have been through something they probably haven’t and that has possibly left me with some sensitivity issues, knowledge and understanding over some things that they do not posses. Yes, this all came at the price of a painful event in my life, but it is essentially good and people should appraise it and take advantage of it not run away from it.

Now going back to those forms. I see no legal reason why I need to check Divorced. Once I have concluded my divorce all financial matters have been solved, therefore whatever I own is mine and no one else’s. Even if you have a loan or property together after the settlement things are clear. Even if you have children. Following the divorce even that is made clear. Just check Single, Two children, Other financial support: YES: Children alimony in this amount. The end. I mean what difference does it make to the state that you have children following a marriage or an unofficial relationship, or that you have children as a single parent? It’s like forcing me to say yes, I am divorced and I need to repeat myself and remember that and the shit I went through every single time I sign a paper. It gives me the exact same feeling I had when they made me put down my father’s name on each form I ever signed when he didn’t even know me and it pissed me off throughout 30 years of my life. Did the government know that my father didn’t give a crap? NO! Did they know I hated seeing his name there all the time when he had no contribution to my life whatsoever; did they know it made me hate it even more as I believed it was unjust towards my mom who made everything possible for me, that she had to share responsibilities on paper with a man who never existed in my life? When I wanted HER to get full credit for all the hard work? If my mom was divorced and I had no father, they should’ve allowed me to just put down mom and that’s it. Still, the general excuse is that official papers cannot address the multitude of situations life constructs, which is true, at least in my case.

But the divorced box issue is pretty simple. It shouldn’t exist unless legally proven it makes a difference. Maybe I don’t know and that legal or fiscal meaning actually exists, so if anyone knows of it, let me know so I make sense of this.

Well, this was pretty calm right? Haha I told you I’d fire up over it. My final words on the matter are that no, I have not become a different person after my divorce, just a more knowledgeable one. I do wear a scar on my back, that I touch every now and then as a reminder. A reminder of a great moment in my life that I cherished at the time with all my heart, faith and dedication. It stands as an invaluable source of know-how as to how much I have to offer, how much I can give and just how strong and fierce I can be to take it back. How hard it is getting back up, how truly dignifying it is to be on my knees for a while and having people's eyes in the back of my head, their endless questions, gossip, expectations and critique. Against all this it was good to discover there is more to me than I knew, sides of me that I had disconsidered and that now came out strong and surprised me pleasantly. And luckily, not all is bad in the world. My family was there, my good friends were there, I ran into people who helped me just when times grew harder, complete strangers who went through the same and knew how I felt and reached for me no questions asked. Thank you to all. If I felt marriage wasn't for me before, now I know for sure. I tried, but the truth is that I have never valued it as an institution, even though I encourage other people to go for it, because obviously, it works for so many others. I for one have valued only the family and I've always known what family means to me. So I'll continue looking for that man who can offer more than just a legal status in society. 


.But it is all done now. 

So tell me again, why am I divorced and not single?


P.S.. Here is the list of reasons I mentioned in the beginning of the blog. They are pretty common sensed I’d say. I should mention the article was written by a guy.
A female friend of mine got divorced recently, and confessed to me how much she dreaded now having the “divorced” label hanging over her head as she re-entered the dating pool, like some modern day version of the scarlet letter. That she, too, had failed to make it work, and men would recoil from her in disgust, running for the nearest 20-something as soon as possible.
But I for one, think being divorced can actually be a stamp of awesomeness to we men willing to look past the stigma. I think this experience actually means you’re a cut above your never-been-married friends.
And here’s why:
1. You’ve experienced loss, and rebounded from it. You have courage, resilience, strength. That’s an attractive trait to men looking for a worthy partner.
2. Hey at least you dared to get married! You took a swing at love, rather than just playing it safe on the sidelines. You placed a bet in the lottery of life, and while it didn’t work out, you can dust yourself up and try again. Hell, even George Clooney couldn’t make his first marriage work.
3. You know it’s better to be alone for the right reasons than with someone for the wrong. And are maybe more willing to wait for the right guy than jump into something just to have a body next to you. You don’t feel “incomplete” if you’re not in a relationship, and are maybe becoming a better person each day that you’re on your own.
4. You now know (if you didn’t before) that love takes work. That it doesn’t just magically take care of itself, and float along in a some happy, pink cloud surrounded by unicorns and cotton candy. You know that both parties have to commit to supporting each other and making compromises on a daily basis. This, too, means you’ll have a more realistic and mature approach to your future relationships.
5. You had the balls (irony intended) to walk away from something that wasn’t working. You stood up and said, “No, I won’t stay in something that’s a lie.” And that means you have standards. Principles. And me, I like a woman who takes a stand. And isn’t afraid to face some public scorn in the process. Where others see “scandal,” I see strength.
6. Maybe you’ve recognized that you’ve made a mistake–either in your own actions, or simply by marrying someone else who was making a lot of mistakes. And that’s incredibly valuable for your future partners in life, because you’re clearly humble enough to accept criticism and question yourself.
7. You probably now have a deep knowledge of what sexually satisfies you (and what doesn’t). And that’s rare for women and men. And your future relationships will benefit significantly from that.
8. Maybe you were the one who walked away, and now know what “Mr. Wrong” looks like, so you’ll better able to spot “Mr. Right.” Your bullshit detector is now iron-clad, and you realize you don’t always have to “stand by your man.” Because a lot of guys don’t deserve to be stood by. You’ll be less likely to fall for bullshit more able to identify a true heart.
9. Or maybe you yourself realize you weren’t such a peach, yourself. That you have things to work on in your character, personality or attitude. But that willingness to accept fault is also incredibly attractive to the right guy. You’ve recognized you’re not perfect? Congrats, most of us never get there. We’ve got shit to work on, too. It’s nice to have some company.
10. You know what it’s like to watch love slip away, and you’re more able to keep it from happening again, to have the tough conversations that need to happen. Hell, maybe you can help us prevent us from losing our way, too, if we drift.
11. Because you look wonderful when you walk down the street alone, unafraid, cool and confident. When you sit at the bar with no one next to you, it doesn’t bother you a bit. You kind of even seem to be enjoying it. Which makes us want to be next to you all the more.
12. So you’ve got a few scars. They make you more interesting. You’ve suffered pain and loss, so you value joy and happiness more than those who’ve never lost it. You’ve experienced a wider range of emotion in life, and have a deeper appreciation for the highs & lows.

P.S.S.. I have to add this too haha. From my research it looks like divorced women in India as well as in the Muslim world have to endure more than those in the West, due most likely to religion and so on. So here is this small comment a Muslim man made as to divorced women in his country. Just to show that I’m not the only considering divorced people in general, men and women, are somehow differentiated by the “perfect” society around us. The society made of single people who might turn out to be divorced someday. Oops! I’ll pre-welcome you to the club on this occasion, ladies and gentlemen, only to earn my evil status!
We use words like "Na Baba Na Wo To Talakn Ha". The most dismal thing is that usually one woman, in any relation, use this sentence. It is shame for a society like us, who claim to be a Muslim Society. In simple words she has committed such an offensive crime that is not forgivable.
I just close it with an instance. One of my Auntie expressed her deep sorrow with one divorced woman (relative) in front of me. At a later time, she was offered to marry her son with that deprived woman.
Ordinary, she repeated the same line; "Na Baba Na Wo To Talakn Ha". How much selfish and hypocrite are we. I make a self-promise commitment that I will marry a divorced lady. We need to treat them like a human, not like an isolated part of society. I humbly request all male readers to make active part to change this sick minded custom. My purpose is not to write an article, but to bring a dynamic stance against this social evil.

P.S.S.S. (if that even exists! Haha). Let’s conclude this on a funny note and this is what this one other divorced woman says about her experience with forms (well done missy! Big like!):
DIVORCED, AND SINGLE
I am divorced, but I am also single. Which one do I select? The form-reading computer brains would probably explode if I checked both, or at least shoot ugly exclamation marks and refuse to let me continue until I decide what I am.
Who really needs to know I’m divorced? I’m single, and I intend to remain single until struck by a lightning bolt and turned into a phenomenon. Plus, the IRS doesn’t have a divorced category for filing: you are single, married, or widowed. They seem to be the end-all be-all of Who Not to Lie To, and if I’m single to them…ok, I’m stretching.
Everyone gives a shit whether I’ve succeeded at the social institution, failed at the social institution, or haven’t yet attempted the social institution. Who fucking cares? I probably care because I’m divorced and that sucks elephant penis no matter how much I wanted it.
Who should know I’m divorced?
         The US Census Bureau should know. This is important information for an accurate study.
         My doctor should know. It’s why I have a bottle of alprazolam on my dresser at home.
         My ex-husband should know. Duh.

         Anyone else?



Sunday, November 16, 2014

USA - Day 8 and 9. Old friends, New friends and El Gran Finale

Day 8. Time Square and beyond

Yeah. I’m kind of sad that I have to write this. It’s been a month since I came back so it feels like ending this adventure twice. A bit over a month actually but it still pains me to be back. Nevertheless memories have been made and they must be honored properly, so here it is, the last account of my two final days in New York. And I couldn’t be more grateful for them!

So on Sunday I went out for more shopping and exploring. Nothing interesting there. I was pretty much looking for stuff for Adinut in Sephora. But never managed to find what I wanted. I spent some time in the Columbus Circle Mall, so much that at some point I just had to get a Starbucks and sit down to rest for a while. So much walking, my feet just couldn’t take it anymore. Eventually after one last date with H&M I found my way around to the subway to go to Time Square. I loved every minute of my American experience, breathing in the people, the way they did things, even the way they traveled on the sub. Observing them like a stalker haha. 
After the Columbus Circle ride
A little something I grabbed on the way to the hostel when I dropped my shopping. Before going to Time Square to meet up with Ned.

A message that caught my eye on the subway
I got off on the 42nd and found my way up there. I was filming everything as I came out to the surface. I mean this is Time Square, pretty crazy stuff. So I wanted to document everything. A gigantic Godzilla movie poster welcomed me the moment I set foot outside. And this absolutely amazing crazy colorful street filled with sounds and music and chatter. I was taken aback with the crowds, the many glittering lights, street vendors, cinemas, stores, tourist attractions that I didn’t even know which way to go at first. And of course, I chose to go the wrong way haha. And I also filmed the whole thing. Eventually I realized I was probably going the wrong way. Not that there was any sign that I was doing so, but simply from previous experience. I just never go the right way, so it was time to check. And sure enough I asked someone and they pointed in the opposite direction. Great! I turned back making sure that I check again the vendors selling drawings and paintings of celebrities to see if I can find any Brad Pitts in there. No luck. I filmed the whole thing too just to prove Laura that I tried! Haha I ended up in this street corner that didn’t look like anything spectacular. Plenty of people, some street music, traffic. And then I turned around and saw it. Time Square. At first you’d think, what’s so great about this place that makes it so attractive? I mean I love the European markets that come across as large open areas, with fountains and chairs for people to sit on and enjoy nature, kids playing around or many restaurants where you have a decent meal and enjoy the local flavor. But here, there was nothing like that. Just many people, some around some metal tables in a sort of plaza surrounded by huge buildings with enormous TV screens on them. I’d say a lovely chaos that sparked life in you somehow. Some rabbi was calling for Jesus on one side, some other people were protesting about political issues a few chairs away and in the middle of it all I saw two Spanish girls butt naked, like lace panties on and that’s it, with some colorful feathers on their heads and the American flag painted on their immense breasts. And I was cut short in my speech. It’s fucking October ladies, what the fuck?!? Then again this one other girl passed me by wearing this thin dress like she was heading to the beach and I was like, better stop trying to understand fucking New Yorkers. This is insane people! Or maybe I’m acting like it’s almost winter and forgot that shorts and skirts are a fashion in late autumn. Without any stalking on! Oh well, moving on. So once I was done following around naked women or black women with bootylicious asses dressed as Cat Women and black Batmen looking all sexy in their leather suits (ME-OW!), I finally crossed this street towards the other half of Time Square. I didn’t even realize it was a street because it’s in the middle of the damn thing! I only figured it out as I was filming the Toys R’ US store on the other side and I almost got ran over by traffic. What the hell? Next thing I know I bumped into a construction site. Yeah. They were repairing part of Time Square just as I was there, lucky me. So I was kind of disappointed. But it couldn’t be worse than visiting Fontana di Trevi in Rome and not seeing almost anything of it because of renovations. Oh well, I was happy with half of Time Square haha.







Madame Taussad's Wax Museum



Museum of Strange Things haha

















The good part was that I was finally going to meet Ned. Before I go any furthger let me put down the list of characters so you don't get terribly confused as to what's going to follow:
Ned and John Thorne - brothers. John I've known for 10 years. Ned I met just now
Lee - boyfriend back ten years ago when I met John - as p[er story to follow.
Sean and Dan - college buddies with John at the time we met ten years ago. 

Now that we got this out of the way let us proceed to the story haha

As I was saying, Ned is John’s brother, one of my oldest and dearest friends. As all my stories go, here is a little feedback and sweet memories actually as to how John and I came to be friends  in the first place. It was pretty much about twelve years ago when I was still in Sibiu in college. At the time I was living with my boyfriend back then, Lee. God, I haven’t written his name down in so many years it feels weird. Anyway, one evening Lee and I were out in town looking for some books in the local library when I noticed this book for kids about Lillo and Stitch. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a cartoon, pretty neat one too, that Lee and I had seen together a little while before. 
So there I was, looking at this book about the cartoon, rambling randomly at things I saw, like how Lillo's dance teacher in the movie had tits bigger than mine haha. Don’t ask! And Lee, who was already used to my endless chatter simply listened silently with a grin on his face. Note: Lee and I were speaking in English because even though he is Romanian born he has lived pretty much his entire life in the States so English came more at hand to us than Romanian. So John, who happened to be in the same library that evening heard us speaking English so he figured Lee and I were Americans so he approached us. Eventually the three of us - Lee, John and I -  went out and and as we strolled downtown we learnt John's story and here it is in a few words: three college buddies, Dan, Sean and himself had graduated from this Seattle college and had decided to take a trip through Europe afterwards. So now they were stuck in Sibiu and somehow their plans were splitting a bit. If I remember properly, Dan had to go to Bucharest to fix some visa things, Sean was supposed to be somewhere else the same evening and was waiting to catch the train while John also had to leave somewhere, but he was not in a hurry and could wait for his train until the following morning. I know this is confusing, but anyway. Summary is Lee - boyfriend back then, John, Sean and Dan buddies we met that evening. Hope that helps haha.

Lee and I had planned to go see a movie that night. I think something called the Red Dragon at Cinema Tineretului. That’s long gone now. I think at some point that became Teatrul Gong, I’m not sure what it has become of it now. So we reunited with the other two guys, Dan and Sean, had some drinks and we sort of hit on right from the beginning. I know for sure that Dan and Sean left that evening after we all went to the movies. We invited John to stay with us over night and catch his train the following day. One thing I remember about that night is that John believed Lee and I had been together for a long while because we went along so fine. In fact we had been together for almost a month haha. Well, regardless, that was the time I met John. And ever since we stayed in touch. The three of them returned close to Xmas time that year and left with Lee to Turkey where Lee made sure to put them through all sort of adventures haha. I remember he stole some stone or piece of painted wall from a mosque that was being renovated and then the three of them went to this Turkish bath and then emailed me separately to tell me of their experiences haha. I remember Sean, God bless him, he is so friggin’ tall, without high heels on, I’m an ant next to him. He said he felt “man handled’ haha by this half naked big Turkish fellow rubbing the life out of him, literally collapsing his chest cavity into his spine as he went at it haha. Some things you can never forget. I believe they also went to see Cappadocia in the North of Turkey and later on John sent me for Xmas a card with him and Lee having coffee and negotiating rugs in a local store. Such wonderful memories!

Later on, the following year I applied to colleges in the States, 14 of them to be more exact and John came in for a visit that summer (after spending Xmas with my family and Nero, our dog, tore his pants haha - I could spend a whole page just telling you about that!) and he edited my essays. He is a brilliant journalist with a real taste for adventure and an eye for detail and he cut through my English and text like knife through butter. I was so mad with him haha. We kept arguing constantly, but eventually we always figured a way to make things happen for both our benefit. Years past by and we saw each other less because he kept traveling across the world. He’s a foreign language genius! He learnt Romanian in like a month or so and he can still speak it against him living in Arabic speaking countries for most of these years. Also knows French and Spanish I believe, and now Arabic. One of my greatest achievements, other than somehow managing to keep our friendship alive haha, is that I made him change his haircut (also his mother’s secret wish!) and he sends me updates every now and then to see that he has not gone back to his old hair habits.

The beautiful part was that, after years of not seeing each other, and just Skype-ing emailing or calling he came from Beirut I think, for my wedding. And I knew he’d land at about 6:00AM and so I was up anyway. I mean it was my wedding; of course I didn’t sleep till noon. So I was getting ready and it’s almost 8AM and I was wondering where the heck he was or if he got lost in the airport or the plane was delayed or what the hell had happened. We were supposed to be at the civil ceremony at 10:00AM. So I called him and he said,” I’m in front of your block on a bench”. I was struck. WHAT?!?! Since when? “Like about an hour ago”. What the FUCK?!?! I went out on the balcony and there he was sleeping on his backpack. So I yelled at him, what the fuck John?!?! He said, “I didn’t want to wake you up!!!!!” Are you fucking kidding me?!?!?! So I told this little story to Ned now that I met him and he said he would have done the exact same thing! Damn! It runs in the family! Haha He came up and continued napping on the bed while we were getting ready. At the ceremony he took pictures with his aviator sunglasses on, my cool haircut haha and I believe he had quite some fun at the wedding! Even though I hardly remember all the details from that night. But at least he got to meet most of the college gang he already knew from back the golden days.
John and I after my civile marriage ceremony

So here we are back in New York, almost 4:00PM and I am in Time Square waiting to meet his brother Ned, whom I have spoken to by email a few times, knew of from John but have never actually met in person. When we first spoke on the phone, I got the chills because he sounds so so so much like John and it made me miss him. But they look very differently. John is three or four years older than me, I keep forgetting, Ned on the other hand is my age. Yet despite all things I recognized him immediately when he showed up. Finally! Big hug and a huge smile! We went to a Starbucks there so we can get a drink and a blueberry muffin. I didn’t really eat anything that day. We took some pictures afterwards and then walked down past the Diamond Street, eating and talking. Just like with John, with Ned I can cover a dozen subjects completely unrelated and I loved it even more so because it reminded me of John. Haven’t seen John since 2010. We are busy bodies haha. So Ned was such a nice guy trying to explain to me things and places. He’s been in NYC for nine years already and now he was considering a change. A change is always welcome. He’s also into directing and screenwriting and his girlfriend is a rising actress. That could explain the endless talk and common subjects to cover haha. He asked me what I wanted to do, but with basically little time at hand I said I wanted to get on top of one of these buildings and see the city before night fall if possible. Seeing the Statue of Liberty at this point was too much to ask. But surely, I wanted to see the 9/11 memorial. Like that was a priority! So he said how about the Rockefeller Building? Sure, why the heck not, I’ll take it! So we headed that way. But by the time we got there they had closed down the ticket booth for the time being because there were too many people up there. So the following session would be at past 8:00PM which I didn’t want to because it would have been dark. I am sure New York looks awesome at night as well, but I wanted to see it in its plenitude in day light first. So maybe we didn’t get to go up there but he said there was a super awesome sweets shop where they made these incredible nut chocolate chip cookies. A rather expensive exclusive one but who cares?! Anything for a delicious bite of chip cookie right? I think it’s called Radio City Sweets ‘cause it’s close to the Radio City Hall. Anyway, we got one and it was huge so we shared it while going down to the sub to see the Memorial. God it felt great! Like I was back in college, roaming free, having a bite of this and that, awesome company, just going places. I know I’ve said this a million times before, but it felt like home. Things just happened and they happened as naturally as they could be.










As we walked to the 9/11 Memorial I sort of got the chills. I remember that day as it was yesterday. I had come back from classes. Freshman year in college. My landlady was watching TV sitting at the kitchen table. I remember setting my books on the corner of the table then grabbing a chair to sit next to her.  Wanted to make some lunch but somehow whatever she was watching caught my eye. And not so much that but the look on her face: motionless frozen in some sort of disbelief. So I looked and saw the Towers collapse with smoke coming out. And I remember my words exactly: “What movie are you watching?” And she said, there’s no movie. It’s happening in America. No fucking way. I mean no, that’s the Twin Towers. Something like that doesn’t just collapse. She said no. It’s all over the news. I sat down silently and in horror. Afterwards, I watched every single possible documentary on that event, from cleaning the location, to the people who perished in the incident to why the buildings collapsed and the other planes being high jacked and all. I wish I had been there to help somehow. It changed entirely my idea of what I wanted to do for my graduation thesis. It would be on the American Civilization and Culture and it would eventually cover the American-Muslim – Black people problem.

So finally there I was: the Memorial. I spent more time than necessary in that gift shop. I wanted to buy everything if possible. Eventually I just got two magnets with the Towers for mom and I. We past the church that was across the street from the towers when they went down and that amazingly survived the demolition with just a scratch so to say. Windows broken because of the blast, but it stayed pretty much intact. Maybe God had taken a first row seat to watch a disaster He could not or did not want to prevent. I don’t know why He did not intervene. I can never forget the image of those people jumping out of windows from thousands of meters high. Out of despair. Out of shock and fear. Maybe He knew some things ought to happen the cruel way for us to finally react to our own stench and make a difference. I don’t know. All I know is that justice had not been served on either side. 3,000 souls died on American soil while million others starved and died on Muslim territories because of American military occupation and hidden political interests. So who won? And who learnt their lesson? No one so far. America still plays voluntary military roles as intermediary when is not necessarily wanted and the Muslims are still at war among themselves and with others. So we have political and economic reasons as well as religious reasons. I can’t work out the politics; it’s about a bunch of people I will never be able to come close to, who decide the fate of many on our behalf, when put in the higher offices of our governments (even though we put them there and give them that power. Isn’t that the irony!). 

As for the religious aspects, I will just say this: there is only one God so how can we come up with multiple personalities of the same entity, I will never understand. And on this matter, related strictly to terrorist attacks of all kind that involve religion: Ben Laden quoted the Quran in his Letter to America after bringing down the towers saying Allah gives His people the right to react with violence against those who opress them. Here it is:


"Permission to fight (against disbelievers) is given to those (believers) who are fought against, because they have been wronged and surely, Allah is Able to give them (believers) victory" [Quran 22:39]
"Those who believe, fight in the Cause of Allah, and those who disbelieve, fight in the cause of Taghut (anything worshipped other than Allah e.g. Satan). So fight you against the friends of Satan; ever feeble is indeed the plot of Satan."[Quran 4:76]

Well I believe in the Bible God says we need to turn the other cheek when faced with violence for retribution will come to all of us upon Judgement Day, but while here on earth we must show mercy and understanding. Mathew 5:39:

Love Your Enemies
38"You have heard that it was said, 'AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.' 39"But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.40"If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also [...]

Also, I believe religion says suicide is a sin. But is not a sin anymore for those, and I'll use the general term of kamikaze, who kill others while bringing death upon themselves willingly? Yes it is, yet they still happen, like it happened with the hijacked planes.


"And do not kill yourselves, surely God is most Merciful to you."
— Qur'an, Sura 4 (An-Nisa), ayat 29
or
The Prophet said, "He who commits suicide by throttling shall keep on throttling himself in the Hell Fire (forever) and he who commits suicide by stabbing himself shall keep on stabbing himself in the Hell-Fire."

Obviously there are similarities and differences among religions. Yet despite them all, I believe all holly books and teachings preach the same thing essentially. We just take these religious teachings out of context and use them to justify our actions and to manipulate. Anyway, I’m not going to go there where I cannot find reason and understanding myself. Is just so many people die for other people to make a point, to reinforce their beliefs or gain material interests. And that is just wrong.




The church that survived hidden behind trees.





Ned, John's brother and I at the Memorial. Now can you make the difference? :)
The location where the Towers used to be it’s now a vast space filled with trees and alleys surrounding the footprints where these two concrete giants used to lie. Now it’s just two massive holes in the ground, turned into fountains. It’s a very peaceful quiet place. Each square footprint is surrounded by a thick margin made of black marble in which they carved the names of all the people who died. Employees, passersby, military, rescuers, firemen, policemen. Everyone. Water springs out from underneath the marble block falling into the depth of the hole to gather in a pool which then drains again in an even deeper smaller hole in the middle of the footprint. And I loved how you cannot see the bottom of it. Like a bottomless pit. People were gathered around all four sides and regardless of their great number, the noise level was turned down, all but a soothing echo of their words as if they spoke in silence. The water was louder than the crowd. Some had placed white roses in the carvings of those names. I ran my fingers across many of them and one can only feel sad and impotent to how fucked up we can be in our attempts to survive and defend our rights and beliefs. How can we be so different that we cannot find a common way to live in peace? I sound and feel so incredibly na├»ve and idiotic as I am writing this. It feels like I’m quoting romantic or surrealistic novels, but books were never written out of imagination. Imagination comes from innate and repeated cycles of life one has lived over and over again to experience the best and the worst of things, we just don’t remember it and we feel like whatever we come up with in this life, is new. In fact is just experience from a past existence. So obviously at some point we all fought some war but human kind managed to find its way back to peace. Why is this becoming so increasingly hard now? When this planet goes to hell because we’ve exhausted it with our greed, when we have destroyed all our homes and the homes of our enemies and all of our children will be diseased and starving, what would we have fought for? It’s stupid. I’m stupid for asking questions with no answer. I’m just gonna shut up now. It’s raining outside which probably makes me go weird on things.



The tree that made it despite all odds.



Ned took a picture of me and this one special tree, right between the towers. Despite the immense quantities of rubble, glass and cement, this one tree survived and it stood its ground. So they tied it down to the pavement tiles to help it survive even longer. So now the symbol of 9/11 is a tree. The Tree of Life which is also my favorite icon, for without life, the world would be empty. Here I go again haha.

Ok. Happy thoughts now! Once we left the Towers we passed by the New York Stock Exchange. The same one Jim has told me so many things about. Ned took this awesome picture of me there, then we moved on walking down smaller streets from older parts of NY and we decided we’re gonna have some pizza in this really cool old restaurant. Unfortunately, he remembered it was his roommate birthday and he had to be home by 8:00PM to celebrate. And it’s not like it takes 10 minutes to get home in NYC haha. But he did insist that we make it to the Brooklyn Bridge together before we parted. So we gave up on the pizza, but before the bridge we had to find a bathroom. Haha. Now that was an adventure! You’d think it can’t possibly be that hard to find a rest room in the middle of New York. But alas, we were in the financial district where all you get is mostly offices, not really so many bars or dinners. We tried everything, from Starbucks to a public toilet. Either they didn’t have one or too many people waiting. Eventually we found this one pub but we felt kind of bad to go in and get nothing, just use their toilet. Haha Well the urge was too great so we just went inside and asked the bartender to have some mercy. Haha The guy was like, come on, you don’t need to ask for permission, I know how it goes! Go ahead, no problem! Awesome stuff! So once relieved of our urges, we proceeded towards the bridge. I said, Ned we have to have a hot dog in New York. I wouldn’t have it any other way. So we stopped right at the foot of the bridge to have one and as I was looking for the cash, the key to my closet at the hostel felll at my feet, literally inches away from the sewer grid. I froze! Fuck! My passport! My laptop! My everything is locked in there! Haha And so many people behind me pushing and waiting and the smoke and the fire in my eyes from the grill. I urged Ned, take it, take it and be careful! That shit is important. Literally time stopped for a second when he lowered on his knees to pick it up. I could hear my own breath in that crowd haha. He gave it to me and I think I curled two fingers around it to make sure I wouldn’t drop it again! Haha. We continued our walk on the bridge eating the hot dogs, licking our fingers. I should have bought two, they were so good! Night had fallen over the city as we arrived on the bridge and New York had lit like a Christmas Tree. What a view! Because of the dark I couldn’t perceive properly the magnitude of the bridge. Despite the many lanes for cars running in opposite directions beneath my feet as well as a metro line in the middle. The cables sustaining the weight of it were huge and so were the columns rising high above my head. But honestly, I was busy with the city view. The many colorful lights reflecting in the water were small boats were getting ready to be anchored in the harbors along the shoreline. One wouldn’t mix such official and linear sky scrapers with the more romantic soft image of flickering waters and silent boats crossing the bay. Loved it!

















Well, eventually, very late for his birthday party for sure, we went back to the subway and basically took the same line until the point where I had to get off. We discussed politics (John would be so friggin’ proud of me for this one haha), future plans, hobbies, boyfriends and girlfriends, the authenticity of life I guess. We parted like two good friends would on a normal day. Maybe it was because the sub wouldn’t have waited for me to go through a long melodramatic goodbye session haha. But maybe it’s because this is what happens with people who simply get along and feel like the connection remains despite the distance, so no need to go crazy over one good bye for there will be many other hellos to follow. Damn I am a fucking poet today! Haha

Ok. Sunday evening was concluded with this special meal I got in an intimate dinner close to the hostel. They served the meal of the house, this veggie thing with oyster sauce. It was late at night when I got there, the kitchen was closing but they probably took a look at little old me sort of freezing and starving and they decided I was worth while the cook’s time haha. I made it easy on them and let them pretty much decide for me and I did not regret the choice. I had a seat at the window, candle light in the glass walls and a meal alone never felt more lovely. I felt at peace. I felt sad for having my last dinner in the US. I ate and drank my water then went back to the hostel and as usual, went to sleep late. The good news is that I had managed to set a date with an old friend for the following day, right before going to the airport.

Day 9. A Monday like no other. 

I was all packed, had done my check in and for the first time in my organizational life both for myself and as a PA of a VP I did not really have a clue how I can get to the airport. And even more surprisingly so, I didn’t even care haha. I felt like time was on my side and that I’d find my way somehow. On time. We know on time is always the tricky part with me right?! So Titus, whom I’ve met about six years before at the Business Summer School and whom I have not met since at all, said it would be great to meet now that I was in NYC. I remember I told him I’d be there for just a few days and would love to grab coffee together. The guy works in finance&banking so once the week starts his life ends, if you know what I mean. Plus he has a family to look after so his weekends are busy. We did not manage to see each other during that weekend as he was out of town but he made this huge effort to come see me on Monday. And I know just how tough it can be to leave the office on a Monday at noon. And he had to change his schedule according to mine so I have enough time to reach the airport. Poor man! So he says, meet me at 42 corner with Madison! Oh yeah, I can do that. 42 is the substation where you get off for Time Square so I’ve been there before. I put on my jeans and green sweater, the weather was beautiful outside! I grabbed all my shit and checked out but left the bag and backpack in the deposit room at the hostel. I got to Time Square on time and now I had to navigate my way around a couple of blocks further to meet him. I didn’t know where this would lead me. As I walked past some worksite and across two streets, I emerged from the crowd to see him sitting there exactly on the corner of the sidewalk and he seemed to be taken out of this classical Broadway movie scene. All suited up, fashionable business man, his glasses on, like I knew he would, one hand in the pocket. The only one standing still in a sea of people moving around him, back and forth. Just another Monday on Wall Street, you know what I mean? No you don’t! haha I wished I took my phone out and took a picture, but he would have thought I was a creepy ass, more than the weirdo he probably thought I was when we first met haha.

It was a warm re-connection I must say. Six years didn’t seem like a long time anymore and he didn’t look much different to me than he was then. He asked whether I wanted to grab some lunch or just a coffee. I wasn’t really hungry. We met rather early for lunch. Plus I did not want to keep him away from work for too long. So we went into this coffee shop and ordered two lattes and a croissant for me and as we were waiting we continued chatting about common friends and trying to catch up in as much as possible. I mean we did keep in touch through Facebook, but meeting in person is always different.

He said, I have to show you something! Have you ever been to the National Library? And I was like no, I haven’t, but somehow I knew I had put that one down on my To do list. Such a long to do list for so little time. We crossed the street and we were there. I hadn’t realized I was standing like right next to it. As I came in front of it I realized this was the same institution I had meant to visit especially because I’ve seen it in so many movies, one of them being The Day After Tomorrow. Awesome!!! Massive and I mean massive carved wooden doors; which unfortunately were closed. Bummer! I forgot it was Columbus Day, a holiday in the US so it was closed. Grrrrr… what a pity! But I insisted we stayed there just to enjoy it the way I could. We went behind the building and there was this beautiful garden with really tall trees. Like they knew they had to grow tall and not wide because there is no space among all these buildings haha. There were green metal chairs and tables and we chose one of them in a remote corner to have a bit of privacy to talk and still enjoy the view. Not many people sit and relax on a Monday afternoon in New York. Unless they are students, old or have children haha. They were setting this stage for some concert on the side and in the very back there were a few carrousels spinning with their jumping colorful horses. It was the perfect scenery for a comfy morning before the long flight home. Titus looked for ways to get me to the airport so by the time I left I pretty much had an idea on what I had to do. And there was plenty of time left to make it to the airport. He learnt of my plans and came up with some good ideas on how to help me and indeed, soon enough after returning in the country he put me in contact with some people that were really helpful. Again, I am lucky to know people like him who still think of me as a friend, considering the circumstances of our getting together in the first place and the little contact we had over the years.



On my way back to the hostel after meeting Titus


On the sub
I left about an hour or so later, big hug and promises to see each other next time he flies in to Bucharest. Then off to the sub and back to the hostel. I charged my metro card one last time. USD 2.50. I took my luggage, thanked the host at the reception and back to the sub. I got off at Penn Station where I had first come in. I knew my way around there. I quickly found the ticket booth for the airport shuttle and luckily one train was leaving off platform 3 in a few minutes. I made it on the nick of time. No seats available as it was full but it didn’t matter. It took about 30 minutes to get to Newark. From there, I got another airport shuttle, those kind of suspended trains, automatically driven on the outside of the airport that take you from one area to another until you reach your terminal or gate. I got off and wobbled my way around through the check in. Maybe I was tired. Maybe I was too sad that I was leaving, but I got a bit lost in there, not really paying attention to the signs. Eventually I made it through the check in. At this point, I was really hungry so with just my backpack on, I went in search of a place to eat. Some proper food, if possible, not croissants and fast food or whatnot. I found something decent. A dinner filled with people. I managed to find a table and took my laptop out to check email and stuff while waiting for my order to get in. I got… surprisingly! Haha – a salad! Yessss. And fries on the side because I can! And a Marguerite to honor my Knight because I was chatting with him and I knew he’d bitch at me for not eating meat again. So I thought maybe I should compensate. I drank half of that before realizing that anymore of it would get me drunk if I didn’t eat first haha. But it was good. And it was good because it reminded me of him, otherwise I’m just bad with alcohol haha.

On my way to Penn Station controlling my luggage

At Newark airport with my Marguerite
After this late lunch I went down and found my gate and stayed there for quite a while before they announced that boarding time was on. I found my seat. I was in the two seats area and I got the window one. This really stern kind of guy sat next to me. I was so restless for most of the flight that I kept dropping stuff, moving left to right, that he must’ve thought I was some really weird girl haha. Anyway. I called my Knight and was on the phone with him, illegally haha, even when the plane started moving towards the runway. It was a strange feeling to see all these planes passing us by, the airport, knowing that I was still there but that soon I wouldn’t be and also hear his voice on the phone. Somehow it felt soothing to keep this connection; somehow it felt terribly sad knowing he’s far away. And that in a matter of minutes I’d add to that distance more than 3,000 miles. Life is a jerk! It can’t always be a bitch. It can also be a jerk. Equality between sexes, ok!


The last of America through my eyes

Bits of thoughts and feelings before 3,000 miles come in between again
The flight attendant came in and signaled me to get off the phone. I didn’t want to! I have always been a good passenger, always turned off all my electronic devices and all that. But not now! Can I just be on the phone for a minute longer, we didn’t take off yet, Sir, pleaseeeee!!! Such a mindless kid. Eventually I said good bye and I turned the phone off. Sigh. Now Mela was left with just Mela again. And the dry guy next to me. I sneaked my hand in my purse stashed underneath the seat in front of me and took out the small green glass ball Knight gave me that one afternoon in the parking lot. I rolled it between my fingers as the plane set on the runaway and the countdown began for takeoff. I could hear the engines growing louder until it finally pushed forward at a greater speed and then leaped across space and into the air, staying there, further and further away from the ground. I kept looking forward, assimilating that sensation of my chest being sunk in the spine with gravity pushing as the plane rose atop of the clouds. Even though with such big planes the intensity is not as big as with the smaller ones.

Eventually we reached cruising altitude and I decided to put away my precious gift so I don’t lose it by accident if I fell asleep. I plugged my headphones in and watched Dawn of the Planet of Apes. And then Planes 2. And then some other movie that I don’t even remember. I took a trip to the bathroom more to stretch my legs than for an actual need. Eventually, 6 and a half sleepless hours later we landed in Amsterdam. I’ve never been in Amsterdam before. It was easy moving around the airport. I realized I’d need Eur to pay for stuff here so I refrained from exchanging anymore USD or RON for the hour or so while I was there. I had eaten a light breakfast on the plane before landing so I was ok. I wrote a little bit and charged my phones. Then we boarded just to find out that the plane would be running like 15 to 20 minutes late.
Tiny memories

Amsterdam

I was getting sleepy on this flight but I was way too agitated to sleep. I snoozed for a bit, watching as time went by and we were approaching our final destination. My clock remained set on New York time. I didn’t want to change it yet. Adinut said she’d wait to pick me up from the airport. I let her know we’re running a bit late.

Bucharest. I walked through the same gates I went through when I left. I waited, for what seemed an endless time to pick up my luggage. Eventually I stepped outside to find Adinut. I’m not sure how I looked at that point. I know how I felt though. I felt sad. I felt determined. I felt like I knew what I had to do now. We stopped for a Starbucks on the way so we catch up just a bit and for me to relax after the long trip. I still had ten cigs left from my Camel pack we got in Houston. I smoked one just for memories sake. I sent a picture to my Knight letting him know. And then I got home, to an empty house because Grasu was still with Laura and Mariano. Mom came in the next day so that definitely made things better.

Right after landing. What a face! Almost 9 hours slepless. Yeah.



And from there on life continued. With the same determination, but clearer vision. Same problems and more problems. Same joy and more hope.

So here I am.

The END.