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Im living it up in the bosom of nature, people!
Wellnot quite. But I am sort of there, in a place where
old-fashioned ways are alive and positively thriving. Where the
stars shine blindingly...
Wellnot quite. But I am sort of there, in a place where old-fashioned ways are alive and positively thriving. Where the stars shine blindingly bright at night and the quiet is so pervasive you can hear your brain cells working.
Do I like it? In general not that much. Not that I mind the clear night sky, the stars and the quiet. But Im not a village person at heart. Im also not a big city girl. I gravitate towards the middle ground so I feel happy in the town where I currently live. Its modest in size and you get all the conveniences of modern life minus the crowds, the traffic jams, the overwhelming distances and the general feeling of isolation we associate with big cities.
But this place where Im at right nowIts special for me. This is where I spent the best summer of my life. My heart still aches when I remember those days. Its partly because the person who kept me company all those years ago is dead. It was my grandma, who needed constant care because of her poor health. The two of us spent three months here, with family members visiting once a week or so. I was essentially tasked with looking after her but I think I got the better deal.
So, a quarter of a century later Im back here, all by myself this time. The assignment: house-sit for my parents. Oh, I think I forgot to mention this. Yes, the house belongs to my parents, who are in Italy right now. Being a freelancer, I have no problem packing and relocating temporarily. As long as I have an Internet connection, I can work anywhere. Lucky for my parents, I guess.
I should explain a couple of things. Im not a people person. No, Im not some rude cow who delights in insulting people and behaving like a jerk in general. No, I have proper manners and Im perfectly civil to strangers. Its just that Ive always been a reserved person and I dont make friends easily. I am quite content to spend time alone and I never get bored.
This peek into my character has a point. Its meant to tell you that I dont mind being here alone. In fact, I relish it. I just miss my cats but I have made friends with two other felines. There are other animals around but Ill tell you more about them in a minute. As I write this, one of the kitties is sleeping in my bed. It must have come through the window last night because I woke up with it curled at my feet.
Im not telling you the name of the place because it wont mean anything to you. Administratively speaking, its not a village. It was declared a town in 1984. But thats just a label. Its a village in every sense of the word. Its very modest in size. I think it only has two blocks of flats and those are four or five stories high. The rest of the population live in houses. They all have vegetable gardens, animals in their barns, and hens and roosters roaming in the yards. Each house has at least one guard dog and horse-drawn carts traverse the streets. People here make their own wine and hard liquor, as is the case in every Bulgarian village and out-of-the-way town.
And you never have privacy in such places, not really. Sometimes its annoying. Other times, you cant help but marvel at the bond people have in such places. You get folks dropping by every day, sometimes several times a day, to check up on you. People bring you produce, ask how youre doing, offer to take care of this and that in the yard. You look at them and you think, I wish theyd leave me alone! Then they go away and you actually start feeling happy that you matter enough to these people, who are essentially strangers.
You know what I smell of right now? Donkey shit. No, Im not joking. About an hour ago, I was shovelling donkey shit. My father has one of these animals. A friend of his takes her out in the morning, ties her somewhere (no idea where) to graze and brings her back in the evening. There is also a massive dog, another girl, who I rely on to guard me at night. The donkey is called Marussya, which seems to be a very popular name for donkeys around these parts. The dog is Maya. The cats have no names so I just call them all Kittie. Two are constantly around and a few others pass through every day, mostly to get fed.
Almost three decades ago, I had my grandma for company here. Now its these animals. Over the years, the village has changed. Not in its essence though, just some physical upgrades. Its cleaner, the centre has been spruced up, and some nice shops have cropped up.
But you can still sense that the spirit of the place has remained intact. I like that. I couldnt live here all the time, no way. Still, Im blissfully happy right now. More important than the preserved spirit of the place is the spirit of the past I can feel. My own past. A time when I felt useful and needed because a frail human being depended on me. A time when the peace and quiet of this place were a welcome respite. A time when I was truly happy.
As melodramatic as it may sound, it feels as if traces of my past happiness still linger here. I walk around the yard at dusk and its as if no time at all has passed Im young, beautiful, free and full of hope. I look up at the clear, starry sky at night and it overwhelms me in a good way. And I cant help but think that we really dont need much to be happy. As long as were open to it, happiness will find us anywhere.
Ill leave this place in a few days. When I visit my parents, it doesnt feel the same. Its not my place then; its theirs and Im just a guest. But Ill keep hoping that my future holds more of these solitary retreats. Maybe I wont have to wait for another 26 years before it happens again
It could be because I'm inexorably moving towards senior citizen
status that childhood memories become clearer and dearer. Sometimes
I suddenly remember things so deeply buried into my mind that
It could be because I'm inexorably moving towards senior citizen status that childhood memories become clearer and dearer. Sometimes I suddenly remember things so deeply buried into my mind that I almost feel a jolt when they break through the veil of oblivion.
There are, however, events and people that time never coats in the dust of forgetfulness. Like that one special childhood friend - you know, the kind that feels like an extra appendage. You go to school and play together, take turns dining and spending the night at each other's place...in short, you skip and hop through childhood hand in hand.
Then you grow up and life often gets in the way of these precious friendships. You do your best to keep them going and sometimes you succeed. We couldn't. The reason? The most banal of all - distance.
My childhood appendage, Mariyana, was a golden girl. Blond locks, sparkling blue eyes, a brilliant smile, a feisty and compassionate nature. We spent our early years joined at the hip. The first crush, the first cigarette, secrets and lies - we shared them all.
When my family moved to the other side of the country, I was devastated. Children are resilient, as we keep hearing, but some things you just never get over. Even though time dulls the searing pain these memories used to cause, you still feel a stab through the heart whenever you remember. The spasm goes away quickly but never stays away for long. It will likely keep coming back until the day you check out for good.
After our paths diverged, I only got to see Mariyana once in the span of a decade. Then the trail grew totally cold and stayed that way for 27 years!
As the title indicates, we have a "happy ending" story here. It features Facebook (what doesn't these days?!) and has Mariyana in the starring role. I'm a humble extra whose only contribution consists of finally succumbing to herd behavior and joining the Facebook swarm. This is how she found me and got in touch. Within a month, she was on her way to my place.
These are surreal moments and people usually lack the words to describe them. In moments like these, you believe that the universe is indeed on your side and there might just be such things as miracles. When I saw her there in the street, with her suitcase at her feet and that brilliant smile on her face, my heart skipped several beats and then all was right with the world. And time...No such concept exists when you find yourself in a situation like this. The years fall away and your heart can hardly contain all the joy, love and relief. The relief comes from having a hollow within close up at last.
We got our happy new beginning, I'm thrilled to report. Life remains in the way but no longer distressingly so. She has been living in Italy for the past 12 years and we won't be getting together very often. But you know what? It's fine. At the very least, we have all those social platforms and messaging apps to keep in touch. The truly important thing is that we have rebuilt the bridge riven by time and circumstances. We now stand on the reinforced structure older, maybe wiser and definitely still full of the childhood wonder and devotion of all those years ago.