Mutherfucker time to plug in to the old flow. get those juices flowin’ and don’t stop till I find myself crammed up against the side of a bent up rusty drainpipe somewhere south of the Louisiana turnpike.
Maybe in the end we don’t ever travel so far as we feel.
Fingers stroking lightly over the keys, the questions living under my eyelids, unable to see anything except for the words that are not even on the paper yet. Nonexistant. presoit.
He tells me it is a pleasure, and honor. we talk briefly about the Bulgarian writer and what he says:
A man is most himself when he travels. A liar is a even more of a liar when he travels, but a good man is always good. “My English is not so good,” he tells me.
I tell him that I understood perfectly. I understood before he even opened his mouth, but I did not have the luxury of knowing that someone else said these things in this way earlier. Now I can rest in it like a little idea bed, a conceptual cupola.
I see it as a naked Tinkerbell dancing in a dewy ivy leaf, flirting with the camera lens like a faerie fucking Marilyn Monroe.
We head to the Red Cross pavilion. “It is hard to see,” he agrees, “but people need to think of such things.”
“I wanted to get a Red Cross watch,” I tell him. “I’ll go with.”
So we walk to the pavilion under the same umbrella, in that uncomfortable way where you feel like the person holding the umbrella is trying to force you out from under it because of how close they are trying to walk next to you, so you walk in a zig-zag like some sort of passive-aggressive pushmepullyou until you arrive at the Red Cross pavilion where there is a 25-minute wait and you decide that after all, 25 minutes is still a pretty long period of time to buy a watch, much less save the world.
So we head back to Bulgaria to drink wine.
I want to believe that I am in Bulgaria, nestled in snugly next to the Black Sea like an arm under a pillow, smiling at the ceiling in some dream soaked in the snoring self-consciousness that is personal resentment.
I want to feel the history that is seeping through the cobblestones that the uneven cafe table that I am sitting at rocks gently back and forth to the rhythm of my involvement in my conversation.
Thunk. Chink. Ca-chunk. Scrch. Whunt.
I feel the wine on my lips and the slow path it blazes to my stomach.
I am hearing their words, “the presents are not important, what is important, what is important is the friendship. In our lives, the most important thing is our relationships.”
They are piling wine and yogurt and cookies on me. At first, it was “only honey and yogurt. no wine.” the tell me this proudly, mis-remembering that I do not drink. It is clear that I do in short time, and they make up for there blunder of familiarity by stocking my bag to the top with cold bottles of white wine. The condensation is already starting to soak through the bag and I hope it will get to my house without dissolving, because, god help me, it is OK wine.
“Every time I look at this pin,” Nic tells me in earnestness, “i will remember our friendship. We are like best friends.”
There is no irony here, there is not drama, there is no jadedness. we are indeed like best friends.
I am embarrassed by my presents. Three metal pins in the shape of music-playing robots.
My friends have given me a traditional Bulgarian perfume container, a CD of their traditional dance show, cookies and wine and yogurt to eat, and more than I can comfortably carry to take home.
“It doesn’t play music, smell good, or taste good.” I say. It is a pin.
“Is it ‘pins’ or ‘pin?'” asks Bobi, through Georg.
“It is pin.” I say. “One pin, two pins.”
“Pins,” repeats Georg.
“Pins,” repeats Bobi.
When people do not speak the same language and yet are still able to be like best friends, there is an acceptance that we are going to sound mentally retarded to each other. The trick in these situations is to assume that the natural state of interpersonal relationships is fundamentally retarded, mentally.
Later, Georg will take the Bavarian to see the Bulgarian dance show, “too many Germans come to visit Bulgaria.” I know that he means to say “very many,” he has made this error consistently in the two months that he and I have made semblant the state of “best friends,” but she is shocked.
Georg doesn’t like Germans? He wishes that they would stay in Germany where they belong — those fucking fascist Nazi history-rewriting pig-dogs?
He means “very,” I say, embarrassed to correct my best friend in front of him.
His English is no better than mine in terms of how well he can express what he means.
He says “too” and means “very”.
I say “we need to figure out a way to somehow share each others interests at a level more sympathetic and commensurate with each others’ experience in that interest,” when I mean to say “I feel alone.”
I write an essay, and mean “I feel surrounded by compassionate people.”
I feel so sure that what I am about to say will flawlessly convey what I am feeling. I trust in communication as much as the next guy, but there is a level of honesty that is abandoned the second that I stop feeling and start reacting.
The Bulgarian writer, as Georg explains to me later, was killed by the communists in a political revolution in Bulgaria in the nineteen twenties.
He had written a story about a typical Bulgarian man, one that was scathing in its apparent honesty, and was so well communicated, so transparently transferred from this artists heart to page, that the fears of the ruling class were reflected in its unpolished clarity.
The pebble, still wet,
jumps from my hand to the pond.
the stars disappear.
And another intellectual’s brains are spilled like canned beef stew exploding languidly over the starched institutional sheets of a freshly-made bed.
Life is slower in Bulgaria.
The lamb is cooked for hours outdoors over a fire. You tap the bone on your plate, and the meat slides off.
This tasted heavenly in my mouth.
My friends, Bobi and Nic, do the second-to-last show of their time at the Expo. It is the last time I will see them in japan and i see and feel that they are doing this show for me, and it is true, we are like best friends.
I go to the Lithuanian pavilion. hundreds of kilometers north of Bulgaria, bordering another sea.
My friend The Political Scientist is famous there, and her Japanese puts mine to shame.
Seeing her there with her radiant smile, I realize that no one would ever know that she is shy, or afraid to dance swing just because she doesn’t know how.
They would never know that her mother is not used to her or that her father is in Austria – maybe – or that she put flowers on the grave of her grandmother’s twentieth dead chicken.
They would simply see her and say ‘what a friendly and secure woman representing her country with poise and charm. And what a nice linen suit.”
But I know she uncovered the elusive bol weevil and braved the firestorm that is Cody.
And i am still impressed by her poise.
I am typing vertically and furiously on a computer that doesn’t see how my questions are exactly the sorts of questions that it would dream of if a computer could dream.
“He is getting smarter,” The Political Scientist says, “every day he learns.”