at the archives
and so i am right there at the archives for the first time. i check the inventories, i fill in dozens of forms and sit down. breath in, breath out, be nice to all secretaries. you never know how moody they are. maybe i have to bring them coffee. or not. or chocolate. or not. i’m lucky. my documents are old. really old. and in the same buidling. my fifteen files, the quota that’s allowed per day, arrives on tuesday. had i asked for documents from the fifties, i would have had to wait for a week. the car that brings those documents runs only once a week. ridiculous. it’s tuesday. a lady hands me the files and asks “do you speak romanian?” i say, “da” while big question marks start rising as balloons above my head. i mumble. she continues in disbelief, “really? don’t you speak german? you have a foreign accent.” i cannot utter more than, “da, i do speak romanian. we’ve been communicating in romanian for two days now..” the scene is over, but i still feel like i’m caught in a scandinavian movie with a weird sense of humor based on nonsense. like roy andersson’s “songs from the second floor”. they keep repeating in that movie “beloved be the one who sits down.” so i sit down and next to me is a classmate. we smoke together. she teaches me that since the institution doesn’t have a place for smokers, we have to sneak into the men’s toilet and go out another door into the inner courtyard. and we smoke together like that until a man starts shouting at us. it lasts for minutes. i’m tempted to pretend to be a foreigner. it wouldn’t be much pretense now, would it? he threatens to fine us. he threatens to ban us from the archives for good. i cannot smoke when someone’s shouting at me so i put out the cigarette and we decide to smoke in front of the building. hardly do we sit down again and light another cigarette, when a furious woman comes directly to us, the smokers, and asks, “do you want to live?” i say, “not for too long.” then she replies, “i want eternal life. i’ve studied pollution for eleven years and i have a phd. isn’t it a pity that you’re alive? aren’t you thinking about your parents?” my classmate is silent. the woman turns to her and hands her some literature on jesus. she leaves having inhaled enough cigarette smoke. we both sigh thinking that we cannot even smoke a cigarette without some sort of aggressive attitude towards us. a few more days pass. wake up, make coffee, smoke a cigarette, take the camera, the batteries and take photos until we feel sick. heal everything with beer and start all over. we meet new people randomly. they ask, “why is budapest better than bucharest? why don’t you want to come back and live here where all romanians live?” i’m tired. the situation makes me sad. i don’t want to explain myself to sneaky aggressive people that i cannot relate to. i pass as a foreigner. it’s in my eyes, in my accent, in my head — so they say. for them bucharest is romania. maybe i had bad luck with the people i met. maybe i’ll try again. for now though, it’s good to be back home for another week or two until i pack again and go.