My Personal Rhapsody is an intimate voyage to different galaxies representing the lives of people who dared to step beyond their boundaries. By hearing their stories, I do not aim to engage in a formal interview. What I look for is a free exchange between two people without pre-prepared questions. Listening to people’s stories and feeling them inspires me to rewrite their stories in a magical, surrealist manner. I believe that each talk or discussion with another person is two-way communication, even if one of the persons chooses to remain silent. The reader is invited to see the story as a totality – energy shared by people exchanging words, motion, touch, breath, heartbeat.
Text by MY PERSONAL RHAPSODY
Illustrations by GODA PELE
And so the story about the Balkan Squad continues…
As I turned around, I saw the policeman walking towards us. ‘Ladies, the man reported you robbed him,’ said the policeman with a strong Russian accent. ‘Robbed him? Are you kidding me? He took my wallet! Ask our friend Chipriani!’ we all flipped. Next thing we knew, we were sitting in a police office in some shabby town of Romania.
“‘Ladies, you will be first put in a cell while we are investigating the crime you have committed. We will call you once we finish talking to the victim. Before that, remain silent’, pronounced a policeman with a cigarette in his teeth. ”
The police office looked more like an abandoned building from the outset: missing windows, old, almost ancient, squeaky door, the smell of a hospital, rusty metal fence protecting window-like holes. Very few old, chubby policemen smoking inside their offices were shouting to one another from offices next door. Why would one bother walking up to one’s colleague to have a chat when you can simply shout until your voice starts cracking..? ‘Ladies, you will be first put in a cell while we are investigating the crime you have committed. We will call you once we finish talking to the victim. Before that, remain silent’, pronounced a policeman with a cigarette in his teeth. Having no other option, we spent 3 hours in a cell just to know that we will be staying overnight in this ghost office. To our surprise, Chipriani was nowhere to be seen, and we started losing hope.
The next morning, a strange older woman appears in the police office wishing to see us. We knew no one in this town, thus hearing someone coming to visit us was quite surprising and comforting at the same time. During the 10 min meeting, the woman explained to us that she is going to pay the bribe to the police to get us out. ‘And why would you do that?’ Maadi asked suspiciously. ‘It’s because I’ve been where you are. I have seen what happened to you. The further you let yourselves in, the harder it is to get out.’ None of us understood what the lady was saying, except that she will help us, and that’s all we wished for. We were out. The lady was gone before we saw her again. We hitchhiked sleepless and cashless to Chipriani’s apartment in Bacau.
“Chipriani spoke little, showed no emotions, but you could sense that deep inside there is a hidden turmoil. Something was so attractive about him. Probably the mysterious adventure that he’ll put you through, his spontaneity…”
After two days of resting at the apartment, we noticed that Chipriani has not come back home. Time passed so quickly and we felt bad for not looking for him earlier. We decided to get dressed and search for Chipriani. After all, the town wasn’t that big. I took the paper map to see where we are, and accidentally, a paper note fell on the floor. It said ‘The old cinema is attractive because it resonates a sense of nostalgia. Where a man and a woman meet, separation is inevitable. Come in at 18:45:59 o’clock.’ Vague and specific at the same time. ‘Only Chipriani can pull this off’ I thought. Chipriani spoke little, showed no emotions, but you could sense that deep inside there is a hidden turmoil. Something was so attractive about him. Probably the mysterious adventure that he’ll put you through, his spontaneity… ‘Girls we have to go look for him!’ I showed the message to my friends.
“We knew two things: Chipriani was in love with the cinema and he used to disappear every Thursday before 6 pm. ”
We knew two things: Chipriani was in love with the cinema and he used to disappear every Thursday before 6 pm. We left the apartment early to look for Chipriani. As we were wandering for hours looking for clues we all started asking ourselves what we are doing here. ‘Maybe it’d be better if we just leave?’, asked Maadi. ‘The more we dwell in this, the fishier it gets.’ ‘True, Chipriani did not come to our rescue at the police office either’, pointed Sahar. ‘Indeed, the people that we meet and the places we are pushed in are no less bizarre than Chipriani himself’, I added. ‘I guess we need to tell Chipriani we no longer wish to be part of his sketchy plot’. We all agreed to say goodbye to Chipriani and move on.
“It seemed like each step is plotted in such a way that we would not be able to escape the scenario. I felt like the people that I have met have already known that we would be in a specific place.”
No matter how much the adventure attracted us, we needed a safe shelter from all this nonsense. It seemed like each step is plotted in such a way that we would not be able to escape the scenario. I felt like the people that I have met have already known that we would be in a specific place. The thieves, the policeman, the strange lady, Chipriani himself, it now seemed they had been informed about the scenario better than us. In the beginning, we agreed to play as we go, yet now it feels like we are losing control of the script. We are slowly following Chipriani instead of taking the lead. At the same time, it sounded simply impossible. Although we faced odd coincidences, there was no way Chipriani had control over such a scheme, including an endless number of people in this town. I had to stop ruminating on this as I felt my mind is projecting too many impossible schemes that sounded more like paranoia.
‘Look, girls, tonight they show My Dinner with Andre screamed Maadi while pointing a finger to a vintage movie poster. ‘I’d rather watch this movie than getting twisted into another scene..’. ‘I hope the movie is still on. The poster looks rather worn out’, said Sahar. ‘This whole building looks rather worn out. I guess this could be our very last peaceful voyage to the past before we leave this town.’, I said. We opened the metal door of a five-story building, yet the only staircase was to go down. On the way down, we saw old posters of movies, ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ ‘The Lady Vanishes,’ ‘Vertigo,’ ‘Casablanca,’ ‘Sunset Boulevard,’ ‘The Gold Rush’ nostalgically lit by candle lights on the wall. We finally reached the bottom floor and opened the door. The smell of Frankincense incense mixed with cigarette smell lured us in.
“‘Don’t stay behind girls, it’s easy to get lost in this building! Once I was wandering for two days before I got back to the bar!’ she laughed. We didn’t. ”
We silently observed old photos, shelves full of photo albums and books. We knew that we are likewise being observed by an old bartender’s parrot, which was just on his shoulder while he was serving a mid-aged man and a woman by the bar. The couple was sitting silently as if they had no more words to say to one another. Slow jazz sounds were tingling our ears, and we floated towards the bar lead by the smell of the incense. ‘Good evening, Sir, we would like to see My Dinner with Andre, which way is the cinema?’. ‘Good evening ma’am. The cinema is upstairs. It’s a quarter to six, it’s unlikely you will make it..” mumbled the bartender while cleaning a cocktail glass. ‘But Sir, the poster says the movie starts at 18:15:14 o’clock, we still have plenty of time!’, I responded smiling towards him. ‘This building requires time and knowledge, darling. Maybe Petra would guide you to the movie room if you ask her kindly..’, the bartender twisted his head towards the lady at the bar and smiled to her. ‘Sure ladies, I’ll accompany you to the room. Just be quick, we don’t have enough time anyway..’, the lady quickly jumped off the barstool into her heels and rushed towards one of the corridors waving us to follow her lead. Petra made us really feel that we are late: her steps were small but quick and we were barely able to catch up with her. ‘Don’t stay behind girls, it’s easy to get lost in this building! Once I was wandering for two days before I got back to the bar!’ she laughed. We didn’t. Maadi, Sahar and I quickly interchanged suspicious looks and continued speed walking in order not to lose the gazelle in front of us.