En Route to Tbilisi #3: Budapest to Odessa
Reality check four hits you at the fourth border on this trip: a different time zone! In case you too always wondered where and how the time zone borders are drawn, managed and experienced: the extra hour reaches your device, slight delayed (ironically), after the national border here: Romania. More precisely: Arad. It’s also the border to just forget about conversing in English.
Outside the well guarded too pompous Arad station on a bench with half a loaf of flurry white bread abandoned, torn apart, like an open torso (a heroin meal), explain the garbage man that no, no, certainly not mine, yes, no, it really isn't, thank you, ah what, cigarette? my tobacco? here please, no thanks, silence.
Another crucial scenario to familiarize yourself with during such trip: waiting rooms. Tangled up in that white web of power cording (Romania’s pleasant surprise: sockets in plenty!) you muse over that peculiar type of time architecture. Here, clad in a peculiar type of post-soviet "oriental" modernism: Size clearly matters – as ornament. Large empty spaces decorated with moderate out-of-scaleness in an almost manierist way. Too big for specificity, too empty for functionalism. Ornamental in its lack of purpose, even representational purpose, yet dedicated to an idea of pure aesthetic pleasure, against all odds, and ends not made met. Vacancy here seems to replace any preciousness of material or artisanry (or even form as such?). And so brightly lit! Each corner – as if to avoid the slightest suspicion, or insecurity – no place to hide, seek, no thing to seek. All laid out bare before you, by an invisible hand's polytechnical generosity, putting you in place, you tiny creature in a miniature model railway. Recuperated only by decay, the datedness of that program, inevitably (is it?) fading into the branded invasion of public space.
If trains were be poems, the route from south-westernmost Arad on the 12h (!) regional train all the way cross country to north-easternmost Iasi would be a sonnet (from Latin “sonare”, reverberating), structured by sound. Reality check five: Open train windows change train travel so dramatically, how could we forget!? Rattling rails, whirling whistles, chattering children – you get it. Scented with supposedly seductive all-flowers-of-the-world-in-one-artifical-smell bar of soap that awaits you in a ballad (from Latin “ballare”, dance) of a toilet.
When – a middle aged man (well dressed yet shirt buttoned wide open) commands me in French to stop smoking at the open train door while riding. Disagreement here may be responded with complicity. He promises to guard the arrival of the conductor at least, hands out a business-card-sized print of saint mary for protection and writes down – a Romanian poem!
And then – an elegy of a night train. Moldovan Railways wraps your trip from Iasi to Chisinau in opulent fabrics of all types, piles of quilts and felt blankets, layers of gracefully worn-out linen, more pillows than any neck can take, milky windows covered in three layers of brocady curtains, and fake flowers even! You won’t even bother to climb t h a t toilet, rest your soles in the feet patterns on the seat, squat somewhere in the upper half of the room, and tarzan-swing over to the toilet paper corner.
Or in Leila Peacock’s words (for her Tbilisi 16 performance The Fourth Wall in a Fugue State, 20169:
Of course you are under a contractual obligation to believe all this nonsense. Poetic faith they call it, the suspension of disbelief before the acted act… the spectated spectacle. So leave your bodies behind you, gas and all. Become eyeballs. I will lance those eyes like boils to gain access to what lies behind. Windows to the soul and all that... You won’t feel a thing. It’s an anatomical magic trick my mother taught me.