By Kelly Luce
Featured art by Joanna Kosinska
The in-flight magazine said Bucharest was notable for graffiti. I suppose they had to pick something. And guess what, today I passed a brick wall that says “I FUCKED YOUR GIRLFRIEND.”
The city is un-beautiful, so I picked a postcard of a place I’ll never go that’s prettier. It’s still in Romania, though, so it counts.
This is the orchestra building. Looks like a prison, doesn’t it? At the show last night they did one called “Scherzo Fantastique,” by a composer named Suk. Poor guy. He’s actually pretty good!
Wisdom: no matter who they are or where they come from, people love a good house of mirrors.
Yesterday I picked up a rock on the beach that was the same green as that one you kept in your wallet in college, the one like a stick of gum . . . only the one I found looked like the gum after it had been chewed, then maybe stuck on someone’s shoe. I thought if you still had the other one, this might make a nice progression. Then I realized that it actually WAS a piece of old gum. Possibly there’s a moral there—you always loved a good moral. Maybe something about hanging onto small pieces, or what it means to be kept, the way we store old selves in the memories of our lovers.
The restaurant we ate at last night had a computer-translated English menu for people like us, and it had things on it like “turnip topses” and “the porky thing” and “white hypocrites of dawn.” I drank a litro of vino and envisioned a metal band called The White Hypocrites of Dawn. I bet they would rock if they existed. Later we figured out it probably means truffle.
There’s something so cheesy about this postcard. Like Frank Sinatra should be in the piazza, or an Elvis impersonator. “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog! Let’s eat some gelato!” People here drive even worse than Miami. Traffic lights are suggestions. I saw a family of four on a Vespa—those crazy Italians! Today I’m exploring Pompeii. Once I left the tour group and found some quiet—it was amazing. Fantastic, like a good scherzo. After lunch I’ll go explore more. Did you know that before Vesuvius erupted, a huge earthquake leveled Pompeii? So it wasn’t such a big loss; shit was in piles of rubble anyway.
Rhetorical question: Who can keep a perfect heart?
You’ll never believe it, but I got propositioned. A geezer in a suit came up and said “DO YOU HAVE A TIME?” and I tapped my wrist and said “I have no watch, sorry,” and he said, “No no, time for . . . to make LOVE!”
I went out for pizza. There was corn and mayonnaise on the pizza. It was disgusting, and people ate it with chopsticks. Afterward I drank three cold beers while in the supermarket, which is legal, and I felt okay; I felt like things had balanced out.
Wild horses run free; monkeys wash potatoes in the surf. What’s it to you or me? In the karaoke boxes here, you can sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” for a score. They ought to give a handicap on that one. Even professionals screw it up. And one more thing: what kind of nation has an anthem no one can sing?
P.S. I leave for Austria tomorrow; a week from today, I’ll be there in Nice. You are my last stop. You and your wife and your baby girl; how strange it will be to see your face on a child. And by the way, can your wife read English?
I leave tomorrow. I just realized I don’t have German postcard stamps, and tomorrow’s Sunday, so you may get this hand-delivered (by me, at the airport) instead of through the mail. I always forget the stamps.
The stars are out, and it’s like a planet-sized disco ball is spinning around out there somewhere just out of sight, all these points of light.
Kelly Luce is the author of the story collection Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail and the novel Pull Me Under, a Book of the Month Club selection and one of Elle’s Best Books of 2016. Her work has appeared in New York Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Salon, O, the Oprah Magazine, The Sun, and other publications. She was a 2016-17 fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and edits The Commuter at Electric Literature.
Originally appeared in NOR 3