I grew up in a small town in the south of Romania, a town nicely situated on a river, with architecture that was beautiful and grotesque.
Beautiful because there were dozens of buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, decorated with Greek and Roman colonnades.
Grotesque because years of communism had left visible marks on these buildings and surrounded them with ten-storey blocks of flats, resembling gray sardine-like boxes.
As I was reaching adolescence, I started developing a strange empathy for them.
You see, at that age, I often felt misunderstood, lonely, unable to communicate with the rest of my family or other kids at school. I was discovering poetry and got really passionate about rhymes, lines, and metaphors. I felt as if I could perceive things differently from all the other people around me.
And the buildings – I thought only I could see their true nature.
A ritual developed. Every day, on my way to school, I would pass them by and I would wait with impatience and excitement the hour of the day when my eyes would stop on their walls and windows and squint at them.
I would ask myself if a broken door handle has been fixed, or if an opaque window has been changed and I would wait, knees trembling, for my morning meeting with those elements.
I used to think a lot about the happy and unhappy lives that had passed inside those walls, the anger and misery and all of life’s good and bad features that would be happening in those buildings for generations and generations.
Occasionally, I could see an old, almost numb, hand reaching to close the window or take down the curtains.
Everything seemed dusty and old, but the more I thought of it, the deeper meaning I could find.
One day, I started writing about my love for the buildings. I described them in detail. I mentioned my confusion, my nervousness and then my happiness each morning when I would meet them. I used to write a line or two and then close my eyes and pick one word with my index finger. And then I would ponder this word’s meaning and I would look for more meaning in it. I could see how the whole idea would change when I chose a word, or another, or when I added or took out a word.
I realized then that it is important to master words, see the world with different eyes, change one’s perspective on things, and analyze situations differently.
Years passed and I moved out from that little town. But I still carry the sensation of the old, gray and decrepit building, the story of their glory and decay and the imagined stories of the people that have lived there.
Nothing that goes on in this world is a simple thing.
I decided to become a journalist and cherish words.
Because I believe in words and their power to create meaning.
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