Birthdays in Analogue

The Village was a place that I kept coming back to. There was never a question as to why, I just got pulled towards it. The mountainous landscape gave me a sense of renewal—no matter how sad I was outside in “the real world." Each time I’d go home, reverse culture shock set in, and my relationships would seem overwhelming, work was hard to find, and the simplest pleasures became unsatisfying. What was home anymore? Sure there were moments even in the Village which prompted never-come-back thoughts. My friends would talk about stamina, and the enjoyment in that feeling of irreplaceableness, to know the place wouldn’t be the same without us. Leaving it, time and again, put stinging ends and beginnings to the chapters of our lives—always bittersweet. Saying goodbye to so many people whom we lived with for over eight months became a training exercise, how much do I let myself care? We grew colder over the years. Still let people in, but when it came time to part ways, we no longer cried, we pretended off the reality that we’ll never see each other again and we smiled and hugged, and then waved au revoir.

 

We became actors in a looped play with a revolving cast and each cycle we had to relearn the process of newness evolving towards intimacy. The Village was not without its regulars; however, people I’d see over and over, people who couldn’t imagine what to do with themselves during the summer other than living in a tent on a hill in the Alps, and we could just pick up where we left off.

Up until then, I had only one life-stream. The life of me growing up in California and wanting to be a musician, sitting and listening to bats shooting sonar signals at me in a park. And so—when my lifestreams split in two, then three, then four, I had to find a way to cope with these new alternate realities. I hadn’t really been prepared for this and the skills that I needed to be a functioning socialite and human I had to find within myself, not through school. Dreams out the window, as they say, none of the things that I thought would matter mattered anymore. Not since coming to the Village.

I spent my twenty-first birthday in Warsaw, Poland after meeting some new friends from the United States. To my surprise, we knew some of the same musicians and after days of late discussions of how strange it is to be an American abroad, they invited me to stay at their family's house.

 

They said that the first thing you’ll notice is the most beautiful view of Warsaw is standing from the Stalin Tower because it's the one place that you can’t see it. On that night—my first birthday spent in another country; we went out with the intention to party.

An experimental electronic duo played music in one of the few surviving old aristocrat buildings that looked like a Venetian palace. The entryway had two stone statues of muscular men holding up the elaborate balcony. A projector played childhood movies filmed on a Super 8, juxtaposed with color swirls of light manipulated live. The walls were filled with paintings and collages that the duo had made. In the corner I saw a portrait of a girl playing a guitar and I couldn’t look away, she was mesmerizing. The fuzzy analogue keyboards blasted through some Russian tweed guitar amps. All the lyrics were in Polish, but I felt like the words were telling me my life story, filling in the gaps in my childhood, with some happy memories that I had forgotten.

 

The walls were like premonitions of the future, drawn by a child, was that to be my future lover? The girl in that portrait knew me somehow and sang some other song, and the Americans that I came with became ghosts, and I didn’t know them anymore. I was in Warsaw alone, a place my grandmother passed through a few times during the war, before the uprising. The Super 8 footage was grainy children making home movies with shaky hands. Going down slides with party hats, waving. A little girl petting a cat dressed as a princess. Friends running around trees, holding wooden swords wearing capes and bandit masks. Jumping off swings, further and further drawing lines in the sand and watching their meaning made in the erasure, in the waves crashing ashore. My grandfather being pushed off a train by the Gulag, falling to his death.

The film got grainier and grainier and the music fuzzier and fuzzier and the wine started to hit me, the vodka with the worm in it started to hit me and I sort of lost it. I kept looking at the band wondering if they knew where we were. They seemed oblivious to the apartment spinning, and the loud chatter of the cocktail crowd, all dressed as if a chandelier would soon fall, and a gala ball would commence. But this was not Vienna. This was not the Village, and I was not me.

 

Just then, one of the musicians said in English that we had a birthday in the room, I must have looked like I had just won a Miss Universe pageant. Meee? I looked around as everyone started to stare. A crowd formed around me as they played the birthday song. People began to cheer, and I actually recognized a few of their faces. They weren’t the people that I had come to Poland with. It was Nicolas, Gillem, Sarah, Cody, Benjamin, Anais, Patrick, Adam, Selim, and Alice, and even the Sage was there. They began cheering louder and louder and then they pulled out a chair and made me sit. And then they all grabbed the chair, raised me above their heads, and yelled,

 

“Hoorraahh!”

“One!” And up I went.

“Two!” Up even higher that time.

“Three!” I was almost touching sky.

 

They continued throwing me into the air, twenty-one times. I kept getting more and more air with each toss. And the space between each toss was getting longer and longer, and time started to slow. Just when I thought I could see the girl from that portrait above me like a face in a cloud on a full moon night, I would come down again. I thought I was in Poland—did the musicians leave? Where are the Americans that I came here with? Ah.

 

I was back. Though I don’t remember how or why I would go back. I was starting to get scared that the saying carved into the bar in the tavern was true:

           

Mount Délire Gonna Swallow You Up

 

I couldn’t remember how old I was, or even what year we were in. That was an elaborate Warsaw façade if they were playing tricks on me. Breathe, breathe, no one is out to get you. Fuck I forgot my glasses in London on my twenty second birthday when I went out to party with that guy blowing the bugle horn on Carnaby Street and his Irish girlfriend who was ashamed to be with a Brit because her dad was in the IRA.

 

“He’s a Brit da. I fell in love with a Brit!” she said on the phone, finger up to her ear. The bugle horn blared. That was a good birthday, but I do miss those glasses.