In a few days, on 13 June 2016, I’ll be traveling back to Romania for a three week stint. But one cannot return if one has not first left a place.
Here’s what I can recall:
The soundtrack to the memories of when my family and I emigrated from Romania is overpowered by four repeating bars of weeping. A nondescript white sprinter van, already filled to capacity with other destined emigres, pulled up to the apartment building where my family and I were waiting. We were overwhelmed by bittersweet nervousness. Two honks. I was weeping in the lap of my weeping mother. My grandmothers weeped as they embraced their children and their grandchild; my grandfathers shook my father’s hand and wished him “noroc.” They did not know if they’d ever get to see us again. They never would see us again; not those versions of us.
Those versions, when asked “what is your citizenship?” would only have answered with, “Romanian.” Those versions, when asked “where do you live?” would only have answered with, “Suceava.” Those versions of us said goodbye to their families and travelled eight taxing hours to Bucharest— one final tour of Romanian infrastructure — only to die in an Henri Coandā International Airport terminal.
Is it coincidental (or serendipitous? What say you, John Cusack?) that in the summer that I decide to return to Romania the Romanian national football team decides to get it’s act together and qualify for Euro 2016? You see, for as long as I can remember the Romanians have not been able to qualify for any serious international competition. As a result, I’ve rooted for the English, and the Dutch, and then the English again, before giving up all hope; at every pub I went to I was an imposter, and everyone could tell. What is the point of nationalism if you can’t perform it every once in a little while? I will perform this coming summer.</div> We jettison versions of ourselves. Some experiences, like emigration, trigger the process and force a refashioning of the self. But I expect that when I land at Henri Coandā on June 14, I will be greeted by a version of myself and I will welcome his warm embrace. I will ask him if he’d like to join me on my vacation, and if he’d like to root for the tricolorii together.