Fleeing the Country
Mihai Popa

I went straight to a bar and I got a small whiskey, which cost me a fortune, a regular pack of Pall Mall cigarettes ? I was smoking back then ? then a beer ?you know, life?s little pleasures like that.

I went to the train station and I had a direct connection to Nuremberg. I couldn?t believe my eyes when I saw it. It was scheduled to leave in two hours. The people were dressed up nicely. They were cheerful, not with bleak faces and carrying bags? The windows of shops were full of marvelous things. What can I tell you, true capitalism? It made me feel alive, because it was not like back home, where in 1982 you could not find butter and coffee (that is why I left) and it was getting darker and darker. No, man, Yugoslavia was heaven on earth. You could feel that people were alive, that they enjoyed life more than we did. Probably they didn?t yet have the chronic problems of capitalism with jobs and unemployment and other stuff.

So, I went to the station and I rang up my cousin Adrian. However, in two hours I had to go through seven ID verification routines or so. It was clear to me that it was full of comrades from Romania and elsewhere who were passing through in their way to Germany, in order to get to Capitalism. Where could they be from, but Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania?

The train left?I got a first class ticket. I was alone in the entire carriage! I switched in Vienna with a Transeuropean Express. Back in Belgrade, the first train was listed as a direct connection to Germany. But we had to switch in Vienna. The second one was even fancier and more comfortable than the Yugoslav train. This time I was not alone in the carriage, but still I was alone in the compartment. I couldn?t sleep, of course. I was sitting and looking out the window. At the break of dawn, around 5, for the first time in my life I saw endless fields; they looked like in paintings or like in the postcards ? all trimmed and not a soul on them! I saw nobody, all the way! And it was in the middle of autumn, in September, when there are a few things one can do in the fields?

At 9 in the morning a broad came. Without a word she put a plastic tray with some round plastic things with tinfoil caps on the table. She put them there and wanted to leave. I said: ?How much does this cost?? She said ?Nothing. They are included in the price of your ticket?. It was a kettle with hot water, a small jar, covered with plastic where there was instant coffee, another one with sugar, another with milk and a cup. I made myself a coffee and I drank it with infinite pleasure. I was saying to myself: ?Look, I am going to keep all these plastic recipients as a keepsake of my road to capitalism?. Exactly when I was getting on the heights of ecstasy, the stupid broad come again, grabbed the tray with all my toys and threw it in a big plastic bag. I cannot tell you how much I suffered after she took my pretty toys! Man, we, Romanians, used to keep things like that in plain view, for others to see. That is if we ever got hold of stuff like that. This was the first shock: consumerist society. As Bula was saying in one joke: ?This would have lasted us for another 10-15 years??

I was looking out the window and I could not believe my eyes what wonderful things I could see: clean houses, nice cars, roads, stuff. And when we entered Munich and I saw that 500 meters TV tower, which could be seen from a distance I said: ?Man, I am in capitalism!? And then I said to myself: ?This is it, I made it!?

                                                                                                Translated by Cora Moţoc

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