Miro can let my mouth spirit away.
His mouth is a creature of its own.
If somebody drew a caricature of Miro, it would be an enormous laughing mouth.
Miro is the heart of hearts, says Monica.
Monica, who sits in the garden at times, flirting with men twenty years younger than her. These men, in fact boys, sleep in the dormitory with him, play soccer on the beach with him, and say that he is their buddy.
I love Miro, too, I say.
Especially, when my glance follows him on one of his paths and he doesn’t know he is being observed. Or when I watch him playing badminton, and he hits the ball so hard that it echoes in my head. Or when he eats chocolate ice cream by Ben & Jerry’s and happiness sparkles from his ears. Or when he bows down deeply, grabbing hold of my head, and kisses me as if it was our last kiss.
Miro is a caretaker. Nobody can take care like he does. Not all the hostel owners and healers in this place, summoned. Maybe this is the reason for him working in my home-stay.
He makes me feel like I was his most intimate friend, although we know each other only for a week. He also takes care of all the other people. As if it was the easiest thing in the world to prepare a chocolate-almond-milkshake this very moment. Even though there is no almond syrup. He would find it. Maybe this is why we met. Because him and me, we can seek out the impossible.
Miro’s real name is Miroslav and he comes from Croatia.
Miró, like the Catalan painter, I say.
To know someone’s country of origin is indispensable if you are travelling. It is part of the Guidebook for Strangers, the unwritten atlas for all who, one day, we will call friends or lovers.
Next to the original country this guidebook also displays the mental and physical age of a person, the occupation or non-occupation, the belief in good or bad, the subsequent destinations of their trip and the zodiac sign. You can also learn about their rising or Maya-sign.
Using this guidebook assures you to discover the right country, to spend time with the right person. Harmony is important in India.
If someone isn’t shanti, I don’t read their guidebook.
So you come from Croatia, I said to Miro, my grandfather, whom I never got to know, also comes from Croatia.
But unlike my grandfather Miro is a rangy man. He can wrap his arm around my shoulder without dislocating body parts. When we walk side by side, he towers over me for nearly half a metre. When we lie in bed, his feet protrude the wooden frame. In the hammock I can curl up on him like a cat. Miro’s guidebook says that he loves to touch me.
Except for their mother tongue Miro and my grandpa have no similarity whatsoever. He is honest in word and deed, has a depth in his gaze and a hole in his heart. He says that he has to give and receive love, all the time, because he doesn’t know how long he is going to live. I find this a bit disproportionate. At our age. But in a sense, loving is important for both of us, because my heart is fallible, too.
In the case of love and hearts, the grain of truth could also be found around our mothers. Miro has three and I have a distant one. An imbalance in every respect. Or it can be found around our fathers, who are similar: tight-lipped and inaccessible, ungraspable in their emotions. Our fathers, who even learned the same trade, as we read in our guidebooks. However, one could also search for reasons in other places than our relationship with our parents.
There is this saying: Home is, where your heart is. If your heart is broken, there is a possibility that your emotional home has a few cracks as well. Maybe that’s why it is important: him and me, in this place. Alone, but somehow belonging together. Even the Tuk-Tuk-drivers know that. They ask me where my boyfriend is, when I go to the beach on my own.
I chose Miro for this time in India. I noticed it only when I met him.
To be with him is like having a birthday party every day. And by that I don’t mean birthdays that pass like the feeling when everything goes black. I mean birthday parties with petits fours and sparkling wine, the ones you leave with a little present. Miro carries his around the world, a dingy woollen sheep called Marijuana. He calls it my daughter.
I would share my present, that’s what I told him.
It’s India’s fault that I would share a man I am sleeping with. The sense of wellbeing this Indian sun creates, connects us all. Here, we call it the effortless unfolding of bliss. It would be absurd not to share your bliss in India. It is as absurd as taking a woollen sheep with you, on a trip around the world.
I would like you to tell me when you are with someone else, Miro says. By that he means that he doesn’t want to share me.
That is why I dress my words in laughter.
That is why I pretend make a joke when I say, I would also sleep with his friend, if we were not so stable.
He is my laugher. I am responsible. I cannot let his mouth become silent alongside his heart.
The rhythm of his heart is as slow as an R&B song he heard in his youth. It proceeds the beat from cell to cell, setting his whole body in motion. His arms draw circles and fall down. His knees become wide and his fingers open up to form a V. He cannot hide his past.
Je bitno, mala. This is Croatian, meaning: it matters, little one.
Miro says it often, this chorus of a Hip-Hop-song. He calls me mala, I would translate that with baby. In return I call him mali. Even though that isn’t true.
I ask quoi? and he answers toi. Always. And all that Jazz.
We create our own language in this mini-universe which will exist as long as Whitney Houston’s I will always love you on top of the Austrian charts in 1993.
We create word-games, from films, TV and songs. These can only be created by the ones born in 1985, who grew up in the nineties. When we grew up, Bill Clinton was president of the USA, they cloned Dolly and the disc-man replaced the walk-man. We were too young to understand Kurt Cobain’s death, but found sadness in his music. Later we discovered Bob Dylan, him later than me, I give him some albums on a hard-disc-drive.
We are twins of a generation.
When the millennium came, we started travelling to foreign countries, enrolled in courses at university and completed our degrees. We left the mid-twenties behind, processed our first big love and became vigilant lovers.
We have a notion of what makes us happy.
What divides us is that Miro is a war-child.
I was searching for an equivalent for these bombs. I was searching for a cure. Something to help me comprehend the unspeakable. Bombs being dropped on cities and people. The thought alone leaves me naked.
Miro brings juice to my room. He carries a cup filled with liquid dark gold.
Black grapes look like Ribisel here, he says.
And I know I have found my cure.
The Ribisel, ribes in Latin or Italian, has also an origin in Lebanon, where ribâs meant a pieplant, form of rhubarb. This plant, which also existed in the Middle East, has stretched its twigs from Southern to Central Europe. It is the least common denominator of our story.
Small black, red or white berries, which we call the same.
If you look at this history, it seems strange that we don’t have a common language, although we grew up only two countries away from to each other. It bewilders me that we have to talk English. But we understand each other through music, too.
My love for him has been hiding in music, has flown through the open windows into my parched world of writing and sleeping. Music brought him to me and ever since he stays with me.
I like sleeping in your bed, Miro sings. I like knowing what is going on inside your head, I like taking time and I like your mind, and I like when your hand is in mine.
According to the guidebook Miro has a disposition to mind-expanding relaxing substances. I consider Miro’s big toe mind-expanding. It is as big as both my big toes together.
His body is a tent for three people, in which I can fall asleep immediately. He pitches his tent whenever he sees me. He says: You have to give me a hug whenever you see me.
When I am leaning against him, exactly under the top of his tent, enveloped in his arms, I can feel how fragile he is. On the surface a few strands of hair crinkle like thistles, blown through the desert by the wind. But his legs are strong, they could carry a castle, easily.
In India, a stranger’s body is assimilated by one’s own in a second, and that is ascribed to sweat. I take three showers a day: The sweat stays omnipresent. Therefore it blends perfectly with the sweat of others. Therefore everybody wears as little as needed.
In India, beauty is but skin-deep. Nobody brings sane clothes. A few shirts, trousers, skirts, along with sandals, and you have become a hippie. Criminals, fashion designers, chefs, DJs, waitresses. Everyone looks the same. A bit shabby, a bit run-down, literally and figuratively. You cannot behold one’s story from their looks. For that reason the guidebook is so important.
Miro wears relaxation as a garment, his style is transitional. Meaning his clothes change every few weeks. Right now he is wearing a lungi, the traditional Indian menswear. He doesn’t tie it Kerala-style, he ties it casually around his hip, white with golden seam, as he likes. Like a miniskirt. This makes the Indians laugh. Korakor is written on his shirts. Heart to heart, spread the love.
Miro is a man who sells love. He roams like a hitchhiker through the galaxy, transmitting love. Or in my mother’s words: He is flying as busy as a bee, from flower to flower. He is earning money by reminding people that love exists. And he is right. The one who loves is always right. There should be a new profession, a new name for his job: The Certified Love Transmitter, CLT.
CLT also means Cognitive Load Theory, the theory of cognitive demand when we learn something new. According to this theory, the working memory has a special function for knowledge acquisition. The working memory enables us to understand a sentence with regard to content, so we can remember the beginning of a sentence at its end. It gives my working memory a hard time when sentences end with the word sex.
I created a new profession for Miro’s work, but he doesn’t need it. Miro is a wily fox in love business. He is a globetrotter with the emblem of a credit card company on his back. Via the Internet he gathers a community of love-maniacs behind him. Once bitten, there is no turning back. There is no cure for the overall, unifying, all-embracing love between humans. It is deadly for the ego. At least this is my understanding of this concept we are all one.
And Miro knows everyone. He partied with them, met them on the beach or on a train, in his café in Zagreb or on a farm in the Indian mountains. The people he knows come from Spain, Israel, France, Iran, Brazil or Pakistan. He brings them along when we have a rendezvous, after we decided we should have one. People come to our home-stay to visit him. He pitches his tent, invites them in, prepares a juice for them and talks to them. About what, I don’t know. I stay in my own skin. This is important when you mingle your sweat with someone.
Why do you have to be alone in the morning, Miro asks me.
Because I want to meditate, I say and laugh, and caress his mouth.
It is seven AM, I get myself a glass of Chai from the kitchen and ask him to leave.
I think about him, while I take a shower and sip from my tea.
Soft pink dies the tiles in my bathroom and birdcalls carry my thoughts away. Despite that, he stays in my head like a background image.
I would love to talk to him, while I am having a shower. While he would still be lying in my bed. I would tell him how wonderful it is that I met him and that he is a brilliant lover.
But there was an India before him and there will be one when he has left, and I will not give up it up. It is my temporary heart space.
In this space, my skin is my only limitation.
If he was still lying in my bed, I would suggest that I could visit him on his love-journey throughout the world, and sleep in his tent, now and then. If he wanted me to. But it is not part of our deal, it is not listed in the guidebook and I know it.
The guidebook says that every person has to follow their own map, and only in extraordinary cases, mainly without the awareness of the travellers, routes are alike.
Miro disappears to his hammock when I ask him to leave. He covers himself with his sleeping bag, thinking about everything else.
About his ex-girlfriend, for instance, whom he left a week before we met. Or about other ex-girlfriends he will meet on this leg of his journey.
Sometimes he asks me if I want to join him in his hammock. But in every country there is a zone which must not be entered. A Death Valley. In this zone, you have no place for nothing. In this zone, you don’t even have a spare thing for yourself. Miro’s hammock is such a forbidden zone, as is his sleep.
I caressed him in his sleep.
I stroked his face, his mouth, his forehead, his dark hair, and his shoulder, where a bone sticks out so exquisitely. With the soft end of my scarf I fondled him.
The full moon’s light was refracted in the waves and near the fireplace someone was playing the Tabla. In this night, we could read in the stars how fast time would pass for us.
Do you want to join us skinny-dipping, I whispered.
Why do you wake me up, he whispered.
When I returned from the liquid dark iron, which didn’t feel like water, the most precious things were gone.
Money, cameras, I-Pods, even passports. When we walked home, I told him how bad I felt because the thieves had only left our things behind. He nudged my head and disappeared between the palm trees, into his hammock. I lay awake for a long time, this night, in my ivory skin, furious about my anger, and about feeling lonely without him next to me.
Our story took its origin in a hammock. To be precise, I found my way into this first, undefined hammock. Sometimes the wrong decisions take you to the right places.
We immediately lay down next to each other, nip and tuck. Then on top of each other, like young people do, when they are interested in each other. After a few days I exchanged this hammock for my bed. To be precise, I asked him to be my room service. Since then we share my bed, almost every night.
Prior to being with Miro I slept with men who were older than me. Literally and figuratively. It is new for me to be so young.
To sleep with Miro is like a journey in the Orient Express. At least that is how I imagine it to be. It is a meaningful journey, the tracks existing for centuries. We have a destination and we reach it together, in a body. Our destination is a city of dreams. Like Paris, Istanbul, Delhi, Shanghai. We visit only the most beautiful sights, always arriving together. Therein lies perfection, I think.
The path towards our goal consists of numerous small stations. A navel sticking out, a hip bone passing by. A scratching, rubbing.
We inhale the words of a foreign language and turn them into pillow talk in our heads. We look out of a window, get lost in a gaze, and catch ourselves, by catching an elbow. We hear a gasp from an unseen mouth. We move in this rhythm, hundreds of years old, which we cannot learn but are born with.
Knees and elbows appear in the landscape like hills. Shoulders grow from arms like the branches of banyan trees from the ground. We close our eyes, while the last jerk moves through the train, and it comes to a halt, in skin and hair.
Miro knows how to look into someone’s soul. I share this knowledge now. It is wisdom, hidden within, until someone comes and brings it to the light. It is the child, pointing at the emperor, saying: Don’t you see that he is naked?
We cross our legs and let the length of an arm between our heads. Soul gazing is a dangerous game. You lose your distance, your natural protection layer. You cannot lose yourself, but you cannot reject the energy, either.
We look into each other’s eyes, until the room starts to flicker. In his pupils images are being washed up, that I have no explanation for.
You were trapped inside a wall.
Your mouth was sewn.
You perceive too much.
We are hyped up a little bit after gazing into each other’s soul. We have to have occupational therapy. I rummage around in my room, tow Miro’s things from one corner into another and the table close to the wall. I arrange my felt-pens anew. Miro leaves for the garden. To do some work. I see him running barefoot to and fro, from the kitchen to the tables, while I dust the windowsills. But there is no dust, there aren’t even windowsills, only narrow surfaces with railings attached. I put paper stars over the light bulbs, to see things in a different, in a warmer light.
I hear Miro’s music ascending from the garden. He always plays what I’m thinking. The soundtrack of the film Amélie. It is my favourite film, not only because I look like the main character. J’y suis jamais allée.
Are we going for a swim, I ask him later.
I have to work, he replies.
I remind Miro that I am entitled to mingle my leisure time with his, not only because we mingle our sweat. The benevolence of caretakers is utilized by those in need, especially if they have an agenda.
He clasps my hand when we walk to the beach. He holds on to my hip. He pinches my shoulder under his. He doesn’t leave me out.
I give him his head for his guidebook says that he loves to touch me.
At the beach we lie next to each other, our hands motionless on our stomachs. His big toe is a ship sailing the horizon. I watch his ear sparkle. Eagles turn circles above us and we throw words in between them. We talk about this moment of silence between the breaking of the waves. As if all the noises in this world were sucked into the universe, for a second or two.
I ask myself, if I could have known that I will sleep with him, when we were still strangers, when we didn’t know anything about each other. The second sentence which escaped his mouth, which I remember, was: I don’t feel comfortable in relationships.
I believe that I could have known everything, if I had listened to this silence.
In the weight of this silence Miro buys hash on the beach.
In the moment between inhaling and exhaling he vanishes into the annex of a shack. Miro gives in to his disposition for mind-expanding substances and I wait for him.
I look at plastic boxes filled with candy and chewing gum, soft and warm from being exposed to sunlight. The man selling them invites me in. He taps at a wooden shelf, which is his seat. I come to sit with this man, who wears a lie above his black shirt, in the shadow of sherbet-sachets and crisp packs and watch the ocean. I can feel his shoulder at mine. He murmurs something into my ear. He smells of clove and garlic. I shake my head and jump off his shelf. I buy my way out of this with a chewy candy and go for a walk on the wave-breakers, so the sun can cut this memory out of my brain, by flame. Until Miro’s return, two men want to be my friends and one wants to know whereabouts I live, so he can come for a visit. Once you open up for one person, you make yourself accessible for others, too.
In India you open up to people automatically, like pores to sweat. There is no reason to remain a past version of your self. The intensity of this country covers all layers of existence, the past as well as the future. The warmth and friendliness of strangers restore your faith in the good. You encounter each another with confidence and trust. This is what you learn in India. This is why I became a nomad. I feel connected to the world when travelling.
Not all those who wander are lost, Gandalf says and he is also talking about me.
The only danger is to commit yourself to someone who doesn’t belong to you. Or to do this before the right time has come. You mustn’t ignore this chapter in the guidebook, you have to watch out for it. There is a profile for every relationship.
The type of a relationship is determined beforehand, as are its development stages. These constellations are as versatile as humans. There are acquaintances, which become, seemingly without a reason, all of a sudden, even without physical closeness, intimate alliances. Soul mates, who vanish into a nirvana of speechlessness, whom you never see again. Strangers you meet again and again. Friends, which you know in an instant, of which you know they came to stay.
We were meant to meet each other, Miro says and I agree with him.
He feeds me with cake, leading the small fork slowly towards my mouth. I lick it and watch him from the corner of my eye. And for the first time I notice something unknown in his gaze. I can see it, because a friend said: I can see you when you look at her. There is a hunger in his gaze, and it cannot be appeased by a piece of cheesecake.
It is Saturday night. We meet the boys in a restaurant. We dance to an old rave-song from the nineties, jump around in blue and red light. I drink one mojito too much and hold on to the eyes of an Israeli. I see innocence in them and tell him, ata nifla’a, you are wonderful.
In this night, everything is without obligation, because we go out to party. In this night, everything is without obligation, until Miro stands in front of me on the dance-floor, and quietly says, I don’t like you dancing with someone else.
In this night I cannot hold his hand on our way home. I cannot ask him to sleep in my bed. In this night I sleep by myself.
I tell myself that I will die by myself, too, therefore I can sleep by myself.
I tell myself that I must care only about my own business, not someone else’s. I cannot put on Miro’s view of this world on like a new Sari. There is too little time. I don’t want to own him and I won’t keep many pictures of us. I don’t take pictures of Miro on purpose. He shall stay a small, living part of my temporary heart space.
On one photo you see my legs and those of two others. Like upside-down trees we grow into the sunset, arms and heads root in the sand. The tide bathes my roots and washes away flotsam, while someone beats a melody nearby. The feeling of this photo is saudade, melancholia, because my farewell of India is nigh.
Miro is not to be seen on this photo. That is why I will forget about him, someday in the future, when I look at it.
Miro and I leave my bed at three in the afternoon on a blue train. Fourteen hours from South to East. We oversleep our transit from A to B. Or, better said, from T to T. At four in the morning we jump from our plastic beds, through a sombre aisle, out of the sleeper onto a forlorn bare-faced platform in the middle of nowhere.
I buy cookies and bananas and squeeze into my bus seat, next to Miro, who falls asleep again immediately. Surrounded by natives, in the babble of the voices of a Bollywood film, we drive into an unknown future, head on head, hand in hand.
Dawn unveils a landscape like the next page in a book. As if someone drew it for us with watercolour and coal pencils. Roundly ground rocks like golden marbles. A flatland covered in bushes and trees and villages. Above us, in the dusty new sky, a fireball.
I look into the black eyes of an old woman.
I look at the child with a dirty mouth by her side.
I don’t wake Miro up.
I wrap my scarf closer around my body and watch TV with the others.
A policeman with aviator glasses is in love with a voluptuous woman. He struggles through the film, more or less successful, but very much singing and hip-swinging. The woman carries earthenware pots through a house, flashing him meaningful glances. Dramatic string music when a pot breaks. I seem to be able to understand every word in that film. I ask myself if the reason for that is my fatigue or the loudness.
Our destiny is a city from a BBC-documentary. Authentic India, as seen by. It is a place in which Shiva mutates as a fire-lingam. As a holy mountain, seen behind the roof of the street café.
We will leave this place on different paths.
I sit Miro down on a wooden panel and sip two or three Chai, while we try to find out our next station via telephone.
We move into our room.
We take a shower and sleep with each other immediately, to not lose each other’s sweat. We share coffee with chocolate-cake balls for breakfast and our curiosity for this place. The main street is bordered by cowpat and braided Sadhus. A procession passes by: Embedded in yellow and pink coloured flowers a dead man’s body is being carried through the city.
I will miss us, Miro says.
Let’s stay as long as we are, I say.
Later I will tell someone:
Miro and I climbed the mountain, which is one of the mightiest religious symbols in India, barefoot and had a picnic with European cheese and bread at its top. This picnic was interrupted by a palpable monkey.
I will tell them: Miro and I visited the Annamalaiyar temple, which is consecrated to the fire element. This temple has four towers, 66 metres high, called gopurams, and is one of the biggest temples in India. Inside a holy elephant blesses believers in exchange for some peanuts, by touching their heads with his trunk.
I bought two filigree rosewood-necklaces at the shack next to the elephant. Rosewood protects his bearer from unreal and real fears. We confirm an oath to wear these necklaces until they fall off by themselves.
In view of a volcanic god, in the twilight of our last morning, Miro slips from out of his sleep between my legs. I watch him biting his lower lip while he unwraps my sleepy body. I hear the tingling of the alarm, the clacking and clanging of dishes in the kitchen, and I see how the wind moves the transparent rosé coloured curtain at our window, while we make love for the last time.
I will tell them that I never slept as well beside anyone as beside him.
Miro, the certified love transmitter, who bears the name of a Catalan artist.
I keep my cool in the rikshaw to the bus station, as if we took a ride like any other day. I ask him casually if he wants to see me again. I expect him to say yes.
Miro doesn’t laugh when we embrace each other for the last time, in a smell of urine and deep-fry-oil. Neither do his ears glitter. That might be due to his breakfast, scrambled eggs with toast. I lean against him for the last time and let my mouth spirit away within his.
I start laughing, when we wave to each other, standing in the door of the rattly old bus.
I am laughing because I think of the Chocolate Fudge Brownie by Ben & Jerry’s, which we ate, and the reams of cheesecakes with which he fed me.
I am laughing because we danced to American Pie in my room and because he wanted to sleep with me, with a song by Alanis Morrissette as background music and I recall how uncomfortable that made me feel.
I am laughing because we held hands above the chasm between our beds, during our 14-hours-trainride. I am laughing because there was lightness between us. I don’t want to give this up.
After our separation I will go to Death Valley, to lament our being no more. Or at least that I will never meet my Miro, again.
Because we never stay the same. Because the person, whose guidebook we are reading, will be different, will have changed, in the next moment. As soon as they are on the other side of the road, reaching the next town, their next destiny. Even when you sought out the impossible with someone. It was but a part of the greater whole.
When we separated I was laughing because we had a tacit consent to be laughers.
And because Miro has a weak heart.
And so do I.
© Marianne Jungmaier, Berlin 2012.