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An American in Sofia 

-published in Egoist (Bulgarian Lifestyle Magazine), July 2001.

The day starts to become a blur around 10:00 am. At this time the sun burns off the morning, melting things together. And I'd been waking up late, losing my mornings to my evenings. In the market, I ordered my double espresso and waited for the plastic cup to reform before risking a sip. I brought a paper and tried to understand the world. The stories of war and conflict, theft and murder rubbed off on me, like ink from the page, leaving my fingers stained like a criminal.

Everyone I meet asks me, "sus kakvo se zaminavesh?"(what do you do?) I don't have an answer, but I've started making them up just to make it easier. I lie that I'm studying this or that fact; "I'm studying the history of pravets". If I explain too much of my academic interests, that I'm an anthropologist interested in Bulgarian culture, someone inevitability offers to drive me out of town into the mountains where the real culture is to be found. But I am interested in Sofia, in how she moves and how she has grown.

After lunch, I went to the center to give film to be developed. On the tram there was a man who dropped his ticket, a child with a toy AK-47, and two grandmothers seated ever so perfectly in the light. At one stop, a man entered who looked like he had just taken a shower. He sat across from me and I couldn't help but not look at him. I am always suspect of those who look too fresh and clean in the middle of a summer day.

Waiting for the film to develop, I sat in the park behind the library. This was an invitation for a Roma woman and her daughter to talk to me. She asked for a cigarette and I gave her one. She asked to sit and I said yes. I didn't have a light and she told me I always should and then she proceeded to tell me my future, of women, of my marriage. All I understood was that I'll have to wait. I didn't want to hear my future, and I told her so. So I listened like an American lost in Sofia. And in the end I gave the stotinki and left. I had to go and pick up the film.

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