Time, a Matter of Perception

I was past  Noon when I left the Consulate. The bright sun blinded me for a moment and I felt pleasantly dizzy.  I sat on a bench in the near by Palm Garden and closed my eyes. I allowed the mild rays of sun to rest and caress my face. I felt warm, comfortable and alive. I wished it never stopped, but it did, and when the sun disappeared and there were no more  rays, I got up and walked to the Bed and Breakfast where the Consul directed me.

The following day I moved in.

The place was clean and simple, accented with fresh red flowers which made the house cheerful and welcoming.  It was a family business and the owners were polite but distant.  I explained the best I could, who I was and that I was waiting for a very important call from the American Embassy. They seem to understand, and the lady of the house showed my room.  It was in the attic, the least expensive in the house. There was a narrow wooden bed in a corner, a small table with a chair and an old-fashioned washstand in a corner. This added charm to the otherwise austere room.  The only phone in the house was in the dining room, on the first floor.  Some times, when the hosts were busy the phone went unanswered, and I made a habit to keep my door opened and run downstairs every time the phone rang.

Breakfast was included in the price and it became my only meal of the day. I could eat as many pastries and drink as much coffee as I could, and I did. My days seemed to blend into one another, and the only diversion was my trip to the Telephone House from where I called one of my former bosses from the Embassy to ask him for help with the sponsorship.

My hands were ice cold and shook as I dialed the overseas number and it was hard for him to hear me at the beginning. I had to shout my name, or perhaps it was all my fears and doubts reflected in the way I spoke.  My jaws felt locked and painful each time I uttered a word.

At last, he understood why I was calling. He asked me twice and I thought he didn’t hear me, but in retrospect, he probably didn’t believe I was in Germany, defecting.  I was running out of coins. He told me not to worry, I’ll get a sponsor. He asked me for the name of the Bed and Breakfast and their telephone number,  so  I didn’t have to spend my coins and he could call me back when he had news about which of my American friends would be brave enough to sponsor me.

“Don’t worry, hang in there. We’ll get you here, you have to be patient and wait.”

Abruptly, the conversation was over, as I ran out of coins.

Everyone was telling me to wait and be patient… but they were not me, nobody understood how hard it was to wait in a country where I didn’t speak the language, with my money running out fast and no end in sight.  Especially no one knew how it felt to be suspended between two countries.  To know I could not return to Romania without facing prison, and not knowing if America will accept me, and if it did, how long was it going to take? The uncertainty overwhelmed me.

During those days, when I spent my time  in the attic room,  running downstairs every time the phone rang, I understood that “time” as we understood it, was a matter of perception.  Our obsession with wasting  time, or living life,  which is measured in time, organizing our time, or spending our time appropriately; It was all a traditional dimension we, humans invented.  In those moments, for me, time had a life of its own, outside of me.

Quantitative time, as we measure it traditionally, didn’t exist any more. Chronologically, it could have been a week, or two weeks. The intensity of my actual living, the quality of time, far exceeded its traditional understanding which we humans invented, so that we could put more order to our lives and make sense of it. What we would do without knowing that at 9:00 AM we have to be to work and  end at 5:00 PM? A show started at 7:00 PM and ended at 9:00 PM? And our lives start… when they are meant to start, and end at the mercy of a Power we cannot control. The “Power” we call different names, doesn’t know “time”.

Life could spread itself thin throughout years when nothing of value happens. We exist, not live. Waiting there, in the attic for the phone calls which were to change my life, I had a revelation, that I was offered a  unique opportunity to experience how it felt to concentrate an immensely meaningful experience in a small capsule of”non traditional time.”  This capsule of concentrated time had its own dimensions and life which had nothing to do with my aquired perceptions of chronological time, measured in seconds, minutes, hours, days and years, for our own convenience and peace of mind.

I have heard of people who went through transformational experiences and suddenly their hair turned grey. Every morning, I’d run to the mirror to make sure it didn’t happen to me. Relief! It didn’t, and another day of waiting blended into another, a continuum of waiting…

One day the phone rang and than it rang again!

After all, I was a lucky woman, I didn’t wait in vain! I had sponsors, my first boss and his wife, the Ludingtons. When was I going to arrive, they asked impatiantely?

Then the Consul called and told me I was granted an interview by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to possibly be accepted as a political refugee, and told me a time and a day.

The calls on which my future depended  came at last!  With ease, I re-entered the commonality of chronological time, as we, the human race, designed it for our convenience.

I looked at my watch: The INS interview was scheduled in two days at 9:00 AM.  I was pushed back on the familiar track I missed!

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