Sofia, Bulgaria

Manet, Woman on a Bench, 1879

University of Sofia, Faculty of Biology

FROM ‘MARA, MARIETTA’
Intermezzo 15: Iskra

The waiter took us for brother and sister, Iskra and I. Her hair’s as black as mine, her eyes as green. Guess that allowed him to overlook my southern complexion and her Slavic pallor, her youth and my youthfulness. She’s doing a PhD in plant science at Sofia University (mutant seedlings with aberrant circadian rhythms). Spent two years at Sheffield University. Speaks English with a Yorkshire accent! We met in the Botanic Garden. She was sitting on a bench, crying. I sat down beside her. Didn’t say anything, just reached out my hand. She took it. (I wasn’t wearing white, but that’s how it happened.) When we parted five days later, it was a strange goodbye…

We ended up renting bicycles and riding through Borisova Gradina, a park where we didn’t need to speak, content to feel the presence of the other.

Photo: Imanuel Marcus