Liliana Badd, author of Exit: A Novel
My life... what a long, terribly exhausting journey. I have traveled for years, thousands of miles throughout the world, and this led me where? — To find myself.
In 1985, I had the extreme honor to meet Emil Cioran, in Paris. A fifteen-minute encounter turned into a several-hour debate — a pure mind-sparkling debate. In the end, he said to me, "You are a rambling soul, a restless mind."
At that time, neither he nor I had the slightest idea that my life would take shape as an eternal exile.
Sometimes, I enjoy imagining the following scenario: I am dead, arriving at the Heaven's gates and Saint Peter welcomes me.
"Here you are, woman. What have you done with your life?"
"I have tried hard, Saint Peter. I tried to be a wife, a mother, I passed the turmoil of events constantly doubting about myself, I accumulated emotions and experiences which were to be translated in a couple of novels I wrote, and mostly, I let my soul ramble...."
"And now, woman, where would you like to settle? Up or down? I will exceptionally allow you to make a choice."
"Do you, really? If so, then, Saint Peter, please let my soul do what it can do best — just let it ramble."
In 1977, I escaped by miracle from a major earthquake that shook Bucharest to its foundations, leaving behind thousands of victims, the kiss of death. The building I was living in split in two — seven floors collapsed engulfing with them their inhabitants. I was sitting in a chair watching the walls crack and was calmly thinking that I was going to die alone, and the book of my life would end before even beginning.
At that moment, I was oblivious that the earthquake was an omen — my life did not end; what followed would be a succession of earthquakes that over time would completely collapse my life... and each time, I would obstinately rebuilt its foundations, from scratch.
There followed my marriage, my enthralling passion for my husband, a doctor scientist, sixteen years older than me, our life under communism, our exile to France, our wrestle to rebuild a new life devoted to clinical and experimental research, the cold war, and other events... at times I was having the weird feeling that the historical events kept intermingling with my personal life, making me feel entrapped in their tentacles.
In 1999, when our ship, after a draining sailing, seemed to have reached a port, I was to be abandoned, like the struggles of the waves against the sea. I was shipwrecked far away from the sea, on land. I lost my husband. It was a confrontation with Death — it was as if Death had seen him, liked him and decided to take him.
February 1999 is another date I will never forget. I had promised him on his deathbed to bury him in Romania, by his parents. Under the impeding circumstances, I could not even let my pain free; I had to fulfill my pledge. I had purchased tickets with Air France — on the day of the flight, our last journey together, when boarding the plane, I heard a voice in my mind: "Check if I am with you." The plane engines were already turning when the hostess informed me about my husband's coffin having been forgotten in a hangar, some six miles away; he would be on the next flight. I declined any compromise — I went straight to the pilot and asked him to bring the coffin or I would have no other option but disembark the plane and hold a conference in the International Airport of Paris, for the whole world to be informed on how Air France was treating the customer who had paid the most expensive ticket. That pilot — what a man. He instantly turned the engines off — and I will remember forever how the lights at the control tower turned from green to red. It took them fifty-five minutes to bring the coffin on board; I was to find out that sixteen other international flights had been delayed — yet, my pledge had been fulfilled.
At that moment in my life, I could have set the destiny straight and live the rest of my days in tranquility, in my parents' house, in Sibiu, my birth town. Instead, an inner restlessness made me leave once more; this time it was a self-imposed exile. I returned to France.
In 2000, fate opened for me an expected window. I flew to Las Vegas, on a vacation... and the desert entrapped me — a vacation without end. Determinism and free will.... I began rebuilding my life once more, changing not a city or a country, but a continent. I loved the desert — for me it was as pure as oxygen, as safe as an oasis where I could banish the memories from my former life... an exile in the desert. And so, I resumed, alone, my life dedicated to research in the medical field, the only occupation incontestable useful to man... faithfully responding to my altruistic and humanitarian principles... as in time, I have learned to accept and understand myself. Always, remembering that the things that happen to us or the things we do, they are never really so important in the end.