Friday, February 06, 2009

in a somnambulant state

one fine day back in macedonia, the gang was just hanging out when this guy showed up. this guy we knew from home in arizona. now this was a bit of a surprise, since you don't really expect people to just drop by when you're in a balkan backwater. but L was that kind of guy. a bit of an idiot savant, without really being an idiot--he'd actually gotten a perfect score on the LSAT and was traveling around for a year before he was slated to start at Columbia Law on a full scholarship. and no one gets a scholarship for law school, so this gives you an idea of how bright this guy is. however, smart as he was, he had no practical skills whatsoever. it often amazed us that he managed to dress himself in the morning and we found it even more amazing that he had managed to make his way to skopje all by himself.

the only picture i could find of L, sadly not the most flattering, but you get the idea.

as his stories unfolded, we noticed that most of them began with, "i almost got beat up by these guys..." and we were even more amazed that he'd been traveling by himself in europe for several months. the boy was lucky to have arrived on our doorstep(s) in one piece.

he was the kind of person who got lost frequently. my apartment was on a large, main busy street towards the center of skopje and it was only a few blocks from the US Embassy. it was, if you were strolling at a leisurely pace, a ten minute walk. L called me one day from the embassy and said he would stop by. two hours later, he still hadn't shown up. i was busy with other things and didn't really think much about how much time had gone by. finally, he did show up and he said he'd gotten lost. getting to my apartment was a matter of taking a right out of the embassy, taking another right at a clearly-marked street, walking a couple of blocks, reaching the big, main road, where you could actually SEE my apartment building. and i might add that he had made this journey on more than one occasion previously. but that's how he was, he could get lost inside a cardboard box.

he was one of these people who was inadvertently hilarious in telling stories. often because he didn't tell them in a normal order. he had decided to go to bulgaria one week, just to check it out. we worried a bit about whether we'd see him again, but figured that he'd survived thus far and so we hoped for the best. he got back and the first thing he said was, "i peed my pants on the bulgarian-macedonian border." we looked at him incredulously, knowing there had to be quite a story behind that punchline.

it seemed that in his months of travels, he'd been carrying his passport around in the front pocket of his jeans, to avoid having it lifted from his back pocket. you might imagine that it was a bit worse for the wear. that was back before 9/11 and the page with the picture was just laminated and the little square of the picture was actually in there, sandwiched between the layers. well, months of hanging out in his front pocket had loosened the plastic from the page and his passport had the appearance of having been tampered with. he had dark, long curly hair and had initially been perceived by border guards, to be someone who might tamper with a passport. thus, they stopped him at the border and treated him rather rudely, pushing him with a night stick and getting in his face when he didn't understand that they weren't allowing him to pass through to macedonia.

this apparently scared him so much that he peed his pants, right then and there in the border station. well, it didn't help him and he had to return to sophia and go to the embassy for a new passport. i never did ask whether he had to get back on the bus in wet jeans or if he had a change of clothes with him. we advised him that he might want to build up the story a little bit in the next telling, rather than jumping straight to the bit about peeing his pants.

he was hanging out with us for several months and finally my friend dmitry (the one i threw up on on the plane if you recall) had to ask L, who was crashing at his place, to leave because his landlady was starting to get suspicious that they were a couple and dmitry couldn't take that. i have to admit that i lost touch with L after that and i do wonder where he is today and what he's doing. he's probably making his way through life in that charmingly somnambulant state of his.


Amanda said...

It's these folks who make life what it is, isn't it?

I also have a friend who always has a story to tell, many of which are odd and make you scratch your head. She's a good one.

Find L and re-connect!

Just Jules said...

Now this was the laugh I needed this late afternoon. I have a cousin - smart as a whip MIT grad. But, I would be surprised if he has learned how to tie his shoes yet and driving - ughh forget about it. The brain must compensate in other places I guess.

Sandra said...

A wonderful story. I want to know how he turned out.
My funny letters say 'quippy'. Odd, considering the story.