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Meetings with Carla Vanamo #1 By Ani Boghossian -There's something bothering you. I can tell... Miss Carla Vanamo, 60, was sipping her scotch, looking at me with her heavy eyes, with legs in male shoes crossed and posed with such delicate feminine strength that you'd never think it's possible to be that great. I was perplexed, staring into my cinnamon apple tea, and looked up at her, surprised. -What? Oh... er... no, I'm ok. -Nothing is that simple in life. `OK'... huh... that is so American. She was Finnish. Dark haired with a large lock of gray at the left side of her forehead swaying back into her bun of shiny hair. She never drank wine. Never. -That is so French, she used to say. Almost everything in life was either too French, too American, too something this, too something that. She was awesome, that's what I thought and still do. The fact that she loved dressing like a man made her more feminine. Her face was never old, but classy. And perfect. -You don't become old, you just become a classic, she said. Carla could talk you out of your regular self and make you drink the oldest vintage alcohol she had in her apartment. I loved her, but I always asked for tea. -That is so English. What are you? Lord Byron? -He was a `who' not `what'?, I said automatically. I adored Byron. -The bastard was a narcissistic pedophile. -He loved Armenians. -Is that an excuse? I smiled. -So! she always said when throwing herself on the couch, not afraid to spill the drink in her hand, the tie around her neck loosened, but the vest still with a neat handkerchief poking from the front pocket. Her hair slicked back, as always. I never saw her hair loose or ruffled. I imagined them to be very long... -Tell me, Ani, what is it like to be in your skin? I shrugged. -Actually, Carla, I was wondering if you'd tell me a bit about your travels. About some weird place no one I know has ever been to. -Hmm, she gulped some of her whiskey. -There is this small lost village in the Balkans. When you stand at the eastern part of it and look at the hills at exactly 6:21 AM you can see very clearly a very thin line of light between the hill and the self-announcing dawn. That horizon is not straight but curvy. But in that pale yellowish blue light a pack of gypsies dance in a straight line. You have to make slits of your eyes to see them, because they are almost invisible from afar. But the wind changes from their dance. And you can smell their bare feet. They smell like squished tulips high on tobacco. The most amazing spectacle I've ever seen. She drank it all up. As did I, wondering why. And I had to leave. -See you tomorrow then, Ani, she said without getting up. I smiled `of course'. And stood still. Walking out of the apartment, I saw the Brooklyn Bridge from the window. That's where Carla lives now. The place where it's too American, I sighed. Meetings with Carla Vanamo #2 So one day, as me and the wonderful Miss Carla Vanamo were walking through Central Park on a promising humid still day, I swallowed my doubts and asked her with caution. -Have you ever been married? The feather on Carla's fedora hat flicked back and forth ever so politely, as she passed through and greeted the New York air. Her gaze looking straight on, a strict smirk and the world's best dark eyebrows. And that long tan coat damped with a scent of great wonder ruffled the edges of her world. Every step of her clicking male shoes said I know and I-don't-give-a-damn. -Oh honey, she said both evenly I-knew-it and yet was still surprised. You could always tell from the way she started her phrases the leaning her words would take, yet you could never guess even slightly what she would drive towards ad conclude with in the end. -My husband never existed in this universe. So I never went searching for him. -How did you know he never existed? -I checked, she said then put her hand in her large pocket and pulled out a box. -Let's sit down, she said gesturing towards a lovely empty bench as we were passing by it. I sat down and looked around at the greenness that was alive. Carla sat down and opened the box. Inside it was a pipe. This lady never seized to surprise me. -So, you smoke?, I asked -Only flowers, she smiled and got a small bag of dried colorful petals. She took a pinch and put it inside her pipe. Then lit a match and there it was.... a flower garden was burning. She froze for a second then blew out a long thin line of lavenders and poppies. -Actually Ani, I knew this woman once. An amazingly charming thing. She had a husband. A quirky writer. A good one though. Never read one book by him, anyway... He loved her of course. But this woman... she loved what he was with even the smallest particle of her being. She did not expect him to love her back the same way. What she expected was that she'd be able to inspire him, be his muse. For her, it was the truest meaning of her existence. To serve for his art. To exist for his art.... Years passed and all he wrote about were chess-players and gnomes. So she killed herself. I just sat there, my hands on my lap, the trees eloquently still but always plotting to grow, the sky wrapping ropes around the space around us, and a runner every now and then passing by and snorting and creaking, by and by. So I asked another stupid question. -So you never really loved? She grinned with an ancient warmness of a mother. -I loved and love every day. -I mean a man, I fought, to get some specific answer out of her. -A man. Of course. I loved Bach, I loved Monet, I love Babadjanian, I love Dostoevsky for goodness sake... I sighed, and I just had to laugh. -What I meant was... -Ani, she said with a smile. A reassurance. I never asked her those kind of questions again. We were silent for a time. I didn't count how long. Then she said suddenly with wonder and excitement, staring at something I couldn't see. -Ani, I was in Yerevan back in nineteen ninety-something. You were a little tyke, you won't remember. But I first met you then. Poverty was thick all around us. But, my God, I loved that place. Your dad was holding your little hand and we three were walking as he was telling me the names of the streets. We were passing Abovyan at that moment. A cobbled marvelous street. `Not cobbled nor marvelous any more',I thought. ..And your father told me about the writer Khatchadour Abovyan. The creator of secular, worldly or common and not classical Armenian literature. And how he went missing, supposedly to climb Mount Ararat. And how people still don't know where he is buried. And the idea that people named a street after him not knowing where he is For God knows, he might have run away to some other country or something that seamed so wonderfully new to me. I loved that. It's like you Armenians created a place where he is always present, even if only with a name. You created an artificial grave. She looked at me when she finished. I smiled back. And did not tell her that Armenians loved graves and the meaning of them. And how we turn graves into art. Like the cross stones.I kind of loved that too and was at the same time worried just how I will make my Armenian family not put me in a grave when I die but throw me to the wind in powdered pieces. Let me be free from the heaviness of the wonderful Armenian art of gravestones. I think Carla read my thoughts then because she said. -The wind is nice, isn't it? Let's go get some decent Jewish coffee. -Jewish? Not Guatemalan? -No, not Guatemalan. Guatemalan coffee is nice, Jewish coffee stinks. But I love that Jewish coffee place and those Jewish fellows all serious, sitting around, complaining. We got up. -Oh look...Kookaburras, she pointed to a row of funny curious birds on a branch. -- Ani Boghossian was born in Echmiadzin back in cold, dark 1989. She still lives in Echmiadzin, yet went to school in Yerevan ("Aghasi Ayvazyan" Varjaran). She studied International Relations at Yerevan State University and currently works at the Armenian Assembly of America and also at the Foundation of Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets. Ani translated David Phillips' book "Unsilencing the Past" into Armenian. She maintains a blog: http://www.facebook.com/l/5264c33utQE1q2RXG9Pk1gHt0Sw/nurpages.wordpress.com She writes in English and in Armenian and draws and paints as well.