Tirana is one of these places for me—not perfect, far from paradise, but a place I just slid into, like a peg in one of them little holes. I think about my Albanian homies often, and we keep in touch (like everyone else) via Facebook. So I knew when it was snowing there last month, saw pictures of familiar rooftops hazed in a dingy white. I saw pictures from New Year’s, from parties that looked like the ghosts of parties I’d gone to—or rather, parties that had never stopped, kept going, where some piece of me might still be dancing amid the smoke.
And so I knew this morning that shit had gone down. Before I looked at the New York Times or Reuters or listened to NPR, I saw via Facebook. Which made it impossible to detach from, which made it all the more real.
Vincent had been a fellow traveler when I’d been in Tirana, but the lure of the city had inspired him to move there (and helped me to acknowledge that it wasn’t just me being crazy, that the city really does have a kind of special something). He’s been the most vocal of my Tirana friends, though I did get word that everyone I know is okay.
Vincent posted this first-hand account, far more compelling than any news story I read:
I was surprised how well cars can burn, they make hissing and exploding sounds as they slowly die, and usually after two or three minutes, their horns and lights switch on until the circuits are burned through, its like their dying lament.
It’s a funny feeling, I can’t explain it, but I want to be there. For what? To protest? It’s not my fight. To watch shit burn, to run the streets and raise my fist and feel the sting of tear gas? No, that’s not it. To be curled up in someone’s apartment, watching newscasts and hearing the echoes of sirens and shouts and maybe gunfire? Perhaps. To feel that that piece of me I left there, that was so so alive there, is safe?—and that all those people that saw that piece, that shared that piece and maybe even a small piece of themselves, that they’re all safe too?
Because nothing is really safe, and no one is really safe, least of all the parts of you you don’t know, that you’ve littered all over this planet like loose change, like strands of hair, like earring backs and lines from old forgotten poems someone else remembered and reminded you of, when you least expected it, on Twitter of all fucking places—and it sounded like an echo of an ancient sadness and you don’t know what the fuck all this is or means, but just that it doesn’t feel safe, or doesn’t feel like you can save it—which is not at all the same thing, but is all too easy to confuse. And you’ve been confusing it your whole damn life without knowing it.
All of which is to say that you can never predict how this shit will make you feel, what it will bring up. Which is my own way of saying I hope all my Albanian friends—that I love without really knowing, the way I love a part of myself without really knowing it—are safe.