Radio Free Europe

25 May

On the beaches of the Black Sea, young men and women smoked Kent cigarettes and ate steamed, buttered corn on the cob sold from buckets by gypsies. They huddled around their Grundig transistors and listened to Radio Free Europe. They inhaled, kept their brows furrowed, and left the radio volume low. That summer Elvis died. The next, Carter, Sadat, and Begin met at Camp David and signed papers promising peace. Nadia Comăneci was still basking in the stardom of Montreal, 1976: three golds, the first perfect 10 in Olympic history.  Everyone knew her coach beat her. But everyone was beaten anyway by a mother or a father, and no one had ever received a gold medal for it. Another five-year-plan was put forth by the Central Committee. Bureaucracy was tired of itself. Everything was coming to a halt. People were exhausted by communism. Communism was exhausted by its own machinations, paperwork, and victory marches. Radio Free Europe kept coming through into our homes, through ancient radio lamps that needed time to heat up like cold-blooded salamanders. It spoke of Western dreams and freedom. Anyone could do anything if enough work and ingenuity was applied. I ate yoghurt at night while Dad listened to the Western broadcasts on low volume. I ate head cheese. I ate schnitzels. I ate potatoes friend in a pan with salt and pepper. I played football with my mates. I took a ball straight into the face, which shattered my front tooth. I ate the tiny pieces of the bone and cried. Everything moved. Nothing waited for anyone.

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