It was 1995 and I was getting ready to start a life in a new country. Immigration, at that time, even few weeks before departure, seemed something unattainable. Something out of reach. Something that happens to other people, in other places. I remember going to some public office and having to say aloud that I was about to immigrate. There was a visitor there that overheard me. She just looked up and froze. I looked at her for a second and I knew exactly what was going through her mind. “I’m seeing a lucky person. A person I will never be. I don’t think I’m even seeing him.” That’s how I felt too – the last few weeks were completely unreal. A dream. A dream that belonged to someone else. For a long time I had been living with the hope to have a hope. Not a chance or opportunity. When things started to materialize I could not fully accept they really were happening.
At that time I had talked to a few friends about immigration. “Why don’t you immigrate too? That’s the time. In a year or two no one will let us go there any more”. The answers puzzled me. “I’m well connected here now.”, “What am I going to do there? I can’t start from zero again.” “My mother is here.” I could not understand how one can have a shot, even a desperate one, and never try.
One of my friends was a creative and upbeat person that was getting pushed more and more by the depressed economy. He had a woodworking shop. Loved what he did. Practically lived in the shop. Often he’d pay his utility bills and have nothing to eat for 3-4 days. One day I found some expired Jiffy peanut butter at the store. It was not expensive because at that time very few Bulgarians knew what peanut butter was. I bought a jar and took it to my friend. He hadn’t eaten in about 2 days. “What’s this?” he asked. I said “Just get a spoon and try it. You’ll like it.” And he did like it. Fifteen minutes later half the jar was gone and he was peeking into it still wanting more. No, no apple to go with it. No banana. Just a spoon.
Few years ago, in Africa, I had tried peanut butter for the first time. Three of four months of starvation made my mother look and find some connections to buy a few things at the diplomatic store. Among the few things she bought that day was a jar of peanut butter. Being starved really made me thing that that was the best tasting thing I’d ever had. I ate it smeared on bread with a piece of ham on top. I stood on the balcony and looked over the city. It was mid-afternoon and the streets were empty. I closed my eyes savoring the peanut butter. The salt and the sweetness. The hunger disappearing for a few minutes giving room to gluttony. Peanut butter on bread.
Back to my friend’s shop where he was peeking into the half-empty jar. “Keep the rest” I said “Eat it the next few days”. “I don’t know if it will last” he said. “It’s so tasty”
Then he showed me a few sketches of some new furniture he designed. One piece was called “The Crocodile”. It was a green chest with very short stubby legs. It looked blocky and both sides were tapered. The “body” was curved. The shape really suggested a crocodile. I smiled. “Nice!’. “Nice, isn’t it!” he said.
That was 1995. Soon I left. Today, in mid-2009 I stumbled on a few images. Images of a chest named “The Crocodile”. It was designed by “La Mamba” – a Spanish design studio – so it was called “Cocotile”. It looked almost exactly like the sketch that my friend had done in 1995. The only difference was that this new one had textured sides.
In the last several months I had been looking for my friend but I can’t find any information. Seeing this piece of furniture made me think I had accidentally found him. In Spain. But from what it looks like I’m wrong. Asking some successful old friends about him yielded nothing. They seemed unwilling to even talk about him. I don’t know what happened. I just hope that he kept his creativity going.
Because if you forsake what you have you sometimes see it done by others. That could be motivating or not. As I said in the beginning – do try if you have a shot at something.