I’ve been a love refugee all my adult life. When I was 21, my mother discovered I was gay. It’s like you’re dead, she said. I ran away to San Francisco. Back then, San Francisco was really the only place it is okay to be gay. After ten years I thought it would be safe to go back home. I was wrong. For my generation, things were over. We were the lost generation. I came back and found people still hiding in heterosexual marriages or in the closet. I tried to readapt. I tried to love. I suffered. I decided to leave again. To Germany this time.
Ten days before I left to Germany, I met a girl. She bought me a pocket watch, but it was she who was counting time. Ten days of love and 28 days of tears, she would say, after I was gone.
Ten days before I left to Germany, I met a girl. She was an architect. We imagined the house we would have. The garden we would grow. I told her I would wait by the window every day for her to come from work. We both knew it was a lie, that people like us could never live like that in our country. Ten days before I left to Germany, I fell in love with an architect and a house we could never build.
I have the privilege to come from one of the world’s most conservative and patriarchal countries. My country has left me with nothing but bitterness. Like Medea, my country eats her own children.
As a person who makes theatre, I have a natural distrust for those who are smooth in front of the camera or onstage. When I tell her that I love her, she buries her face in her hands, shaking your head, No.
Then she turns away and lights a cigarette, never once able to look at me, never once able to speak.
All this makes me love her more.
In Germany I cannot see her. Standing at the train station or sitting at the restaurant, I am surrounded by people, but not one of them is her. I begin to have panic attacks. I go to the pharmacy to get pills. The pills do not help. I take them, but she still does not appear.
People in Germany never ask the price you paid to come. They ask why you came or what you plan to do now that you’re here, but they never ask what it cost you. And they never ask the price that others paid to let you go.
Some people paid the price of the crossing with a small drowned child, Iphigenia.
I paid with kisses.
That’s what it means to means to be a love refugee.
It means you can never love in your own language, or in your own place, or your own people.
You love in a lifeboat.
Thirty days after I am gone, she says we have to leave each other
She says we need to feel other feelings besides longing and sadness.
Leave me with sweet words, I tell her, so that I can know I was loved by you once, so that I can know how you loved me and how much.
In Germany I cannot see her. Surrounded by people in the street, I begin to get panic attacks because none of them are her. I tell her, To not be able to see you is to not be able to see. Send me your picture, so I do not go blind.
People in Germany never ask the price you paid to come. They ask why you came or what you plan to do now that you’re here, but they never ask what it cost you. People in Germany never ask the price that others paid to let you go.
When you said you loved me, I would ask you how much?
In my mind, I measured the distance between us: the hills of Galilee, the white waves of the Mediterranean, the police dogs and tear gas in Macedonia.
Was your love long enough to get us across?
Another time you said you loved me, again I asked you how much.
You hung up.
The last time you said you loved me, I asked you how much.
You said: I love you enough to let you go.