June 7th-10th, 2014
I woke up on a bench, nearby the centre of Bucharest, somewhere between an anachronic shopping centre and the no more contemporary Palace of Parliament. That megalomaniac context, where my lack of energy took over, blurred me and vanished me. But I was not alone.
Bucharest offers a peculiar view (or service depending on your preferences): the opportunity to sleep undisturbed on any sidewalk or bench throughout the extension of the city’s public space. This creates a landscape besprinkled with bodies, of all ages and sizes, which contrast their physiological need for a break with the rumbling activity of those who pass them by, trying to get the metro and their pay today.
Needless to say, this activity (or lack of it) impressed me due to its extension. I am used to see homeless people dozing on the streets while the middle-classes opt for the transport hubs to bed down while awaiting their next connection. Before Bucharest, it was common sense to me that nobody could just lay down with their stuff on any busy street expecting her or his items to be where they left them before their departure to Dreamland. Ashamed, I had to agree that I had been a very closed-minded person when, while crossing through an underpass, I noticed that someone was taking a nap by a very large luggage bag and nobody seemed to care about that. One could even wonder if that was a piece of performance art.
However, it would be naïve to say that this urban happening is performed by the whole community. While I did not interviewed every participant about their social and economic status, most of them appeared to be unqualified workers just resting from jobs that could be physically demanding. Some of them seemed to be sleeping just as a leisure activity and the most interesting part of the street-dreamers community is that few of them actually seemed to have nowhere else to go, although the information could change if a representative sample is accounted. Obviously.
Along with street-dreaming, urban-sunbathing is an activity that seems to share its roots. Going through several of the city parks, crossing by the areas where the trees are rarefied and thus the shades are not very wide, many men without shirts occupy benches and spaces on the grass; contemplating with laziness the sweat coming out from their skin; in a shiny coma they are awake but no more active than if they were asleep. Again, I must say I could not get any information from the sunbathers about their reasons or opinions about street-dreaming; but speaking with strangers in a foreign language, where even the word for water is odd (apa), could only lead to further misinformation.
The potentially infinite sleep sessions on the streets of Bucharest are what make this phenomenon an amazing one. It would be hard to find something similar in Sofia or Mexico city; the only time I saw something similar before was in a city called Queretaro. Back then I was also impressed by the way in which a man had just calmly given control to the world of his own person and belongings. I remember, nevertheless, that I thought: “That man has to be drunk”.
And it is always a man’s thing. The child on the curb, the bodies on the benches, they were all (or at least looked to be) masculine. There was only one occasion when I found a woman “beaching” on Nicolae Balcescu Boulevard and I could not understand whether she was a pioneer or was lost. Or maybe even she was just as tired as I was.