Tonight I'm flying to Macedonia for work. I've actually been to that country before, but I have no recollection of it. I was 19 years old, hitch-hiking from Paris to Athens, and did my best to rush through war-torn former Yugoslavia. This wasn't too easy in Serbia, which was under an international trade embargo and short on gasolene. The highway south was literally empty, so when I finally caught a ride that went directly from southern Serbia to Thessalonika, I didn't argue.
We passed through Macedonia in two hours or so, without breaking. I slept through much of that. I only recall a ridge of mountains in the moonlight, some bushes near the road that reminded me of the hills around Jerusalem, oh, and the money. I had to buy a certain sum of Macedonian currency in order to be allowed past the border checkpoint by a a local mustache.
The following day I showed those bills to a Greek youth on Thessalonika's waterfront. "I'm gonna kill them!" he exclaimed. the year was 1995 and Greece was still furious with Macedonia for taking the name of Alexander's historic homeland as its formal name. I heard that the biggest demonstration in history was held in Thessalinoka over that question.
The Greek kid's remark was harmless. He wasn't actually going to kill anyone, but I found myself instantly siding with the Macedonians. For some reason, I loved their country, a country that was nothing but a siluhuette and a short snore in the back seat. Macedonia was the epitomy of minimalism in travel. it was a round spot on the map where anything could be and nothing has yet been. Maybe I traveled through my natural place in the universe without having noticed. I could always hold on to such comforting a thought, as long as I never got to see that place in daylight.
Tomorrow I'll see it in daylight. I picture a Balkan country with all that's entailed: airport, commyblocks, newspapers in Cyrilic type and German confiture brands at the store, Byzantine churches, Ottoman mosques and gas stations, gushing springtime rivers and hotel bars. Never mind that, it'll always remain in some way the dark place I went thorugh on that night, that place that is empty, that place where there's room for me.