In the continental drift of human emotions, America and Slovenia are drifting farther apart with each passing week. It's becoming a place I once knew and some day, the people who made up my life for eight years will be resigned to after-dinner stories. I don't like that much, but it's how things work. On the ever-wonderful Time Team, they've been digging up an iron-age settlement where the ancestor's bodies were broken up and buried all over the place, from under the TV set to right out beyond the Brussels sprouts. Why? Because they would keep relatives bones with them for years, until they passed beyond memory, and then they were laid to rest. Each person had a part, and each person buried their memories where they would.
One more link with America has just been severed. For some years I've been taking blood pressure meds. My extravagant BP readings were discovered quite by accident after I found a cheap clinic near Philadelphia. I went in with a pain and came out with high blood pressure. And so, for a few years, I've been swallowing small blue pills and fishing my way around the nether regions of the American health system trying to get prescriptions I could afford. Eventually I was able to get a quick BP reading and a new prescription for $35, but that system took a long time to fathom. On my last visit I got 3 months' supply because my life was in turmoil and finding a doctor in Slovenia was the very last thing I needed.
Last week I swallowed my last little American blue pill. I know, I know. I've been here over four months. I was nursing my meds, but now they were gone.
There is a medical centre in Bohinjska Bistrica -- sandwiched between the hotel and the temporary ice-skating rink. It looks nice. It has a big red cross outside, which suggests they'd come find you in a war. Nice-looking people go in and out, some of them carrying little boxes of, I don't know, medicine or kidneys. It all looks very clean and efficient and typical of everything I've come to expect of this country. I've walked past it many times, wondering what it's like inside and how hard it would be to involve them in my inaccurate blood pressure. Now it was time.
Inside the clean nice-looking doors are another set of clean nice-looking doors which lead into a pharmacy. This was not a pharmacy of the English kind, full of beach-balls, sunglasses and little plastic armies. Nor was it one of the American kind, which sells cigarettes. No, this was a pharmacy of the sleek Alpine European Laboratoire Garnier kind. It was clean, white, minimalist. The nice-looking counter was staffed by two nice-looking women who spoke perfect English. The actual pharmacist was, I have to admit, lovely. She looked up my American meds and discovered that they don't sell them in Slovenia, and an alternative would be needed. And I would have to get a prescription. She told me where to go.
Down the corridor was a receptionist. She asked if I had medical insurance and I said no, and would be happy to pay. She looked slightly concerned and I wondered what this would cost me. I wrote down my name, address and DOB, then took a seat. To my surprise I was then invited to see a doctor, a man who looked like a Dickens character, a music-hall veteran, a farmer in a white coat. He didn't take my blood pressure because I told him I have my own monitor. He looked in a book. He asked questions. He saw what the lovely pharmacist had recommended as a European equivalent, and he wrote me a prescription. His nurse ran me off a bill. Six euros. SIX EUROS. I can afford to have all kinds of illnesses here. Six euros and he did exactly what I needed with the absolute minimum of fuss.
I returned to the lovely pharmacist and waited in the clinical whiteness of her pharmacy while she did things pharmacological. I noticed she sells glue. Not ordinary glue, you understand, but the kind of glue that old people need to secure their dentures. I have a denture and, like the little blue pills, my Fixodent was running out. This was the first time I had seen anything suitable, here, in the land of the lovely pharmacist. This was going to be like that famous scene from Notting Hill. I was just a boy, standing in front of a girl, telling her that parts of me have to be glued on. This might be hard for many of you to understand, but it is difficult for a man to openly admit to an attractive woman that his teeth are glued in. One wants to appear robust. Bravely, like a boy buying condoms, I slid the packet of tooth-glue toward her.
"I'm old," I said.
"You are not so old," she said.
I felt like she would have been nice no matter what body parts spontaneously fell off.
I was elated as I walked home -- a major hurdle overcome. Later, I realised with some sadness that a major hurdle had been overcome. Another rope untied that bound me to my wife and the country I left four months ago.
Dana came to my aid.
Dana is a woman who appears every now and then and likes my blog posts. Sometimes she leaves long comments. She's a fan (I have 7, no less). The other day she wrote to me and asked if she could link to one of my posts. I was flattered, so go read it and, more importantly, go read everything else she has to say. She's a writer, and a good one.
It seems that I inspired in Dana a realisation that one has to get out there and explore, to find out what's around the next corner.
Well, Dana inspired in me the realisation that America, friends, love-ones aren't really drifting farther away. Like the bones of iron-age people, we can chose to keep them near us, or to lay them to rest. Loss isn't inevitable, it's a choice. Dana is a new connection from an America that is only a click away. The pharmacist is lovely. So I have European pills instead of American ones. If you go look round enough corners, eventually you'll get back home.
Slovenia, writing, other things