This was Parham’s gift. From his playlist of tunes that filled Eddy’s Bakery, while he made pastries and pizzas from 7am until 2 each day, cheerful, kind, never complaining.
When I told Parham how much I liked the song he played it for me intentionally. Listening to it, with my morning coffee and still warm croissant laid before me, I looked out of the window onto the icy, grey slab of Bulgarian street. Even when my croissant was reduced to the last few flakes, as long as the song played I was lifted high above my desolation.
Eddy’s Bakery was a couple of blocks from my Airbnb room. I went there a few mornings a week to do my morning routine of journaling, reading Seneca and reconnecting with myself. Here I was safe from the swastikas and angry Cyrillic graffiti outside, which slithered over the garages, bus shelters, walls of the estates and eventually through my mind.
My journaling always began with thanking the morning and listing things I was grateful for, then moved onto letting my thoughts wander freely. Lately I noticed a shift towards exploring ways I could be of service and make a difference in the world. I thought about teaching again, but this time as I traveled, teaching impoverished kids for free, maybe even be sponsored by big companies. Instead, I settled on a plan to fight back against the Nazi graffiti I was seeing all around Sofia.
This morning I’m far away from Eddy’s Bakery. A tanned, athletic American man is chatting with a couple by the pool. They clink beer bottles and the water glitters, as the sun breaks through the Thai monsoon rain clouds. A mosquito hovers close to my ear.
If I close my eyes, I see Parham with his baseball cap spun backwards and boyish grin. He’s asking me what I’d like to have, as if I order anything other than croissants! He’s telling me about his family in Iran whom he hasn’t seen for ten years, his love of funk music and other job as a DJ. He’s giving me his phone number incase I get lost climbing Mount Vitosha.
Rain starts to fall again, the American man and the couple escape to the bar. I stand alone in the pool and squint, letting the last rays of sunshine blur and dance on the surface of the water. Beneath it all, a purple, spray-painted swastika unfurls. I play the song.