"It was on a hill with a broken sidewalk, this store. A girl passed in front of us, or so I'm told. A girl with long hair, about fourteen or fifteen, or so I'm told. I said suddenly, "I am going to marry that girl!" or again, so I'm told. You see, my father repeated this story so much that just from his explanation, it took on a reality in my eyes, and this girl became something solid and concrete. My father told it and told it, and this thing I didn't remember became like something I had actually lived. Tulsu was the girl I saw that day."
"If that's the case, then she must be passed eighty by now."
"Well, considering that when you were five she was fourteen or fifteen..."
"But Tulsu doesn't get old!"
"You mean, I guess, you saw her after that?"
"I am always in search of her. What other reason could I have for being in this city? Tulsu is a woman I don't know waiting for me, living in a city I don't know, someplace in the world I don't know about. I believe I will find her and am always looking. This is why I am wandering the world!"
"Have you never seen her since that first time?"
"I've seen her! I was thirty years old then. And again, I was in the big capital city of some country, looking for her. I was going down the escalator in a subway station when suddenly, beside me on the escalator going up, I saw her. Tulsu. But she was twenty years old. She had brown hair, cut very short. She went right by me. My voice cried out from deep inside me, "Tulsu!!!" But the escalator I was on had already gone down."
"Have you seen her any other times."
"I saw her. A few more times. On the banks of the Danube river, the first time I went to a city there. I was forty then. I had just gotten off a train. The station was very crowded. People were getting on and off, talking hurriedly. And there, in that confusion, I ran right into her. When I lifted my head and looked up, I saw a girl of about twenty five with big blue eyes and blond hair...Tulsu. We looked at each other a moment. She had dropped a package when we collided. I picked up my suitcase off the floor, then her package, and gave it to her. "Excuse me," I said. She thanked me. Then she took the arm of a young man standing next to her and got on the train.
After this meeting of ours, it was about five or six years. I saw her on a bus in a city in the far east. We were together on the same bus for four stops."
"You didn't speak to her?" I asked.
"How could I? We didn't even know the same language! One time I saw her at an international gathering in a small northern country. My Tulsu. We sat across from each other for a short time at the same table. Next to her was her black husband."
"Her husband was black?"
"Yes. Tulsu was black, too. An extraordinarily beautiful black woman."
"And again, you didn't talk to her?"
"Would you happen to have three extra bulletins," she asked me. I didn't have any extras, but I gave her mine and thanked her. The years passed, and I was constantly searching for her.
"But you were finding her, too."
"Finding, yes, but how? Just for a moment. It was like seeing a flash of lightning. Like a flame that suddenly flared up and died away. As soon as I found her, I lost her again. This is no reunion. To reunite with her, I have wandered circles around this world. I saw her in the palace of one of the Balkan capitals. Tulsu. She wasn't even thirty yet. I was already past sixty. She was sitting, leaning against the wide rail of a marble balustrade, between two men. In her hand was a fat-bellied glass filled with a bright red cocktail. The more she laughed at the bantering of the two men, the more she sloshed around her red drink. Her hair was red, her eyes a dark black.
"Five or six years ago, in a place completely unexpected...but then, it's always in a place and at a time I don't expect that I see her--my Tulsu. I had entered a country bank, took one look around, and saw her a little on the other side of the bank talking to one of the tellers. Her eyes were green, her hair in a bun. She immediately left the bank, got in a car waiting at the door, and drove away.
"And for the last time, I saw her last year, at a motel on the shore of the Mediterranean. She wasn't even twenty, a slender little thing. I was reading a book in the shade of an arbor in front of my room. "Excuse me, what time do you have?" When I raised my head at the sound of that voice, I found myself facing Tulsu. Next to her was a young man. They must have just come from the sea, their bodies were freckled with drops of water. I told her the time. She thanked me. I thought my heart would stop. They left, and I never saw them again at that hotel."
Again, we finished our wine.
"Shall we drink one more?" I asked.
"Let's do it," he said.
The dark Mediterranean woman brought one more bottle.
"When I explain my passion for Tulsu to someone, they always make fun of me. Tulsu was hear or there, they say, and send me from running from place to place. They look down on me, think I'm crazy. The first person to ever hear about my passion for Tulsu and not make fun of me...is you."
With great pity, I asked, "Why do you love Tulsu so much?"
"I have many reasons," he said. "These few times I have searched and been unable to find her, or else have found her but have been unable to be with her, my passion for her has grown all the greater. It is such a passion that, as I move through life, I am in flames, a raging inferno, and it burns. My insides are hot coals! coals! I know that one day, after not ever coming together with her, this fire inside will consume me and everything will turn to ash. But Tulsu is that good, so good that....Why so good? Because she never fights me like the other women I have been with when I have been wrong and mistaken them for Tulsu. She has not created a reason to fight. She has not used her relations with me to nourish her own self interest, nor had a gluttonous appetite, never satisfied no matter what I gave her, nor tricked me nor herself with the words "I love you". Was never two-faced, nor kept hidden grudges. Because we never shared any time together to make any of these things possible. Tulsu remains a momentary life for me, without a third dimension. I can live her in the flash of a lightning bolt. For this reason, I love her and will always love her. I have no other job but loving her. And I never will."