by Kleitia Vaso

The shopping center next to my job is both a relief and a kind of a prison as it is the only place to have coffee and food during these dragging summer days. I am used to its less-than-mediocre stores, suspiciously dressed customers, terrible décor filled with smoke (a positive sign in a way as it gives it a little original Albanian twist) and counterweigh these with the familiar and pleasant-enough faces of the staff and…familiarity, really, is the only positive thing. One day, a colleague and I were disproportionately happy when, unexpectedly, we saw the renovated version of a previously gloomy coffee place. I can’t even remember the old version anymore. Now, this same place was white, the sun shone through a maybe new, maybe old skylight, and the best part was the sudden appearance of olive trees placed as magnificent decorative pieces. We were both unreasonably happy and kept vocally admiring what is a certainly outdated interior design job from an architectural standpoint. Yet, something finally lived inside that gloomy place with clothes rejected by even our neighboring countries and hopeless people looking for pleasure there, deader than the mannequins in the store windows.

Until, a know-it-all colleague told us what we had assumed, even seen, but purposefully, willfully ignored: the trees were fakes. It was obvious by the shape and completely unnatural color of the olives yet we had squinted and kept our eyes wide shut. We didn’t want to know. This episode reminded me of an image shown in the macabre Albanian news of Japanese workers at an office with a weird mini-beach inside, sea waves slowly undulating onto the ugly carpet. This concoction was meant for relaxation but my first thought was “You can’t even drown yourself in there?!” However, despite the false disillusionment as I discovered the treacherous nature of the beautiful and symbolic olive tree, I had lived a few moments of unadulterated, pure pleasure, warmed by the sun, thinking I was somewhere better.

by Kleitia Vaso