Poem to Start the Week #7: To Dorothy

You are not beautiful, exactly.
You are beautiful, inexactly.
You let a weed grow by the mulberry
and a mulberry grow by the house.
So close, in the personal quiet
of a windy night, it brushes the wall
and sweeps away the day till we sleep.

A child said it, and it seemed true:
“Things that are lost are all equal.”
But it isn’t true. If I lost you,
the air wouldn’t move, nor the tree grow.
Someone would pull the weed, my flower.
The quiet wouldn’t be yours. If I lost you,
I’d have to ask the grass to let me sleep.

 

Marvin Bell

Poem to Start the Week #6: How to Kill a Living Thing

Neglect it
Criticize it to its face
Say how it kills the light
Traps all the rubbish
Bores you with its green

Continually
Harden your heart
Then
Cut it down close
To the root as possible

Forget it
For a week or a month
Return with an axe
Split it with one blow
Insert a stone

To keep the wound wide open.

 

Eibhlin Nic Eochaidh

All Our Little Things

Picture this. Yours truly marching up and down the flat at 2 AM on Saturday night, green gooey face mask drying my T-zone into a crust, all the while fighting my tangled post-shower head with not one but two brushes, and squeezing my brains for an acceptable excuse not to have to get out of bed and traipse to central London in the morning.

– We could set the alarm for 6 AM, and Skype them that I’m unwell and puking all over the place or something. They’ll believe that, I look like I could start puking at anytime anyway, I’ve just got that kind of face, you know.

V was buttoning his phone in bed, entirely immune to my rambling, not even raising his eyes to face me with his now very familiar you’re-a-psycho look.

– OH!!! We could say I’m pregnant. They can’t hold anything against a pregnant lady, right? They can’t pretend I have to keep ALL my promises. I mean, I’m pregnant. I’m a carrier of life. I’m forgiven one lousy broken promise.

– You’re not a carrier of life.

I knew the battle was lost, I’d known it was lost all along. It was rude to cancel hours before the meeting. It was rude to pretend you’re pregnant to get out of an hour long tube trip on a Sunday morning. I was nothing but a rude disaster waiting to happen, I should consider myself lucky I had V around to guide me back to normalcy and good manners. And it had been my idea all along, going to the Royal Academy for the Summer Exhibition. Crazy, right? To top it off, what started as this couple of hours thing that I was dragging poor defenceless V into, eventually turned into a proper, official get together when a bunch of friends decided they wanted to go too. They didn’t really get art, they said, but it would be fine, I’d just teach them about it. Me! Pretend-pregnant lady, teacher of modern art.

Six hours of zombie-sleep later, I was marching up and down the flat untangling my bed hair and trying on summer dresses showing enough skin for what looked like it would be one of the two yearly days of summer we get in London, and covering enough skin for me not to worry about my wobbly bits. Half a dozen discarded outfits and a belgian waffle (wobbly bits don’t get wobbly by themselves!) later, we were finally out of the flat and on a Piccadilly Line train to Green Park.

During our first couple of years in London, V and I went to all the art exhibitions there were. Every Saturday we set off to visit another gallery, walk the streets and feast on steamy lasagnas and pints of strawberry cider in dark, loud Soho pubs. It was our thing, hanging out together, making fun of other people’s art, chomping on baked pasta varieties. Our weekend patterns have somewhat changed since, what with our Saturdays dedicated exclusively to entirely unartistic house hunting, and our Sundays a time of licking our house-hunting-related wounds and just lying there, like exhausted amoebas, waiting for the week to end. But I would change that, I for some deranged reason decided. I’d guide us back to our intellectual, artistic universe, and at all costs.

So here we were on this beautiful Sunday morning in the Royal Academy courtyard, messing around the jet fountains in an effort to cool our no-longer-used-to-summer-who-knew limbs. As soon as everybody arrived we stepped inside, and it was nothing like any other museum trip I’d ever been on, pretty much because on none of my previous ones did I spend my time talking very little about the art and infinitely about mortgages, fertility treatments and how there’s-no-love-after-marriage,-didn’t-I-know-that? I didn’t even have to turn my art-teacher mode on, no one really cared to know much about the exhibits, except for the prices I mean, and we each had a catalogue for that. Several £60,000?-And-I-can-paint-way-better-than-that! later, we walked out (shortest. museum. trip. ever.) into the sun and started towards Hyde Park, where the plan was to rent a bunch of those touristy bikes and do a couple of laps around the lake.

Note to self: gypsy skirt + bike, never a good combination. Suffice to say that half of Sunday’s Hyde Park population, including a bunch of innocent, defenceless toddlers, caught a full frontal view of my undies. But other than that there were no victims of my precarious cycling, and I actually enjoyed the trip, so much so that I would have kept at it for a couple of hours more, had everybody else not succumbed to hunger.

They’re strange, the dynamics of small groups of people trying to get through a day out together without judging each other’s life and topic of conversation choices. I’ve had my ups and downs trying to make friends in this country, and I’ve come to decide, as with most things apparently, that I’ve still got tons to learn. We seem to be, on our own or as groups of friends-strangers-and-in-between, permanent works in progress. It can be comforting to know that you can amend yourself and your relationships at any time but then, sometime’s it’s really tiresome how everyone and everything-we-feel/mean-for-eachother is so volatile. I can deal with friendships that somewhat change, but not so much with friendships that change out of friendships and into something else. Something else is rarely a good thing.

V and I decided to walk for a couple of stops on our way back, so we parted ways with the rest of the group in front of the Science Museum. They were in a hurry to make it to their Sunday afternoon naps, and as I’ve never had a nap myself unless I was really ill, I found myself judging them for cutting a day short to get a half hour’s worth of sleep. Can I be friends with an afternoon napper, I wondered. What if a group of British scientists discovered that all extraordinary, life changing things tend to happen precisely on Sunday afternoons, would I just miss those wonderful opportunities because everyone who voluntarily hangs out with me is having their nap? Or is that simply too much of a compromise to make?

We found ourselves walking down my favourite street in Notting Hill, where all the houses are painted white and everybody seems to live perfect, white painted lives, though I know they probably fight similar existential problems, like do you jinx it if you fake pregnancy to get out of a museum trip, or does it make you a freak if everybody else but you naps at the same time every day.

Of course it’s not about nap time, I swear it’s not (not even I’m that crazy to care about that). I’ve just been thinking about relationships of all kinds these days.

As I’m sitting here typing, in this white painted flat where life has never been perfectly white, my Spotify player is making its way through the Top 100 UK Tracks list. There are songs about girls wiggling their wobbly bits (on bikes?) and why-does-it-feel-so-good-oh-so-good-to-be-bad, and I normally don’t enjoy the mix and spend most of my time pressing skip than actually listening to anything, but today I’m either tired or into something new an superficial or both, so I don’t mind. John Legend starts his lovey-dovey All of Me, this all-of-me-loves-all-of-you…wait it goes on!…love-your-curves-and-all-your-edges-all-your-perfect-imperfections thing I’d probably never listen to unless I had my headphones forcefully glued into my ear canals. But it makes sense today, and it makes me sad. I’m past the point where I’m able to like/love people’s perfect-imperfections liberally. I’m aware it’s a problem (mine? theirs? ours?), but I’m tired and disappointed and I can’t pretend like everything can simply be painted over in quick dry paint.

Every time I come to a half epiphany these days, I end up wondering if it means I’m finally a grown up. I think I’m past that point too. I am a grown up, that’s a fact by now. It’s all about what kind of grown up I’m evolving into these days, and I guess it’s the kind who expects things in return. A fair treatment, a listening ear, a bit of effort, respect, all the things I’m willing to put in. It must mean I’m not selfless (any longer?), that I’ve got perfect-imprefections of my own. A vicious circle which will probably have me end up friendless, and then it won’t make any difference who’s napping when.

.

The deadliest bullshit is odourless and transparent.

William Gibson

I’ve always been the one to put up with jerks, which is probably why they’ve always thrived around me. Glad to report that for the foreseeable future, that’s no longer the case.

In other news, the very day I turned 30 a couple of weeks back, my first wisdom tooth started coming through. I happen to think that’s absolutely adorable.

Top of the Pile #20: Infinite Jest

OK, so this will very likely be my final Top of the Pile post, as I’ll surely be plodding through this ginormous book for the remainder of my life.

You think I’m exaggerating? Well then, you clearly haven’t heard all the scary stories about how only a minute fraction of those who embark on the Infinite Jest adventure survive, minds and limbs intact. I, for one, have countless friends who’ve admitted defeat at various stages throughout their 1,000+ pages long self imposed reading challenges, and only one who’s made it to the finished line. He, this person whom I now treat with the amount of reverence fit for a book reading god, admits he’s emerged out of it all scarred and bruised but also (how else?) a changed human being in more ways that one.

As for myself, I’ve been putting off even considering the possibility of ever intentionally touching Infinite Jest. I’ll admit it, I was intimidated. I was more than intimidated, I was certain I wasn’t smart enough for it. I had always suspected it, you know, that there would come a time and a book to confirm me I was nothing but a blonde, freckled, geek looking (oh the irony!) bimbo.

So this is it, my friends, the moment of truth. Will I fail or will I live to tell the story? Time will tell. For now, I’ve been officially reading Infinite Jest for about 6 days, and my Kindle says I’ve made it through 6% of it. Dare I predict it will take me 100 or so days to finish it at this rate? That’s not too bad, really, considering people around the world are doing this Infinite Summer thing, where they set aside an entire summer to read Infinite Jest together.

So I guess this summer will be my Infinite Summer. It was about time I embarked on something fashionably weird/insane. I’ll keep you posted (aka moan about it) throughout it all, and I swear I’ll try my very very best to make through to the end, like a self respecting, blonde, infinitely geeky bimbo.

*

I finished The Snow Queen last week after a 5k evening run (yup, still doing those, or more or less trying to survive one every other day).

If you’re after the short version, I didn’t find it as good as The Hours or Specimen Days.

I mean, it was all right (is that ever a good thing in a book review?).

It’s a story about things unseen. A higher power. A sign that everything will be OK, that one and one’s problems have been acknowledged, and there’s someone, something hard at work making sure everything turns out all right. All one needs to do is read the signs and wait.

I mean, it’s an interesting enough premise, I just wish it’d been a little more elaborated on in the book. Everything felt quite a bit unfinished, and though I guess it fits the theme, and you’re free to read into what’s not visible and pick our own signs, I wanted more detail. And the writing, though it’s beautiful, gave me the impression of “Hey, I can write a metaphor and you can’t! I can even do it on every other line! Look, no hands!”. No one ever likes that.

I don’t have any more Michael Cunningham works around and I’m surrounded by piles and piles of novels I’ve been meaning to read since forever, not even mentioning Infinite Jest looming in the background like a freaking book Godzilla for the next couple of months or who knows, so I don’t think I’ll be touching another Cunningham book for a while. I will leave you with a tiny Snow Queen quote though, it’s definitely a better way to end this post than I ever could come up with.

It’s hardly ever the destination we’ve been anticipating, is it? Our hopes may seem unrealized, but we were in all likelihood hoping for the wrong thing. Where did we – the species, that is – pick up that strange and perverse habit?

Happy reading!