Art of Conversation

Ten years ago today, I’d just finished my first year at Uni and was traveling back to my hometown for a couple of weeks of sipping iced drinks by the local pool.

My main worries those days had to do with how perfectly straight my eyeliner marked my upper eyelid, and intricate plans of accidentally running into this guy I’d had a crush on for years.

I’d wear cropped shorts and roller blades and my hair down my back, and skate up and down his street and sometimes we’d meet and chat for a while, about people we knew, and places we’d go, and how this-town-was-so-small-we-always-ran-into-each-other-it-was-just-crazy. Then he’d go wherever he was going and I’d skate away as fast and gracefully as I could, never allowing myself to look back, afraid of course to discover he wasn’t looking back himself.

Things were different those days. Simpler, I’d say now, but in many ways I’d be mistaken.

I wore a gem-less, square looking silver ring on my right hand and had just pierced my left ear a second time.

I wasn’t entirely happy, not 100% of the time, but there was no Facebook yet, and no chance to endlessly ponder over other people’s happiness, so it wasn’t that bad.

*

Nowadays, I could paint my eyelids perfectly within seconds, while riding a unicycle and juggling a book on the top of my head at the same time.

I never purposefully run into anyone and I rarely ever look at people’s faces on the street anyway, so the truest of true loves may very well walk me by and I’ll never know it.

I’ve redefined it all to myself anyway, things like love, fate, meaning, distance, happiness. Things are simpler now, in many ways, and then in many ways they’re not.

I wear a gold, single stone ring on my left hand, picked for me by a man with fingers unused to handling such dainty ornaments. Sometimes I’ve still got two earrings in my left ear, but most times I settle for only one, so my piercing is slowly closing up.

I’m still not entirely happy, not 100% of the time, but I’m rarely ever on Facebook, so it’s not that bad.

*

I’ve had a friend from high school visiting a couple of weeks back.

We weren’t particularly close in school, but once we moved to Uni, we made it a habit of meeting every couple of months or so to catch up on things. We’d go out for tea at this fancy place in the city centre, where they played jazz and had real tulips and roses on the tables. We’d talk about common friends and business ideas. It was never awkward, there was always some new love affair to gossip about, an inner joke or a tiny tragedy to debate over.

These days, we walk the streets of London together, along our other halves.

We talk about our jobs, but only for a little while, because we’ve professionally drifted more and more apart and we can’t pretend we find each other’s careers even remotely interesting anymore. Our common acquaintances provide even less subjects of conversation. They’ve all gotten hired, married, pregnant, things that are not interesting nor outrageous enough to excite us.

We no longer dream of extraordinary business ventures. Instead, we discover we don’t watch the same movies, read the same books or get the same jokes.

We find that sometimes, when I ask about Romania, I sound somewhat superior, arrogant, though it’s never my intention. We find that whenever he asks about London, all he wants to hear is how much money I make, then decide whether I’m worthy of that or I’ve just been lucky to be an averagely attractive, exotic woman in a male dominated industry.

We end up choosing sides we’re comfortable in, me talking to his girlfriend about this season’s fashion trends and him asking V about the specs of our car. London unfolds its streets and skies around us, but no one pays any attention: we’re busy yapping about animal print loafers and miles per gallon.

– It’s not my kind of thing, he says as we stroll along a path in the Hampton Court Palace gardens. Everything is too clean, too perfectly aligned. It’s unnatural.

I look around. The trees are cut into perfect, leafy umbrellas. The flower patches are perfectly square, their colours bright. The statues are milky white, muscular, the grass green. Even the baby swans, fluffy gray and unsteady looking on their brand new feet, are slowly on their way to immaculate perfection. The only imperfect thing in this place is what our friendship-not-friendship has grown into, and I feel guilty.

– I don’t think they liked it here, I say to V as we’re heading home in the evening, our guests safely on their way back.

– Weren’t much into any of our jokes. Never laughed.

– They should have said something, we can be super serious people if we put our heads to it.

– Nah, they need to get used to a bit of fun.

But the thing is, they used to be. Fun. We used to laugh our heads off whenever we met. There must have been different jokes, I imagine, or maybe there simply were more things to joke about those days. I mean, I used to wear cropped shorts, for one thing. That must have been hilarious. And I regularly fell for random guys who didn’t know my name. Ridiculous, right? I had no career, no life insurance, no resistance to alcohol. Fun, fun, fun.

It’s been the leitmotif of these last couple of months: connecting, disconnecting and reconnecting with people. Or it may just be one of those themes I always seem to turn to when there’s little to write about. Funny, really, what this place has turned into when I wasn’t looking, have you noticed? Less of a proper, characters-plots-settings story, and more of a fragmented, internal geography not even I find particularly interesting to look at most times. I keep at it though, perhaps because I crave for constant, reliable things, while everywhere around me, everything and everyone is evolving in relation to everything and everyone else.

In other news, I’m shopping for a sofa. It needs to be nothing less than perfect. Not Hampton-Court-Palace perfect, but perfect nonetheless. You think human friendships are tricky to deal with? Try finding a sofa you can see yourself building your perfect little life around for God knows how many years to come!

On My Nightstand

Infinite Jest CoverDavid Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

So yeah. I’ve been reading this beauty since early June, and I’m slowly, oh so very slowly approaching the end of its first third. My snail paced progress is not entirely Wallace’s fault, as tricky a read as he may be. I mainly blame the fact that this summer of mine has been a summer of many things, but not a particularly bookish one. I’ve traveled, house hunted, sleepwalked, been ill, busy, mad at people, and done very little to no reading throughout.

There’s still quite a bit of traveling and hunting of various kinds in my near future, but I’m also more determined than ever to get back in reading shape, and proving Wallace who’s boss is my main priority right now.

Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan CoverLuke Syson, Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan

I’ve had this one on my nightstand since January 2012 (I know!), when together with V and two of my lovely geeky colleagues at the time we managed to get tickets for the Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan exhibition at The National Gallery.

I bought it in the shop on our way out, and I’ll admit I was lying when I said it’s been on my nightstand for two and a half years, what with it really being twice the size of my nightstand. So in fact it’s been gathering dust on my Art shelf (yup, I’ve got an Art shelf, geek jokes are welcomed) and I’ve been reading a couple of pages at a time in the evenings until, well, until I pretty much forgot about it.

I’ve now brought it back into our bedroom, determined to no longer ignore it for years and finally finish it once and for all. It still doesn’t fit the top of my nightstand, so it’s lying on the floor by the bed at the moment, much to V’s daily outrage of course, who’s not once threatened divorce upon stumbling over my floor scattered reading paraphernalia.

Aimless Love CoverBilly Collins, Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems

I bought this in April on an impulse Waterstone’s shopping spree, and it’s the only poetry collection I’ve been constantly reading since. I never push myself when it comes to poetry, so I’ve been taking my time with Aimless Love as well, reading a poem every couple of days or so. But it’s been quite a while now, not to mention that I’ve got about a dozen poetry volumes on my reading list at the moment, so it’s time I finished Aimless Love already and made room for new stuff next to my bedside lamp.

On Writing CoverStephen King, On Writing

This is a new one. V only brought it home on Friday, as the final item in my latest Creative Writing themed Amazon order. Coincidentally I’ve been buying a lot of books dealing with writing techniques lately. I’m not some undercover writer-to-be, geeking out during the day and studying the scribbling craft on the side into the night hours. But I’ve been listening to some Literature podcasts these days and several Creative Writing book recommendations popped up there that I happened to find interesting myself after a bit of research.

Stephen King’s On Writing is probably the most accessible of the Writing related volumes I’ve recently bought, hence why I picked it first, as I was feeling like I could really use a break from Infinite Jest yesterday after work. It’s true, I was so tired that I fell asleep after less than 15 pages, at 8PM and for more than 3 hours, which says tons about how messed up my life is these days.

That’s it as far as my nightstand goes these days, book-wise at least, as I must admit said nightstand also sports a mountainous mess of tangled phone chargers, lipsticks, vitamin pill bottles and hair pins. But hey, who’s got time to tidy up the flat when you’ve got so many awesome books to read.

What are you lovely people reading these days? Have you been struggling with anything for what feels like an infinite amount of time, or are your nightstands perfectly organized and you summer reading on track?

Poem to Start the Week #9: With Only One Life

Hold with both hands
The tray of every day
And pass in turn
Along this counter.

There is enough sun
For everybody.
There is enough sky,
And there is moon enough.

The earth gives off the smell
Of luck, of happiness, of glory,
Which tickles your nostrils
Temptingly.

So don’t be miserly,
Live after your own heart.
The prices are derisory.

For instance, with only one life
You can acquire
The most beautiful woman,
Plus a biscuit.

 

Marin Sorescu

Infinite Jest Progress: Page 194

That sometimes human beings have to just sit in one place and, like, hurt. That you will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do. That there is such a thing as raw, unalloyed, agendaless kindness. That it is possible to fall asleep during an anxiety attack. That concentrating on anything is very hard work.

David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

Wet Is the New Black. Oh, And Other Slogan Worthy Personal Tragedies

Things I do these days, in between seducing teenage vampires and saving the world from zombies:

Sweating.

It’s been so hot in London these past couple of weeks, it’s almost felt like proper summer.

Of course, you know me, I’ve been moaning about the weather ever since I acknowledged the reality of several degrees of wetness, each infinitely sucky in its own way in this country. And yes, believe it or not, I’m used to 40°C summers and I’ve never been one to complain about too much sun, but have you tried making it through a 40 minute ride on the London Tube when it’s 28°C outside and what feels like at least twice that under ground?

No, of course there’s no A/C on the tube, are you kidding me? A/C would be for people who don’t enjoy being treated like cattle on their otherwise perfectly lovely 3 hours long daily commute. Suckers.

Today’s Londoners highly appreciate the impromptu sauna-with-strangers sessions. Who cares if you make it to the office in the morning drenched in what must be a gallon of other people’s sweat? Hydration’s meant to be good for the skin, right? And so what if your fellow commuters, feverish and delirious, drop like flies around you until you’re the only one left standing, and you’re too exhausted to press the emergency button (which between you and me, has probably melted into the carriage wall and won’t do sh*t anyway).

So yeah, it’s been hell. But I mean, you can’t really say you’ve lived until you’ve been sweat on by a minimum of three individuals simultaneously, so at least I’ve got that going for me which is nice.

Waiting.

Now, I’ve always thought of myself as a patient person. I’ve been known to take pride in the fact that I could amuse myself perfectly fine in any worldly situation. There’s always something interesting on my Kindle or on other people’s Facebooks to look at, and anyway, you can spend ages imagining yourself telling your fellow queuers/waiting room losers/super-duper-quality-music-on-hold what your really think of them and would never dare say out loud. So you know, it’s not so bad, this waiting thing.

Except lately, it’s all I’ve been doing. I spend my hours, 24/7, waiting and waiting and waiting and then waiting some more. I wait for my accountant, for my bank, for my doctor, for sleep, for the BBC weather app to actually get it right once, just once damn it. I wait in train stations, in coffee shops, on the phone, while I’m being sweat on, while I’m being ignored, while I’m being served steaming hot, delicious, double-portions of bulsh*t.

And you know what, all this endless waiting is apparently turning me into, guess what, a monster.

The other day I actually said YES to a nice lady solicitor who asked me whether I minded being put on hold for a couple of minutes. And it wasn’t one of those “Yes, I’m terribly sorry to be a pain. I usually luuuuurve waiting but I’m performing open heart surgery at this very moment so I’m in a bit of a rush you see”. Nope. It was more like: “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking to waste my time, I can tell you I don’t have any. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you connect me now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”. Did everybody get my Liam Neeson reference? Good. I wasn’t sure we were into the same memes.

Hiding.

I wouldn’t say I’ve been particularly people friendly these past couple of years, but lately it’s reached this point where most people who know me assume I must have died a tragic, sudden death (Death by tube carriage steam cooking? There’s actually a nice sound to that, go figure.)

Long story short, I think I just need to be alone for a while. Or almost alone, because I’ve still got a couple of people I more or less hang out with. (A couple as in literally, two. OK, just one. And sometimes even that one’s imaginary.) It’s not too bad, really. I’ve been reading a lot, my flat’s squeaky clean all day every day and I’ve been walking the streets like crazy, 12,000 super duper fit steps a day, ever determined to get my catwalk figure back as soon as possible.

I’ll admit it, at times I get worried.

Like when E, one of my girlfriends from Uni who recently moved to London got in touch to meet up. I came up with what must be the world record for how many excuses you can fit in one text. So a couple of messages back and forth and she pretty much broke up with me before we even had our first date. Then a few days later, my friend R passed the link to my blog to a couple of her girlfriends, and when I found out about it I almost had a panic attack that they’d end up liking it and wanting to make friends. And the cherry on the top happened a couple of days ago, when I was reading about cat breeds online. We’ve been discussing getting a cat for a while, and I found myself looking not for the most playful/intelligent/flat-friendly breeds out there, but for the most famously unfriendly/shy/quiet/could-easily-pass-for-a-stuffed-toy ones.

Scary, I know. I should probably stick to potted, low maintenance (plastic?) plants for now.

In the meantime, I’m…

Loving this city.

London Street

Saturday

PS: Thank you so much for all your lovely messages while my blog’s been down. Panic attacks and all, I read each and every one of them and felt like a million bucks/pounds/bitcoins! You’re pretty great, if I say so myself.