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!

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