Fifty Shades of You and Me

I haven’t been writing much lately.

As most hungers, it comes and goes, this typing-every-half-formed-thought-you-ever-have-for-strangers-to-jugde thing.

I’m hardly ever online these days, except when I’m in the office, of course, but then I’m so busy digging tunnels through something I like working on for once, that it never even crosses my mind that I might have stories to tell. Until recently, I often wrote through my lunch break, salad bowl dangerously close to the edge of my desk as I was balancing fork and mouse and keyboard and scratching my forehead for just the right word. Now I spend my lunches walking the streets, browsing tattered paperbacks in my favourite used book shops in Soho, or sharing terrace tables and starters with colleagues I’m slowly getting to know and let in on my secrets.

Then in the evening, if there’s no one to meet for dinner and nothing good playing in theaters, V and I gladly let ourselves sink into our quiet routine of home made food and a nice bottle of rosé, and before we know it it’s time for bed and the daily cocktail of hopes and fears for the future lulling us to sleep.

I’ve been reading The Goldfinch these days, and after wolfing my way through one of the first chapters where the main characters are caught in an explosion, I went to bed and dreamt that a bomb went off in the middle of Piccadilly Circus. I’d just gone out for lunch and was waiting at a red light on one of those streets so narrow and crowded with tourists that no one pays any attention to the flashes of red and green anymore, until one day I’m sure someone will get obliterated inches away from me, and I’ll just stand there, frozen, trying not to wonder if they carried family photos in their wallets or not. Anyway. I was waiting for the light to turn green, cautious and responsible as ever, even in my dreams, when there was a loud bang and the next thing I knew I was lying on my chest on the sidewalk, and someone heavy had been thrown partially on top of me, like an oversized backpack with a still, if haphazardly beating heart inside. I woke up and had to fight my way out of an entanglement of covers for what seemed like the longest time, V was breathing smoothly by my side, our bedroom walls were still standing and growing a soothing shade of gold as the sun was coming up, but I could still taste the dust and the terror.

We’re OK.

Most weekends we have guests or head for the City and dinners with people who can live with our bad jokes for an evening. Then sometimes we get in the car early in the morning, and cross the Channel for a proper coq au vin and crème brûlée, or drive to Peak District for a day of trekking and a night of sleeping in beds made by strangers. Some weekends we walk the streets of Cantebury, then the beaches of Eastbourne. Some Saturdays Carmen and I talk about our lives until three in the morning, in this strange language that doesn’t really belong to any of us but has somehow turned into just the right language for our strange friendship. Some Saturdays I write to C, long emails he replies to with even longer ones that I then read without breathing, my heart pounding, because it’s extraordinary how I’ve shared myself with this person for more than half my life, and though we’ve had our ups and downs and we’re now a continent apart, we’re still something. Something great.

Of course, V and I have our less than happy moments too these days.

We’re often very tired. He’s been miserable at work and looking for a job for a while. I’ve managed to hammer a tiny hole into one of our very visible living room walls, and it drives me crazy every time I see it. Just recently, we spent four and a half hours in the local emergency room on a Friday night. We still bicker about whose turn it is to unload the dishwasher. Our families have problems of their own, and we share in carrying the burden. Sometimes we worry. Well, we always worry. About pretty much everything. Growing up may just mean we’re ready to make our peace with that, and live our lives despite all the worrisome stuff.

So now I’m off to make us a late snack of leftover apple pie and icecream, just in time for an episode of Better Call Saul and whatever dreams of devastation or relief the rest of the night brings.

Happy Friday, everyone!

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