We were 12, the girls and I. We’d squeezed together on a bench by the tracks. It was painted green and the paint was cracked, like all paints those days. The dust, brick red, and the runners advancing closely together, like they weren’t even competing. More like a group of equally vulnerable strangers fleeing en masse from some blockbuster natural disaster.

We had different colours. Patricia was the darkest. She was “fit”, they said, and turned their heads to watch her go when she walked down the halls in tight Lotus jeans and bright sleeveless tops. Everything looked bright on her skin.

Averything about Cristina was caramel themed. Her tan, her sweaters, her chapstick flavor. She was the brightest of our lot and knew it, she could figure out all the equations in record time and always had her hand up in class. Now she was dangling her feet and rubbing her left eye with a paper tissue. The dust was troubling her she said, but we knew. She’d started using mascara for a week or two and was still poking herself in the eye with the brush every morning. Patricia giggled, she didn’t need mascara, her eyelashes were as dark as they got.

We wouldn’t try it for another year, we’d decided, Iulia and I. She was untangling a piece of red string holding her keys together. Her fingers were long and pale, her nails unpolished. She was just right. She never yelled and never blushed and never said or did anything embarrassing, all the teachers liked her and all the boys loved her, even Patricia knew she was going to get all the marriage proposals in a couple of years, and she wasn’t even that fit, she was skinny and almost transparent and never managed to smile properly in any of our yearbook photos.

We’d been fighting. Almost like we were hating each other. And not even properly, out in the open honestly hating our guts but in secret, keeping our hates in our tiny pockets and tiny purses like lady fire arms, all shiny and new and toy like, but equally deadly. If only we could race it off, I thought. If only we did the running on the dusty track that day, not a bunch of sweaty high school boys who didn’t know we existed but who’d managed to get us out in the sun and together, peacefully together after so many spite filled episodes.

“We’re mean to each other.” – I whispered, swallowing loudly. There was hot dust in the air. Patricia was biting her tomato red fingernails, watching the race without blinking. The poplar trees were turning yellow in the sun. Several years later, they cut them all down and there was no place left to hide from everything.

Iulia was the first to get married. There’s a photo of the two of us on her wedding day, we’re both standing next to the men who loved us at the time, our backs straight and our curls perfect, and she’s smiling. Patricia had a son. He’s so amazing I bet all the pig-tailed girls in his kindergarten class think he’s fit. Cristina is an engineer. She is beautiful. She wears her hair shorter and her skin tanned and no makeup. I think she still keeps her hate in a pocket, and rubs it shiny with a soft cloth every time we meet. We seldom see each other. Things change after a race.

Iulia was tying the red string around her finger. “We’re only growing up.” – she said, just loud enough to be heard in the craziness that followed. Someone had won and was jumping around in a cloud of bloody dust, his fellow runners patting his back. Patricia leaped up screaming, clapping her tiny tomato painted hands. The paint was cracked. Some of the runners looked our way and smiled.

The Breast Pump Enigma

I have, in recent years at least, avoided looking my life in the eyes. I’ve settled for meaningless experiences and stagnated in this shameful state I dare call my existence. But that was the old me. The new me is brave, the new me knows there are better things ahead, the new me is ready to face the music.

Let’s hit the problem at its core.

I am a healthy, averagely pleasant, hardworking young woman in her late twenties, involved in a stable relationship, and yet a terrible disappointment to my family, my species, and supposedly myself: I haven’t got children. Even worse, humanity! I’m not even pregnant. Nor have I ever been, or ever tried to become. In fact, I must be one of those child-hating-witches fighting tooth and nail against my natural procreating calling and the integrity of the human race.

In my own defence, this hasn’t always been the case. As a child, my parents, relatives and Santa Claus regularly provided me with armies of dolls of various shapes and sizes I would mother until they lost their eyes, limbs, or were forgotten in the light of a new doll army invasion. As I grew, I moved my attention to classy Barbie dolls. It’s true, some of them did have amazing careers like brain surgeon or rocket scientist, but they also raised equally fashion aware sons and daughters. No one would have imagined I’d stray so far away from my Barbie role model as an adult.

But stray I did, and in a continuous state of denial too. Silly me, thinking the best time to have a child is when you consider it to be the best time. Nonsense! The best time is when people start posting photos of their ultrasounds on Facebook. That’s the sign that your generation’s procreation train is just about to leave the station, and you’d better jump on it or else. Or else?

You end up like me.

I recently attended my highschool reunion. In a twist of faith, or perhaps as anyone in their sane mind should have expected, all my highschool girlfriends had gotten married, divorced, remarried, and had had at least one baby each. Conversation around the dinner table touched on epidurals, nappies, breast pumps and, exclusively for my sake, London weather.

It was not a sad evening by any means (it’s always fun to learn new nappy related things!), but it got me thinking. Perhaps something really was wrong with me. Perhaps there really was a missing piece in my internal structure, otherwise why had I put this off for so long? Why was I not even curious what a breast pump looked like? Why did I not google it then and there, I’ve got a smartphone for crying out loud!

Let’s fast forward a bit to present day, when V. and I are house hunting and seriously preparing ourselves for some baby making business, and I still have no idea what a breast pump looks like. I’ve got a lot of other things on my mind for some reason. Fear, doubt, scary bouts of excitement. And a plan. It’s changed very little from the original one. The plan, I mean. It still touches on money, careers, a home to live in, a sense of self worth, trust, love, a baby friendly physical and mental state. Perhaps not the most romantic, natural baby making approach. But we are building real, living and breathing human beings here, are we not? I’d rather not do it by blindly rushing towards an invented finish line, breast pump or no breast pump at hand breast OK, I really need to google these darn things.

Childless in Toronto

We just got back from a two week trip to Canada. When I say we, I mean myself and my boyfriend V., and when I say Canada, I mean that crazy big place across the ocean where people are suspiciously polite and moose roam free whatever the season. Moose and nice people pretty much sums up all I knew about Canada. But that was about to change.

Now, seeing as we’re from dodgy Romania, the Canadian government has taken special precautions in case we decided to try and sneak into their country. I think it’s taken us about three months to get our tourist visas and it really was a time of fun and games. We trudged our way through the beautiful Canada Citizenship and Immigration website, where each and every click would explode into a million unexpected tragedies, we provided miles and miles of paperwork covering our travel-history-professional-history-bank-statements-family-backgrounds-letters-of-recommendation-and-other-things-I’ve-forgotten-about-as-they’ve-been-too-painful-I’m-sure, we survived a prolonged Canadian Immigration Office personnel strike and queueing in front of the Canadian Embassy on Canada’s National Holiday (Guess what. It was closed.), and then, countless episodes of despair later, our visas finally arrived.

In order for us to get these sexy visas, we also needed some Canadian residents to formally invite us over for a visit, and perhaps make sure they kicked us out of their Canadian home once our visas expired. In our case, it was a nice couple, friends of V’s parents, who invited us over and into their home on the outskirts of Toronto. We didn’t really know them so we were a bit worried we’d be stepping on each other’s toes, but as soon as we landed they pretty much adopted us. In fact, they then spent two weeks trying to convince us Canada was the place to move to, and now. Oh, and also that we needed to start having babies, pronto, or we’d end up like them, fifty and childless in this extraordinary child friendly country. (Moose? Child friendly? What do I know.) After a while I got used to my parenting prospects being discussed over diner, and decided one thing was certain. I wouldn’t be making babies then and there, so I might as well relax and have a look around me. It was my first time in Canada after all.

Toronto is a peculiar place. There’s not much heritage architecture to speak of, but there are more sky scrapers than I’ve seen in London’s Financial District. We had 30 degrees Celsius one day, then 10 degrees the next. The food is deep fried, chocolaty and maple syrupy, but people look annoyingly fit. You pretty much can’t get anywhere if you don’t drive.

We didn’t do much driving but we took the elevator to the top of CN Tower, we walked the parks, museums and shopping malls, we actually managed to get tickets for two TIFF movie premieres: Gravity (Sandra Bullock’s legs, über toned!!!) and Child’s Pose, a Romanian production previously awarded the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. People were queuing to see the movie stars for 8 hours in a row, but I’ve never been so dedicated myself. I did run into Dakota Fanning in the street one afternoon, but I didn’t say anything to her and only pointed her out to V. once she’d passed us by, something he still hasn’t forgiven me for.

We went to Niagara Falls, which was absolutely stunning. That is, if you ignore the kitschiness of Niagara town, one of the glitziest, noisiest and stickiest places I’ve ever seen.

Oh, and we stuffed ourselves. Maple syrup pancakes, beaver tails (don’t ask), deep fried bananas. I think we must have put on 15 pounds each, and we’re not even pregnant! Guess who’ll be eating spinach leaves three times a day for the rest of the year.

I doubt we’ll be moving to Canada any time soon. Not because we didn’t like it or because we’ll never in a million years manage to get another visa, but since I for one am having enough trouble getting my life sorted in London, and there aren’t as many culinary temptations here. Nor is it a particularly child friendly place either, not that it makes any difference. It seems I’m already too old and cynical for kids.

One thing I can say about Canadians is this. They are nice. One day I was walking along and stopped to get a pebble out of my shoe. Within half a second, a stranger came up to ask if I needed any help. Freaky nice people, I tell you.