Fury

There are few people in my immediate social ecosystem I truly dislike.

I left one such person behind when I moved from Romania a few years back, and during that time, whatever negative feelings I’d had for them eventually faded into this colourless mix of mostly indifferent emotions. And I suddenly found myself in a good place socially speaking, no energy-draining animosities in the air. And it felt right.

Now, don’t think that I’ve gone out of my way to mess up my newly discovered universe of peace and sympathy, as I tend to mess up all good things in my life. This time, I most definitely did nothing wrong. Or not on purpose, anyway. And nonetheless, my disliking-people-is-so-paseé mantra is now itself a thing of the past.

Because these days, I’ve got someone new to dislike.

I’m not proud of it. And no, I’m not going to badmouth them on the interwebs or publish their Twitter handle for you equally spiteful people to poke fun at out of some deranged online solidarity. In fact, I haven’t and will not do anything about my animosity. I won’t be voicing my negative feelings towards them, I won’t be sending bad karma their way, I won’t be feverishly praying for the day of retribution. I’ll repress my emotions, like the responsible, perpetually unsatisfied adult I’ve grown into.

The other day I ran into this person in the street.

When someone’s mean to you, my Grandma used to say, just look at them. Look at them real close, and picture them smiling. You’ll realise they’re good people after all. Just good people having a bad day.

From a distance, I tried to imagine them smiling.

It didn’t really work, it was cold and getting dark and people were sliding in and out of the layers of air between us, and a smile would be nothing but a tiny horizontal line from where I was standing anyway.

It pains me that I’ve allowed a human being to make me not like them so much. It’s not a fading feeling either, or not yet anyway. It’s strong. You’d think you could squeeze it out of me and pour it in a cup, a thick, poisonous looking juice.

I gave up picturing smiles and walked into a nearby grocery store. I took my glove off to squeeze a mango, its skin stamped with the name of a country V and I were looking at visiting just the other week. I smiled. I settled on a baguette, pears and two bunches of daffodil buds. The clerk wrapped the flowers in Christmas themed paper. Too keep them warm until you get home, she said, and we smiled. I didn’t even have to imagine it, like Grandma had said. Some people, you could tell they were good without any tricks. I walked home and put the daffodils in a vase on the dressing table.

Someone once told me yellow is the colour of courage.

When I got back from work last night, none of the buds had opened yet and I worried they’d died. I cooked us dinner, did my accounting, read a little. As I was getting ready for bed some hours later, I noticed two of the flowers had opened. And not just a little, but fully bloomed and yelling their yellows like war cries. Had I been paying more attention, I’d have heard the petals part, I just knew it, and the thought that I’d missed it made me unbearably sad.

I suspect they’re not just having a bad day, this new person in my life. A bad day doesn’t do that to you, I wouldn’t think. They might be having a bad few days though, a bad few months, a year. A bad slice of life, and that might explain them being the way they are. I wish I knew what to do with this revelation, but somehow, even after all these years of playing the people game, it feels like the rules are changing all the time.

I’m off to hug someone now. They tend to smile when you do that.

Don’t Look Up The Sky Is Falling

It’s really cold and I don’t feel like walking the streets.

“Winter feels longer every year”, my mother used to say when I was growing up.

I didn’t understand, what with endless talks of global warming and my permanent lust for snow and a million layers of fabric worn one on top of the other.

Everything about winter, I loved. The crisp smell of ice in the air, the sound of my steps down the arch bridge linking our neighbourhood to the rest of town. Frozen waters underneath, ripples glistening dangerously as far as you could see, from up in the mountains at the mouth of the dam where I’d first tasted fear, and down towards lands unknown, closer to the heart of the country, where all my dreams of setting off on my own ended up taking me back then.

I recently saw some photos of Windsor during the big freeze of ’63. People cycling along a frozen river Thames, blurry arch bridge in the distance, and my first thought was of home and the winters I’d never felt lasted long enough.

These days, it’s really cold.

I’ve been falling ill every other week, killing myself at work, not getting enough sleep, struggling with potentially life altering decisions, and wishing, fervently wishing for this winter to end.

And what this means, I think, is that I’ve outgrown it, my winter love affair. Like I’ve eventually outgrown my end-of-the-world high school crush, and voila, I just might be ready now for a serious, responsible relationship with a less destructive season.

In other news, I have no clue what to do with myself.

I spend my days collecting people’s questions about my present architecture and my plans for the future. Where I see my career going, what makes me happy, what makes me sad, when we’re planning our first kid. They pile up, these wh-word centred topics, and I study them from a distance, breathing in and out at just the right pace, like everything’s absolutely normal and on the inside, I’ve got mountains of perfectly composed answers for everything.

But the truth is, I’m terrified.

I go to this office, I sit in this chair. I type words on this screen, and you know what? I don’t know where my career is going. Or if there’s a career to speak of. Or if it isn’t just a way of filling my days in between insomnias, because there’s plenty of hours out there and what else is a normal person to do but do something, anything with them.

I’m always happy and I’m always sad and that’s probably wrong in so many ways but I can’t help it, because I’ve made mistakes and I’ve made good choices, I’ve wanted things I never got and I’ve gotten things I didn’t know I wanted, and this is what life’s always been for me, a big mess of good and bad I’ve never managed to sort through.

There’s nothing stopping us from trying for a baby these days.

I put it off, ME.

I pluck the thought out of my mind, digging for the roots, burning every stray seed, until there’s no trace left. For a while, at least. And you know why? Because I’m afraid. Terrified, really. I mean, I’m a mess, but I’m also at least somewhat aware of how much of a mess I am, and I realise that adding a baby to the mix is probably not the best idea. So I wait. For what, I don’t know. The smoke to clear, the season to change, something, anything.

Forgive me, today hasn’t been a good day.

We Have No Past

I bought a cactus today.

No bigger than a lime fruit, and barely rooted into a spoonful of  compost and what looks like a plastic shot glass. But now that I’ve temporarily made room for it among the piles and piles of crap on my desk, I find myself glancing at it and feeling plain old happy. And I’m glad I’ve reached this point where I need so little to brighten up my day. It must mean it’s not too dim to begin with.

Meanwhile, it rains. It rains and rains and I don’t mind it, despite it meaning it doesn’t feel like winter yet. On the inside, winter’s already here, and I’m slowly trying to find my bearings, as always slightly overwhelmed but secretly giddy with excitement.

I miss C.

Autumn has always been our season, and when I find myself thinking of him most often, but this year autumn’s been such a mess that I didn’t get my chance. So now he’s sipping into my winter, my darling friend C and the version of myself I was when I knew him.

It’s strange, how I imagined I’d grow out of it. Troubled friendships, a million little dramas, forgetting, misunderstanding in every possible way, acting up, giving up. I thought as an adult, things would be simple. People would just get along. We’d be too busy working at piling up our extraordinary futures to waste even a second of our precious time doubting and hurting one another.

And now, life is not a line. Or mine isn’t. It wriggles and spirals and I find myself revisiting mistakes and feelings I thought I’d outgrown, when really, I’m not too old or too wise for anything.

C would take photos of everything. This was before the time of digital cameras, when my parents kept our old Leica M3 in a green shoe box behind a rack of suits and raincoats, and we only took it out once a year, on the eve of our seaside trip, when Dad would spend the evening dusting and polishing it to perfection, then placing it in its leather holder, a soft folded towel and on the bottom of his most trusted suitcase, safe from bumps and scratches and stray fingerprints.

But C, he had a camera of his own.

There must be tens of thousands of photos of me on these discs. Years of focusing, zooming and clicking, printing, then later scanning every print to write on CDs, some of which I’m sure I’ve misplaced in time and still, I’m left with enough to browse through for days. For an entire winter maybe, no sleep, no drinks, no liking Facebook statuses, just breathing in and out and staring into our past.

There’s a closeup under very bright lights, my cheek covered in cake frosting. A friend’s 18th birthday party and I’m sheepishly smiling, trying to pick icing out of my eyelashes, someone’s hand resting on my shoulder. Then I’ve got my back to the camera, looking towards the sea, my hair tangled in a messy knot, footprints in the sand. I’m in our classroom, sitting at a desk, going through a stack of crumpled papers. In the park, leaning against a bench, friends kicking a balled up t-shirt down the alley in front of me.

A few are of the two of us together. You can tell they’re not taken by the same hand, and that we’re aware of the lens being there. We look right into it, shoulders straight, hardly aware of one another. We’re children. Sure, I’m wearing mascara, he’s cleanly shaved, but we’re clearly new at this game we’re playing. We’ve lived through what we’re certain must be the most difficult times of our lives, and together. We’ve shared fears and secrets, and now we wait. For things to fall into place, I suppose. Backs straight! Say cheese! Click.

I like this story. I think about it, not just in autumn. I loved this person. There was once a person I loved, and there’s mountains of photographic proof of it. A cinema adapted version of this narrative would have us walk into the sunset together in the end. Perfectly happy, slowly blending into the background, and you’d know we’d be just fine.

In real life though, things sometimes fall into place in unexpected, new patterns.

*

Plans of carrying my baby cactus home during rush hour crazies suddenly break my train of thought. I find myself drifting to other subjects, present and of little consequence. Like what pot I’m going to transfer the poor thing into. What ledge I’ll be placing it on. Our badminton game tonight, the first in many months, and the prospect of sleeping at last, rain falling against our windows, a favored pastime these days.

It’s meant to be Wordless Wednesday today, and I smile. Another pattern broken.

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!

I Feel So Close To You Right Now…

…it’s a force field.

This is how I remember it. The two of us, leaning against the railing by Niagara river. Not in front of the falls, where countless digital cameras click and flash in the mist. The best view is from above, they said. So we walked along the touristy path to the very top, nothing there but a deserted bus stop and the Canadian flag fluttering in the wind.

The cliff breaks without warning, a slice of bread one’s taken big a bite of. I look down. Towards the edge, the waters run shallow. Turquoise blue, one of those artificial shades you sometimes see in hotel swimming pools. The bottom seems close, like you could almost touch the pebbles. But there aren’t any. The river takes everything with it in its fall, and the bottom is bare, like a wall, or the inside of a cereal bowl.

Your love pours down on me, surrounds me like a waterfall

This is it, I think to myself. We’ll be telling stories about this. Even if we break up and swear not to think or feel of one another again, we’ll always have this to think and feel about. A memory of falling waters, handcuffing us to each other for the rest of time.

I wear my heart upon my sleeve, like a big deal.

All my life I’ve been afraid of water. I don’t even remember why anymore, if ever there was a reason. It’s the fear I remember. Its different shades, its moments of particular terror. I’m anchored to the railing, both hands holding tight. It barely reaches my waist. It would take no effort to climb to the top and jump. Or reach too far and lose balance. Stupidly brave, I smile.

And there’s no stopping us right now.