This Side Up

I’m entangled in other people’s tragedies these days.

I know I’ve changed when I see how differently I look at my loved ones’ problems now. I’m not as easily shaken as I used to be, which isn’t to say that I don’t care. I do. And as much as I care, I don’t try to fix everything. I guess somewhere along the way, I’ve accepted the fact that not all things can be fixed, and even if they can, I’m not always the right person to do it.

It does frightens me, the thought that there will always be someone dear who will have their heart broken, their life threatened, their foundations shaken. That at times, that someone will be me. And then I remember I used to know a girl who believed pouring a ring of salt around something that frightened you would keep you safe from it. I do wonder how that’s been working out for her, yet I’m never tempted to stock on salt packets when I leave home in the morning. My salty rings wouldn’t last long in London weather anyway, I sigh.

*

As I listen and comfort, at times offering my thoughts but mostly just cookies and hot cocoa, we’re also slowly settling into life in our new home.

V has pretty much taken to our fresh surroundings like a duck to water, and has even started to carelessly leave his stuff around the place, most often on surfaces I’m determined to keep absolutely sterile, never mind clutter free.

As for me, I’m going through continuous transformation. These days, for instance, it’s potted plant insanity phase. I’m hoarding orchids, peace lilies and begonias like there’s no tomorrow, so much so that I had to order a new set of nested side tables just to accommodate a few stray, leafy terracotta pots. And I haven’t even started on the living room balcony, which I predict will turn into a bit of a rainforest soon enough.

In other nesting news, we’ve gotten ourselves the safest door and locks combo we could afford, ever traumatized by our break-in adventure at our old place. I lock up at night and can’t help feeling like we’re going to bed in a super cozy, air tight safety box, a thought I’m enjoying more than you could possibly imagine. I’ve also finally managed to buy a couple of wine glasses, after our movers mysteriously smashed most of our glassware a few weeks back. Then, obviously going through a new-home-new-drinking-habits phase, I splurged on a little army of whiskey and shot glasses too. Oh, and the most expensive set of kitchen knives I’ve ever owned. So expensive that I haven’t dared use them yet but hey, I predict a future built on mountains and mountains of perfectly sliced tequila lemon wedges!

I’m still quite tired but I’m slowly getting myself used to not yawning my way through the day and not having to sink my head in a bucket of coffee in the morning just to be able to form multisyllabic words. I call that progress.

Incredible what a proper bed can do for your ability to function like a human again. It’s worked so well thus far that yesterday a cashier in our local grocery shop asked for my ID. I was buying chicken drumsticks and a couple of bottles of wine (what else?), and I looked at her in such surprise, eyes blank and mouth half open, that she must have thought she’d caught me red handed, and snapped at me.

Proof! Of! Age!

I handed her my driving license and laughed what must have looked like the most psychotic of laughs, because I’m thirty and soon enough no one will care to ask, but for now, I feel like a freaking supermodel. And one who can legally drink, what more can I wish for!

It’s the weekend again and, they say, our final days of Indian Summer around here. Tonight’s our movie night, Nightcrawler and a toddler sized bucket of buttered popcorn at the neighborhood cinema. They’ll be delivering my nested tables in the morning, so my collection of begonias will finally migrate to higher grounds. Then we’re off to either Eton for a day out visiting the colleges and local shops, or to walk about London and settle for one of the many bonfires of the evening. Sunday is stay-at-home-and-figure-out-where-you’ll-be-cramming-the-half-dozen-white-orchids-you-simply-must-have day. Then, November again, and thoughts of winter. Freshly baked cookies and people’s hands to hold. Oh, and shopping for a job soon, a super duper exciting and frightening prospect after I’ve been stuck in the same place for so long.

But for now, a last pumpkin muffin bite, then off to the train station and the daily slice of Bleak House. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Tectonic Plates

Things are beginning to settle.

I wait for a while, fingers resting on the keyboard, letting the words sink in. Beginning to settle. Things are. 

It’s taken me a long time to identify it, this unfamiliar feeling of everything eventually falling into place, and to realize it’s not something to be afraid of. And now I am, I guess, at peace. I never saw it coming.

I took Friday off to wait for our furniture deliveries. As it always seems to happen when I plan things in advance, I overslept and woke up panicked I’d missed the mattress people, the thought of yet another night on a blow up bed bringing tears to my eyes.

London traffic finally on my side, they were an hour or so late, plenty of time to brew a cup of coffee and tinker with the remote control. I’ve been working in Broadcasting for years now but this is our first TV set since we moved to London, and I’m pushing myself to turn it on every once in a while, if only to then numbly stare at it for a few minutes’ worth of commercials, just enjoying the fact that it’s ours.

It’s what will be defining our relationship for a while now, I think. A collection of objects we jointly own, under a roof we bought together. Our mattress. Our remote control. Our kitchen sink. It does make one feel a bit profane, this living-life-permanently-high-on-furniture-shopping-euphoria, but I’ve decided to just embrace it, like I have all embarrassing phases we’ve gone through so far.

Our mattress, by the way, is a thing of wonder.

The delivery guys eventually squeezed it through the narrow hallway, fitted it into the bed frame, tore the plastic wrapper off and there it was, an island of white in the middle of a room I still wake up confused in, before I remember it’s ours, really ours, and grin to the ceiling like a silly weirdo.

Hours later, the bed was made, the shelves were freshly waxed and filled with books, and I was again sitting in front of the TV screen, watching people cook dinner for strangers for a thousand pounds prize. There’s little left to worry about. Our guest bedroom is still sporting the one-table-lamp-and-no-other-furniture-to-speak-of look, but I’m keeping it that way on purpose, the thought of a decorating project at hand whenever I’m feeling down making me feel all tingly inside. Because apart from that little room, everywhere else is liveable, guest friendly, and slowly becoming beautiful. My work is done, or more done than not, and contrary to what you’d normally expect from me, that doesn’t sadden me in the least.

I’ll admit it, it’s strange, not having things to stress about. It takes practice, being carefree, and I sometimes find myself looking for things to fix or worry over, just to get that familiar high back. It only lasts a minute or two, and then I’m back to my peaceful, happy, I guess, state of affairs.

So don’t say I didn’t warn you: my life these days, it’s pretty boring.

We spend most nights in, making friends with our kitchen appliances, setting and clearing our dinner table, then bumping our controllers into one another as we shoot zombies, aliens and each other on our new TV. Hardly blogging material, I know. But things, if of little consequence, are happening.

London feels like spring and for the first time ever this time of year, I don’t crave for Romania’s snows. Instead, I put on a skirt and stuff my scarf in my handbag. I don’t read much, I don’t talk much, I don’t listen to music. It’s quiet and it smells like something you can’t really pinpoint, something good.

We’re meeting in Waterloo Station tonight, to test a game V’s been working on live on the big screens. Games and dinner in the city on a Monday night, what else can a girl wish for. Well, pumpkins. V doesn’t know it, of course, but I plan to drag him into a Tesco on our way back, to buy some carving pumpkins. This weekend, there will be bowls of candy on our coffee table. We’ve got lots of children in the neighborhood and are expecting Trick-or-Treaters, an exciting and somewhat scary first for us strangers to Halloween. Then, there’s a house-warming party in the making. And plans to drive to a nearby Christmas fair one of these weekends. And that’s it, that’s really it because finally, things are beginning to settle.

Marked

So last week we had a Romanian friend, Alex, over for a few days. The weather being its regular nasty October self, we spent most of the time eating, drinking and gossiping about each and every one of our common acquaintances. One night though, we decided to go completely wild and bake a pumpkin.

Nope, it’s not a codename for some crazy Romanian party game.

It really is just the act of baking and subsequently stuffing yourself with one of those orange, oversized vegetables (is it?), much more suited for carving goofy smiles into. With Halloween just around the corner these days, there are mountains of pumpkins everywhere, and our pumpkin aficionado friend decided it was a pumpkin and only a pumpkin the success of his trip to London depended on.

Now, I am a lot of surprising things, but sadly not a pumpkin expert. So I left the task of picking the object of our sudden craving to the men of the gang. And pick it they did. The fattest most brightly orange pumpkin in our local Tesco shop. The night could really start now.

Once home, I reluctantly offered to carve it up, and after getting myself covered in pumpkin guts up to my eyebrows, it was finally oven time. I must admit I only just recently figured out how to turn the oven on (it used to be exclusively V’s job, as he was convinced I’d start a new Great Fire of London. Psycho!), so when Alex insisted he would not settle for anything less than “sexy crunchy”, I was a bit worried. But after what felt like several hours, by which time our kitchen was hotter than the hinges of hell, he finally gave his blessing and agreed we should take the carbonised thing out of the oven. Now, of course I put not one, but two oven mitts on, just to be safe. And of course I superiorly smirked at V. and Alex’s don’t-burn-your-click-finger-don’t-burn-your-click-finger. Then of course I managed to slam the edge of the hot tray into my bare shoulder,  burning myself to the point of tears.

It wouldn’t have been so bad, but I used to be perfect, you know.

Remember how in stories, the superficial prince, emperor or sultan only accepts a girl with perfect-milk-white-no-marks-whatsoever-skin as his bride? Well, I was that girl. I had zero scars. Zilch. My skin was truly a thing of wonder, and now, the two identical beauty spots on my shoulder, and my newly acquired bloody scar, form this Halloweeny looking smiley face reminding me of Heath Ledger’s Joker.

Yes, laugh all you want, I suppose it is indeed funny how I’m suddenly very much like all those people regretting their drunken tattoos. I must have been drunk on pumpkin gut juice.

And speaking of pumpkin guts, the moral of the story is this: there are sugar pumpkins, which are really sweet and tasty and people carefully bake in their ovens, rarely mutilating themselves in the process, and then there are carving pumpkins, which people carve for Halloween and never bake, as they taste like something died in your mouth. Guess which kind of pumpkin we’d bought?

As I was stuffing our kitchen bin with industrial quantities of hot orange mush, my new shoulder buddy was smiling its annoyingly innocent smile.