We’ve got no coffee left and my wisdom tooth feels like it’s been growing into a tree overnight, but we’ve woken up to the promise of a road trip this morning, and that makes me so happy that you could cut my happiness into pieces and there’d be enough to feed all of you.
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.
I once read something about this airport, where on New Year’s Eve they auctioned off the mountain of unclaimed suitcases they’d collected over the year.
People would gather in one of their plastic surfaced waiting areas, chatty and perfectly composed, sipping champagne out of plastic flutes, resting their evening wear in lively coloured plastic chairs, inspecting each and every suitcase with expert eyes, as they were making their way down the plasticky baggage carousel.
Nothing was opened. You’d bid based on the shine of the leather, the agglomeration of scratches scarring the fabric, the amount of care original owners had taken to make their luggage stand out. Bright ribbons, stickers, “Put it back, it’s mine!” tags. Eventually you’d pick one and take it home with you, a piece of someone else’s life you’d have to break open with a dangerous tool, a screw driver or a heavy chisel, as family and friends cheered you on, champagne bubbles in the air.
I’ve been unpacking for days.
There’s little element of surprise, as I’d labeled every box in so much detail that they might as well all be transparent or each come with attached Excel inventory lists several pages long.
But there’s something absolutely delicious in unwrapping and introducing each and every trinket you’ve ever owned to your new home.
“Here, this is where you’ll be sitting. A comfortable enough little surface, don’t you think? There’s natural light, plenty of other trinkets to make friends with and a bird’s eye view of the living room.”
I repeat the ritual with every object I unpack, working at getting myself used to the new state of things. This is our living room. This is where we’ll be sitting. This light, it’s ours.
Who knew happiness, very much like heartbreak, takes time getting used to. I sit on a cushion on our living room floor, listening. We haven’t got a sofa yet, a proper mattress, shelves for my books.
Our happiness though, it’s growing leaves and flowers.
1. Bitter and sweet at the same time
2. Producing or expressing a mixture of pain and pleasure
It’s strange how you can put a number on pretty much everything after all.
Layers we’ve worn, objects we’ve touched, things we figured we’d need one day but never did.
It took me six days to pack them all, physical traces we’ve left since we moved to this country, and once I was done and our living room became a a scale model of a cardboard sky-scraper-ed city I barely managed to Gulliver my way through from one surface to the next, well, I squeezed into an armchair and looked at it. A mountain of things wrapped to survive an Armageddon. I wished we could just drop them by the curb after midnight, and set on our way attachment free, hands in pockets and all. We’d keep our pockets, I decided. They’d come in handy when we started collecting new things.
We moved everything into storage instead. A few nights in a row, back and forth to a box infested, yellow painted hangar. We did it after dark, what with our so called lives keeping us busy until late, and it felt like an adventure of sorts, finding our way along the yellow, deserted corridors, burdened by boxes and armed with nothing but flashlights and the key to our lock.
And then last night we drove back to an empty apartment. No cardboard metropolis, no trace of life, and it suddenly felt like something was ending.
Sometimes I’m truly terrified of how you can’t really un-erase anything.
I find comfort in mistakes crossed out with a million crooked lines. I don’t care if it messes up the page, or that people will figure out I’m not perfect. I want to see them there. To draw arrows from them and scribble bright coloured explanations between the lines. Erasers scare me.
As I was scrubbing down our soon to be other people’s flat yesterday, I felt like I was erasing a part of our life.
There’s a whiter patch on the kitchen wall, where our Pairing Wine With Food print used to hang. A confetti sized red nail polish spot on the floor by my side of the bed, the aftermath of a manicure tragedy. Forgotten fingerprints on surfaces I was too tired to reach last night. But most of what “us, here” used to mean is gone.
I took the morning off today to meet the cleaners, leave the keys and say goodbye.
I shut the door and started down the poorly lit corridor. I smelled coffee. People rushing up and down their rooms looking for misplaced car keys. I remembered how I’d loved that door, the first red door I’d ever had my own key for. Poppy red, and how the colour always made me smile. There must be nice people living behind that door, I imagined our neighbors thinking as they passed it by. They must have wonderful lives.
I grabbed a latte and toast at a coffee place on the street corner. People were queuing for takeaway, their caffeine orders ready to jump off the tips of their tongues. I sat by the window and warmed my hands on the flimsy paper cup. The street was an explosion of colour and movement, and I couldn’t help thinking how I’d been so miserable these past couple of weeks, dragging my feet up and down this very street. Like a ridiculous, hopeless moron.
I have a wonderful life.
Our life these days, it’s really something.
We meet in front of the train station after work. I’m always half an hour early and I end up killing time looking at people come and go. Then V shows up, tired and grumpy and squinting his famously less than perfect eyes to place me in the crowd. I enjoy it, this moment when I alone know how many slabs of concrete and pairs of shoulders stand between us, when I can decide what face to put on, whether to scare him or surprise him or act like nothing happened, like I couldn’t tell he was lost and confused for once, even for only a tenth of a second. We walk the Broadway together talking. I’ll miss this place, I say. They broke into our flat here, remember, V says, and I do, remember it I mean. But I’ve also been very happy here.
We reach our pizzeria. The tiniest of places, half a dozen tables and the oven. A pack of waiters who always approach you in Italian and the best Calzone I’ve ever tasted. We order takeaway. There’s no room to wait inside, so we stand on the sidewalk by the terrace, sipping our half pints. It’s been the most beautiful of summers, hasn’t it? Remember when we used to come by this place with Carmen and the guys? She always managed to get us a table, wasn’t she something? I wonder what she’s doing now, V says, though we both know the answer to that. She’s gone back to Spain, she’s lost and found a couple of jobs, she’s been bruised and shaken by another man, yet she could probably still get us a table anywhere in the world.
We take our pizzas to the park. We sit in the grass. It’s thick and soft like the fur of a healthy animal, despite the hot summer we’ve been having. Maybe they replace it overnight V says, and I laugh. Here’s the reason I’m still rooted into this country. This green. Evenings like this, when people have their dinners in the field, telling their endless stories and drinking wine straight from the bottle.
We’re not happy, you know.
We both pretty much hate our jobs. Some of our closest friends are leaving the country, and as hard as I’m trying not to sound too fatalistic, we may very well never see them again. Things are changing with us. We’re hopefully but who knows getting a flat of our own soon, which will not only leave us penniless but tied to one another by things made of bricks and concrete which, who knew, are more difficult to undo than a metal band on your ring finger. It still scares me sometimes, years and years later, that I’ve found and been found and this is what we are now, a family of sorts.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that we’re not OK, not entirely. That we’ve got worries and fears and pieces that don’t fit anymore, that we’re willingly or less so leaving places, and people, and hapinesses we wish we could keep, to make room for who knows what, really. And that’s terrifying.
We lie in the grass, oily pizza boxes piled by our side, passing a bottle of raspberry cider between us. It’s in this neighborhood that I first tasted cider years ago, around a wooden terrace table and a tea light in a jar, and I never looked back. We should get a dog, V suddenly says, his eyes following a tennis ball and a wagging tail. It’ll ruin our new carpeting, I find myself thinking, but it really doesn’t matter, does it?, we’ll replace it over night like they must do with the grass here, it’ll be just fine. We should, we’d be great dog people, I say. Then I shut my eyes.