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!

Nap All Day, Sleep All Night

I haven’t had a day like today in a while.

After walking the beaches of Brighton and Hove for a few hours yesterday, then back to our place and an evening of red wine and horror movies, I turned to bed early and slept the sleep of the lighthearted.

I was the first to wake up in the morning, hot sun streaming in from windows on all sides of our flat, like our cosmic coordinates had changed overnight.

I unloaded the dishwater, made coffee, wiped the kitchen counters and sat watching the morning news in the living room for a while. Went online and browsed through the list of furniture pieces I’ve since forever been ogling with our guest bedroom in mind. I put off actually ordering anything, of course. “Add to Basket” is as far as I’m willing to go on my Sunday morning furniture safaris.

V woke up, so I made us scrambled eggs and avocado on toast, and we actually sat down for breakfast like shiny happy people in TV commercials.

After we cleared the table and changed the bedding in our master bedroom, he walked past my two-dozen-furniture-websites-open-at-the-same-time laptop, and bullied me into actually pressing “Checkout” for once. The world will not come to an end if we’ve furnished the last remaining empty room in our flat. My life will not lose its purpose once I’ll have no wood finishes to fantasise about. Things will be all right.

So I caved and finally ordered a bed, mattress, nightstands and a chest of drawers. Oh, and a rug for our living room while I was on it. Sure, we don’t really need one, but hey, who can say no to the absolutely most super-duper-sexy rug in the world? Not me, people.

Then, high on furniture splurging euphoria, I scrubbed our shower clean for the second (third?) time this weekend (Lemon juice did. not. work. But we’ve got a pro coming to look at it tomorrow, triple YAY!), did a bit of ironing, read fifty or so pages from Tracy Chevalier’s Burning Bright, and, wait… for… it… had a nap. As in, sleeping. In the middle of the day. For two and a half hours. Me!

Well, I’m up now and the world feels cosy enough to walk barefooted in. I dug out our tape measure, and measured our guest bedroom walls for the millionth time. It will all fit in perfectly and I can’t help smiling at the thought that a couple of weeks from now, we’ll be functional-guest-bedroom people, and everything will still be all right. More places to nap than ever, as well!

Off I go now, I’ve promised steak and sweet potato wedges for dinner and V’s been moaning he’s hungry enough to eat a horse all throughout me writing this post.

Wishing you all a lovely Sunday evening!

These Are The Words

It feels like I’ve got less and less to write about these days.

There’s little to moan about, I’m not sad, I’m not going through any crisis. I haven’t picked up any new exciting hobby, I haven’t fallen in or out of love, I haven’t traveled anywhere exotic. So I’ve been finding it fairly easy to resist my compulsion to record everything on the interwebs.

And then last night, we were at a John Bishop comedy show with a friend on Wembley Arena, and in between giggles and bouts of proper hysterical laughter, my phone was constantly buzzing in my lap with notifications from WordPress. Hours later, stuck on a tube as they were trying to remove a stray Black Friday enthusiast who was apparently strolling up and down the tracks a few stops ahead of us, well, I finally took my phone out of my bag and checked my blog’s dashboard.

People were reading, I realised. Real people, with lives and stories of their own to tell.

It’s exciting, if hard to believe. And scary, in so many ways.

I’m building myself into a shape strangers can look at and check for defects.

And then I thought. I mostly write when I’m a bit down or mad about something. It’s when it comes most naturally to me for some reason. I rarely document my happinesses, my good days, and that’s a pity, because I’ve got plenty of them to go around, and it’s what I’d surely rather read about when I’m old and grey and in a mood for looking back and poking fun at my silly moaning self. I’d appreciate being reminded of the happy times too, if only in passing.

So I’ll try to do that more often from now on, write about the good stuff.

Right now for instance, V and I are sitting in the living room, perfectly content. He’s playing Call of Duty against one of his buddies, and winning twenty-something to six, which makes him giggle, pinch or tap my leg and point to the updating score every other minute, at which I need to react by at least jumping up and down and waving my hands in the air like a maniac, or else I’ll have failed in my super important Call of Duty cheerleading responsibilities.

It’s been quiet today. A furniture delivery, the last one in a while now I hope, a trip to the car wash and the local shops. Then driving back with a huge, impossible-to-fit-in-the-car-and-still-reach-the-pedals potted Yucca plant, putting some music on and in between glasses of leftover wine, almost carbonising our dinner. It’s good to have a boring Saturday for once.

Last week we held our house warming shindig.

I’m not a manic party planner, I don’t drive myself crazy over putting together intricate culinary delicacies, or polishing every surface to perfection six times over. I’ve never been a good cook and I’ve always been quite tidy, so it doesn’t feel like I’ve got anything to worry too much about when we have people over, except maybe making sure we’ve got a couple of takeout menus close at hand. It feels to me though that everybody else takes these get-togethers a million times more seriously than I do. People dressed up. Brought gifts. Everything felt important, official. Like it marked something vital, this day, when it didn’t really. It was just a random day when neither of us had any better things to do.

We ate, drank, talked politics and about our many hopes and fears.

I sometimes can’t help feeling that most Romanians I know in this country are competing to prove to me that their lives are infinitely better and more exciting that mine.

The way I look at my relationships with fellow nationals has changed dramatically since I moved here. I used to feel so alone early on, and so I was really drawn to the few Romanian expats I knew in London. I overlooked their every flaw, and invested all I had into building and maintaining those pretend friendships, based on little more than the fact that we shared a language and had grown up watching the same TV shows. More than a few bumps in the road later, I’m more selective when it comes to who I spend my time with, Romanian or not.

And still I realised, as I was cooking breakfast the following morning for the few people who’d spent the night in our improvised guest beds, my social life here is still far from ideal. My relationships still lack something. We’re only connecting up to a certain level, and past that, I’m pretty much on my own. Maybe it really has nothing to do with being away from home, but more with a certain drifting apart that comes with growing old. You’ll never know then, I said to myself, and flipped the omelette with a pretend-expert turn of the spatula, burning my thumb in the process.

In other news, I found such incredible joy in not having enough chairs to accommodate everyone at our dining table. It’s tiny things like this that for a fraction of a second, make me feel like I’m slowly building something in this country.

Oh, and I completely forgot.

I found a job last week.

I don’t know how, I wasn’t really looking.

I mean I was, in a way. As in, I knew I’d have to start looking in a few months. I’d known for exactly four days. But I wasn’t, actively, doing anything yet. And then it just fell in my lap, this exciting thing there’s a chance I’ll be doing for the coming months, years, who knows, and when I learnt about it, I hung up the call and just stood there, in the middle of the deserted reception room at work, elevator doors blinking their floor numbers up and down the spine of the building, and felt afraid.

Things have been going well. Too well, I can’t help thinking.

It’s sad, isn’t it, how I’ve grown into this person who finds happiness, first and foremost, suspicious.

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!