Wonnemond

There’s no reason for me not writing these days.

There’s no good reason not to write, my high school Lit teacher used to say. She was young and beautiful and there were endless rumours of her seducing boys in my class. Sometimes I believed them. Sometimes I really didn’t want to. But something was certain. This was a woman with a secret. It didn’t take an expert to see it. Something bubbling, a darkness, a hint of danger. I’d watch her. I had little in the way of hiding myself those days, but I found mystery in people around me strangely thrilling.

She used to ask me what I wanted from life.

*

We’ve been traveling quite a lot and when we’re not traveling, we’re sleeping in, planting white geranium, watching old movies and it feels to me, waiting for something.

I read and read. Mostly about Romania and the Revolution these days, which reminds me of my childhood and makes me miss my parents so much that the feeling’s gained colour, taste and texture, and follows me around even in my dreams. There’s no such thing as one phone call away.

London is breathtaking and I’m back to being my 19 year old self. No matter what happens, who breaks my heart and how many days it’s been since my last cup of coffee, well, it’s enough to walk the streets and I feel better. Different city, different decade, same me.

I won an award at work a few weeks back. Sometimes it dawns on me that I have a job, that I’ve had jobs for ten years now and that I never seriously considered I would. That I can’t for the life of me pinpoint the moment I stepped into this grownup thing, if there ever was just one moment or if instead it’s one of those things that takes your world over bit by bit, like the Arctic melting.

Then sometimes it dawns on me that we’re living the time of our lives.

*

A couple of years ago, my Lit teacher and I reconnected. We exchanged a few emails, she actually put one of mine into one of her books (yup, published author here, people!), we even briefly met when I traveled to Romania for our high school reunion. Again she asked what I wanted from life (pretty much the same things I’d wanted when we first knew each other), she wanted to know if I ever wrote anymore (not really), made me promise I would, and last but not least, she wanted me to tell her about this boy who’d been in my class. What he’d been up to, what his girlfriend looked like, whether they looked happy. This is it, I thought. The secret, the bubbling.

I’d kissed that boy. We were carrying boxes across a parking lot, huge, TV-sized cardboard boxes filled with paper cups and plastic cutlery for a school event, and they were really light but impossible to manoeuvre between the parked cars, the wind was ruffling my dress and waving his jacket wide open and we kissed. We were sixteen. Our Lit teacher was waiting in the open door, arms reaching for one of the boxes.

Our lives are such strange, vaguely inhabited planets circling each other.

The Colour Green

Hi.

I always find it difficult to return to writing after I’ve been away for a while.

In a way, it feels like the least I can do is come back with stories to tell. Like it makes for a perfect excuse if I’ve been ignoring this place for the sake of some life altering experiences.

But the truth is, I haven’t been on any extraordinary adventures since we last read eachother.

I’m not at all sure what I’ve been doing these last couple of months, really. Just trying my best, I imagine, not to fall asleep at traffic lights or as I’m chopping onions for dinner. And yes, I’ve been on a few trips, celebrated another anniversary, seen a couple of Oscar-worthy movies. Read half a dozen books, sipped some glasses of wine, bought a few pairs of shoes. Longed for sunny mornings, worked for mortgage money, traded hopes and fears with other people, the usual stuff.

I didn’t lose anyone, didn’t get married, didn’t win the lottery. Just made it through a bunch of days, good and bad, and now it’s spring and they must have rinsed this city in a million waters, turned it inside out and hanged it to dry in the wind when we weren’t looking. Because suddenly, it’s so brand new and beautiful it breaks my heart.

It’s warm enough to walk to the train station in the evenings. Twenty something fast paced minutes along Piccadilly, counting heartbeats from Wren’s St James’s to Fortnum and Mason’s eau de nil blue window displays, onwards past the lights of The Ritz, then cutting through fields of daffodils in Green Park and past Buckingham Palace and its forests of selfie sticks. Armies of strangers safely sealed in our music bubbles, feet in trainers, work shoes in bags, we walk together, drinking in the streets of this new season, this new part of our lives.

I have a friend who’s been in a long distance relationship for many years, and he says that whilst there are things he doesn’t like about being on his own so much, one advantage is that he has a chance to think about things.

I get that.

Except in my case I really don’t think it’s my other half, I think it’s life itself that’s preventing me from thinking life over.

We’re making holiday plans again and again our place will be filled with friends every weekend for the forseeable future, our professional life is changing and our relationship is changing and we’re changing eachother and everyone else, I’m back to running and stretching my tissues every evening on an eau de nil yoga mat in our “baby room”, I’m quickly reading my way through my bedside bookpile and the Frech Revolution, growing basil and parsley and carnivorous plants in tiny terracotta pots on our window sill, I’m happy and in love and still very much afraid of everything that’s frightened me before.

Then I walk the streets and it feels like everything’s on pause for a while.

Spring!

This Time Last Year: Dear Friend

Dear Friend,

I’ve decided this is what I’m calling you now, though you know you’re not, and I know you’re not, and we’re both OK with it.

But they tell me everybody needs a name, and everybody needs a friend, so I guess I’m just killing two birds with one stone.

I’ve been meaning to write this for a little while, but I hadn’t yet decided what to call you, and you need to at least know that when you start a letter. So I didn’t. And then last week Facebook said you had a birthday coming.

So here it is, my birthday gift for you. A name and things you never knew. Read the full post here →

Poem to Start the Week #29: Climbing You

I want to understand the steep thing
that climbs ladders in your throat.
I can’t make sense of you.
Everywhere I look you’re there–
a vast landmark, a volcano
poking its head through the clouds,
Gulliver sprawled across Lilliput.

I climb into your eyes, looking.
The pupils are black painted stage flats.
They can be pulled down like window shades.
I switch on a light in your iris.
Your brain ticks like a bomb.

In your offhand, mocking way
you’ve invited me into your chest.
Inside: the blur that poses as your heart.
I’m supposed to go in with a torch
or maybe hot water bottles
& defrost it by hand
as one defrosts an old refrigerator.
It will shudder & sigh
(the icebox to the insomniac).

Oh there’s nothing like love between us.
You’re the mountain, I am climbing you.
If I fall, you won’t be all to blame,
but you’ll wait years maybe
for the next doomed expedition.

 

Erica Jong

Fabric

I used to own a green scarf.

I can’t remember if I’ve told you this story before, it was the green of the first grass, bright enough to hurt the eyes. A bitter color, I imagined, one you’d sink your teeth into and feel it seeping through the membrane of every cell, stirring juices around. And I was wearing that scarf, for the first or second time ever. It was winter, and I was very young, or at least that’s what I’d say now. Back then I thought I was old enough for anything and everything.

The city felt like it was growing from me, from a stray seed stuck to the sole of my boot, and not the other way around. I walked the streets like they were of my own making, I faced the endless parade of people and buildings like I’d invented them, I and no other, and they were there for nothing more than morning entertainment on my way to wherever I was going.

By the fountains, I ran into this man I knew.

In retrospect, he was just a boy. We’d met on a bus, if you can believe it. For years we’d been taking the same bus from our home town to the city on Sunday evenings, often sitting together, our elbows touching through layers of fabric.

The lights never worked. On the bus. We’d ride through the snow for a while, leafing through papers or looking out the window, until it got dark and there was nothing left to do but try and sleep or stare into the night and think your life over. We never spoke. We nodded when we ran into each other at the bus stop, and one evening he offered to help as I was trying to push my embarrassing, overstuffed suitcase into the luggage compartment, and introduced himself.

So I knew his name now, and he knew mine, and when we met by the frozen fountains that morning, in full light for the first time ever, me wrapped up in my apple green scarf six times over, cheeks flushed from the cold, his name was right there for the picking like I’d kept it close at hand on purpose. I rolled it expertly in my mouth and said hi.

He said hi back and smiled. Half a second later we were walking past each other in opposite directions, but I knew. Something was beginning.

Remember when every little thing felt like the beginning of something extraordinary? Like anything could happen, and probably would, because you knew, you just knew you were meant for great things.

That’s exactly how I felt as I was walking away from the fountains that day. We’d meet again, I knew it. We’d run into each other a few more times, by fountains and museums and random newspaper stands, my curls perfect in every way each single time and my lips painted his favourite shade of plum. Then we’d finally go out for coffee. I’d be charming, didn’t my mother always say I could be terribly charming when I wanted to? I certainly wanted to now. He’d fall in love with me, of course. We’d be perfect together, one of those couples you feel have got a secret too valuable to share with the rest of the world. “How do they do it?”, people would wonder, sometimes out loud, and we’d just smile and he’d lean in to kiss my cheekbone.

I wore that scarf every day for months, well into the spring. He’d noticed it, I was sure, the sheer greenness of it, and would now see me from a distance. He’d run to meet me, I’d be charming, cheekbone kissing would ensue.

*

My favourite scarf these days is black, white dotted. It’s not a metaphor this, green to black, young to old. They’re just colors, and not meant to mean anything. There’s no lesson to learn.

It works well with my red winter coat, that’s all, the scarf. The most special thing about it is that the moment I saw it in a Mango shop a few months back, it made me think of the sky at night. A proper one, stars and everything, unlike what I normally see in London these days.

From my home town too, you couldn’t see the stars. When we were small, my sister and I spent our summers at our Grandpa‘s house, and I remember I’d fall asleep in the swing every night, out in the open at the edge of the field, despite being grounded for it time and time again. I just wanted to look at the stars. I thought God covered the planet with a large black umbrella at night. And that the stars were nothing but tiny holes in its canvas, worn thin from so many centuries of using, through which sunlight seeped through.

I check myself in the mirror one last time before I’m out for the day. Everything’s in its place, and somehow not really in its place at all. Also it seems that as I grow old, my eyes, if slightly more wrinkled at the edges every time I check, grow bigger. Or maybe the rest of me is getting smaller. I do feel it, sometimes, when I walk the streets of this city. Like I’m the morning entertainment, a tiny one at that, and not the other way around. It doesn’t sadden me, how things have changed. But sometimes I catch myself expertly knotting my scarf in the mirror, my fingers moving of their own accord like they’ve slipped out of my reach and become better at dealing with life than the rest of me is, and it hits me: I was a kid once.