Things We Fight About When We Fight About Things

Yesterday we met Victor for a quick bite in Soho and a London Web talk on Software Architecture at the Radisson Blu Hotel. A couple of hours later, V. and I were sitting in a half empty tube car on our way home, centimeters apart but absolutely not touching and clearly hating each other’s guts, our frowns conveniently hidden behind our Kindles. We didn’t talk or make eye contact for the entire trip, and though we became somewhat civil later on, there was tension in the air throughout the rest of the evening, and he was still far from my favourite person in the morning.

Why, you ask, was our relationship suddenly on the verge of destruction, and on the super duper International Day of Happiness of all days? Well, behold the very mature, extra valid reason for our near separation.

We owed Victor fifty pounds for a couple of tickets he’d gotten us for another tech conference. As soon as we met him yesterday, I was bugging V. to give him the fifty pounds back, knowing we’d be forgetting about it. On our way to the restaurant, I was interrupting their conversation with I’m sure super duper loveable fifty-pounds shrieks. I was snoozed, of course. We’d settle the business when we got somewhere warm, V. said. So I waited until we got our table at the restaurant, safely out of the rain, faces buried in burrito guts. Fifty pounds, I dared suggest again, sputtering rice everywhere like a proper lady. Oh shush, they said. We’d take care of it later, once we reached the talk venue. Several burrito pounds and a run through the rain later, we were sitting in comfy chairs in one of Radisson’s function rooms, giddy with excitement at the prospect of becoming the best Software Architects on the planet. Do you think the darn fifty pounds finally exchanged hands? Sure, I dutifully remembered about them. Too bad V. and I were already on the tube on our way home when that happened, having parted with Victor fifteen fateful minutes before.

So of course I turned my evil witch mode on, and ripped V.’s guts (Discreetly, mind you. I never yell on the tube, I’m classy that way.) about how he never listens to me, how I’m always right and how he’s always wrong, how none of our friends will want to hang out with us once Victor tells them the stolen fifty pounds story, yes, STOLEN, we’re thieves now, V. just made us thieves, was he happy about that? For some reason, my very reasonable arguments made him think I was crazy. Then he couldn’t hold it in any longer and blurted it out. You know you’re crazy, right? Which is when I decided he was no longer worth talking to and I got my Kindle out. Classy, I tell you.

On my way to work this morning, still hating him a little bit and still very much convinced I was NOT crazy, I found myself wondering if this is the sort of thing they mean by irreconcilable differences. Are V. and I slowly piling up the grounds for a Hollywood style divorce? I mean, I’m all in favour of having stuff in common with Jennifer Lopez, you know, but did she really dump Marc Anthony because of an unsettled fifty buck debt? And if she did, by the way, she was most definitely not crazy, OK? (I had to google famous celebrity divorces to even come up with a broken celebrity couple by the way. I’m that lame.)

You’ll be relieved to know that V. and I are not parting ways just yet. It was not an easy decision to make. I mean, I had to admit, out loud, that I am slightly crazy. He in turn admitted that most times he just assumes I’m crazy and simply ignores half of what I say, usually by zoning out and fantasizing about cars, or buckets of Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream. For some reason, I don’t feel like I’ve won this fight. Our irreconcilable differences may have been reconciled for now, if reluctantly on my side, but we’ve still got a million other things to fight about, and my time will come.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to the rest of our life together. Sure, we’ll spend a good part of it bickering about how I leave my hairpins everywhere, how he leaves his everything-but-hairpins everywhere, how I never do the vacuuming, how he never does the dishes, how there’s no more cookie dough in the cookie dough ice cream, how I always feel like having some cookie dough when he’s just laboriously picked and chomped it all, and left me some weird looking, cookie dough free, melting goo behind, how he’s always late and how I always want to get early everywhere, how I don’t want to live on pizza for the rest of my twenties, how he despises all vegetables unless they’re part of a pizza topping, how I’m crazy, how I’m absolutely not crazy and he’s an idiot. It’s always good to be in a healthy relationship.

I’m now heading off to a lovely, relationshipy weekend of badminton violence and savage flat hunting, with hopefully no divorcing business in the process. And if I’ve been fighting throughout the Day of Happiness, I’ll be so much better behaved today, and since it happens to be World Poetry Day, I’ll leave you with a lovely poem about fruit and feelings and stuff. 🙂

The Orange

By Wendy Cope

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all my jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.

Sip of Happiness

We’d planned to celebrate Valentine’s Day by ordering an indecent selection of Domino’s pizzas and catching up on the last series of The Walking Dead. Romantic stuff, I know.

But on Friday at work, everybody was in such an ecstatic V Day mood, stuffing themselves with heart shaped chocolates, signing for humongous bouquets of dead red roses, blushing, giggling, and continuously expressing their outrage at my lack of Love Weekend plans, that I have to admit I pretty much succumbed to peer pressure and, after a bit of online begging, I managed to get a dinner reservation.

Of course every super duper image-of-poshness restaurant was booked for the evening, so I settled for the Ask Italian in Kew. It’s nothing too fancy, and V. and I have been there quite a bunch of times before, but it’s a place that’s always been dear to us. When we first moved to London, we didn’t go out much. Money was tight and we still hadn’t gotten the hang of how things worked in this country, you couldn’t exactly run back to mommy if something went wrong, and let’s not forget that I was absolutely-no-joke-about-it insane, worrying day in and day out that V. would break his click finger playing his stupid tennis and I wouldn’t be able to make ends meet by myself. So we mostly ate in and saved every penny, with dark no click finger futures in mind.

Every once in a blue moon, though, we went out for dinner, and several times we picked the Ask Italian. I still saw it as well beyond our means, indignantly batting my lashes at their £12 mains and £5 glasses of wine, but I embraced these rare occasions of dining luxury by wearing my red, dangerous lipstick and picking the most exotic sounding thing on the menu. Good times.

These days, Ask is just a nice place to have a good lunch after a long morning walk in Kew Gardens. Everybody is lovely, we’ve got our menu favourites, and you can pretty much always get a nice window table for two overlooking the Thames.

We did manage to get a window table on Friday. It’s true, it was overlooking their parking lot and terrace, but we’d only made the reservation hours before, and the place was packed, so we were very happy to have it. The weather outside being absolutely horrendous, with record breaking gales and the prospect of storm, it felt really nice sipping our glasses of Prosecco in the light of candles, surrounded by equally relaxed if a bit inebriated couples. The food was wonderful and too much for me to finish, which almost never happens. We chatted for a long time, about serious stuff like houses (of course!), our anniversary (it being only a couple of days away), how I leave my hairpins all over the place and it needs to stop (or this will be our last anniversary, surely; breakup by hairpin!), and then we talked about less life changing things, basically just poking fun at each other and calling each other this and that: blonde (that’s me), dumb (him), fat (both of us) and other lovely things lovers call each other on Valentine’s Day.

It amazes me how after all this time, we’re still the kind of couple I’d like to be friends with.

Hours later, after we’d barely managed to make it home through the winds from hell, there was an email waiting for me. My accountant, letting me know, in the middle of the night, that several months and a million piles of paperwork later, the bank had said yes to our mortgage inquiry.

I almost cried.

I’m typing this on my work laptop (my personal one’s still dead), propped between pillows in bed in this place where we’ve been both happy and sad. A glass of VR Cabernet on the nightstand. We first bought this wine when we found our initials on the label, and we’ve been regularly getting it since, because I like to have it in the house. It may not be the best of wines, but it’s ours, and it fills me with joy that we’ve got such things, our not so posh italian restaurant, our not so posh Cabernet, this somewhat our place we’ll soon be leaving for our home.

And yes, our random moments of happiness are likely not interesting enough to be worth putting into writing. They’re not going to make you want to click the like button, or start stalking me across the blogosphere, but hey, they’re ours and that’s all that matters.


P.S.: I never thought I’d say this in a million years but you know what, Valentine’s Day may just be turning into my new favourite holiday.

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.

Adventures on the Wrong Side of the Road

When I started dating V., there were about a million embarrassing/annoying/crazy things he chose not to mention about himself. Like how if my phone alarm rings first in the morning, he’ll just turn it off and get back to sleep by my side, and I’ll end up being hours late for work and hating his guts. Or how it’ll take him four hours to pick out a pair of sneakers, much to my despair and that of half a dozen shop assistants he’ll have bugged with infinite questions and requests throughout the process. Or how if he’s sitting at his desk at home and feels sleepy, he’ll just put his head on the keyboard and have a little nap right then and there, making it super fun for me to walk in, see him like that, decide he’s had a stroke and become absolutely hysterical.

In time, I’ve learnt and accepted all these little nuggets of singularity, and though I still constantly moan about them, they’ve become an integral part of our life together and I’d probably miss them if they were gone. Or not. Who knows, relationships are weird.

But one thing that’s been sitting at the top of the things-that-annoy-me-about-V. list for several years now, has been the fact that he didn’t have a driving license. I know! You can imagine it almost put me off going out with him to begin with. I mean, what the heck, in your late twenties and no license? Something was definitely wrong with him.

Against better judgement, I actually agreed to give him a chance, but this driving business has ever since been a thorn in my heel. So it was for the good of our relationship that we decided V. should get some driving lessons and take his license test. It’s probably high time I mentioned that, although I’ve had my license for almost 10 years now, since we’ve moved to London I’ve not driven once. It’s got to do with not having a car, not really needing a car, but mostly with the fact that people here drive on the absolutely-let’s-not-fight-about-it-wrong side of the road. Laugh all you want, it’s a problem. But I figured, V. would learn his driving in London, he’d have no issues with driving on the completely-annoyingly-wrong side of the road, he’d be super duper confident and willing to drive me absolutely everywhere, and all would be right in the Universe again. Yup, that’s how things tend  to work out in my imaginary life.

Real life, you ask? Why that’s an entirely different story.

Now, if I’m going to moan about V. and his amazing driving skills, I might as well mention that he passed his test on his first try, a most miraculous feat if I may say, considering his main practice consisted of playing computer games for hours on end. And not even the driving, let’s-run-over-as-many-pedestrians-as-possible kind of games (which I at least would have approved of, all things considered!), but the who-cares-about-driving-I’m-shooting-zombies kind. But I digress.

He passed the test, we got a car, life was grand. And then we had to drive it home from the dealership.

It was the Monday after the London storm. October 29th, 2013. A date I’ll forever carry tattooed on a part of my brain that has since been permanently damaged. Overnight, trees had fallen, cranes had collapsed, roofs had been blown off houses. In the morning, train and tube services were an utter mess, which is always good news. So, professional as always, we decided the best course of action was to watch-youtube-videos-and-call-it-work from home and end the evening with a quick trip to the dealership to pick up our car. Fun and games.

If you live in one of those exotic places they’ll never give me tourist visas for, like Hawaii, or The Bahamas, or somewhere sunny-beachy-let’s-all-wear-speedos-everywhere, you probably have no idea that for the past couple of months, my sun has been setting at 4 PM. Not that it makes much of a difference, I hardly ever see it in all this rain and fog anyway. But back to the story. By the time we were leaving the dealership, it was pitch dark, windy and raining. Imagine a Noah’s Ark sort of rain. Except we had no giraffes and and our means of transport was, I assume, way flimsier than Noah’s contraption. The first wonderful surprise of the evening was when a gust of wind blew both Learner plates off our car just as we were leaving the parking lot. It was a tragedy. Those Learner plates, they had been our only hope of making it through this in one piece. They were our scarlet letter, and one we would have worn with infinite pride. “Pay attention to this moron.”, they said. “He is a lousy, lousy driver and he will do incredibly stupid things behind the wheel. Keep a safe distance. Expect the unexpected.” But they were gone, and without them, we were presumed capable until proven otherwise. We were terrified.

That’s when we noticed all the fallen trees.

They were everywhere, surrounded by pointy reflective orange markers or soaked, suicidal looking road workers. And they were not budging. It was like half of London’s tree population had decided to take off one night, only to realize that those tangled roots were not made for walking after all. Trees are dumb that way. A normally 20 minute trip took us just about 3 hours, a time of prayers, dedicated cursing and what-does-this-button-do moments. We only took the wrong turn three dozen times, which was to be expected, and quite a thrill in the super duper, end-of-the-world, pouring rain.

It’s been several weeks now and the memory of that drive still gives me night terrors. But it wasn’t all lost that fateful evening. A few therapy sessions later, V. felt he could handle another driving experience. And then another one. And now, things are definitely looking up. We’ve only got to work on how to handle roundabouts, parking of all kinds, stopping at red lights and sticking to the speed limit. Piece of cake.

All things aside, this whole being-the-proud-owners-of-a-car-with-the-steering-wheel-on-the-wrong-side thing is making us feel uncomfortably grown up, and it’s become the heaviest thing anchoring us to this country we’re still not sure we’re happy being anchored to. It’s a strange feeling. Also, V. recently realized that, as we’ve been irresponsibly living in sin all this time, if he’s suddenly abducted by aliens one day, his mum would get the car instead of me. I stared at him in disbelief for half a second, then laughed at the thought of his mum at the wheel, this stupidly placed wheel she’ll be positively outraged at. And then I realized I’d just reached a new low. I’ll soon be one of those ridiculous will-writing-life-insurance-policy-signing-ressponsible-adults I’ve always felt superior to. How will I then face the rest of this carefree planet?