Poem to Start the Week #12: He Tells Her

He tells her that the Earth is flat—
He knows the facts, and that is that.
In altercations fierce and long
She tries her best to prove him wrong.
But he has learned to argue well.
He calls her arguments unsound
And often asks her not to yell.
She cannot win. He stands his ground.

The planet goes on being round.


Wendy Cope

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.

Bloody Men and How This Post isn’t Really About Them

This is how things work in this little world of mine. I wake up, zombie around the flat for a while, realise I’m late, can’t find my keys, turn the place upside down looking for them, curse, they’re in my hand/pocket/some backpack compartment I didn’t know I had, run out the door and towards the bus stop, all the while obsessively trying to reassure myself I didn’t leave the stove on and I locked, checked and double checked the door. I know, it’s quite the wondrous existence.

But don’t jump to conclusions, things actually get better once I get on the bus. Because this 13 minute daily bus trip to work is what I fashionably like to call me time. There are no distractions, there are no checkboxes to check or questions to answer. I can just chill. Headphones on, I take out my Kindle, or my super duper Facebook friendly phone, and spend the time reading or diligently tapping Like buttons. It’s heaven. Or it used to be. Because for some reason, my daily 13 minutes of happiness obviously disturbed a very fragile planetary balance, and needed to be eliminated as soon and as bluntly as possible.

The problem is other people. They couldn’t care less about my 13 minute bubble. They’d rather make friends instead.

At first there was this Romanian dude, who thought that since we were the only two Romanians in the company, we had to chit chat all day long, every day, me time included. It worked for a total of an hour or two, during which time we managed to touch upon all our common colleagues and their dirty secrets, Romanian politics and of course, the weather. Then we discovered we had very little in common, and I thought I’d be back to Facebooking on the bus in no time. Oh, how wrong I was! Instead, we continuously spend my me time struggling to find superficial things to talk about. After way too many British weather centred conversations, I started taking the earlier bus. Sneaky, huh?

But do you think this meant I was finally back to my 13 minutes of zen? Nope. Now there’s this man who one morning saw me reading a Romanian book, and started telling me this story about how he’s married to a Romanian lady, and has a Romanian babysitter (who happens to share my first name, oh, the irony!), and a couple of bilingual kids who sound like spoiled bilingual brats to me. But anyway. Now my priceless me time is devoted to helping him with his Romanian pronunciation. It seems to make him happy and I, I’ve forgotten what happiness feels like anyway.

Today was wonderful. Neither of my talkative trip buddies were on the bus. Secretly hoping they’re now taking the later bus together, practicing their Romanian gossiping happily ever after, I breathed in. I was way too zen to read, listen to music or even Facebook. Instead, I looked out the window. It was raining so hard, it felt like we were hopelessly trying to escape from an end-of-the-world-monsoon. I wasn’t afraid, I didn’t have any backup plans. In fact, all I could think about was this funny little poem by Wendy Cope. It’s got very little to do with my life nowadays, but it’s not always been a stranger to me, and it’s one of the few ones I still know by heart, even now, when I seem to have lost control over my time, insides and everything else I used to take for granted.

Bloody men are like bloody buses
You wait for about a year
And as soon as one approaches your stop
Two or three others appear.
You look at them flashing their indicators,
Offering you a ride.
You’re trying to read the destinations,
You haven’t much time to decide.
If you make a mistake, there is no turning back.
Jump off, and you’ll stand there and gaze
While the cars and the taxis and lorries go by
And the minutes, the hours, the days.

Wendy Cope, Bloody Men