The Oldest Toys

I’ve of course, been meaning to write.

And then I didn’t. For the longest time I didn’t, and as time passed, the very thought of writing became more and more foreign to me, like a silly superpower, something I’d perhaps imagined I’d be capable of, only to discover it only happens in the movies, and to people infinitely more attractive and interesting than me.

And here I am now. Despite the warm, all encompassing feeling of deja-vu, and the promise of endless possibilities, I’m still somewhat frightened by the thought of playing this game again.

It will take a while to tie the ends of this story together.  A lot has happened and a lot has changed, and to say that I don’t know where to begin would be an understatement.

So I’ll begin somewhere. Somehow.

Bear with me while I remind myself what words feel like.

 

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!

Where the Wild Things Are

My new job is making me ill.

I’ve been spending today in bed, tucked under a mountain of blankets and Kleenex tissues, fighting for breath. I’ve read a little, had a little tea, sent a few emails, but mostly I’ve just sat there, hopelessly trying to fool myself into falling asleep. Thinking.

2015 is shaping up into a strange year.

I’ve been meaning to write about things more than once these past few weeks, and more than once I’ve decided not to. I couldn’t say why.

Originally, my first post of the year was meant to be very different from what you’re reading now.

I was going to title it “Happy in a jar”, and I’d have written about this friend who’s been keeping a large jar on her desk all year. Hapinesses, 2014, it said on the label, and every time something made her really happy, she wrote it on a post-it and dropped it in there. I was going to write about how she’d opened it and gone through the dozen or so yellow happy squares. Silly things, she’d told me afterwards. Things she’d forgotten about. A new pair of shoes, a kiss at the end of a movie date, a job promotion. Things that didn’t matter, she said, but I wasn’t sure.

I wasn’t sure that happinesses weren’t in fact almost always the sum of things that didn’t matter, and that’s what I would have written about.

But then, you know, something extraordinary happened.

In between traipsing the country, postponing resolutions and raising our glasses, my friend C got in touch for the first time in almost two years.

He’d gone home for the holidays and found a notebook I’d written for him the summer before we graduated. A parting gift, it would be, but we din’t know it then.

We spoke for six hours, through the night and well into the morning. Things we’d left unsaid for almost a decade, pains we’d hidden, lies we’d lied. We didn’t leave anything out and only after we’d said goodbye and I was at last getting ready for bed, only after I’d wiped my mascara off and I’d stepped into the shower, did I cry the cry I’d been holding in me for god knows how long.

So the next day, I binned my “Happy in a Jar” post and started a new one. I was going to call it “Videli Noci” and I’d have written about my friendship with C, and how after The Year I Almost Had Cancer, The Year I Fell Out With My Sister and The Year Of Our First Home, 2015 had chances to become the greatest year of all. The Year Of A Never Ending Friendship.

But what I realised as I was writing about C, was that I wasn’t really. I wasn’t writing about him, that is. I was writing to him. And I wasn’t writing a blog post but, as scary as it seems even now, many days later, I was writing a book.

There’s one thing I’m more and more convinced of these days, when I’ve got no choice but go with the flow and look back on my life, draw a line and make new resolutions like all self respecting adults: it feels like I’ve never seen anything coming, ever. Like every minor, average or life-changing thing that’s ever happened to me, even the carefully planned ones, ended up following unexpected paths and taking me by surprise. Scary, right?

At least this book thing, it’s a good kind of scary.

What with all the craziness going on in the world and in my world, what with this new job looking really shiny and exciting from a distance but showing its dents and scratches the moment you step closer, what with waiting by the phone for new test results (I thought The Year I Almost Had Cancer was done and dusted, but is anything ever?), what with relationships being what they are, uphills and downhills for ever and ever until you’ve worn the soles of your shoes paper thin, well, what with all that and more, the thought of having a book inside me makes me feel good. Of all things, a book! Sure, I’ve got no idea how to pluck the thing out of me and I probably never will, but it’s there, and that’s really something.

So there. That’s me these days. I walk, I talk, I forget things.

As for us all… It’s probably time we did something extraordinary for once. Who knows, we could try growing new limbs soon, new hearts, it sure feels like just the right time for our bodies to rebel and do something crazy like that. Crazy enough to change the world. 2015 sure sounds magical, doesn’t it?

Time will tell.

In the meantime, I’m wishing you all overflowing Happiness Jars this year!

 

Thoughts for Strangers

There’s this thing called the The Listserve and I’m in it.

I’ve never won the email lottery myself, and I wouldn’t know what to write to one million people I’ll never meet anyway (believe it or not, I haven’t got a million readers around here so I’m not used to that kind of audience). I get an email every day though. Some I like, some I don’t. Some I don’t even read, the subject line is enough to tell me they’re not for me.

But then, some are extraordinary.

So last week I replied to one. This girl, this woman had written to us, strangers, about time, love and puppies.

It was four o’clock in the morning. That should more than account for my lack of direction. I was also listening to Ho Hey (The Lumineers) on repeat as I was typing, more than once finding I was humming myself away from my train of thought.

But I pressed Send anyway. Perhaps this who-knew-I’d-eventually-turn-30 thing comes with a sense of adventure I’ve never known before. Or maybe I just wanted to make a friend. Never a bad idea, they tell me.

I never know how to start these things.

I remember we were in our early teens and this girl from my class brought a love letter to school.

They’d mistakenly delivered it to her parents’ mailbox, at a time when strangers’ secrets were something she craved touching. It changes as you grow up, of course, wanting to have anything to do with other people’s secrets. But she was still at an age when she wanted to get her fingers dirty. So she brought the letter to school, and a bunch of us opened it together during recess.

“dragul meu dragul meu”*, it began, no uppercase letters or punctuation marks, and if I ever found myself someone to write to, I decided, that’s how I would begin my letters, like they weren’t even letters. Like we were just sitting somewhere, looking at something, a field, a street, a TV screen, and all of a sudden, I’d find myself talking.

draga mea draga mea**

I don’t know how this works.

I guess you’ve been getting emails from people. You must have. I imagine them, those who write you back. People who have lost loved ones, people who miss their younger selves, people who liked your writing, people who have their own stories to tell. People like me.

I haven’t lost a parent. I’ve lost friends. A grandmother who’s never had her photograph taken but whom I remember combing her hair in a tall, foggy mirror that no longer exists. Past, outgrown versions of myself I never really managed to become friends with.

I too believe it’s the stories that matter, though I’m hardly much of a story teller. I carry them around all the time though, a million secret histories no one really wants to get their hands dirty with these days, because we’re not schoolgirls anymore, and we’ve outgrown curiosity.

I walk around, pockets full of memories on the inside, and miss everything. It’s fine, too. The things I miss are what define me as a what I like to think is a somewhat fully formed human being.

I turn 30 next week.

I grew up studying math and computers, so I should probably look at 30 as what it is. A number. A solution to some equation my future depended on once, in a badly lit exam room. But it’s not just that, you know. It’s a bunch of numbers instead, so many of them that it’s easier to just call it infinity, underline it a couple of times and turn the paper in.

It’s how many times I’ve tested my smile in the mirror before running off towards what would be another love story, another end of the world.

It’s how many dreams I’ve changed for other people’s dreams for me.

It’s how many times I knew what I wanted and how many times I stumbled.

It’s how many times I’ve reached for another person’s skin, and how many times the shade of my own skin gave away my true feelings.

It’s how many times I’ve caught myself smiling, stopped whatever it was I was doing and marked the moment by knowingly thinking to myself: it must be happiness, this.

draga mea draga mea**

The sun’s just rising here. I’m never up at this hour, so I guess today’s something special. I hear birds chirping outside my bedroom window, a miracle in itself in this city. I’ll be making myself a cup of cocoa in a bit, and walk around the flat barefoot, moving things from one surface to another. Then I’ll go for a run. A million fractions of moments to remember will crowd this morning. Time, it really is something.

Oh, and puppies are great too.

*dragul meu dragul meu: [Romanian] my dear my dear (m)
**draga mea draga mea: [Romanian] my dear my dear (f)