Do not chase after people. If someone wants to be a part of your life, they shouldn’t keep running in the opposite direction. At least in my opinion, this seems like a pretty basic prerequisite.
But hell, what do I know?
And it’s not like I’ve never chased after someone before.
Because maybe, they just don’t know any better. Because maybe they’ve been hurt before and don’t know how to deal with their feelings. Because maybe they’re too afraid or proud or godknowswhatelse to stand still, let alone turn around and face you. Because maybe, perhaps, possibly, they just have a terrible sense of direction.
I’m getting tired of running. If I wanted to train for a marathon, I’d just lace my running shoes, no extra incentive needed, thank you very much.
I think, maybe beginnings shouldn’t be so complicated. From what I know about middle parts and endings, things usually get complicated enough after the first chapter or two.
But then I think, maybe things can never be not complicated. I’m having a hard time imagining that at one point or another, the timing, the place, the circumstances are just right and everything falls into place, just like that.
Wouldn’t it be nice, though? Yes, yes. It would be oh so nice.
Note to self: Do not chase after people (because maybe there comes a time to stand still).
I’m just starting to wonder what it feels like to come home. Homecoming. It suddenly seems like such a wonderful idea.
Drive East of Eden ‘til we start to feel the West.
Sometimes I mean to write about one thing and in the end I realize I’ve been sidestepping the entire time like a rabbit with ADD (that, for some odd reason, knows how to type) so the result is something completely different.
This post’s one of those.
Ladies and gentlemen, your entrée.
It’s not that he broke his vow. There were no vows taken, no rings exchanged. Is a broken promise alone something worth crying over? Does it mean anything at all? If hushed between dusk and dawn, between dinner and dirty dishes, between then and now, without witness.
To some, it doesn’t mean a thing; they just gather (or scatter) their belongings and leave without as much as a good-bye, cracking invisible rings, not breaking vows but breaking nevertheless, breaking only without witness.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If the sky falls in your backyard an no one is around to hear it, does it make a difference? The eternal question, ever unanswered.
If children break bones, they say healing is quick. The younger the faster the better. I can’t say that’s true for all that breaks. What if the first time your heart was broken you didn’t even know how to write your name? What if the second time your heart was broken you didn’t even know about heartbreak, but you knew how it felt?
I’ve never broken a bone, sometimes I wish I could go back in time and trade; get a cast, in my favorite color, have people sign it or draw cartoon characters all over my arm or leg; also, everyone’s a lot nicer when they see you’re wearing a cast.
What if there was a cast for all kinds of things that break? What if it came in your favorite color, and people could sign it and draw things all over? What if we treated each other as if each of us had broken something?
Because I’m sure we all have.
If you’re still curious what I wanted to write to begin with, I have to tell you … what are we talking about again? And who are you? What am I doing? I should really start writing lists.
It’s a Wednesday night and I’m in my sweatpants, drinking wine as I’m writing this.
I’d actually planned to go to this after-work-thing to be a little less anti-social with my colleagues but it was cancelled last-minute – thank God! Now I can be anti-social while pretending I’m not: sorry you guys, I would have loved to go out, too bad it’s not happening (did this sound too sarcastic you think?).
Now I’m officially free to do all the fun stuff I would have preferred to do all along and I don’t even have to feel bad about it: wear comfy clothes, eat in front of the TV, listen to any music I like, blog. Cause that’s fun, right?
Or am I getting lame these days? Is this what I should be doing? Shouldn’t I be out partying after all? Meeting interesting people and stuff? Is this why I’m slowly but steadily approaching my mid-twenties, still half (or three-quarters) in school, half (or one quarter) working, single, home alone tonight? Am I missing something? Was my mother right (and what’s her most important advice again – why can’t I remember this)? What am I doing with my life anyways?
Oh dear, is this it now – a quarter-life crisis?
No, I’m not helplessly neurotic – just a tad bit. Here are a couple more of my most recent thoughts on being (almost) 25.
Vocation or occupation or something else entirely?
Six-year-old me wanted to be a writer when she grows up. And seven-year-old-me, too. Eight-year-old me wanted to become a vet until she found out that they don’t just get to pet the animals all day long and decided to stick with writing after all. Now I’ve almost finished grad school, on the best way to become a teacher. What would six-/seven-/eight-year-old me say? Would they kick my stupid grown-up (and maybe too reasonable) butt? What do I really want? Do I even know?
Of course, being a teacher doesn’t mean I have to give up writing; I could always write on the side (like I’m doing now) – that is, if I have enough nerve and time. Or I could become bitter and cynical and just keep telling my future students about the novel I was writing and eventually going to publish, without ever actually writing anything. And then, 24-year-old me thinks, just because we make a certain decision at one point in our life, it doesn’t mean we can’t make another decision some other time.
I think, if six-/seven-/eight-year-old me made a fuss about it, I would probably turn to them and say: do you remember how one year all you ate for breakfast was Coco Puffs and then one day, you decided you wanted to try out Froot Loops because they looked really good? This is kind of like that, too. There would be a brief moment of silence and I would nod wisely and finally agree with myself. Hopefully.
Also .. what about love?
As my Mom loves to (accidentally?) point out whenever my sister brings her husband and two boys over for lunch on Sundays: I’m still single. While people around me seem to be procreating like rabbits (boy, it must have been a very cold winter last year and what’s with this biological clock everyone’s talking about?), I am a rock, I am an island. I’m going to tell you this much, though: it’s not because I just can’t let go of my precious freedom. I do believe in love – the heart-wrenching, earth-shattering kind; this incredible love that you can feel to the tip of your fingers. I’ve felt it. And then it left me.
Maybe it was just a preview, though. Maybe it didn’t mean what I thought it did. Whenever this silly feeling deep in my gut rears its ugly head and wants to tell me to get real, because life’s not a movie or a fairy tale, that there’s no such thing as fate and that, by the way, Santa Clause doesn’t really exist, I decide not to listen to closely. It’s not that I’m a hopeless optimist/romantic – I’ve just decided that if
everything turns to shit life gets rough, nodding your head and mumbling I’ve known it all along doesn’t help you, either. You might as well have a little hope – even if it’s all you’ve got.
So much for my latest random thoughts. You may or may not want to call this a quarter-life crisis; probalby it’s just an almost boring reflection on life the way people like Socrates already did it way back in good old Greece (in the golden days, when they weren’t bankrupt or so much as knew about the concept of bankruptcy yet). And anyways, what’s in a name, as Juliet would say. No matter the label, it still feels the same.
I don’t know about you guys, but sometimes when I haven’t written much in a while, it’s hard to stop or filter what comes out as soon as I sit down –
it’s like written vomit; it’s like
Long story short: here’s another piece I wrote and actually it was meant to belong to the other two story drafts but maybe it doesn’t after all. And maybe there’s something missing to tie them together, I’m not sure yet. Anywho, I wanted to post it anyways because sometimes it helps to put something out unfiltered to get things in order.
Neurons & Electro Chemicals
The words burst in his mouth like overripe fruit and splattered into my face, sticky and foul. I. Love. You.
Most nights after I came home from work I turned the TV on and my thoughts off – 58 civilians die in a terrorist attack try our Tuesday special it’s delicious you’re gonna need a bigger boat all new next week on ABC frankly dear I don’t give a damn – most nights everything eventually blurred together into a cloud of sounds; white noise.
I felt the weight of three beers pulling me down and had trouble standing up straight. I stared at him for about a minute, then opened and closed my mouth a couple of times without saying something like an actual word. Sometimes too many thoughts shot through my brain at the same time; an explosion of neurons and electro chemicals that made my nervous system even more nervous and entirely inoperable: I basically turned into a half-wit in a matter of seconds.
The words burst in his mouth like overripe fruit, sputtered into my ear, sticky and moist. I. Love. You.
Whenever I worked late I just had dinner in front of the TV: a glass of beer and a candy bar. It was usually the time when I started wondering whether it might be time to clean the apartment again. Mostly, however, the soothing buzz of daily news and commercials put me to sleep before I could even get up and clean up the remains of the night before (an empty glass; a candy wrapper) . That’s why it always made me laugh how much money some people were willing to spend on their nightwear. As if anyone except for your cat and the lady at the cash register would ever see it. I usually fell asleep with my clothes on and no one minded since I didn’t have a cat.
Of course there were a million things I could have easily said. Things that had been said before; things that never sounded quite right because there was nothing to say that sounded quite right in the first place. Things I’d read in books and seen in movies (just that I was lacking empirical evidence, but that usually didn’t bother me; usually, I made something up – but now: just neurons and electro chemicals).
I could have tried the obvious: I’m sorry, I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, I swear. I just don’t wanna ruin our friendship, it’s not you, I promise. Or something less friendly, maybe some of the generic bullshit. I guess I’m just not the relationship type. I’m not ready for something like this. Blahblahblah. I had an entire conversation with him in my head and that’s where it stayed: in my head. The thought alone made me want to cry or punch something.
There were a million other things I needed to tell him but couldn’t. Because often the things you need to say the most are the things that just won’t come out. I already gave my heart to someone else. Someone who, in fact, broke my heart what feels like a second ago because that’s how life plays you sometimes. I’m busy holding my shit together I can’t handle someone else’s. Would it be okay to throw up right now? I didn’t know if I should hug or slap him.
I ended up not saying anything all the way to the train station. He might have said something but I didn’t hear it. I only heard myself think; neurons and electro chemicals. After a while I heard blood rushing through my veins. And car engines. I heard my heart break. I might have heard his heart break in between.
Of all the words running through my head, I chose the only two that felt genuine enough at the end of the night: Good night. I watched him get on the train, watched the door close behind him. I watched the train drive off and disappear. I tried calling a friend but she didn’t answer; it was almost 2 in the morning so I wasn’t surprised. I just took a deep breath instead and threw up right in front of the tracks, then I slowly walked home.
I turned on the TV; I wanted to turn his words off. After 3 hours and 4 episodes of Law & Order I finally fell asleep.
Sometimes life gets so busy, you have to take a moment and recapitulate just so you don’t outpace yourself. And I don’t even mean busy in a spectacular I-just-shot-a-critically-acclaimed-motion-picture-and-now-I’m-having-Spielberg-over-for-dinner kind of way. Because sometimes you’re busy with things that are not that interesting, even though they matter a lot to you personally (like studying, work, cleaning the house or calling your mom). The past weeks, I’ve been jumping back and forth between class and work, trying to (finally!) finish my thesis somewhere in between. I have no idea how people can have a job, get a degree and have kids. The thought alone simply blows my mind. I have two plants (they’re doing fine, no worries), my apartment isn’t a mess and I manage to feed myself and every now and then some friends but that’s about it. So kudos to you guys, you are amazing.
But I digress. This wasn’t actually my point. I was talking about recapitulating, because that’s what I meant to do. So here we go: I’ve had to take cold showers for more than a week because I couldn’t reach the plumber and when I managed to reach him, he forgot about me in the course of his busy day (maybe he should have paused and recapitulated as well). He did come by today, though, and fixed what needed to be fixed – let me tell you: I’ve never been happier about the blessing of running, hot water! So that’s that. I’ve also spent the afternoon with my grandma who just moved into a nursing home. I don’t know about you, but I find the thought alone really depressing. Sleek linoleum covered floors, each and every wall painted in light yellow (because of the soothing effect … yeah, right), people moving around equipped with their emergency medication and wheeled walker. All of this may not be that interesting to you, but to me personally, it matters a lot. Sometimes it’s nice to share something even though it may not be the most earth-shattering of things. Because they are still things that have shaped your reality and maybe they’ve even changed bits and pieces of you as a human being while you weren’t paying attention because you were so busy.
Now, something else entirely! I’ve also written another piece that belongs to my last past, technically. At least, they’re part of one and the same overarching idea, even though it may not yet be apparent. Anyway, I still wanted to share it in its early stages, if anyone has any thoughts they want to share – please do! Enough of my Monday rambles, though. Here goes the next part of the story.
Transatlanticism, pt. II
He was saying that he knew where to go but, of course, I didn’t trust him until we were there. Because I never trusted anyone and also because Nathan’s sense of direction was worse than my own; and my own was already pretty bad.
“Are you sure it’s on Huntington?”
“Yeah, it’s just down the street – I double-checked. I won’t lead you around in circles again, I promise.” He smiled and I could feel that tense muscle in my neck relax a bit.
I smiled back. “At least now I do know my way around Providence.” Okay, armistice.
Not that he could really blame me and my skepticism. When he took me out to dinner the week before, we first ended up getting lost on our way back to the car and then he took the wrong exit which resulted in a two-hour long detour. Not that I minded terribly. I also learnt more about cranberry bogs that night than I thought there was to know about them, ever. You never know when knowledge like that might come in handy, though; especially when you’re a teacher (that’s what I like to tell myself anyways). When he finally rolled into my driveway it was already two in the morning and he felt so bad that he didn’t even kiss me goodnight. I minded that a little bit.
In the end we found the Museum of Fine Arts right away and I tried my best to hide my surprise. I was also still busy trying to figure out why he’d insisted on taking me to a museum, of all places. He didn’t strike me as the type who’d willingly spend his weekends wandering up and down museum halls, eager to learn, looking for inspiration or whatever it is that brings people to museums. That is, unless it had something to do with cars, motorbikes, maybe planes if the design was cool enough.
When we looked at an exhibit of different paintings and drawings, it turned out I already knew him well enough after all.
“Okay, so this just looks like a bunch of shit if you ask me” he snorted.
“Okay, so we should have just gone to see a movie if you ask me” I should have said.
Of course, I didn’t. Because I was the type who would willingly spend her weekends wandering up and down the halls of a museum, getting lost in the wild dabs of blue and green of an impressionist painting; reading about the origins and background of a collection of historical artifacts and other things I’d just forget as soon as I would leave the building. Maybe he’d taken me there because he knew me well enough, too.
I’d realized that we had absolutely nothing in common on our first date already, but I liked his cynicism and his light blue eyes. I also liked that he took me out on real dates and that he openly announced them as such. He always picked me up at home and called me beautiful (and it always seemed like he actually meant it) and so I didn’t really mind that he had a terrible taste in music, movies and that he was rooting for the wrong team. I also didn’t mind that he was constantly complaining about the state and possible decline of America as a hegemon in the world and about the American people as such, even though he was such an all-American guy himself, with his beige khaki slacks and his degree in business and finance. I didn’t mind a lot of things simply because of the way he treated me. I’m sure we’d have had beautiful children. I’m also sure we’d messed them up terribly (then again, who doesn’t?).
The last night I saw him was Valentine’s Day. He came over to give me a single red rose; to say goodbye or maybe I’m sorry or both. Not because he’d also figured out that we didn’t really have anything in common. He simply had to fly all across the Atlantic for work. He seemed to feel just as bad as the night we took the 2-hour detour but at least he did kiss me, his beard rubbing against my chin until it was red and warm. I took his hand and pulled him out of the doorway; gently pushed him into the apartment. Later I took his hand and pulled it out from underneath my shirt; gently pushed it under my skin. There was nothing else left to do.
Whenever I think about it, it almost makes me laugh (one of those stories that doesn’t hurt anymore, you might as well turn it into an anecdote – maybe not for dinner party’s; maybe for drunk and confessional nights out): I watched him climb into his old and way too spotless BMW one last time; I didn’t wave, I just stood on the porch, staring at the tail lights disappearing around the corner.
Sometimes nothing is said and yet: you still know it’s over – despite the promises (“Of course, I’ll call as soon as I get out of the plane”), despite the exchanging of e-mail addresses; even despite the fear of loss, lonely nights and the possibility of falling back into old habits (too many drunk nights in a row and never enough Advil in the medicine drawer to fix all that needs fixing, dear God).
I thought of his eyes and hands one last time and I thought that just couple of hours later he would be able to visit my family as easily as he’d been coming by my apartment for the past months.
Sometimes it’s really hard to beat the irony of life.
I have been so busy lately (and still am) and who-or whatever’s responsible for the weather seems to suffer from manic-depression: within the past couple of weeks, we’ve first had a period of non-stop rain, then a subsequent flood (millennial aka a helllottawater) and the most recent gem: a heat wave. From the highs into the lows and back and whatnot.
So for these past weeks, I didn’t really have time to write, but I’ve been very tempted to write something about highs and lows in general – I mean, go figure, right? Yet, now that I do have some time on my hands: I’ve decided against it; I’m going to stick with the highs. I’ll give you high temperatures and enthusiasm – because after a miserable spring it’s summer (finally). And just because I want to.
This Monday was my dad’s birthday and because my family is a little weird (as I imagine all families are if you look closely) and my mom’s always been a very practical woman, they decided they were going to have a birthday B-B-Q the Sunday before – just because schedule-wise it worked out better than celebrating his actual birthday or throwing a party the weekend after (like most people would have done – just sayin’, guys).
So I packed my present (an exquisite selection of different beers to maintain my dad’s perfectly shaped beer belly – you’re welcome, Mom) and got myself on the bus, while my sister packed her three boys (one husband, two sons) and got into the car. My sister’s eight years older – which, I think, doesn’t make that much of a difference when you’re 24 and 32, yet: if my parents had decided to set up a grown-up and a separate kids table, they’d probably put me on the latter.
Of course, I wouldn’t have minded. At all.
My nephews are adorable. B., the older one’s in fifth grade: thankfully he hasn’t hit puberty yet (knock on wood); last Christmas he whispered a very indecent joke into my ear while the entire family sat gathered around the table for lunch and I almost knocked my food right off the table – a minute later I discovered that he’d just learned it from a girl at school (of course, I immediately told him that she was bad influence and he better stay away from her) and that he wasn’t entirely sure what he’d just told me (Thank God). His most impressive quality: he is able to eat seven really huge pancakes if he’s a very hungry caterpillar; to my dismay: English is his least favorite subject and he couldn’t care less about the fact that his aunt (almost) is an English teacher herself (luckily, he also doesn’t care when his aunt tries to sneak in books or other English-related goodies along with the actual birthday or Christmas present – he just frowns and puts it aside when he thinks no one’s looking).
D., the younger one, is a little straggler – he isn’t even a year old yet. He has my sister’s huge blue eyes (her very romantic husband lovingly refers to them as fish’s pop eyes) and also wouldn’t mind stuffing seven pancakes into his little mouth, if only my sister would let him. Because she doesn’t, however, he has to content himself with stuffing one of his socks into his sticky, smudgy baby face – or his foot, if the sock’s already soaked and my sister slipped it off his chubby foot. Whenever I get a chance, I pick him up to carry him around. I tell him incoherent stories with so many plot twists that in the end, there’s just twists and no plot at all and he doesn’t mind (he’s my most appreciative audience), he just looks around, kicking his feet and rowing his arms as if he was about to take off, a little bird. Eventually he gets tired – that’s my favorite part – and rests his fluff-covered head on my chest: and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the ultimate high. It’s even better than – oh my God, I can’t believe I’m saying this – chocolate. I swear.
Inspired by the weather and today’s Daily Prompt.
Pt I: the status quo (aka: is it time to build an arch yet?)
Jack’s been occupying my iPod for about two weeks now. For some reason, his lyrics and his ukulele are the only things that keep my spirits (relatively) high as I constantly keep my head as low as possible, trying to duck out of the rain and into the hood of my rain jacket.
The entire May’s been a huge fraud in terms of the weather. If you ask me, this year’s May wouldn’t even pass for a third-rate April any other year – but of course, no one asks me; in the end, I just have to put up with it and mutter to myself in discontent.
In a crazy attempt to be less cynical and more optimistic in general, I’ve also been trying to adopt Jack’s attitude: The world has its ways to quite us down, the world has its ways, to quiet us down comes the rain, down comes our spirits again; but down comes the strength, to lift us up and then… Sounds good, doesn’t it? Naturally, in theory this is much easier than in practice.
Pt II – a very short short story, (kind of) based on real events, I swear! (aka it’s definitely time to build an arch now, jeez …)
Are you gonna dress up? She asked; I think, it’s too cold. I thought about it for a second, imagining myself wedged into a way too tight black dress, freezing my ass off, and my spirits made a loud clattering noise as they hit the floor. I probably won’t, I said.
Not only had winter apparently decided to stop by for a surprise visit in late May, the entire afternoon had been nothing but a blurry drizzle – although a look into the sky did promise a change in weather soon: it looked like the evening might well end in a sudden downpour, followed by thunder and lightning. It was definitely the best time for an outside activity (especially, when it’s not suitable to show up in your hiking gear but to make matters worse, you’re supposed to look nice).
We met at the foot of the bridge; both bundled up in (roughly estimated) fifty layers of clothing, each armed with an additional raincoat and umbrella. We might have looked like the Morton Salt twins – if we’d been more chipper.
We made our way to the rest of the group: they’d already sat down at one of the tables that were set out under a huge gazebo-like tent. We ordered two glasses of beer and two huge entrees (vegetarian, because I am and, thankfully she’s great and doesn’t mind) – might as well treat ourselves, we thought.
Just like most of the restaurants of the area, they brought half the things we ordered sprinkled with diced, fried bacon on top (or a similar extra-vegetarian treat). The beer was good, though, so we ordered a second round, hoping the rain would eventually stop.
It never did, of course.
Pt III – some pictures instead of more words (aka I’m gonna shut up about the rain now, promise).
I spent most of March traveling and although I’ve been back for a while, I haven’t entirely unpacked yet. Because I hate unpacking.
It’s the least romantic part about traveling to me: dirty laundry, (hopefully still intact) souvenirs, used boarding passes/train tickets, crumpled receipts, postcards you meant to send but forgot about; it’s like taking down Christmas decorations after the holidays – it always feels too soon.
I think of emptying a suitcase as surgery: delicate; you have to remove piece after piece carefully and in the right pace or it’ll be a bloody mess.
I love to keep some sand in my shoes, and some change if the currency is foreign. I usually find little notes, candy wrappers and flyers advertising concerts, museums, movies and all sorts of food between the pages of my journal after I’m already home for weeks.
This time, there was also a note from a friend I visited for a few days of my trip.
She moved to Houston last year and I hadn’t seen her new apartment yet. I only knew her old apartment in Austin.
In the end, the new one reminded me a lot of the one she’d had before – her bedroom looked almost the same, to me it did anyways: postcards and pictures on the wall (quotes in English and Arabic), books (in English and Arabic).
One evening, we sat on the floor, having an indoor-picnic-dinner (because, even though we were in Texas and it was March, it was still too cold to picnic outside).
We decorated slices of apple with dabs of peanut butter and the soft carpet with crumbs of bread (there’s a reason why people usually picnic outside). I tried to pick up a few crumbs with the tip of my index finger, tracing back the way our dinner had gone, a path back and forth between our plates, like a bridge; I tore it down (sometimes, that’s what you have to do).
We hadn’t seen each other in almost a year so we talked about things that had happened: life and everything in between.
We talked about how one of her friends was almost pulled into a car by a couple of strangers on her way home while they studied together in Egypt and how this is not a big deal there because it happens all the time and no one ever says a thing (until it happens to them, but it doesn’t, right? it’s always someone else); we talked about how one of my friends was kidnapped a couple of years ago because her family was too wealthy and the rest of her country too poor and how this is not a big deal there because it happens all the time and no one ever says a thing (until it happens to them, but it doesn’t, right? it’s always someone else).
Sometimes I’m sure there’ll be a loud creak any second and the world will just fall over, unhinged, because there must be an imbalance between good and evil in the world; sometimes I’m sure the only reason it doesn’t happen is because you’re in a relatively stable position while you’re knee-deep in the shit.
Other times I get up to my favorite song on the radio and it’s enough to make me think it’s maybe not that bad. Not because I think my favorite song is going to level out everything that’s going wrong in the world – but if we’re going down, I feel a lot better knowing that at least the soundtrack is good.
We also talked about our favorite songs, a movie I’d recommended to her a while ago (Harold and Maude), and boys love, its complications, its many layers and whatever it is that girls people talk about when they talk about love.
We talked about the future – job possibilities, what our friends had done with their lives (and impressed us with it, or the opposite), what our parents wanted us to do with our lives (and how we didn’t really want the same, of course); things we wanted to do, ideally; things we could imagine settling for.
There’s so much life ahead of us, she burst out all of a sudden. The only answer I could think of: What are we going to do with it? So we tried to come up with a plan; it ended up being a list of things – written as a note, the twist: we wrote it to the other (because advice to others is often easier).
My note said: * Keep writing * Keep learning/teaching * Keep breathing * Keep doing yoga * Keep taking pictures * Keep watching inspiring movies/reading inspiring books * Specific items to do: play guitar, research teaching assistantships in America, find and visit the German-speaking part of Romania (yes, it exists! no, it’s not where the vampires are … or is it?) * Always remember: it’s worth it to fall in love.
I put the note into my journal; I re-read it many times since she first wrote it. I’ve been trying to keep it in mind – while I’m waiting for the loud creak and the sinking feeling you get when you’re going up/down too fast for your stomach to keep up because the world’s falling over after all; while I’m hoping it doesn’t.
Because there’s so much life ahead (and a lot in between).
Once there was a single mom. Once there was a little girl. They lived in an apartment. They had a small blue car. Their neighbors were Russian immigrants who had fled from the war in their country. Every morning the single mom took the little girl to the kindergarten that was just down the street, next to the shop that was closed down most of the time because it burnt down twice in only a couple of years – no one ever knew how or why but no one really wondered either because things just were what they were (and often they weren’t good). That’s what it felt like anyways.
Family (of sorts)
When I was little and imagined being older and having a family, I always imagined being a single mom – just because that’s how our little family was set up and I simply assumed that’s how things were supposed to be. I also imagined having a pageboy haircut and wearing leggings, just because it was the beginning of the 90ies. Now that I am older, I hope that things will be different. Although being the only adult in the family automatically grants you absolute remote control, I wouldn’t mind sharing it with a second grown-up person around. Also, I don’t watch that much TV anyways. I certainly hope I won’t be wearing leggings all that often – there are probably many other ways in which I’ll be able to embarrass my future-children, the least I can do is spare them that one.
Then again, I guess we weren’t a two-people-household. Not really. There were three other families living in our apartment building and all of them were babysitting me, sort of. Okay, basically I just knocked on their door and they let me in. There was this older lady who lived just next door and had this amazing chocolate supply hidden in her bedroom closet and also an astounding collection of board games. There was a young family: they had a daughter who was maybe 3 years younger than me (which is a lot when you’re under 6); she was toddlering around which means she didn’t do much (let alone talk to me) but I really liked to spend time with her. Also, she had really cool toys. And then there was a middle-aged man who was still (or maybe: again) living with his mother (which didn’t strike me as vaguely off-norm back then because, thankfully, I was too little).
Sometimes, my mom would take me in our small blue car to visit friends in another town close by. This was all very exciting for two reasons: one, we took the car, and that car really was exciting in and of itself. It was light blue with moss green seats (it’s true, I swear) and it was made of recycled material (also true, cross my heart) that included cotton. This may have been friendly on the environment, yet: if you back your car out of the garage with the door open and then hit something (like my mom did once), the door isn’t dented – it tears apart (and has to be glued and stapled together and doesn’t look so nice after). Two, my mom’s friends were (and are) amazing people with two children of their own so me and my mom both had someone to hang out with – someone our own age group even, which made conversation a lot easier.
Every now and then, my dad would make an appearance after all. Sometimes, I even spent an entire weekend with him, which – I admit – was always great. One of these weekends when we had breakfast together, he made me cereal, Froot Loops to be precise; he boiled the milk (I hadn’t seen anyone do that before) and the bowl was still steaming when he put it down in front of me. It was delicious. Mostly, though, he would only promise to spend the weekend with me and then back out a day before he was supposed to pick me up. Mostly, my weekends remained frootloopless. One day when he did show up and took me to the zoo, I tried to remember his first name – I tried really hard and I just couldn’t; it really bugged me. Eventually, after the giraffes and before the hippopotamuses, I asked him. I think this must have upset him but he told me anyways. This was the last time I ever saw him and I still wonder: maybe I shouldn’t have asked him; maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference anyways. My mom never told me why things turned out the way they did. She didn’t like to talk about him and I didn’t want to upset the one parent I had left.
Once there was a little girl. Once there was a single mom who was tired of being just that and married a man who promised to love her, for better or worse. She got rid of her small blue car because she was tired of looking at its patched up door – a makeshift. She wanted something new, something that was in one piece. They moved far away because it keeps you from looking back when you can’t see what you’ve left behind.
There are many things I’d like to tell or ask my mom but never do. Mostly, I just want to ask her about my dad. From time to time, I need some information about him to fill in some official form (they always ask you about both parents – assuming it is not a problem, of course). Usually, it’s basic stuff: birthday, address, job situation. She still doesn’t like to talk about him, even when it’s just generic like that. I can’t imagine how she’d feel talking about what she can’t look up in a folder stored in the back of her cabinet.
I understand. I’d like to tell her that I think I understand. My dad left because of another woman, just like that; he has at least one son with her (if not more; if he’s still with her; maybe he has other children with other women). My mom had to work hard to make ends meet. She had to work all day. She was sad; I remember her being sad anyways. Our apartment building didn’t have central heat so there was a stove in the living room of each apartment. We heated by coal which meant that every so often a truck would dump a huge load of coal into our backyard and my mom had to shovel it into buckets and carry it into the basement just to carry it back into our apartment when we needed it. Apparently that’s why I got sick often. It was still too cold (all very Dickens, right?). These are just random things I remember.
At the same time, I don’t understand. I’d like to ask her all these questions because I don’t understand. It is what it is: he’s still my dad, about 50 % of my genes. I’d like to know whether he is really a bad person or whether he’s a good person who made some bad decisions (or not even that – just some decisions that hurt, maybe he didn’t mean to). I’d like to know. I need to know. I still miss our small blue car with the patched up door. I still miss my dad and I don’t know whether he even deserves it.
Weekly Writing Challenge: (Changes) In An Instagram
It was 2011 – the year of the Arab spring. Not a day passed without more news of protest, blood, violence, intervention, sweat, war, censorship, and occasionally even: hope. A friend of mine was about to board a plane to Egypt. She was going to spend a year in the middle of all the chaos studying Arabic and trying to stay alive. Unlike people born, raised and suppressed in the Middle East, she had the luxury of choosing whether or not to face the turmoil. She was aware of this and it’s probably why she didn’t back out in the end. This isn’t about politics, though. Not about injustice. It’s simply about someone’s life changing.
We were standing in the kitchen, snacking on left-overs, a bag of chips and a small container of peanut butter with chocolate chips that we’d just bought at Whole Foods. College dinner.
“Do you think they’ll let you go?” I asked her.
We were both on spring break and I was visiting her for a couple of days.
“There’s so much going on right now.”
She shrugged. “I keep checking the news – so far, I don’t know. I really wanna go, though. It seems to be the place I should be right now…”
I reached for a chip and we were quiet for a while.
I was about to board a plane, too. I wasn’t headed for a conflict area (unless that’s a term you’d apply to the European Union; I guess, some people would). After studying abroad for a year, I was going home – whatever that means. I wasn’t sure then, I’m not sure now. I stood at the check-in, hoping several things: that I still had enough money in my account to pay for my extra suitcase, that my entire luggage wasn’t overweight (obesity is a serious problem among luggage of all sorts, people should be much more aware of it), and that they wouldn’t have me check in my guitar so it wouldn’t get smashed by potentially overweight suitcases somewhere along the way. Thankfully, all this hoping kept me too busy to fully realize that I was just handing over my life (that I’d managed to stuff into two large bags and a bag pack, god knows how) to the well-dressed lady behind the desk in front of me. So I stood there, smiling blankly, watching my life disappear behind her. I might have seen one of my friends cry from the corner of my eye but I successfully ignored it, even as I went to say my good-byes.
“Do you think you’ll come back?” she asked into the silence. We had quietly moved over to the sofa in the living room.
It was my turn to shrug. “I would really like to…I don’t know, either. Let’s hope so.”
People always talk of hope when there’s nothing else to hold on to. It’s usually about the time they rediscover belief and prayer.
She looked at me: “You should try.”
I looked at my hands: “We should try.”
And we sort of hoped together.
I was probably the only person on the plane that wasn’t relieved when we landed. I didn’t applaud the pilot. I usually don’t because it really makes me feel silly. That day I didn’t because it really made me feel all sorts of things. As I waited in line to have my passport checked I simply started crying. Someone asked me whether I was playing the Cello, pointing to the guitar on my back, entirely ignoring the fact I stood there sobbing as if someone had just abducted my child or my puppy or even worse: both, and that I was just two breaths per second short of hyperventilating. People never cease to amaze me, and not always in a good way. “It’s a guitar” I mumbled while cleaning my glasses and double-checking whether I could see things in full color to make sure I hadn’t just landed in the middle of a Marx Brothers movie. Unfortunately, I hadn’t. I stood, in fact, in the middle of plain, old reality: close to broke and about to move back in with my parents, at least for a while. A seven-hour flight can certainly change things.
My friend had to spend the summer waiting for news. News of protest, blood, violence, intervention, sweat, war, censorship, and occasionally even: hope. News of the program that sponsored her studies.
Eventually, she e-mailed me “I’m going to Egypt in fall!”
I e-mailed her back: “Come visit then – I’m half-way home for you!”
Although I still felt uncomfortable with the term home.
I spent my summer waiting, too. Waiting to feel — real.
I subscribed to the New York Times newsletter to stay updated with the situation in the Middle East. To make sure my friend was studying Arabic and staying alive at the same time. And because I was looking for something — real.
I also got a side job: to occupy me until classes would start, and even more important, to earn some money. So I worked. I bought a ukulele. My grandmother passed away. I wrote a couple of songs. I went to my grandmother’s funeral and squeezed my mother’s elbow. I moved into a small apartment. Fall came and I still found myself cleaning my glasses from time to time, double-checking whether I could see things in full color. Just to make sure I wasn’t part of a movie. Unfortunately, I wasn’t. Only sometimes, it still felt like it. And I wondered what could possibly change that.