Coffee

One of the many things my best friend and I have in common – there are more things that we don’t have in common but honestly, just because we’re best friends doesn’t mean we have to be each others clone – is our love for good coffee. We actually met through the magical force that is coffee. One fairly regular and uneventful week in October, the sun was out, some clouds dozed across the sky, it was a mild day, in every sense of the word really, mild air, mild breeze, mild people on the sidewalk mildly smiling at or in disregard of each other. Around noon I decided to match my mild mood with a decent cuppa so i made my way to a new favourite amongst the coffee shops. It was quite a walk but I didn’t mind it – keep in mind the mildness of said uneventful day in October.

As I was walking my mind dreamily wandered off in another direction. I knew I wasn’t paying too much attention to my passage but people were being uneventful to such a degree that I did not fear the unexpected. But, as so often in life, when you least expect the unexpected, said unexpected hits you like a hammer across the head, or like an elbow connecting with your temple.

I was knocked off my feet and the next thing i knew was this big guy looming over me, worried expression, blabbering some excuse in absolute terror. …just readjusting my bag strap… didn’t see you there… fuck…. are you alive… just some of the confused babbles I could catch and hold on to long enough to comprehend the meaning. I apologised gingerly. He laughed in slight hilarity and confusion. God no! he basically shouted at me, that was so my bad! and another stream followed. It made me rather dizzy, to be honest. Can I get you something, come let me help you up! was the next thing I disentangled from the rush. Back in a more vertical position my mind slowly refocused and calmed itself. No, no, don’t worry, I’m good! I heard myself say. After three more times of him asking whether he could get me something – from a glass of water, to an ambulance, and (well, I’m still not 100% sure whether I imagined that or if not if that was a joke) a watermelon – we finally got to the point of saying goodbye and have a good day and don’t decapitate anyone else with that elbow of yours.

I walked onwards and after a little while realised that he was still in my vicinity, he seemed to realise the very same thing at the very same moment. Apologetically he said yeah, sorry, I’m not stalking, I was just on the way to get a cuppa. Don’t worry about it at all! We can just walk along for a while like any other civilised pedestrians right? Right. and back to silence we went. We passed about three cafes until I had to ask, hey, uhm, what cafe are you actually going to? Yeah, right, laughter, that new one on the corner up ahead. That’s where I’m going to! and a lengthy conversation about great coffee followed that turned into that what are you and who are you kinda talk that turned into drinks the next day and into a short, really very brief period of us thinking we might end up dating and soon turned into a great very platonic friendship between this bear of a dude and me.

A friendship based on a shared appreciation for random indie band name combinations, Wes Anderson Movies, traveling, and, obviously, the brewed gold – always on the hunt for the better and ever more golden coffee and cafe we’d send each other postcards from new coffee shops whether from around the corner or from Belgium, Paris, or that time in Argentina that he asked the room service to deliver a postcard up to my hotel room from the hotel cafe. We’d also call each other from home and trips and coffee would be the conversation starter – in the fashion of the brits discussing the weather in order to establish common ground or to update each other on each others lives or for whatever reason that custom exists.

Which is why it didn’t strike me as strange at all that when he called me very early this morning that the only thing my sleep numbed mind remembered from the conversation was a coffee-centric remark. ‘And you know what, kiddo? They really have the very best coffee here’. I happily remembered how good he sounded and the incredibly positive vibe of that conversation when I woke up.

You know how mornings are all to peaceful, all too forcefully forgetful sometimes?

I don’t think I understood where that tear came from at first.

But, our minds are a bit more cruel than that space between sleep and wake.

Slowly, I put the question of why I didn’t remember where he was and why sadness tinted the memory of him like drops of black ink a glass of clear water together.

He might not have believed in any old place promised by any old man in any old house of gods but wherever that final trip brought him to, I now feel that he’s at peace. Now, three months since his too young ashes were returned to the water we all come from, I can let my best friend go and forgive him for abandoning me, that clumsy, wonderful, sweet bear of a dude.

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Stranger

I had a dream last night. You and I were standing on the sidewalk facing each other. Cars bustled by and pedestrians went their ways. The windows were open and flowers were blooming. A lady shook out clean white down pillows, whistling a children’s song all along. The postman delivered notes of love and adoration, of missing and adventures. The sign of the buss top gleamed in the soft porcelain rays of sun. We were friends and talked like friends. The bus brushed over concrete towards us. A flock of sheep squeezing through the gate, curs brushing against curls, giving way and taking way. It halted before us. The doors opened with a soft exhale. we got on the bus and didn’t know each other. Didn’t look at each other. Sat through the bus ride as strangers in a strange place. 

Across the Carriage

The city rushes by, a blur of concrete and rock, of shapeless faces and and soulless ads.

As I look up, across the grey mass there is a sky, white and bloated clouds scattered wildly across forget-me-not blue. They all move as the wind directs them. The currents of the sphere. So much like its aquatic counterpart. Shadows of birds sail this bottomless ocean, some made of flesh and blood, others of metal and fire.

Continue reading “Across the Carriage”

So He Returned

It was about this day, a year and two more before this one. In fact, it was on this day, exactly, three years back.

It was stormy then, too. The waves hit the stones and the rocks and the cliff with a force. The salt and the pearly fog of the surf sprayed high, drifted miles and miles into the land.

Foaming, raging white, grudging, furious grey, madly boiling black. The wash rushed ran roamed. It swooshed and slashed and smashed its body against the land, jealously, as if it wanted to take it back, as if determined to victoriously end that perpetual war of land and sea that day.

He sits atop that very same rock.

Staring blindly over the sea, to where there is no longer a distinction between waves, horizon and clouds, to where they become one greyish blue blend of turbulented tempest. To where there is no longer a me or you or they, not even an it or a that. Nothing but a milky exhaustion of contrasts, shapes, and figures.

He is numb to the cold salt water accumulating on his skin beneath clammy clothes, running down his face, into his eyes, his drenched hair clinging like seaweed to pale stone.

Rocks tremble under Poseidon’s roar. He sits, unshaken.

Gales bash violently against his indifferent frame.

The world around him is in a howling riot. Battling to stay afloat.

Three years.

It has been three years.

“already” is a lie.

“only” is a lie.

It’s not the years that matter, it’s the seconds that pose the challenge.

The minutes and hours, days and nights.

The weeks that pass, birthdays and holidays are tough. But the weekends, the normal day to day, the getting up and having breakfast in silence, the fights and pranks, the movie nights and the smell of freshly popped corn, the chemical sweet flavour of cherry twizzlers, the moments that bring so many memories back –

No one to blame, no one to hate for the loss, no such anger release. Not as if that were needed. Grudges feed on anger and the soul, they weaken and sicken the body as well as the spirit.

Three years.

Three years since his brother took his last breath.

Three years walking this earth as a single child.

Three years of being the one that is left.

Three years.

The gales spit in his face. He sits, motionless.

The salt of the ocean runs down his face.

He had escaped to the rocks that day because he couldn’t stand the way his parents had looked at him. Like they wanted to apologise to him. Like they were sorry, as if they had not lost their son just as much as he lost his brother. It was not fair to his parents to think this way and he knew it then as he knows it now. They suffered, they cried, their hearts were broken just as his. No parent should have to bury their child, right? It’s not natural.

Yet, the first thing they did upon the ceased heartbeat was turn to him, to comfort him, talk to him, ask him, too much, too fast

The walls narrowed in on him, the air was sand, he wanted to cough but there was no space for that, it scratched and suffocated him and, he ran

He ran out of the blinking, clean, glaring fluorescence. Out of the beeping and ticking and pumping and wheezing. Out of white and light blue and sterile green. Out of the etherized air. Down the squeaking hallway. Past doors and windows and counters and elevators. He flew down the stairwell. Feet barely touching down on too clean steps. Through the swinging white doors. Into damp air. No rain. At least the world could have had the decency to show some sympathy. What was that, rainy days are the only days one can walk tall down the street while crying? He didn’t walk, he didn’t cry, he ran. He ran until he could breathe again. Until his lungs disgorged cotton and sand. Until Oxygen pumped through his blood. His veins. His muscles.

He ran until he reached the rocks. Until he sat on this rock. Only then could he bring his aching body to stop. He froze to the slick surface.

Three years ago. Three years of dark and empty room. Of the cavity in his childhood home. Of a dusty museum. Of time-defying space.

Three years of moving on and looking back.

He had cried with his parents when he returned home that night three years ago. Nobody spoke a word as he walked through the front door into the darkened living room, drenched to the bone, shivering. The shared grief, corporeal, like a fourth person under the weak lamplight in the room with them.

Nothing could have prepared them for it. The weeks and months with the doctors and counsellors before that final day, three years ago. Nothing healed what was left. It isn’t true that time heals wounds. You just adjust to the pain. You learn how to live with that missing part. Like an amputated limb. In being gone it stays with you for the rest of your life. It is your challenge, your duty to them, to honour what you lost by learning to live again.

A response to the 1,000 words weekly writing challenge.

Inspired by the picture of Contemplation.

Time’s of the Essence

So . . . it’s over. Let me tell you why. Get comfortable, help yourself to some more wine and don’t hold back on the food, it is displayed on this fancy étagère for more than just aesthetical reasons.
Tom sat me down yesterday, after work, you know, I was already running late after spinning class and hurrying to get ready for our fun-night-out. And as I was rushing through the flat, he comes in through the front door. I just see him out of the open bathroom door, in the mirror as I’m standing by the sink trying to do that new fancy lid-line thing you showed me last week, which does not seem to want to come along. So I’m frustrated with myself for being unable to get my makeup right, to get it to look the way I want it to. He just walks in. All suited up and with the briefcase, sets it down and walks in right through to the living room. Shoes on. You know how that irritates me, right? He does too. But he didn’t even seem to notice that he was doing it again. And I was in way too much of a rush already, using the magical power of makeup removing wipes to reset the achievement to zero. But not the time, right. I wish there was an actual reset button on the mirror. Imagine that. Every time you mess up one thing you can just reset to before the mess-up and start over. Do it over. Without losing any time at all. All these minutes adding up to hours adding up to days to weeks months years decades that you wasted on making up for mistakes, correcting mistakes, recognizing mistakes.
Well anyway, he’s in the living room, I buzz around the bathroom for a while until I surrender to genetics and frustration and decide that this is all I’m going to get tonight, the best I will look. And who cares anyway, right? Tom won’t come along, it’s just us girls and I don’t really care much for the whistles on the street anyway, always made me feel like a harlot. So I skip out of our bathroom to change from bra and panties into something more appropriate for the public eye and walk barefooted through the hall into the bedroom and hear him turning on the music in the living room, quite loudly. I mean pretty loudly actually. And I don’t even mind the music that much. I like his taste in music, it was one of the first things we found out we had in common, on our first date. I think I’ve probably told you this story, what? Like a begillion times?

But you know, that first time we went out together, I don’t think I liked him all too much. At first that is. I had been cornered by Millie to go out on a double date with her. Thinking all the while she tried to convince me to come along that I was surprised that people actually did this double date thing in real life. I mean, the first date as a double date, semi-blind. You know. In movies? Sure. Cheesy sitcoms, very likely. But actual people? Grown-ups like I considered her and myself to be, having just graduated from college and secured that job with the magazine for myself and her going on to med school. Seriously mature and all. Don’t laugh, I really thought I was an adult having gone through some kind of a rite of passage. Matured over night. No more childish parties and all-nighters, no more crazy hair and fun little outfits. No, I was headed towards the big-career, fancy-chic, glamorous real life. Not like Las Vegas or Sydney, no, the actual thing.
But yeah, Millie has always been this very persuasive character and so I gave in eventually. We got all dolled up together, she and I were living in that tiny apartment down on Baker’s Street at that time, you know? The one with the fire ladders right outside the back alley windows of our bedrooms. The ones I snuck out on to for that very rare midnight smoke, secretly. Although I think Millie knew about it at the time, but didn’t want to be that moral zealot about everything all the time. You know how she nagged me to go vegan too, or at least vegetarian, to live healthier or whatever. And to go on her 5 a.m. runs before classes and work, or do yoga with her and all that stuff. And her recycled paper all the time, do you remember how she used to praise the value of using recycled paper? So lame. But whatever. She just competed in this triathlon thing last Sunday. I wanted to throw her a party afterwards but she was so knocked out exhausted, she fell asleep in the cab on the ride home from dinner and I ended up calling it off last-minute. Just dropped her off at her place and I think she and Wally ended up watching a movie together. They went to the Hampton’s this weekend actually, for their one year anniversary. Funny how the clock seems to be reset with the wedding, right? I mean, they have been together for four years now but they celebrate the year they have been married instead.
Well, the night we went on the double date, dubiously, she and that guy, whatwashisface, were talking something medical and Tom and I were sitting with them, bored out of our minds. Until he all en passant mentioned that he had gone to that The Killers concert in the Roundhouse. And I was like, no way, and what a coincidence and all and that I had been there as well and we, basically, spent the rest of the night enthusing about the show, their music, and other bands we love.
And when we got ready to leave the restaurant and he asked me whether we would see each other again sometime soon, I was excited, you know. It wasn’t like I wouldn’t have said yes to seeing him again without the music thing, he is quite good-looking, and had that grungy look back then, with his thick curly black hair that you could lose your hands in and those blue eyes, with that spark of excitement in them, the unpredictably reliable. And he was so lean and tall. I probably would have given him another shot even if the date had been boring and slow, anyway, even though I wasn’t that super intrigued by him quite yet. But it was an awkward situation we were put in by our friends to begin with, and Tom and that friend of his were already on their decline. Don’t think they stayed in touch with each other after this weird experience.
But anywho, whatshisface got lost on the way and Tom and I went out to gallery openings and into grungy back-alley bar concerts and fell in love.
And then Millie met Walter and he turned into Wally and we went on couples’s dates together, living the mature live, playing charades and Trivial Pursuit and going to wine tastings and musicals and all that stuff. Always having a great time. I mean, she and I have been best friend for more than half of our lives, and growing up schedules get more complex and planning meetings more complicated, especially after we moved out of our flat and in with our beaus that one summer, it was really very convenient that the guys got along so well and that we all could spend time together.
But then yesterday, he had The Kooks all pumped up, and I could just imagine Mrs. Proctor next door shake her fluffy white hair and her tiny bejewelled wrist, cursing the young folks and their inconsiderateness. So I hopped back out into the hallway, still in my undies, barefooted, and into the living room. He was sitting on the couch, still dressed and shoed and had his eyes closed. Listening to the song, apparently. Or waiting for me to come in and nag about his wrongdoings. I don’t know why but I got kind of annoyed about the casual way he was resting his shoes on the coffee table, again. So I turned the music down, and just stood there by the stereo waiting for him to open his eyes and face me. He did, eventually, and I gave him the expected reproach. He took his feet off the table and sat up straight. Looking at me.
“We need to talk” was his only response to the pretty accurate list of things he had done wrong since walking into our home 10 minutes ago. All during my presentation I kept checking off the things I wanted to mention in my head, all professional and mature-like, I proudly thought to myself.
This comeback, though, I had not anticipated. I had to get ready and meet my friends downtown I said. Truthfully. In my head, giving him the grown-up, factual list of mistakes should have prompted him to right his wrongs. But that plan, like so many of my well thought through ideas landed flat on its belly.
He asked me to sit down.

I contemplated it for a while and then reasoned that I might be able to speed this up by compromising a little.

*  *  *

As she stood there in front of me in her matching navy blue bra and slip, obviously thinking very hard about whether to give in and sit or argue my blunt request first, I couldn’t help but admire her. This stern, sweet-faced woman. The way she positioned her left hand on her waist to seem more imposing, to stand up a little taller.

I had known that I loved her from the moment she had explained her theory about time travelling. We had gone out on a couple of dates before that day and I had liked her the very first night, appreciated the things we had in common and the way she could eat an entire steak, all the sides included and then, guiltlessly order a sundae with an extra scoop of ice cream. Most girls I dated before her wouldn’t even go near desserts, all too refined for such lowly desires. I had only been living in London for about three months when I met her; Accompanying an old college friend of mine to a date, double date that is. He had been after Millie, which now strikes me as odd, for I had only ever really known her with her husband of a year now, Walter. I missed New York, my family and friends, and that old bond to Eric, who had moved to London for work, just like me, had pushed me to call. We hung out every once in a while, very much aware of just how passé our brief friendship was, that is I was aware of this fact at least. Eric probably not so much, since he asked me to come along to this awkward date.
But that afternoon on the way to a gallery opening of one of her friend’s exhibition on Ramillies Street, as she was walking next to me in that little black dress, emphasising her elegant curves and slender legs, I knew that she was special to me. She had switched into earnest factual talk mode, seriously presenting her theory, referring to semi-actual evidence and scientific quotes every once in a while to make it sound more credible. She believed that in the future, time travelling had already been invented and that there were people from the future, quite possibly, among the pedestrians with us on this very sidewalk. At that time I had already figured out how important it was to her to be taken seriously, even while saying such outrageously geeky things. She would walk as tall as her fragile 5’3 frame allowed, seemingly towering everyone else around her. Napoleone. Her father’s nickname for her when she was a child. She had been so upset when her older sister Anne had mentioned it over supper last Christmas.
In one movement she wrapped the black comforter around herself, swung her left leg around and, catlike, sat down on the couch, facing me. I considered how to go about this. How to move on. Settled on blunt honesty. Thinking that she wouldn’t appreciate bullshitting anyway. And, most likely, would see right through it if I tried.
In retrospect, I think I already knew how it would go down, how she would react. We had been down this road, in theory of course, about a million times. New York or London, London or New York. I had never intended to stay for longer than the 8 months contract. But when I met her, I compromised. I wanted to be with her, I loved her. Still do. And I knew that she wanted to be with me. Yet, there was this nagging presence of biting suspicion in the back of my head, that if put before the choice, she would not, could not.

That she liked the convenience of it all too much, of the geographical and social compatibility. Of my compatibility to her. More than once have I tried to push the thought down that one way adaptation is not the best foundation for love, for an equal relationship.

Pushed it down because I wanted to see the best in her.

Wanted to believe that I was just being paranoid, silly.
Yet, we had been down this theoretical conversation over and over again. New York or London. But this time, there was an actual deadline, quite literally. An actual prompt for a decision.

Either way.

“They offered me a job back in New York.”

*  *  *

I was making the pro and con list in my head. Processing, quickly.

Pro: Singing Sinatra is never quite as awesome as when sung in New York.

“Are you taking it?”

Con: There really is no place like London, dear Sweeny, ‘tis true.

“It is a serious promotion. And a considerable raise. More than double of what I make over here.”

Pro: My miles-account will get a serious boost from the commute to my family and friends

“So you are taking it.”

Con: I don’t have any family and own friends overseas.

“I think so, yes.”

Pro: my potential future in-laws are there.

“Oh.”

Con: My potential future in-laws are there.

“I haven’t given them my final response quite yet. Wanted to run it by you first.”

Pro: Snow and Christmas in Manhattan. Seriously. Gorgeous

“That is very considerate of you. Thank you.”

Con: summer… 32 degrees Celsius for three days are what we consider a heat wave. How would I possibly be able to deal with 106 degrees Fahrenheit for weeks and weeks on end broken only by torrential thunder storms at night?

“I know you love your job here and you just got promoted and you’re earning more than well. I wouldn’t ask this of you if it weren’t for its being the opportunity I have been waiting for. I feel like I’m stalling, staying here, wasting time in a low paying position without appreciation. You know I wouldn’t.”

Pro: Spring. Flowers in Central Park.

“I know.”

Con: There are flowers here too.


Pro: Broadway shows


Con: West End shows


Pro: Him
Pro: Love

“Long distance never really works well, does it?”

Con: Job

“I don’t think so”

Con: Me