Occasionally, I like to write stuff and, unlike my work projects, I have a tendency to never finish anything I start writing. Instead of keeping those scribbles in a dark corner of my hard drive, I put them down here, in the hopes of it inspiring someone else to write something.
For the past few evenings, I have heard some kind of music coming from my upstairs neighbour’s apartment. I’m pretty sure it’s the background music of some game, or some kind of pop song, but through the ceiling it sounds to me like the soundtrack of the Titanic movie, or at least the version I had to practice for my keyboard lessons back when I was eleven.
I’m not eleven anymore, haven’t been for I while. Now I’m a 20-year old guy sipping from his glass of vodka, getting drunk alone. Some would call me a man, and I try to act like I am a man as well. But the truth is that I’m just that same child, getting frustrated about not being able to comfortably switch between the cords in the song. But now I’m frustrated about being alone, without money, without luck, it seems, without clear aspirations about the future. Now I’m frustrated about not knowing who I am or who I will be, when I’ll be, whether I’ll be anything at all.
I’ll guess the road forward is quite clear though, and still the same as it was for the eleven year old me: put the sheet music back into the folder, and practice again tomorrow for another 20 minutes, and the day after, until I’m able to play those cords perfectly.
She sat there alone, on the side of the bed. It was silent in her room, but in her head she heard the final chords of a sad love song. She loved this feeling, this undefined, directionless sadness. It felt like home, like all those nights alone. It felt like puberty, like high school. It felt like being alone after having spent all of the weekend together with friends. It felt like her dad's house, her mom's bedroom. Like that boyfriend that wasn't hers. It felt like hearing her brother speak at her uncle's funeral.
She got up from the bed and walked to the bathroom. She turned on the shower and slipped out of her clothes. Wearing only her boy shorts, she looked in the mirror and smiled at the colourful reflection of herself.
I heard a girl speak with a voice like hers. I walked to the window, to see into the dark of my street, to see if it was her. Of course it wasn’t. Just some drunken girl talking to a guy while they walked hand in hand to their final destination for the night. I still helt out hope that she would come running to me one day. That she would ring my doorbell and she would suddenly be standing in my living room. Sitting on my couch. Lounging in my bedroom, laying in my bed. Next to me.
She was lit up with ecstasy when we saw each other again after almost a year had passed. She was studying in Cambridge, I had been working in London. Not that those places were so far apart, but for some reason we never got to actually set a date and meet up before.
The week before I had finally texted her. "Dinner. Friday 9pm. Your town." She replied simply with “Statue in front of train station.” We had learned to be so short and direct with each other over the two years we spent together in secondary school. We never really texted with each other like you normally do. For some reason it felt wrong to say more than a few words in a fashion that was not face to face. We never said more than "At school?" or "Coffee, 3pm?" in our texts.
I didn't have to look for long while walking out of the station. She had noticed me before I had even seen her, hugging me tightly with one arm, while holding her bicycle with the other. "Oh, Thomas," she said with a serious tone. She started smiling, "I've got so much to tell you!"
That was the safest, happiest time of my youth. That time we played like kids, loved like teenagers and attempted to act like adults. Back when we would spend all of our summer in a tent in her back yard, in a lazy attempt to get away from both of our parents and have just enough privacy to explore the many facets of love.
We spent all our time outside. We crawled out of our tent when the sun came up, and sat on the terrace long after it went down. We would either be in your back yard, at the market in the city centre, or cycling through the fields that surrounded your house. The summer was ours.
I didn’t spend much time at home those summers. A hundred times I had to choose between the damp apartment in the city or the fresh air of your back yard. That choice became more difficult as the summer progressed, with my parents urging me to come home because they hadn’t seen me in weeks and school would start soon. I would always hesitate for a moment, then glance at her and tell my mother that I would call her again tomorrow.
That first summer we spent doing nothing at all. Our main activities were laying in the grass, looking at either the clouds or the stars, and bothering her dad with the kind of questions nobody had an answer for. Her dad was a rich farmer. He owned all these big machines and employed a dozen people that did all the physical work. He would sit in a lawn chair or walk around with a stack of papers, cursing God and talking about taxes and profits to nobody in particular. Sometimes, he would sit down and start teaching the basics of our economy to an ant or a bug that crawled over the cobblestone. “Supply and demand, that’s the basic idea around most of it. If you desire something, we’re talking demand. Now, if you have the ability to fulfil the desire of another individual, that’s what we’d call supply.” We would walk over to him when we heard him talking like that. He would keep his eyes on the little creature and continue to talk to the ground. He always ended his lecture in the same fashion, by looking up at us and asking: “Why do we make it so complicated for ourselves to live a happy life?”, followed by another curse directed at God.
The very first day of that summer we spent by sitting on a terrace looking out over the river. We ordered a bottle of white wine, served in an ice bucket. I paid for the wine and filled up your glass. We were so happy about the start of the summer. No school for the next two months. No homework, no papers, no teachers, just the two of us together day and night.
"There was this experiment one time; some scientists took a bunch of monkeys and locked them in a room. And in this room, they had tied a rope to the ceiling and let it dangle down to the floor. And at the top of the rope they had tied a bunch of bananas. Well, any time one of the monkeys would try to climb the rope to get the bananas, they'd blast them all with a firehose! After a few rounds of this, any time one of the monkeys tried to climb the rope, the rest would start beating the hell out of it. Pretty soon, none of the monkeys even tried to climb the rope, let alone get the bananas. Then, they started to replace the monkeys one by one; a new one would come in, try to climb the rope, get the hell beaten out of it, and give up. After a few rounds, it would start beating up the other monkeys if they tried to climb the rope. Pretty soon, the scientists had replaced all of the original monkeys; none of them had been firehosed but still, whenever one tried to climb the rope, the rest would beat the hell out of it. Why? Because that's the way that things had always been...."
G.R. Stephenson, 5 Monkeys and a Ladder
"Her tennis was the highest point to which I can imagine a young creature bringing the art of make-believe, although I daresay, for her it was the very basic geometry of basic reality."
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
The distinct feeling of losing someone, in any number of ways, but especially losing them due to single-sided love, I experienced as such a painful process that I unconsciously decided not to bind myself to someone, not to take a chance for the greater good. I screwed myself by doing that, over and over again.
With fierce, quick steps, he walked through the street. Along her house, along her garden, along her garage. He made sure not to show any emotion, in case she was watching him. In reality, his heart trembled each time he passed her house. He had imagined how it might become their home someday. Someday they might live together. Happy, in love. Currently though, all he felt towards her was shame. Shame for making her mad, making her feel insecure. She interpreted his signs of safety and comfort as sings of invasion. Had he done something wrong?
Lights blinked and I could only see her eyes,
Like forbidden fruits in paradise.
With the sweetness of her smile she kissed my lips,
Both of my hands guiding her hips.
Suddenly, like thunder, she darkened my sight,
Caused me to lay there for the rest of the night.
The furniture was old, the blood on the wall new.
Even in Paris, death may find its way to you.
The sunlight shone into my face,
But all I saw is your blackish haze.
Poverty is a sin when seen by your eyes,
Just the people who offer you their riches are wise.
Your delight is the world’s greatest aim,
You can make the sea wave and control the rain.
When somebody would possess the power to make you tame,
The storm would stop and the sea would become plain.
Your beliefs and views change by the day,
But your selfishness and anger always seem to stay.
Though your face conceals your devilish plot,
History reveals your dark sense of thought.
Months ago we went our separate ways,
You already started a new chase.
The sun now casts two separate shadows,
And shines upon the grasses in the meadows.
There once were twenty thieves, sitting in the shade of a giant blade of grass. They had a leader, a strong, but little man. He stood up from the ground and started talking to the other thieves. He said: “You know, men, there once were twenty thieves, not much different from us, sitting under a big blade of grass. Nineteen of them were lazy sons of bitches, not much different from all of you, but they had a large, strong leader, not much different from me.” The leader abruptly stopped talking as one of his men had raised his hand, as if he was to ask a question. The leader pointed at him. “But you aren’t really large, right?”, the thieve said. Without stopping staring at the thieve who just talked, the thieve leader slowly took off his left shoe and threw it at his face. He missed, which according to some people was a pity, others said they could not care less.
The thieve leader continued to speak: “The leader of the group got up from the ground and spoke to the other thieves with a deep, rich, voice, just like mine.” The man whose face was not damaged from the shoe, as is should be, attempted to put his hand up, but another shoe landed in his face before he could. The thieve leader continued again: “…
Red lips. Red as cherries. A single chance. A single chance leading up to a first kiss. A first kiss. A hug. A smile. Her eyes, bright as stars. Her lips, sweeter than sugar. Her embrace, warmer than the Sahara desert. Days with her were long. Long like summer camp nights.