I haven’t seen him since our shared birthday party in April. Our third since we’ve known each other. Glasses of Malbec seemed to be coming and going and before I knew it the conversation took on a life of its own. Free flow of thoughts that I sometimes didn’t understand myself. He never stopped leaning in and listening and it felt like there was a thread of something to hang onto. I realised that without my tribe I wouldn’t be where I am. From Berlin to Prague. I have outgrown my own feelings and for once I could see clearly. Afternoon turned into midnight. There is still Rome, and it wasn’t built in a day. There is still a lot to be learned from disappearances of people we thought would always be there. Where would I be otherwise?
Autumnal Monday morning. Czechoslovak Independence Day; I spend half an hour reading about the history. I’ve forgotten some bits entirely. Steaming ibrik of coffee and the wooden floors hardly giving any of the heat back. Then the Buddha; motionless but smiling. I think he’s smiling. I worry about my oleander plant. Sometimes the trick is to recognise the self-doubt for what it really is: physical exhaustion. Take a deep breath and do something simple; read, sip water, and be grateful. Because there is a whole lot of it to be grateful for. I spent the weekend in a self-care mode. Just being. Slow and quiet. Listening to the whirl of the washing machine. Waiting.
Dreams of Amakhala. Waking up early in the morning, setting out to search for lions and rhinos. The crispness of the night still in the air, sometimes the moon. I still think of that lonely ostrich, trotting its way across the grass plains bathed in orange light, sunrise all around us. Maybe life could be different again, a little bit more like that. An existence away from the city; from concrete and stillness of moving but not going anywhere. There are other dreams too. Of my own place, ours. The making of a home, the smell of freshly baked bread in the oven, and a patio to drink coffee on. Near the sea, always near the sea with mountains whenever my heart wants them. An unfinished knitting in a basket and a wall full of books. Then the counting off the weeks and months measured by fruit. Sometimes these thoughts sustain me, keep me afloat, through days.
The sea and the sky, permanently blue. A bowl of tangerines, a sort of a communal breakfast. Halves shared, juices dripping down. I nap in the sun afterwards. The stillness of my little town is soothing and in itself feels like a home. I try not to think about the impending list of things. I try to be conscious of my breathing. Later, they call me from Dubai and we make plans. There is something comforting about all of it.
Prague welcomes me back with a glorious orange sunset. I hang around my neighbourhood for hours, delaying my actual return home. Indian summer is still in the air. I keep Michael Kiwanuka’s Love & Hate on repeat. I hear a lot of Spanish from a group of six or seven people. The energy from their table bounces off me and I am jealous of them. Is that the word I am looking for?
The language reminds of me Chapeau Rouge and Roxy and the short-lived stories of my life. Some of them still linger around, like an afterthought and I am too comfortable to stop revisiting them. I think of us and how we’ll measure time in decades instead of minutes. I take comfort in this even though I shouldn’t count on the future. I should know that much.
Comfort. What you seek is seeking you.
Choose life. I consider my daily choices and decisions. What it all adds up to. Things that will matter in five years. Sometimes it’s hard to keep the horizon afloat, visibly in front of me on a daily basis. To remember that it all matters, every little thing. Especially the little things. I feel much better, lighter, when I eliminate. That Pinterest board kind of minimalism. First it was the sugar, then the meat. I start my day with a litre of fresh orange juice and deep breaths of iodine air. And I make a note to self: this is what’s going to matter in five years from now. Self-respect.
Third flight in five days. I arrived home utterly exhausted but happy to be back by the sea. He’ll be in another timezone and six thousand kilometers away. I caught myself thinking about that time before I knew him. What was I doing then? A quick power nap in the sun. Afternoon espresso with the patriarch by the sea. I didn’t realise how much I actually needed this short trip. I spend my days working on reports and formulas that sometimes don’t make much sense to me. Slow, steady progress. Seven Types of Ambiguity. He nearly called you again last night. Can you imagine that, after all this time?
I don’t hear the alarm clock. I don’t even hear him asking me to hand him the phone. I didn’t hear anything. I roll over closer to his side. He is warm and soft, still lost in sleep, everything is dark. I sink into bed, wishing we could sleep for another five hours.
I take the tram number five to work, it takes me five minutes to walk from the station to my office. By the time I reach, it’s seven oh-five. A day of fives, a day for a fresh beginning.
I let the past year slip from me, the absence of words created a dent in my memories. We all used to write more often before. We all used to live our lives differently. Permanent Record without a permanent record.
I could begin with June. Or with any of the other months this year. But there is no point. I no longer believe in clean slates as I used to when I was younger and starting from the beginning seems too exhausting.
What I can do instead is just show up. Show up for myself every day.