november, iii.

A list of things.

Quiet and gloomy, Sunday.
Cream pumpkin soup, made.
Hugs and kisses after a ten-day absence, devoured.
Coffee, made and drank for hours.
Phone calls, left unanswered.

november, ii.

There is a gap. Of course there is. I’ve forgotten the way it feels, how it used to feel, and what the circumstances were. The daily humidity, an open window on the thirty-fifth floor, an Asian city bustling down there somewhere, noisy and awake twenty-four-seven. A city that wasn’t always a home but now is. When I think about the details, my body aches. I miss it all too much now. I always miss things in retrospect but isn’t that the definition of it itself? Moving back slowed everything down; the pace of my life, the noises around me. I still haven’t gotten used to this city. I never say that I live in Prague. It’s always one thing or the other, usually something else. It has been four years and life is different once again, definitely better than it’s ever been. But I am restless and I am afraid how much it will come across in my words. I am easily bored, is that okay? I no longer pine for what could have been because I realised how utterly bad it would have been for me, had it all turned out the way I wanted. And I think that kind of a realisation takes guts.

november, i.

Show’s over, folks. And didn’t October do
A bang-up job? Crisp breezes, full-throated cries
Of migrating geese, low-floating coral moon.*

When summer ended, I decided I would dedicate the rest of the year to letting go. As minimalist as I am, I still managed to collect a full apartment of things. Clothes I don’t wear, books I will never read, and ticket stubs that serve no purpose, people who no longer made me feel comfortable. For someone who lives alone, I own way too many cups and mugs. And of course, how many do you think I use every day? Just the one, that same one, every day. I became aware of the excess of things I own when I stopped traveling even with a carry-on (which was replaced by a simple backpack.) So, today first things, and perhaps the hardest: I parted with around two hundred of my books. Learning not to be afraid.

Mimochodem, pokud máte doma knihy, kterých se chcete zbavit, ale ne vyhodit (!!), tak doporučuji Přijedou si pro ně (mimo Prahu kurýrem), prodají vám je a ještě se podělí o 50%.

october, xxxi.

Bolted awake at five. The sun isn’t up yet but I can feel it. I also feel like I haven’t slept at all but might as well rise; despite the stillness, despite my heavy eyes, despite wanting to sleep. I force myself to breathe deeply for a few minutes, waiting for that feeling of elation. The thing is, it does work.

I spent the previous evening in Karlín, probably the first time since summer. Mostly on the account that I haven’t been in Prague to begin with. How is it that they all seemed to live on that side of the hill? I recount the conversations, the meal, and the unnecessary overindulgence. It’s hard for me to be disappointed anymore. I was relieved to be walking home, up the hill, through the tunnel. Neboj se. I made a mental note to self not to be. Not to be afraid and breathe with full lungs.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

october, xxx.

The Round House, Louise Erdrich. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison. Zone, Mathias Énard. The Discovery of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. Beirut Blues, Hanan Al-Shaykh. Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih. Snow Falling on Cedars, David Guterson. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr. In the Eye of the Sun, Ahdaf Soueif. The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton. The City Always Wins, Omar Robert Hamilton. The Glass Palace, Amitav Ghosh. Year of the Monkey, Patti Smith. House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East, Anthony Shadid. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, Katherine Boo. The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, Dominic Smith. The Revolution of Marina M., Janet Fitch. Seven Types of Ambiguity, Elliot Perlman. The Book of Disquiet, Fernando Pessoa. Night Train to Lisbon, Pascal Mercier. Blindness and Seeing, José Saramago.

An ambitious and hopeful list for winter.

october, xxix.

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?

october, xxviii.

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.