if i had more courage

moon-super-moon-space-science-52971

i loved you when we were young

your iridescent smile was my moon

i’ve always carried the shape of your eyes with me

in a velvet pocket in my heart

and your hair curled around your face

and my hair curled around mine

this is what soulmates must look like, i thought

as i wrote your name in a book each night

many years passed till we met again, and

your face was still my moon

i trembled under your every gaze

your eyes had grown more beautiful

but a sadness seemed to follow you

your shoulders looked so heavy

i listened all the while you talked

thinking how far you’ve wandered from yourself

if i had more courage that night

i would have held your hand in mine

and opened my chest so you could see

the velvet pocket in my heart

An Offering

Bench at the American Museum of Natural History

 

I was strolling down the rue de Calais one afternoon stopping every now and then at the markets to pore over second-hand trinkets sold for more than their worth, when there in between all the junk I saw the identical string of pearls I found in your coat pocket all those years ago. They gleamed with a silent silver luster, not wanting to draw any attention yet they opened up a door in my mind that immediately began playing a picture show of long forgotten memories. The first of which burned me the most, the moment I should have walked away but chose to believe you instead. I saw myself standing against the closed door of our room imploring you to explain yourself, we both knew they were not mine, I’d always hated pearls because they reminded me of my cruel grandmother. And you were sitting on the edge of the bed contriving a story but your eyes betrayed you and your lies slipped through your eyelashes and I held your hand in mine as you asked for forgiveness, your cheeks stained by ghostly rivulets of tears. Fool that I was I forgave you in an instant believing it was the only time.

You were so deceitful so indifferent to my love and my sadness, I don’t know how I ever loved you for so long.

After that night you began to stay out more frequently, whole days and entire weekends you could not be found but I always knew where you were with her and I remember standing in the cold kitchen at 4 in the morning my eyes were red and almost swollen shut from crying in front of the moon and the sky. I moved out in the middle of the night a week later while you were still away, Agnes and Peter helped to carry my large old valise and my boxes across the street into their apartment where they let me stay for as long as I needed, my eyes well up even now when I think of their simple kindness and how grateful I was to know them.

I lingered in their spare room for a week like a stowaway, I only wanted to scare you but all I felt was nausea and anxiety every time their phone rang and it was all for nothing because it was never you on the other side. Your apartment lights stayed off all that week and I’ve always wondered if you even knew I wasn’t there anymore. Eventually I gave in and called you at work, your voice was distant I could barely make out the words you were saying, my knuckles were white from clutching the phone to my ear, my eyes were closed to keep from crying. My world was crumbling into funereal ashes around me and you were watching, doing nothing.

I was surprised when you agreed to meet me after work.

It was a Wednesday in late October, the sun was setting in its sky when I set out to meet you, orange leaves flew before me clutching the coat tails of the wind as they went. The thought that you would not arrive briefly crossed my mind but the nausea had crept in again and I was too anxious to dwell on the uncertainty. I sat at the assigned bench outside the park gates. Some school girls in green blazers walked by then stopped suddenly, a tall brunette promptly began to re-plait her friend’s braid that was loosening, they were laughing and tied three ribbons on the end of it to be sure, then they walked on, their bright ribbons glittering in the sun, beige and yellow leaves waltzed around their footsteps. I hoped none of them would find themselves sitting on a bench one afternoon feeling sick because of love. I waited.

I waited and I waited and the wind grew colder and the sky got darker.

More and more people passed me by, the workday was over, their hurried heels clicking on the flagstones their packets of milk rustling after them trying to keep up. I was sure now that you wouldn’t arrive but I could not move. Across the street a waiter was stacking chairs and carrying them inside the café, when he was done he started on the tables, they were trickier and he had to coax them this way and that before getting them over the threshold. He returned to the vacant pavement with a broom and began to sweep away the last traces of the day, he took his time. He must have been around nineteen and I could tell from the movement of his head that he was humming to himself.

I looked everywhere but your face I couldn’t find.

My hands were freezing and I tucked them under my thighs, I should have carried my gloves, I thought. The waiter had moved inside the café and was wiping the windows, I remember thinking he had an awful lot of tidying up to do before he left for the day but he was quick and his face was pleasant and I felt less alone knowing he was there. I had waited almost two hours by then and the sky turned from navy blue to black and the streetlights began bursting into life.

How silly of me to believe you would actually come.

My God, I wanted so much to see you, I wanted you to answer all the questions that clung to my mind.

I knew deep down that this meeting would be futile, your eyes stopped lighting up at the sight of me months ago but I wanted to hear it in your voice, I wanted to see it on your face.

The waiter had replaced his uniform with a black pants and long black coat and was locking the door of the café a plastic cup in his hand. He crossed the empty street and walked directly to me then held out the cup.

‘’I’m sorry he did not come. I hope this makes you feel better.’’ He said, smiling.

I took the cup wordlessly and he walked off into the darkness. I sat drinking the hot creamy chocolate it contained and became acutely aware of the small kind acts in this world being offered in corner stores and outside school yards and on park bench. I began to understand the affection I was looking for in you didn’t reside in you alone it could be found all around me. Moments of sweetness, slivers of happiness were being passed around and shared every day by friends, by strangers, by concerned neighbours who live across the street. I realized I didn’t need to wait for your answers anymore, my soul had been warmed anew, so I woke up and made my way home.

*This story was originally published in Halcyon Literary Magazine, September 2016*

 

A few words on streets

 

road, street, sign

Late afternoon arrives on Saturday and I hurriedly bid farewell to my gracious hosts, who urge me to have just one more slice of cake before I leave. I have no more space, I tell them laughing, slipping my arms into the warmth of my coat while inching my way nearer to the portal of my escape. They finally concede with goodbye kisses and I fly out the front door, skip down the narrow concrete steps, eager for a brief walk before I catch a cab home.

It’s chilly and there’s corpulent stripes of pale pink on the horizon and two young women walk in front of me on their way to the store at the petrol station. The city is quietening down as it does towards evening before it has to perk up all over again with the youthful energy of the night-life crowd, I turn up my collar against the cold, pass by the young ladies and proceed to walk down the pavement. On cold days where I have the luxury of wearing my trench coat, I like to pretend I’m actually in New York where everyone is cold and fashionable and in a hurry to get somewhere.

As I walk I think about cities and streets and the clever invention of thoroughfares of all kinds. Alleys that interpose the metropolis like sinewy veins, well-lit pavements (especially those brightened by cheerful lollipop lights) that lead to a myriad of streets that will take you anywhere and everywhere all across town, streets that intersect with avenues and roads and lanes. There are streets in some cities that run parallel to rivers that break the city into prisms of populous society where they occupy shabby studio apartments and grand old houses, plush hotel rooms and cold hard park benches.

You know all you need to know about a neighbourhood the minute you step onto its streets. Their all over of course, but so different from one another, whether paved or cobbled or brand new. Some are as elegant and neat as the houses that lie alongside them, some contain cafes on the corner and health food stores and fancy restaurants. There are those that are quiet and lush with foliage and segue into quaint little roads and cul-de-sacs. Others are old and forgotten, less cared for, worn with cracks and potholes and hardened from the endless trampling of the people who go by. I love that you can turn into a street that’s totally unlike the one you’ve just come from and experience a whole new feeling, the perfect example of different worlds coexisting around the corner from one another, never in each other’s way but always there.

I entertain another transient daydream and think if I were actually in New York City I would end my walk by popping into a diner on a busy street, I would order a coffee and find a window seat to continue pushing around whatever thoughts I have in my mind, to ruminate and people watch until the sky gets dark, surrounded by people but still gloriously alone.

But I am not in New York City, so instead I take out my cell phone and request an Uber home.

 

The why

 

Person Lying on Concrete during Daytime

 

Why do we have to have the same ideas of success? Why do we all need to follow the same steps to achieve goals? Why is it imperative everyone run in the rat race? Why do we lose ourselves in the chase for titles given to us by other people? Why are those who don’t want them frowned upon? Why are those who seek a quiet life called unambitious? Why does everyone have to marry in their twenties? Why do we have to have kids just because we got married? Why do we need hundreds of goals and side hustles to validate our existence? Why must we justify our lives to the world? Why do we need to feel ashamed of our bad choices? Why is being rich the only measure of success these days? Why isn’t keeping love easy anymore? Why is it so hard to meet someone when people are everywhere you go? Why is everyone obsessed with fitness? Why do people base connections on meaningless things? Why don’t we open up to others more? Why are we all in a hurry? Why do we put time limits and age limits on everything? Why can’t our bodies look better? Why can’t our faces look different?  Why do we want the things we want? Is it because it’s what the world told us to want to want or is it what we want all on our own? Why don’t people focus more on their character? Why is everything moving so fast?

But also, why is everything moving so slow? 

There’s nothing wrong with being shown our flaws

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One of the great things I found about spending a lot of time on my own is that it has made me extremely introspective. Most of the time I love my own company, I love to ruminate in peace and go over things, fit the puzzle pieces of everything into place, it’s sort of like getting my internal admin sorted out. Filing away memories, noting interesting people I’ve met, conversations that made me laugh and things and moments, throwing away the negative feelings and planning my next few days. It’s highlighted my strengths for sure but being alone has also shown me the things I’m not good at too, my weak points and character flaws. I recently came across a quote by Flannery O’Connor – ”To know oneself is, above all, to know what one lacks. It is to measure oneself against the truth and not the other way around. The first product of self-knowledge is humility.” I love this quote.

Often we hear a person talking about themselves in passing, talking about their life or their choices or a failed relationship and they mention their flaw, their personal character weakness, but then they justify having it or laugh it away. It’s very rare you’ll hear someone openly and humbly admit that they have a fault and that they’re working on it. As adults, we know right from wrong, we know what mistreatment looks like, we know when it’s us who is at fault or someone else but we often don’t take the time to ask ourselves questions like – Why do I do that? Why do I say things like that on purpose? Do I want to create quality relationships or not? What do I need to do to sort myself out in that area?

I’ve heard exes of mine admit to their shortcomings and issues, but while they knew of them, there was always a barrier preventing them from really digging deeper inside themselves and figuring out the why and working on changing it. I guess sometimes in life we get so comfortable being who we are as we are, we just simply say (and I hear variations of this really often) if they don’t like me they can keep walking. Or keep going. Or leave. Or whatever. Which basically means – I know I have bad traits, but if you don’t want to put up with them well goodbye! I choose my bad traits over a possibly fulfilling relationship even though I’m really looking for one, thanks!

How many people with that kind of attitude can really and truly say they are in deeply fulfilling relationships? Because I’ve seen them and I can honestly say they are not. If you never get to the core of who you are and openly see the dark and terrible and downright shitty side of yourself (which we all have) then how can you really know yourself? If we all went through life never fixing or bettering ourselves, who would ever want to love or keep loving us? Or want to stay in our lives and be there through everything while respecting us? But then I realise too, we live in a time where nobody wants to be vulnerable anymore (at least not openly), nobody wants to admit that they suck as a friend or a lover or human. No one wants to reach out and ask for help or admit that sometimes they are the reason that somethings don’t work out, that they are wholly to blame for it. But a person who admits to their failings and the work they need to do is so much more attractive than someone saying ‘’Well if you don’t like me as I am then you can leave.’’ Isn’t it? It’s like saying – I’m great and perfect as is, I don’t need to improve in any area and I won’t deal with anyone who dares point out my flaws.

Different people come in to our lives and show us the different sides of who we are. They take us to places and levels we haven’t explored before. Just because we’ve never been told we aren’t good at handling a certain thing, it doesn’t mean it’s not true. Maybe this is the only person who actually had the nerve to point it out. It’s happened to me, where someone has come along and pointed out a flaw of mine and I rejected it completely and used phrases like the ones above, I’ve been that person, but I also know that later on when I was alone, I knew they were right. When I really thought about it, I realized I did do that thing or act that way.

The whole ”you do you” mentality while we sometimes ARE justified in thinking it and using it, mostly it makes us detached, unfeeling and disrespectful. It pumps up our ego and blinds us to the reality of our imperfections. If we’re not willing to accept the flaws in others, well why should they accept ours? You do you is a great attitude to have permanently if you plan on living on an empty island never needing another human being again. We need to be okay with knowing that sometimes there’s nothing wrong with being shown the error of our ways, we need that in order to fully evolve and become the best versions of ourselves.

Words.

“Don’t gobblefunk around with words.” ― Roald Dahl

Words are the little yachts that float out in the burnished expanse of our lives. They are filled with passion or peace. At times with distress and fear and sadness. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to be surrounded by sailboats of jollity, humour and animation. They contain within them, these helpful vessels of information, the languages of the world cruising by together, buoyed by the need for communication and storytelling.

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” ― Rudyard Kipling

They’re the currency we need to aid our verbal exchanges, to speak, to query and argue, to comfort one another and more importantly, ourselves. In our mind, words are the electric current that brings our brain to life, it switches on the lights in the rooms of the cerebral cortex startling it into action by thinking, by rifling through memories, conjuring imagination and solo conversations. We need words to talk to each other but what is striking is how much we crave words. How much we love them. Words, just for the pleasure of words. Words in diaries, in majestic tomes and novels that ferry us  elsewhere. They help us escape. There’s words on beloved blogs and magazines, by favoured columnists and well-liked writers, words by way of comments on social platforms under picture posts and on walls. The quotes we use to represent ourselves on different days in different moods, to articulate what we sometimes can’t explain.

“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” ― Aldous Huxley

Words soothe us, they uplift us, they make us soar. They ground us, they clarify our emotions, they give shape, they guide and bring hope. Words are how we reason intelligently and then fool around with silly chitchat. Some people have a way with them, an adroit ease. Others fumble and bumble their way to a point. Our love of words far outweigh our need for them. We feel better having them close, like breadcrumbs in our pockets, ready to scatter to any audience who will pay attention. We are hollow without words and words are empty without us.