Bubble dream

Bubble bubble, bubble dream. Blow the bubble make a wish.

Alcohol makes me euphoric, I’m a happy drunk craving for attention. As much as I hate to admit it, it helps me let loose of a shyer, stiffer, awkward version of myself. Duty and self-control washed away with a few beers or a nasty cocktail, my spirits lift up and although the world looks a lot blurrier it also shines under a new bright light.

My romantic soul peeks out through the cynicism I practise everyday to survive our hard reality. My tired, lazy body is fuelled with unexpected energy impatient to move, to dance. For a few hours, sometimes a whole night I am positive, euphoric, friendly, sociable, flirty. Everything I’d like to always be, but am not and therefore I drink.

Then there’s the one extra beer that transforms a jolly night in a memory full of wholes, wasted drama queen raising trouble I won’t quite remember. The hangover is a ruinous fall to hell. Unavoidable low in the company of regret and loneliness, compiling a list of apologies.

As uplifting as a dream can be, there will always be an alarm clock to wake you up. I fight forcing myself to follow some kind of routine because if I listened to my guilty thoughts, to my dried heart, to the slow rhythm of my blood, to the aching muscles of my body I would just stay in bed, make a comfortable nest with my sheets and never stand up again.

Open the coffee machine. Make a generous cup. Breathe in the roasted scent. Drink a glass of water. Drink a second glass. Pour milk foam in your coffee and a spoon of sugar. Drink the cappuccino. Get up. Take a shower. Get dressed. Slowly the shock of going from euphoria to depression fades away and life is neither bright and beautiful, nor dark and unbearable, just boring, normal, vaguely lonely.

Bubble, bubble, bubble dream. Here’s a bubble from your past.

For some years now, I regularly visit my parents’ house for my holidays. I have spent the first twenty years of my life there, but my visits are so rare and quick that I’m more of a seasonal tourist than anything else. All the beautiful views I never appreciated, now move me deeply. Black sea sloshing a few metres under me and a constellation of colourful lights tracing the curves of our coast. Pointed rough rocks where I can stand out of the reach of unpredictable waves, different shades of blue and turquoise painted until the eye can see, a few boats sailing lazily without a clear destination. A playful breeze I breathe in deep breaths, eyes closed, bliss. The cold sea water refreshing and revitalising, the salted crust that forms on your skin drying under the warm sun. Fields dried and cut, round straw bales and square hay bales as decorations. Villages so old and familiar where my eyes can’t help but test themselves looking for changes: new shops, missing trees… No pressure, no stress, the day goes by at the peaceful pace of the countryside.

If being away made me realise how beautiful this area is, how emotional these panoramas make me, everything also reminds me of my past. The rough sound of the regional accent and the badmouthed way people talk around here, bring amused tears to my eyes. A park, a bar or a street evoke habits I used to have with family and friends. Playing in our pond and running around our farm. Hanging out in the park discussing music and early crushes. Driving around on our run down scooters. Dramas, but most of all a surprising long list of people that crossed my path and I don’t know anymore. What became of them? Would I recognise them if I saw them again? I look around trying to recognise a smile, the shape of some eyes, a characteristic walk, almost desperate to bump into someone from a life that seems lost forever. I’m a nostalgic soul lost in my memories looking for a human contact to bridge my past to this present.

Bubble, bubble, bubble dream. Give me your hand, I’ll bring you home.

A hand outstretched: an offer to a lost kid. There’s nothing like the familiar feel of a natural interaction. No awkward misunderstandings. Perky affinity and simple conversation. The right attentions, playful and teasing. Admired and desired, no mere object of lust, but treated as a fascinating and exciting soul to love.

It doesn’t matter if it all was an act to score some teenage infatuation, it was a healing balm to my fragmented spirit. A long comforting hug for my shaking body. A soft hand cuddling my vulnerable heart. A contact that screamed home more than all the breathtaking landscapes, more than the refreshing breeze cutting through the heat, more than the view of my unchanged room.

A feeling that shook my soul so hard I was five years old again, feet planted and arms crossed refusing stubbornly to leave the playground. I don’t want to go! Because this home starts to feel like a drunken dream again, surrounded by the happiness of simple things in life. Who would want to go back to the chaos and uncertainty of real life?

Bubble, bubble, bubble dream. Burst the bubble, wake the kid.

He will go back to his routine, his curiosity satisfied now that he has had the woman draped in mystery he so idealised after years of fantasies, increased by the exotic charm of the unreachable.

I fight with the beginning of a depressive low. I so desperately want to protract this sweet dream that I’m tempted to throw my Belgian life out of the window to stay behind. Rationally I know it can’t last even if I could extend it. Dreams never do. I will cherish a warmer memory of this holiday if I left now. But the same instinct that makes me drink the extra beer that will make me sick, now pushes me to hang on to this feeling as hard and as long as I can, squeezing all the happiness out of it as if I could store it away for lonelier days.

Tinder fizzles

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Didn’t you see the question mark at the end of my text?

It’s not a decoration you know?!

It’s supposed to start a conversation.

Stupid smartphone cold and silent on my desk. Useless toy to cover the hundreds of kilometres between me and my latest helpless sweet crush. Maddening wait on some news. They always seem so sweet and caring at first, then after a few words they drop the ball. And since I can’t take their shoulders in my hands and shake them or slap them, I fix the black screen bored, lonely and mad. Munching all the syllables of the word “dickhead” over and over until it’s mush.

Then I remember a shiny app, hundreds of faces waiting to be judged. Almost unlimited pool to choose from. “Ini mini miney mo”, I like you, but you can go! If I can filter you by age and location, I can also have a peak at your interests. Pages you liked by mistake or to make a friend happy. Places you don’t hang out since that one horrible time, and festivals you forgot you ever liked. Why I should know which friends we have in common is still a mystery to me. Isn’t it just more embarrassing imagining you having the “I had a tinder date with your friend” conversation? Of course you haven’t bothered to fill in the description case. Who cares? Most of the time I sweep left at the first sight of your photo anyway. Because let’s be honest, that’s the one that seals the deal, there’s not much else to go about.

So here starts the funky part where you select your charming date ticking boxes on a wish list. Like looking at rows and rows of new shiny dresses, trying to choose, tempted and indecisive, fingers suspended over a few, wondering if you should try them on. The soft curvy ones, young and easy which I usually prefer, or maybe these dark ones, serious and mysterious, tougher looking?

I know all I’d like him to be, though I actually know nothing about the guy. But hey, who tries nothing gets nothing so I swipe right once in a while. Never know I’ll find my prince charming after all. Chatting seems to be out of fashion, so it’s either dead silence on both sides or a quick decision on a first date, before any little interest wares off with small talk.

There you are then, face to face with your unknown pick, awkwardly looking left and right for the nearest escape, just in case. What if you find out you don’t have anything to talk about? Do you come up with a lame excuse to run? Do you down your beer as fast as possible to hopefully get inspired by the alcohol rushing to your brain? Sometimes after ten minutes of conversation you are tempted to bring him back to the shop and ask for a refund. Hey, I’m not trying to say I’m perfect, I bet the guy on the other end of the table has thought the same just as often. After all it’s easy to disappoint when you can pick your crush like ordering a new dress.

There’s all these things a person you don’t know should be, do, like, to be even eligible as a partner. By the time you actually meet, no matter how soon that is, your wish list has reached bible length. He doesn’t only have to be as handsome as his professional looking photos would like you to think, but he has to be funny and mysterious but not arrogant, clever but not patronising. In my case he also has to like beer, without being an alcoholic, he definitely shouldn’t snore, he should speak near to perfect French and/or English and preferably come from an interesting country. He likes travelling and sports, but is not a sport addict… and I could keep going! There’s your impossible expectations, sentencing you to failure.

Not only because you have created a monster of perfection no living creature can match, but because the essence of Tinder is to find just as quickly as you swipe left and right if that person is your perfect match, and vice-versa of course. If a quick decision can be made about a dress that caught your eye by trying it on once – and that’s not always true either – the same can’t be said for falling in love.

It’s not like adding a doctor’s appointment to your agenda: yes, from now on I’m in love with you, we are a couple. It’s a growing mystery, teasing curiosity, drama full of doubts. How can you trash all that based on a required answer: “yes or no”? I don’t know! Not yet, not tomorrow. Give me time to know you better with no pressure to fall into your arms, or kiss your lips I don’t dislike but I haven’t dreamed of yet! And if I find out I will never have a crush on you though I appreciate your company is it so bad to tell you so, straight and true: I’m sorry, it didn’t work.

Where’s the moment you realise a person you have seen time and time again starts to become intriguing? Stomach curling up at the thought of seeing him. The pleasant discomfort of being in his presence. Trying weird and embarrassing experiments to see if he feels the same. Flirting to test the waters, hiding a hundred questions in your eyes, deciphering a hundred answers in his, probably getting half of them wrong. All spoiled by the fact that you have already openly declared your interest and successfully matched. How come you have no list then? No type, no rational requests and affinities, it just happens.

I know, I’m a romantic. So why am I still here, swiping? Because I’m bored, waiting for someone to pet my ego saying he likes me and since I can’t have it from the people I want, then I’ll accept it from a bunch of strangers that look remotely interesting. Because, I admit it, when you match with someone you feel gratified for a few precious seconds. Someone liked you! Someone who doesn’t know you is interested! Hurray! Quick egoistic boost of confidence that may or may not become genuine curiosity.

Ritorno

Ritrovo quella sensazione che immagino sia molto comune, ma che mi lasciava da piccola senza fiato, sola e smarrita all’uscita della piscina. Che ancora oggi mi colpisce inaspettatamente quando lascio la doccia per avvolgermi nell’asciugamano. Mi ricordo di aver letto da qualche parte che ha a che vedere con ricordi inconsci dei nostri primi nove mesi di vita e dello shock di venire al mondo e lasciare quell’angolo di paradiso. Immergersi in acqua ci ricorderebbe il liquido amniotico dell’utero materno e uscirne sarebbe come rivivere il trauma della nascita: caos dove c’era pace e soprattutto, abbandono e solitudine. Il corpo pesa dieci chili in più e ha un disperato bisogno di essere abbracciato, di ricevere parole dolci sussurrate in un orecchio e piangere silenziosamente tra le braccia di qualcuno che gli vuole bene.

È così che mi sento a dover partire proprio adesso: come se mi avessero obbligata a nascere prima del tempo. Perché mi ero appena riabituata alla Maremma, ai suoi tempi pigri e strascicati. Al sole e al profumo della sera, quando con il fresco e il favore della notte, la vita riemerge con passione e dolcezza. All’accento aspirato e ai modi di dire grezzi e volgari. Complice soprattutto un’effimera cottarella estiva, di quelle che sanno di mare e che sopravvivono solo alla luce della luna: un sogno di luglio dal bacio salato. Braccia che avvolgono con calore, labbra morbide e tentatrici che stuzzicano la mia pelle. Equilibristi dell’amore, in bilico tra bisogno carnale e desiderio romantico. Intimità semplice e familiare.

È bello per una volta essere la fantasia esotica e misteriosa di qualcuno che ti ammira e ti vuole da tempo. Non vedere riflesso negli occhi di chi ti sta davanti solo la tua funzione: un buco da riempire, per l’auspicato piacere di entrambi. Mi ha ricordato che, per quanto breve e fasullo, un momento d’amore velato dell’illusione di un atto unico e magico ti lascia senza fiato. Drogato, incapace di praticare l’astinenza, ma in ricerca perpetua e disperata del proprio spacciatore. Ho provato un piacere egocentrico e inebriante nel perseguire questa stupida infatuazione e cullata dal calore delle sue semplici attenzioni mi sono sentita di nuovo a casa.

Arranco cercando di prolungare questo momento di pura felicità, quasi a volerlo congelare, conservare per periodi futuri tristi e solitari. È soprattutto per questo che mentre preparo la valigia e stampo il biglietto di ritorno, il mio pensiero annaspa alla ricerca di una via di fuga, di una qualsiasi scusa per rimanere. Sconfitta, sul treno, mi assalgono ondate di nostalgia e tristezza, mischiate a rabbia e rassegnazione. Cerco conforto nella razionale constatazione che tanto non sarebbe durato.

Atterro nella città che mi osserva vivere da quattro anni, la città da cui sono scappata due settimane fa sopraffatta dai suoi rumori, sull’orlo dell’esaurimento nervoso e in cerca disperata di pace e affetto. Atterro e non riconosco nulla. Tutto mi è estraneo, come la prima volta che sono arrivata a Bruxelles. Come può una città essere tanto cambiata? O sono io? Disorientata. L’anima sconquassata di qualcuno che cerca di rimettere insieme i pezzi di un puzzle buttati a terra dal vento. Oddio, e se ne avessi perso qualcuno?

La mia mente, rimasta impigliata in dolci trame maremmane, ha mollato il mio corpo che goffo cerca di ritrovarsi in questo posto, di riconoscere l’idioma, di orientarsi tra le sue vie. È così che sento la pesantezza di colui che emerge dall’acqua e sopraffatto dalla violenza dell’abbandono si stringe nell’accappatoio in cerca di conforto. Esco. Ho bisogno di circondarmi di persone, amici, di parlare perché so benissimo che appena mi isolerò, la solitudine si farà molto più acuta e non basterà crearmi un nido di lenzuola per farmi sentire amata.

Il cieco

Persa tra i miei pensieri attraverso la stazione della metro. Evito chi incrocia la mia strada mentre la mia mente compila una lista delle cose che mi rimangono da fare. Cammino con passo spedito, un po’ nervoso, senza guardare le indicazioni attorno a me perché conosco la strada a memoria. Con la coda dell’occhio noto un uomo cieco, il suo lungo bastone bianco ritma i suoi passi saggiando lo spazio davanti a sé. I passanti lo notano come me e lo evitano con semplice indifferenza, come un ostacolo qualunque.

Anche io mi appresto a fare la stessa cosa, senza soffermarmi sulla sua condizione più a lungo di una considerazione quasi infastidita dal fatto di dover cambiare il mio percorso. Ma questi, quasi avesse percepito il mio pensiero colpevole, richiama la mia attenzione con un “Madame!”. La sua richiesta è semplice: guidarlo alle scale mobili che portano al binario della metro. Imbarazzata come un ladruncolo preso in fallo, sento di non poter rifiutare, prendo quindi maldestramente il suo braccio e lo guido a piccoli passi. Percorsi pochi metri una serie di cavi attraversano la nostra strada e lo avverto della loro presenza. Mi chiede se fanno dei lavori, gli spiego allora che stanno montando un palco con degli strumenti musicali perché durante la giornata ci sarà della musica in varie stazioni. Arriviamo velocemente alla meta e lo lascio con un impacciato “Bonne journée!”.

Più tardi mi è capitato di ripensare a questo episodio e di ricordare una scena del film “Il favoloso mondo di Amélie” che ho sempre trovato molto tenera: Amélie aiuta un cieco ad attraversare la strada e coglie l’occasione per raccontargli tutto d’un fiato quello che lo circonda. Non che la mia performance fosse minimamente comparabile, ma mi ha strappato un sorriso il fatto che non mi sia venuta in mente prima. Pochi minuti piuttosto banali, ma che hanno rimescolato le carte della mia percezione, come il raggio di sole che, riflettendosi sul vetro della finestra aperta ad un angolo diverso dal solito, illumina un neo che non avevi mai notato prima.

Non una rivelazione trascendentale, ma un effimero evento che la mia memoria ha filmato, come al rallentatore, e che ripesca ogni volta che vedo un cieco: un signore dai modi pacati, sicuro nei gesti accompagnato goffamente da una giovane donna che imbarazzata non sa cosa sia giusto o appropriato fare. Dovevo camminare più lentamente, o forse il mio cambiamento di andatura lo ha offeso? Ma come gli tenevo quel braccio! Forse avrei dovuto provare a fare un po’ di conversazione. Era meglio se mi offrivo di accompagnarlo più lontano? Chissà com’è la sua vita? Come si orienta sui bus che annunciano le fermate sbagliate, o non le annunciano per nulla? Non è né pena, né compassione la mia, solo una nuova curiosità per un modo di vivere che immagino così diverso dal mio e a cui non avevo mai pensato.

On the rooftop

The pale fingers of the rising sun light up their moved faces. Touched by the poetry of such a simple peaceful view, they cry. Life is especially beautiful at six in the morning, up on a rooftop watching the sunrise over a beautiful park. There and then I recognize the honesty of these strange people. They seek to create moments where they can feel genuinely alive, just like me. They understand and appreciate the authentic emotions of a simple life. I can tell by the sincerity with which they talk, the lack of embarrassment no matter the subject, the plainness of their exchanges.

The hours before are blurred, even the series of actions that brought us up here. Photos in front of a huge mirror in the hall of an imposing building chosen by chance. Clack. And the second door is open, so we walk up the stairs, excited to conquer this new world. A trapdoor appears on the last floor and when it opens creaking under our eager hands, we know our exploration isn’t over. Between drunken sh! and squeaking wood we emerge at the top of the building. View over the “forest” of the Parc Cinquantenaire, happy and excited like little rascals who got away with their latest prank.

We waited the new day watching the city sleep while we felt alive and whole. I watched and observed the fascinating people I was with. A little gang, a family, not by birth but by choice. I’ve observed their profound love which they make look so easy. No frills, no empty big words, no useless grand gestures, no meaningless programmed presents. Simple words spoken looking straight into each other’s eyes: “I love you”, “You are beautiful”. No embarrassed hugs or shy half felt kisses. Each touch is meant and desired. A hug, a hand, a kiss it provides useful help when words aren’t enough.


The same night inspired a second text (in Italian) that you can find here

Sul tetto

Lacrime illuminate dal primo sole del mattino, lacrime commosse dalla bellezza del mondo ai tuoi piedi. La città addormentata non può vederti, ma io sì, e tra le risate dei tuoi compagni euforici per i fumi di qualche strana droga, ti fisso stregata. È un momento così banale della mia vita eppure estremamente vivido. Una sequenza di eventi insoliti che ci hanno portato su quel tetto, la tua sensibilità svelata, un artista senza pretese, che sa riconoscere la poesia nelle cose più semplici.

Non ricordo chi abbia preso l’iniziativa di entrare, attirato dall’enorme specchio della hall, ma dopo qualche foto idiota tu hai provato la porta e siamo tutti rimasti un secondo increduli nello scoprire che era aperta. Immediatamente eccitati dall’inaspettato colpo di fortuna, ci siamo lanciati per le scale a chiocciola, al buio, impazienti di conquistare l’edificio.

Arrivati all’ultimo piano, senza fiato, i nostri cuori pompati d’adrenalina non hanno fatto in tempo a rallentare perché ecco una botola in bella vista e anche questa si è srotolata davanti ai nostri occhi sgranati. Ci siamo arrampicati, ritornati bambini, monelli all’avventura, sforzandoci di far piano per non farci scoprire. Sh! Ci intimiamo l’un l’altro e tratteniamo a stento scrosci di risate eccitate. Facciamo infine capolino sul tetto. Bruxelles dorme ai nostri piedi, il sole comincia pian piano a illuminare il parco sottostante. Come conquistatori alla fine della loro missione, ammiriamo il panorama. Soli testimoni di questa bellezza nascosta, ci godiamo la sua pace.


La stessa serata ha ispirato un secondo testo (in inglese) che potete trovare qui

Trip to the UK – Chapter 2: Manchester through sandy eyes

We landed yawning and excited. How the two go together I can’t say. Our luggage came in quickly and everything went smoothly as it should. Until we hit a stop. At the border control our Italian paper IDs raised suspicion. A few questions followed: where do you come from? What’s the nature of your visit in the UK? We were surprised. For the first time in Europe our ID didn’t allow us a swift walk through. When both officers (one for each sister) took out a UV pocket lamp with magnifying glass, concern flashed in our eyes. I could already see them sending us back, our holiday plans going up in smoke (not to mention all the money already spent on festival tickets and accommodation). The officers must have seen us exchange a worried look because they felt obliged to explain that our IDs can be easily forged and it’s difficult for them to check that they are not. Since no other reassuring words followed this explanation, they didn’t comfort us in the least. Then both officers gave us a good scrutinizing look, stared once again at our IDs (back and front with their UV lights) then exchanged a glance and a small nod. We then knew we were safe, though we were left through with a reproachful: “Next time use a passport!”. Not the warmest welcome, dear Britain.

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Near Deansgate Station – Castlefield

The cloudy weather that awaited us outside the airport did nothing to lift our spirits. The grumpy welcome at our hotel was yet another disappointment, but by 9 am we were walking the reasonably empty streets of Castlefield. A lucky choice because the area has a fascinating architecture and it’s perfect for a walk to get a first feel for the city. The neighbourhood develops around a small network of canals that were used in the past to transport the carbon inside the city.

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Merchants Bridge area – Castlefield

The old brick constructions are beautiful and often converted from industrial buildings. Connecting the southern area is a number of small picturesque bridges. Mixed with the old architecture are some modern structures, some disturbing the landscape more than others. We quickly checked out the Museum of Science and Industry (free entrance) which you shouldn’t miss, especially if you ever visit Manchester with kids.

At the end of our Castlefield exploration we walked towards the Albert square and intrigued by the sight of a nearby building we ended up in the Central Library. A great example of well used technology and a great service to the citizenship. A big hall hosts a basic coffee shop with interactive tables: large tables with a touch screen surface, which allow you to drink your tea while checking out the best sightseeing spots in Manchester or the latest issue of your favorite newspaper. If all tables are taken, a number of totems offer the same content and much more: the history of Manchester through videos and archive documents, audio extracts etc. On the same floor, not far away from the main hall, there is a small cosy performance room, in this case used by some artists participating to the Manchester Jazz Festival. And this is just the reception area (free entrance). We were in awe of this example of British service and efficiency.

Come lunchtime we decided to feed our musical culture as well as our bellies and stopped at the Jazz Festival pavilion for a free concert by Cameron Vale. A young band that gives jazz a modern twist. We left refreshed and recharged, feeling a bit more reconciled with the country.

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Chetham’s School of Music

We kept walking following the trail of the Dig the City Festival – a garden festival which was in all honesty, cute, but uneventful – to reach the oldest library in the UK, Chetham’s Library. It took us a little while to figure out where the entrance was since it is hidden inside the Chetham’s School of Music. But once we understood we had to go through the school entrance and be admitted by a grumpy guard, we crossed the arch into a Harry Potter movie. The school was a priest residence at first, then a charity school and from 1969 a specialist music school. Even from the outside it spreads its charm.

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Chetham’s Library
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Chetham’s Library – reading room

As for the library it looks taken straight from a Harry Potter scene of the forbidden library in Hogwarts. Rows of old leather bound books with partially erased titles neatly arranged in shelves that go from floor to ceiling and facing each other. The shelves create small alcoves with a high table between them to study the chosen books. These alcoves are closed by simply worked iron gates and aren’t accessible to the visitors. A small reading room at the end of the library is open to users and it is still furnished with the original interior.

By the time our eyes were satisfied it was time for tea and how could we not have some in the motherland of tea? So we picked our place and relaxed with a delicious tea and scones. The warmth and sugar made us fuzzy and had the undesired effect of letting our tiredness reemerge. After all, we had been up and about for 15 hours already. We decided a regrouping mission was necessary. A good hot shower would help to get ready to face the evening appointment.

Time for a shower and a change and we were back on our tram, direction the Ritz for the first punk concert of the week. Now, I’m not a punk fan, my sister is, but I don’t mind trying other music styles once in a while and observing the crowd is always fun. I didn’t want to be front stage though (what with the whole pogo dancing) so I was delighted to find out that the Ritz has a big comfy balcony equipped with cool couches and high seats from which you can observe the stage and the audience while being a few feet away from a bar. I elected it as my perfect spot, while my sister found a place just in front of the stage.

One can say much about the British people but you can’t say they don’t start their concerts on time. The first group, Snuff, was supposed to start at 7:55 pm, 7:55 sharp it did. Though this often means that the line up is so efficient and strict that the concert lacks flexibility and spontaneity, I particularly think of some long encores that you can get in other concerts. Anyway, I did quite enjoy Snuff, probably because they have a softer sound. I particularly appreciated the trombone that added a little melodic twist and a folky rhythm. Yes, the fact that one of the musicians was handsome probably did play a part in my enjoyment.

The audience didn’t go crazy, it was rather calm, just mostly keeping the rhythm with their heads and feet. A bit more pogo dancing did take place during the main band, Bad Religion, but I must admit I didn’t appreciate them as much. I found them often off key and too much into the screaming act, nevertheless I managed to sleep through the last couple of songs. The rest of the audience though enjoyed themselves and smiles were all around. They all looked chilled and relaxed without a problem in the whole world, blissed punks!