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.

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

Flyering

Ready. My bag is packed with a heavy roll of posters loosely kept together and a pack of flyers. Based on yesterday’s experience posters are more appreciated than flyers since owners can ask you to hide them in the toilets. The maps are in one hand and a carefully compiled list of relevant places in the other. It should be a piece of cake.

As soon as I start my tour I notice a terrible mistake: I got the wrong underwear! It might seem like a stupid detail, but try walking around Brussels centre with the wrong knickers for four hours. Then my phone decides it’s time to go on holiday and deserts me. Ok, no stress, I can figure everything out from my tiny google map print. Finally, of course, today, nobody wants posters, but they all prefer flyers. Damned people!

To keep my own energy up, I try different formulations of the same request: I’m working for… I’m promoting… May I ask to hang… And the reactions are just as varied. Some really don’t like the idea of you sticking some A2 sized paper on their wall, but accept it under a number of rules: only there, were it’s absolutely unnoticeable. Please use the provided system: a series of spikes in a row where the posters are nailed down. Of course you shouldn’t cover the existing posters! Try finding a free spot in a wall covered with posters of the most bizarre events following this very simple rule. It’s a war.

However, there are some moments that make flyering bearable and even entertaining. Some people understand your mission by the moment you walk in, the posters hanging from your bag probably giving you away, and matter of factly point you to the devoted space. The best ones are though those where you enter cautiously vaguely thinking it might be good to leave a poster or a little flyer but not daring to hope for anything. Then the owner welcomes you with a big smile and, at your timid demand, offers to hang your poster in the best and most visible place of the shop. I had to repress a few times a sincere need to hug the owner in question.

Sometimes I invaded the daily routine with my tedious question, so I ended up catching two waiters chatting and eating after service; a group of youngsters listening to vinyls and expressing their approval or disappointment; a regular asking for a second glass of wine (at 14:00). The best of them all, was an owner with a waitress and two customers dancing and singing to a classic 70s song at 15:00. The scene cheered me up half way through my round of flyering and its memory encouraged me till the end. Finally, I have to thank the nice guy that stalled the bus for me on my way home, that was super sweet!

Time

Suffocating blackness is swallowing me. I try to claw my way out but my fingers keep slipping. Where is the handhold in this damned place? There’s no water, but I’m drowning. Fighting for the breath I will never be able to breathe. Feeling the surface up there, so close and yet completely out of reach. Wrestling with all my strength like a mad shark caught in a fishing net, frightened and angry. Panicking, I kick and scream my head off. Let me OUT! A rope, a hand… please! Nothing, I’m left alone to battle this crushing darkness.

I finally manage to wake up, my body rigid with tension, my mind a scrambled mess. I fought off my nightmares, but the day just started and I’m already exhausted.

Phone. Clock. How many minutes do I have?

Planning. Programming. Filling my agenda.

Project. Class. Work. Run… run… run!

You’re late.

What about that meeting? Where are you going to fit the preparation for that exam? And don’t forget the project! Your group counts on you.

Where is that damned bus? You’re wasting 5 minutes you could use to half read a page from that book you planned to use on your thesis.

Counting the minutes, the seconds, I can use to achieve multiple ever growing goals. Filling my agenda with never ending tasks. I don’t feel in control anymore. There’s always one more thing to do, one more important page to write, one more urgent email to send, and I’m constantly trying to catch up. The finish line is moving faster than I’ll ever be, always out of the reach of my stretched hands.

Today I stopped.

There was no face staring back at me. Although I’ve met so many beautiful people. No comforting voice asking me if I’d like a drink and a chat. Because I’ve said so many times ‘no can’t do’ that friends have quit asking. No comforting arms ready to hug my stressed body, no one to let me know everything will be ok.

Just the cold face of my oppressive clock. Just the filled urgency of my agenda. I realised in the self centered maniacal attempt to keep up with my stressful life I forgot to nourish my relationships treating them as secondary, accessory to my ‘oh so important’ routine.

What have I done? Where are the hours spent listening? Reading? Looking? Enjoying not knowing what hour it is? Deciding there’s no need for a start or an end time? Just savouring the suspension of a present moment and giving my activity the time it really needs?

New year resolutions

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As a new year begins and another one piles up in our used bucket, we search once more for new resolutions. Who are we kidding? These resolutions are rarely new, and even less lasting. Excited about a new beginning we promise to be wise and good. We plan a million fresh projects we will achieve in this young dynamic year. Let’s be honest, we’ll realise a week into this newborn 2016 that we’ll just be our old selves and that we already have our hands full. At least I know I will, so I’ll start by not making any new resolutions. Continue reading “New year resolutions”