I fell off my routine this week and I am already feeling the consequences. Monday morning. Nothing is wrong but not one thing in particular is right either. The Bird came back into my life last night and everything feels off balance. I only wanted to wish him a happy birthday except we kept talking. From Bamako to Prague. It seems like everyone knew and no one told me the truth. I didn’t think you had it in you to leave. And that’s why everyone was surprised when I finally did; not because they thought everything was fine. I am happy for you, he added. It was then I realized that I didn’t trust him at all and it felt like someone was reaching into my insides and squeezing really hard.
My barista came to rescue. We were looking for a parking spot around my building and I saw him through the window of the coffee shop. Another late shift on Sunday, but he never seems to mind. I got out of the car and pulled the door handle. His smile. He always smiles at me. Genuinely happy to see me. The familiar warmth and the smell of coffee that’s infused in the pillowcases by now. He took one single look at me and knew that I wasn’t going to order coffee. He poured the wine glass to the top and offered my favorite walnut cake, even though I am not one for desserts late at night. But I didn’t refuse and devoured the cake still standing up at the bar in front of him. He kept looking at me with his Bambi eyes.
Where have you been? Around, here and there. Always the same vague answers and responses. But I finally asked him out to a movie, even though I know nothing but the movie will transpire from it. Except I need someone who doesn’t judge me when my insides feel like scrambled eggs. And someone who hates 3D as much as I do.
Everything is different. And I mean, everything. Except yesterday stirred something inside me, old feelings, and old things. Memories and remains of previous life that I rarely ever let to the surface. Today it seems less like a choice and more like a volcano. Messy outbursts, painful, and unbearable. The struggle to come up for air. I woke up this morning and my entire jaw hurt — I realized I must have been clenching my teeth, clamped shut in a spasm when I slept. I breathe heavy sighs and I have to remind myself of deep breaths and meditative thoughts. None of it comes easily or naturally today.
The thing is, I am disappointed. Because I convinced myself that I made it to the other side, even though I cannot escape the flashbacks, the nostalgia, or the craving for things, which I do not have. It’s all imperfect; life weaved together on the go with or without consideration for tomorrow or what it may bring. I definitely wasn’t thinking of the future when I should have. Now that I am thinking of it, it’s just me. There’s no one to pick up the slack for me when I need a break. No one there; in the morning or in the evening. Because sometimes the grief comes back and it’s still too hard. The elephant in the room is mine alone now. I shouldn’t be so afraid of admitting that. I also still enjoy torturing myself and I shouldn’t run from that truth either.
No waves. At least, not the kind that would be worth mentioning. I returned to Prague a month ago but it feels like much longer. I forgot what the salty air of home smells like and I need a reminder. Instead, I am on a steady diet of books, caffeine, nicotine with the occasional bottle of white wine. Such bohemian life. Days are shorter, my nights longer. Joyce is not here in Hong Kong has been replaced with Mayer’s in Prague. The sun comes out every few days but it never feels like enough. Nothing feels like much of anything right now.
When I crave things, the world is out of balance. When I want things other than what I have, negative energy accumulates on the inside and it cripples me. Malice snowballs toward me and it seems like it will never end. Sleep eludes me, appetite disappears, my skin breaks out. I become impossible to deal with. All of it. My own pride and self-relevance bring me down to my knees. I got it in my head that I have it all figured out; that I’ve made it to the other side. That I am not what I used to be. And I am not.
But it’s days like these that remind me that I am not quite there yet either. That there is still work to do. I need to remember that the bamboo is not yet ready to sprout. I need to remember that the incorrigible side of me still hasn’t learned patience.
I shuffle between work, home, and classes. I read a lot because I cannot stand the screens anymore. I am studying a couple of new languages (only because I can and because I don’t have to). Who knows where it’ll take me. I finished the Sapiens book earlier in the week, which definitely set off something new inside me. I don’t write given that I can’t catch a long enough stretch of time. I am capable of lists only and my bullet journal goes everywhere with me.
Autumn broke in the city. Leaves cover the pavement, the wind blows fiercely. It’s mostly gloomy and colorless. Sort of like a duvet of depression that we all sink in, everyone in their own way. I spend my evenings at home with my nose buried in a book. Late night espresso has become the norm. I spent all of October in Prague and there is a chance I won’t go anywhere before the break. I am okay with being static for a while; there is a lot of work to get done around here. Mental work rather than the physical kind.
October was gray and dull and cold. It’s only the last three days that I get to marvel at the blue sky and the sun. It means so much to me. These are the things I’d tell him about if I could. About books, and weather, and how my flat smells nice after I’ve hung my clothes to dry. The fresh scent of laundry coupled with the heating turned on.
Or that article I read in the Guardian about the problems of long-term expats. Or the one about Kafka and Prague. How it made me read Kafka’s journals and how happy I was when I found the whole set for only a hundred crowns near the synagogue in Old Town. There’s so much that I am thinking about that he’d be interested in particular. The little flicker in his eyes to prove it. Then he’d offer something in return and I’d feel enriched.
I’d also tell him about things that wouldn’t interest him at all. How I cracked my hand-sculpted glass ring bought in Croatia after an evening of foosball in a basement bar with a bunch of strangers. How I killed a basil plant in four days (my other plants are doing fine). How I struggle in the morning to get out of the bed because it’s too cold and dark. How the daylight saving time completely messed with my inner clock. The pumpkin lasagna I had for lunch. And other trivial shit. But I’d offer all of it to him. Because everything is all I have.
It’s sad and primitive that we aren’t capable of placing relationships in a dynamic and dimensional sphere where they belong. Instead, it always has to be one thing or the other. Love versus not love. Platonic versus sexual, or worse, emotional. Serious versus casual. Because what if it’s not that simple? What if the bureaucracy of a relationship means nothing and it’s all in the atoms of the universe? How will you ever get past that? I learned a couple of lessons about these things last year and I left the exit sign far behind me. Except it wasn’t simple or painless. Which is to say, I understand. I could stress this over and over, and it would make no difference. And so I shuffle between work, home, and classes and look for signs that would indicate to me how much longer, even though I know I won’t find them.