Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 22

“Honestly, I didn’t really know what to think. But I did hope you would appreciate this place for what it truly is, I was relying mostly on the fact that you grew up in a place that might have made you partial to such experiences.”

“True, I was raised as a city girl, but I also had relatives in the country. So I guess it’s all those weekends of climbing trees and running around in open fields that still help with keeping my balance on paths such as these.”

“I wouldn’t have guessed you are one to enjoy the country side… You hide it well.”

“I’m not. I may have been as a child, but even then I hated the village life and the people there, I only enjoyed the nature and the freedom. But you seem to like it out here too, how come? It doesn’t really go with who you want to appear to be these days…”

“You may be a city girl, but I grew up as a small town boy. Trips in the mountains, nature and wilderness were our routine, they were all just a few steps away. When I moved away to go to university, it was a cultural shock.” And an emotional one too, he paused. “You probably never noticed it, because you spent your childhood there, you took it all for granted, the city life with all its infamous, desirable evils, but it was all new to me. And it wasn’t the kind of thing to give up, from a certain point on I just wanted more of it. But that doesn’t mean I can’t remember how great I had it in my own home town. And I can understand those that say they never want to leave it.”

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

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Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 21

“How about we swap that apple in your hand for a nice cup of coffee, in an air-conditioned restaurant?”

“Do you mind if we wonder about the ruins a little bit longer? I like it here, the world seems so far away. Look at it, aside from those suntanned archaeology students hoping to dig up God knows what hidden treasure, ignoring the obvious fact that they are simply being surrounded by it, what else is there that might drag your thoughts back to the dreary real life?”

Robert gave in immediately, it didn’t matter what time of day it was anymore, how long the drive back to town would be or whether he needed that good cup of coffee or not, because she was right. He felt the power the ruins had over you every time he visited them, he wanted to make himself disappear among the stones and never leave. But the person he was today would always surface sooner or later and he’d start blaming himself for all that daydreaming while rapidly heading to his car and driving away without turning his head to look back. The same would happen to her, they lived in the same world and once you get there, there’s no going back to the one you used to be; he knew it, but she needed to figure it out in her own time. However, he wanted to be there and observe the process.

“How come you can manage to approach these paths so well on those shoes of yours? At first sight, one might even think you’re too much of a city girl to be caught dead in a place like this.”

“You obviously don’t think so, otherwise you wouldn’t have brought me here this afternoon.”

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 20

“Careful, there might be snakes in the grass, just by the water.”

“Do you mean other than you? Are they poisonous?”

“None of us are,” he replied laughing, not at all offended by her all too familiar cynicism. “Not that I know of, anyway. But I would think twice before having an apple, Eve…”

“Why? You strike me as the kind of man who has had his fair share of apples…”

“Perhaps too many… that’s how you inevitably come across the occasionally rotten one and then you get to deal with the consequences.”

“Are you sure it wasn’t you that was the rotten one to begin with?”

“Not to begin with. But who knows, later on… Things change and people evolve to what their true nature is.”

The dialogue restored their sleeping senses, double meaning was a game that they were both good at, but more importantly they both enjoyed it tremendously. Double entendre is the entrance gate into that which finally allows for so many possibilities to materialise, it’s a plethora of opportunities to reach out and pick exactly what you want from a sea of endless interpretations; and the need for any sort of accountability fades away, as an endowed mind can shape the reality into whatever they might desire to understand it to be. Robert was finally near her, standing behind her, not close enough to touch, but close enough for Amalia to feel his breath though her hair, on the nape of her neck, to feel the warmth of his body emanating towards her almost like she had felt the heat of the ancient stones earlier. However, the sensations stirred up were not at all alike.

“How about we swap that apple in your hand for a nice cup of coffee, in an air-conditioned restaurant?”

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 19

The sudden metamorphosis was striking – the cynical smile was gone and she looked real. For the first time she not only was young, but she looked young. He had not foreseen such an effect, all he wanted was to distance himself from the crowd and make Amalia notice he was somewhat different than the rest of the men who probably threw themselves at her feet. But this was something else, this was something he could relate to, she was a person he could relate to and he felt the time winding back, the same way she must have felt. There could have been no other explanation for her transfiguration. He felt an acute need to smile when he saw her gracefully jump over rocks, keeping her balance on the dusty path or on the slippery grass. An indefinite moment from his past wanted to take over him, but he shook it off immediately, finding his way to the stone wall she was leaning on now. She looked alone, having probably forgotten all about him, lost in her thoughts. What does someone like her think about anyway?

“Let’s go all the way down to the water,” she suddenly motioned back towards him and he almost had the feeling she would reach out and take his hand. Was she even thinking of doing such a thing or was it just what he would have liked to happen, in view of old memories and images from a different lifetime that seemed so intent to flood his mind this afternoon? Robert got angry with himself at the mere idea of it, that man was gone and so was that life, with all the people it had encompassed; the person he had struggled so hard to become over the years allowed for no such weakness.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Vibrant Abuse

Last time I heard a person banging at one’s door that loudly was when the oldest lady in the building fell asleep while cooking her dinner and nearly burnt down the whole place. The first to smell smoke knocked at all the doors, we all got out, hoping for the best, yet envisioning the worst. Fortunately, loud banging on her door finally woke her up before the firemen got there, she was taken outside while her apartment was being properly ventilated and that was the end of it.

I stood up, trying to understand the man’s words and figure out what was going on this time. As the loud door knocking subsided, the angry words became easily distinguishable. The building wasn’t burning down; there was no burst pipe; burglars hadn’t broken into anyone’s home. The current event was a lot more mundane, apparently a lot more insignificant according to general consensus, yet equally disturbing, if you ask me. It happens every day, everywhere, in all walks of life, yet it hadn’t happened right under my nose for a while, so it took me by surprise, it shook me a bit.

The rejected lover keeps knocking at his ex-girlfriend’s door… louder and louder, more and more violently. He is the man, it is only up to him to determine when and how their relationship ends. He knocks and knocks, while angry words try to punctuate his desires. She’s home, but she will not open her door. I cannot hear her, but the message is clear – he needs to leave, because she wants nothing to do with him. Minutes go by, pleading and knocking continue, yet the door remains locked and closed. As the woman’s determination starts sipping into his system, the man’s true nature starts surfacing without great difficulty. Manipulative words try to express the right reason for him to be there, the one that would make her open the door; he goes from anger to indifference to supplication and back to anger within minutes. He just wants to see her. No, she’s deluded, he’s not there for her, all he wants is to say goodbye to her child. Reasons alternate and when it becomes clear one isn’t working, he moves on to the next.

What? She’s called the police? He couldn’t care less, she can stick the police up her… He’s only here to get what’s his things, he needs his things after all. Yeah, that one jacket he’s left behind, that’s what he wants and that’s why he needs to be allowed into her apartment. If only the idiot woman that she is could understand such a simple thing… he’s not here for her, nobody would be here for her anyway, she’s just a worthless piece of trash. He’s leaving in the morning, he needs his jacket, she won’t hear from him again; he’s leaving the country. The destination changes from one sentence to the next – he’s moving to London, he’s moving to Paris, he’s moving to Rome and so on…. Clearly he’s paid attention during geography classes in school, since he can list most European capitals within one angry, abusive monologue. As his knocking and kicking at the locked door escalate, so do his invectives, ‘useless whore’ becoming one of his kindest terms of endearment.

I feel a very strong impulse to open the door and tell him off, ask that sad excuse of a man to leave. But I don’t. I don’t do that sort of thing anymore. After having gotten involved in a variety of reckless situations as an adolescent and in my twenties, after somehow – miraculously – getting away untouched, I finally manage to control myself and avoid this sort of things. I see myself in my pink bathrobe and I realise I probably can’t accomplish anything more than become the next target for his abuse. She’s safe behind her locked door and I am safe behind mine, even if I’m still so tempted…

But where are all the men? After all, there aren’t only women living in this building; there are men of various ages too, none of them too old or too feeble to open his door and politely ask the intruder to calm down, go home and leave us all alone. Who let that creature in the building in the first place anyway? And where are all the so-called men who are my neighbours?

I have good instincts and they’ve always kept me away from abusive men, whose main means of securing a woman’s affection/obedience/loyalty is aggression. But I’ve seen and refereed so many of these situations between distant relatives, close friends and various acquaintances, that – as a woman – I find nothing to be more unacceptable and unforgiveable in a man than abusive behaviour.

As knocking evolves into constant kicking of the door and the voice settles on a course of endless insults, she will play her final card. Oh, so you’ve got a man in there with you, you say?… But after concluding that once a whore, always a whore and making his point with his fists against the door, he quickly decides he has to go home, leaving a trail of invectives behind him. The big bad wolf that kept everybody behind their locked doors couldn’t run faster at the mere suggestion that a man was standing by the side of the woman he had abused and was still looking to abuse for an indeterminate period of time…

Yet, where were all the men in the building? I know that was a fortunate situation, the aggressor being so easily deterred from torturing his prey. But it still was just one of him… And then a different thought slowly invaded my thoughts. What if it wasn’t fear? What if it wasn’t indifference? What if it wasn’t chivalry being dead and buried? What if, instead, they found that type of behaviour normal, acceptable? Moreover, what if they actually thought that’s what she deserves?

I couldn’t let it be. So even if I didn’t ask anybody in the building (because I like to stay out of my neighbours’ lives, hoping they would stay out of mine) I did ask a couple of men close to my soul, who I know would never treat a woman that way. One of them told me there has never been an occasion on which he tried to defend a woman abused in public by her boyfriend/husband without said woman jumping in to take her man’s side… He wasn’t wrong – all too often I was told of various incidents, only to be pushed away and be accused of malevolence towards their significant other by the women in question, as soon as they forgave their abusive partners. I was also told that a decent man needs to get his facts straight first – on one hand, one needs to know what sort of lunatic one might be dealing with, on the other hand one needs to know whether the victim in question I indeed a victim. And let’s not forget, one woman’s abuse, another woman’s foreplay….

All I can say right now is I hope that my neighbour who managed to escape her abuser can find the strength to stay away from him. I hope the majority of those locked doors were hiding indignation, not support for that kind of behaviour towards women, because that in itself represents a small step in the right direction.

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In response to WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Vibrant – This week, share a photo of something vibrant. Let’s wash the web with a rainbow of colors.

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 18

“I know the feeling, I haven’t been around here for several years either, but this seemed just the day for it. When I moved to this town after getting married, I used to come here as often as I could. I guess it put certain things into perspective… Besides, it’s such a good place to run away from everything.”

The dusty country road took them right in front of the big, rust-covered gate, leaning on ancient stones. As soon as the car was parked under a massive tree, Amalia was out, stretching her legs like a big, restless feline, while Robert was fiddling with something in the trunk.

“Here,” he got so close to her, that when the light breeze blew her hair, it touched his face and he almost shivered handing her a bottle of water, “careful not to dehydrate. And try not to twist your ankles. Do you think you can handle a walk around the place?”

“You have no idea, do you?” She turned towards him giggling, just a few carefree steps and jumps having already taken her past the slightly open gate. “Come on, what are you waiting for?”

She took several steps away, skipping over a few scattered rocks and now ruins of the ancient settlement were spreading around her on the hillside, all the way down to the sea, like a giant lizard baking in the sun. All of the sudden, the universe became quiet and timeless, a mass of suspended emotions, generations, battles and sorrows transpiring through the ancient stones. The past was present again and the present could be lost among the ruins, emotions and fears and worries could be scattered and dropped in the grass and nettles covering the paths of another world, a long ago disappeared civilization could deal with them however they saw fit. A lost civilization… they came to conquer and instead they settled and lived and died. But had they ever been alive or had the trouble of conquering and settling taken over their lives and haunted them to their deaths? They died so many times, each and every time a foot stepped on their world and a soul remembered them, they died once more, without ever coming back to life, their existence so long ago helping to have never lived in the first place. No one can really grasp the notion of their lives so far back in time, so they must have never lived at all. But I am alive now, I am so alive now, because I’m here and because they make me feel so alive. So they must have lived too, they must still live somewhere too, if they can make me feel so alive. She stopped to breathe the ancient heat emanated by the stone wall against which she was leaning, her eyes and thoughts spiralling through the grass on the path, all the way down to the water.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 17

 

There is a certain dose of masochism in every one of us, but some are endowed with more than the usual amount. Robert knew that she was right and he hated her being right on such a topic, especially when she so stubbornly held on to her ideas. What he failed to grasp was the fact that it was a similar kind of masochism which made him feel attracted to her. It was that particular moment that he realised he wanted and he needed to have her exactly because she wasn’t just beautiful and young, but she was stubborn and with a mind of her own… and because he would never be able to control her. But he was still able to control himself and easily swallow the offensive words he felt the need to throw at her, just as he was able to put aside his latest realisation regarding his urges and carry on with what he had planned for the day. Any sudden move would scare her away, that became clear shortly after they had met, and he didn’t want to risk his newfound happiness: he wanted something and he had no idea how and when he’d get it, and that gave him a thrill of happiness, as he realised how fun it would be to get there.

They were approaching their destination for the afternoon and all the traffic signs and touristic indications started to clearly point out where they were heading. Amalia had to give him credit for the original idea and started to be restless, looking forward to get there, so she could get out of the car and wonder about freely in the scorching afternoon sun.

“Is that where we’re going?”

“It is. Are you going to throw stones at me as soon as we get out of the car?”

“Doubtfully,” she smiled. “I’ve been meaning to come see this place for a while, but it just seems there’s always something else to do first.”

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Someone’s Birthday

It’s someone’s birthday today… a very special someone… No matter how pouty or grumpy he might get on this particular occasion, I know he actually likes it when people remember and acknowledge his birthday 🙂 . So, to the man who never tried to change me, to the man I never tried to change, to the man who appreciated me for my flaws, not in spite of them, to this unique man I now wish a Happy Birthday and that special brand of contentment he and I understand so well.

Happy Birthday!

Parallel Lives – Sample fragment 13

“He’s a pair of knitted woollen socks.”

“Excuse me? What the hell does that mean?”

“Did you ever have a pair of those woollen socks that grandma knitted for you?”

“Of course, several of them, I might still have one or two in some drawer, somewhere. What does that have to do with anything?”

“They’re the kind of thing that you don’t really need, you don’t really wear, but you can’t get yourself to throw them away, because of what they are. Sure, they’re ugly and the rough wool makes them unpleasant on your skin, but the truth of the matter is that you have worn them a few times, perhaps on a really cold winter night, or when you went to the mountains and the cold was too much to bear… you wore them and they proved to be exactly what you needed at that moment, in order to achieve a certain relative amount of comfort. So you can’t bring yourself to throw them out, you might need them again someday. Plus, there’s also the emotional factor – they mean something because grandma made them, you can connect them to certain memories you aren’t ready to let go yet – and that’s how they end up being kept on the bottom of some drawer, to be taken out once in a blue moon, when the situation is critical. But you would never think of wearing them in public, with your nice, Italian leather shoes, would you? And in fact, you probably wouldn’t even miss them much if you were to finally get rid of them when you cleaned up your wardrobe more carefully…”

Robert was almost laughing at her analogy. I can’t believe how much sense her idiotic idea makes… She actually perceives another human being – one who, by all accounts, cares about her enough not to notice such obvious things – as nothing more than some sort of outdated accessory to be trotted out and tucked away only according to her needs, with no saying in it whatsoever… He didn’t know what he believed about that, he wanted to disagree with her and disapprove of such an attitude, but the truth was he admired her bluntness, he was forced to accept that he himself had treated people no better than that, perhaps even worse, more than one time. But she seemed not to see anything wrong with it because she made no effort to hide it.

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Three Is Not Always Perfect

I coincidentally found out that she divorced him. The same way I had coincidentally found out the two of them had gotten married in the first place. The same way I found out they had a beautiful daughter.

I didn’t congratulate her on her wedding or on having the baby she was dreaming to have ever since she was a child herself and I didn’t comfort her during her divorce. She didn’t invite me to her wedding, she didn’t let me know that their little family was becoming a trio and she didn’t bare her soul to me when her dream family proved to be just that – a mere illusion. None of us did any of those things, because we were about eighteen when we last spoke, and the last time we were close friends was even a while before that.

Her marriage and pregnancy didn’t come as a surprise. The kind of man she chose to marry didn’t surprise me either. But her finding the strength to leave him did – I was impressed and I was happy for her… and for a moment I could see that stubborn little girl she once was.

We are the same age and we spent the first years of our lives playing and growing up together. Then school separated us, but only in a certain way, because we shared that kind of bond and friendship that seem indestructible at that age. We were both competitive, we were both stubborn and opinionated, we were both convinced we had all the answers, but we were completely different and we appreciated each other exactly because of it. We had constant access to each other’s world, but the older we got, the less use we wanted to make of that access.

Being different slowly became having nothing in common. I didn’t feel comfortable among her friends and she felt like a stranger among mine; so of course we both acted up and those people became the enemy. But we could even accept that about each other – it would be just the two of us when we met, sharing everything and supporting each other during those confusing, complicated and painful years. However, a time came when not even the family drama that always brought us together managed to be a strong enough link. And what a cliché the reason appeared to be – nothing else but boys.

Yet there was so much more to it than that trivial fact – we were making our choices regarding the paths we were going to follow, the kind of life we wanted, the kind of treatment we considered we deserved. I had a boyfriend who worshiped me and perceived me as the centre of his universe, while I wasn’t necessarily always kind to him. Her take on a ‘real man’ was somewhat different than mine… to say the least. Jealousy, violence and control were what she perceived as the main attributes of the guy worthy of her love. Her boyfriends became more and more questionable, until I finally had to refuse meeting one of them. High school girls all over town knew how violent he was and stories about how his family got their fortune were whispered in secretive, fearful tones. No, that was not the kind of guy whose interest you wanted to awaken. But she knew all that… and that was when I was politely informed that I had no business talking about relationships, since I had never been in a real one. After all, a real relationship was one in which the guy set me straight, not let me be myself and do whatever I wanted, the way my boyfriend did.

She firmly believed I deserved to be slapped around a little bit, just to finally understand what real life and a real guy feel like. It was our first and final fight. We still talked once in a while afterwards, mostly agreeing to disagree. But I understood it was time for the two of us to keep our distance, because there was no way the three of us (she and I.. and the dubious boyfriend she would not leave for anything in the world) could be friends. Sure… I understood the appeal when it came to bad boys, but within limits… life-threatening was not and will never be sexy in my book.

Yet.. I understood her… how could I not, when I knew her story? Nothing and nobody taught her that loving a person means so much more than owning their body and soul and disposing of them the same way one does regarding any other type of personal property. Growing up with an alcoholic, occasionally aggressive and mostly unemployed father that both she and her mother adored had taught her what a ‘real man’ should be. Without such a ‘real man’, she herself could not reach her full potential as a real woman… Her mother never left her father, no matter how badly he treated her. He was the most important person in her life; she came second and the kids came third. She worked two jobs to support the family; and when she lost those two jobs, she finally gave in and started drinking too. Once they were sharing the same vice, they became strangely happy, in spite of everything they had to deal with. But her mother never left her father…

This is why I was so pleasantly surprised when I found out she divorced her abusive husband, putting her daughter and herself above the ‘real man’ she had desired for so long. I don’t know the details, but I am glad she stopped perceiving three as being the perfect number for the family she had built in her dreams as a child. We will never be friends again; we will probably never talk again, even if we might still coincidentally find out all sorts of things about each other. But we have never been enemies either, we simply followed our own separate ways. This is why I can now say I respect her for having the power to open her eyes and understand both she and her daughter deserve more. She will never know this about me, the same way I will never know many things bout her, but it makes no difference. All that matters is that we both have the memory of what once was a beautiful friendship, belonging only to the two of us.

In response to WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: What comes in threes?

 

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 12

Amalia turned her head towards him; she couldn’t continue to admire the scenery that was unravelling outside the car window while sinking into her own thoughts on the matter, appearing to listen to him absentmindedly. She had had that conversation with other people before, including a couple of very close friends, and everybody – from the new guys she met who wanted to sleep with her, to her family – seemed intent on figuring out just that particular matter, ending up being more puzzled than they were initially.

“You really like labels: married, single, wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend… It’s really a matter of perception for me, even if some people see me as having what they might call a boyfriend, I happen to believe it takes more than tolerating a person for a few years, allowing him to be part of your life when there’s nothing else better to do and no one else better to be had. It takes more to call it a relationship and no, in my book that doesn’t mean I have a boyfriend.”

“So you do have a boyfriend.”

“I see you’re just about as unable to understand as most of the other people are.”

“I’m teasing you, really. It’s just that people are known to build life-long marriages on less than what you just described there. So what’s wrong with this boy, that you think so little of him? And why exactly does he allow you to behave that way? Come on, tell me what your story is, I want to know.”

Robert’s voice betrayed his curiosity, but there was a hint of something else behind that half smile. She ignored it though; he wanted to know, then he would know. Amalia needed to figure out up to which point she had been right in assessing him and his character, just as she needed to be accepted exactly for who she was, and narrow-mindedness and hypocrisy were not flaws that she could tolerate.

“He’s a pair of knitted woollen socks.”

For more sample fragments: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/analinden

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 11

Not that again… But some things are unavoidable, she thought, and apparently it was a valid question when people meet other people, especially when a certain type of interest arises between two persons; and she couldn’t really blame her dislike of socially acceptable small talk on him.

“I get the feeling there’s a completely separate conversation going on in your head.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“How else would you explain the lack of continuity when jumping from one topic to another, entirely unrelated one?”

“Just accept the fact that I’m used to getting my answers,” he grinned at her, suddenly staring her in the eyes. “Why do you make such a big deal out of answering the question anyway? It’s almost as though you were ashamed…”

“You tell me… Do you have a girlfriend?” Her voice was somewhere between flirty and annoyed and he knew it wasn’t shame he had sensed in her evasive reaction, but he couldn’t quite figure out what else it might have been either.

He instinctively shifted his look from her eyes to his wedding ring and as he replied, trying to decide whether she was just mocking him or not, he noticed Amalia was aware of his awkward pause.

“First of all, I’m married, as I’m sure you must know, and I tend not to hide this particular piece of information; as for a girlfriend, I don’t have one at the moment, but I’m not adverse to the idea, and I make no secret of that either… well, maybe only as far as the wife is concerned, she might disapprove of my extracurricular activities.” Robert was pleased to notice her laughing at his little joke. “But I believe things are somewhat different for you… there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be seeing somebody.”

For more sample fragments: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/analinden

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 10

“I do know some of the out of town… let’s call them attractions… Most of them I can vaguely remember since I was a child and I’d spend my summers here, my mother’s friends helped me get acquainted with such places, since she wasn’t much of a nature person herself.”

“Well, I hope you enjoy our little touristy escapade today.”

He realised it was best not to ask her whether she had inherited her mother’s dislike of the outdoors, no need to spoil the afternoon when there was still some shred of hope that his plans weren’t completely inappropriate for her. It was a shot in the dark anyway, he knew it as soon as he noticed what she was wearing, but he wasn’t ready to accept that a person who had reached maturity in the same old place where he had spent several nice years as a student would be devoid of any sense of history and would shutter at the mere idea of an afternoon away from the noise and oppression of the modern town in which they crossed paths. Her old home town still lived on the shaky mirage of history, nature and culture intertwining in a desperate attempt to take the next step into the reality of the present-day. Robert tried to ignore the obvious detail that he had mistakenly left out – she appeared to be more than pleased to have left that place for good.

“So… do you have a boyfriend?”

Not that again… But some things are unavoidable, she thought, and apparently it was a valid question when people meet other people, especially when a certain type of interest arises between two persons; and she couldn’t really blame her dislike of socially acceptable small talk on him.

For more sample fragments: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/analinden

Papallel Lives – Sample Fragment 9

Afterwards? After what? The fear was back, suffocating her a little bit, pointing out to the fact that she was in a car with a virtual stranger, having no idea where they were heading, relying strictly on her instincts telling her nothing bad would happen and that the thrill she was feeling should be that of the new, not of fear. She had the innate ability to avoid men that no woman would be safe with and her instincts were always correct in assessing the men with whom she interacted, so she breathed in and closed her eyes tightly for another moment, taking the leap of the person who knows they are always right, the leap from fear to almost forced excitement.

Let’s just see if he proves to be gas station coffee – a colossal disappointment – or Italian espresso… She was annoyed by the tacky gesture of offering her that lousy cup of coffee, but the fact that he clearly had something in mind, he had already planned the afternoon, intrigued her, and that was much more relevant at the moment. She desperately needed to be intrigued, she desperately needed a man who could amuse her in any other way than by prostrating himself at her feet like a big, sheepish dog.

“How long is it that you have been living here? A couple of years already, I think you said last time…? Did you get to know the area well enough?”

“Yes, it’s been a few years now, and I did get to the point of knowing the place better than I actually knew my old town.”

“You see… I was referring to the area in general, not necessarily to the town…” She tried to catch a glimpse of his eyes, but he had decided to pay attention to the road as they were clearly about to drive out of town, so she couldn’t really get a clue what his mysterious destination was.

For more sample fragments: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/analinden

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 8

“Wear something comfortable,” he told her on the phone.

“I don’t do comfortable.”

Her dry reply played back into his years while he was looking at her approaching his car. Something about this woman made him think that no matter how much comfort he might find in any sort of a relationship with her, he would never be completely comfortable in front of her silent, drilling and draining looks. He smiled to himself, getting out of the car to say hello to her, as she was only a few steps away now. She was wearing a long, flowery dress that clung nicely to her body, making her look tall and accentuating her figure, without being tight or revealing. The heals were lower this time, he thought, so that must be as comfortable as she gets; the sun glasses hid her cold stare, but – oddly enough – they made her look even more distant, in spite of her smiling when seeing him. Clearly he wasn’t right to hope it would be any easier to find a way of approaching her today, but the idea of trying seamed even more tempting under these circumstances.

“You did say comfortable, right?” Her smile was full of sarcasm when she made it clear she noticed him measuring her up. “I do hope I won’t be out of place, wherever we’re going.”

“Oh, you will be.” And he burst into a friendly laughter, closing the door on her side of the car, then getting himself behind the steering wheel. Game on, he told himself again. “Your coffee, miss,” he uttered offering her one of the coffee paper cups to go, which he had picked up from the gas station on the way over. “I was thinking a less traditional coffee cup could be a nice break from the routine.”

“Funny, what you call a nice break from routine, other people call cheap.”

She does have a comeback for anything, doesn’t she? But that was refreshing; in fact, he wouldn’t have been too pleased if she were actually impressed by some cheap gas station cup of coffee, offered to her by a man she hardly knew, while they were driving away in his car.

“It’s a really beautiful day and I don’t know about you, but I thought it would be pleasant to enjoy it somehow other than just by having drinks on a crowded terrace. Don’t worry, you will get a decent cup of coffee, to your heart’s content, afterwards. But I think you might find our little trip interesting, it will certainly give us a chance to talk about all sorts of irrelevant things.”

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Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 7

“Do you have any plans for this afternoon or could we meet for coffee?”

She liked that he hadn’t even alluded to the summer job as a pretext for him to see her, even if his call came as a bit of a surprise – she was pretty sure he would call her, she was pretty sure he was interested in the same kind of interaction she was thinking of, but he was clearly a lot more determined than her and there was no room for doubts as far as he was concerned. She was quite sure of knowing what she wanted too, but the difference consisted in her lack of actual experience on that territory – there are steps that might be more difficult to take than others and she had been oscillating on a very thin line ever since they had met, trying to decide whether to jump or not. It wasn’t any moral issues holding her back, she knew that the only immoral thing would have consisted in being deceitful to herself, given that she was surreally aware of the world she lived in, with all its implications, with all its joy and lies. But it was the side of the coin where everything was happening openly and open-mindedly, so there was no problem with that. It was the going back to that side of the world she had known up close as a child, with all its beautiful excess and spirals that made her nervous, she had to wonder whether she could belong as well as she thought she naturally would. She could never be bothered to fit in, to merge with an environment that did not respond immediately to her needs and to her personality; that would have only meant surrendering one’s character and personality, and she just moved on as soon as it became obvious she didn’t belong there. But not belonging to his environment was not something she was able or willing to accept, that would have translated into a landslide of severe proportions in her world of values, and a re-evaluation of her entire system of ideas was the kind of undertaking she was unwilling to assume; because she knew his world was her world too and nothing contradicting that conviction was an acceptable variable. There is a certain type of emotion which only results from considering yourself in control of what you want and value, and that was exactly what took over her anxiety, culminating in her closing her eyes tight and accepting to meet Robert that afternoon.

“Wear something comfortable,” he told her on the phone.

“I don’t do comfortable.”

For more sample fragments: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/analinden

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 6

The heat of the early summer and the salty air had always been a promise of future pleasure, one could actually believe in the possibility of a carefree, beautiful time of sensorial depravity, and Amalia was breathing it all in, focusing only on the sound of her heals on the almost deserted pavement. The lazy afternoon hours, when people would either enjoy a brief siesta or would still be trapped in their stuffy offices, and the peace she could get from the short walk pushed her to decline his offer to drive her home; besides, she felt she needed to escape his sight as fast as possible, the need of being alone was always more overwhelming than anything else. Just as some people have an innate fear of being alone with themselves, certain other individuals feel the burden of human company and forced socialization so heavily, that they need to create their personal escape routes, they need to run away as fast and as far as possible, so they could preserve their sanity.

When the parking lot where she had waved a quick goodbye to him while rushing away was no longer in sight, she finally slowed down, breathing deeply and finally relaxing her tensed body a little bit, allowing the latest sensations of the afternoon to sink in, so she could split each one of them into the smallest fractions, analysing every potential implication and cataloguing any shred of emotion. One often knows that certain situations are inevitable and in spite of telling yourself it was all sorts of coincidental actions that threw you in the middle of that particular instant of life, the truth is constantly close to the surface of your thoughts: you went looking for such a context, because – whether aware of it or not – you needed it to define yourself, as it was part of you even before having the chance to pursue it. People often deny it, first and foremost to themselves, but the buried urge is still there, a tormenting and guilt-inducing presence, pushing to surface at the most inappropriate times; she wouldn’t deny it though, she knew that certain things were bound to happen to her and that she would go chasing certain others, her upbringing and education didn’t allow her to hide under the shade of stale propriety and biased morals. The thrill of the new and the chill of fear dug deep into her chest as she was slowly walking home, realising that her desire to run and hide was more powerful than usual: she had promised herself a summer free of her old constrictions, she had promised herself a summer of feeling as young as she actually was – for how long would she still be that young anyway? – and now that it was there, she felt she didn’t want it anymore, she didn’t want anything anymore, other than to get home, close the door behind her, and be left alone, without having to see or hear from anybody.

For more sample fragments: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/analinden

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 5

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“I apologize, that was rude of me. But I tend to be a curious person by nature and I have the feeling you might know a lot more about me from your friend than I know about you.” Game on. He decided honesty was the best choice for the time being. “Most of the people who work with me – not for me – are friends of mine and we socialize in various contexts that aren’t work-related in any way. Whether we decide to collaborate in the future or not, you strike me as an… intriguing person and I would enjoy getting to know you.”

I’m very curious, I’m sorry… I’d like to know you better… At least he didn’t say “you’re an interesting person”, which she felt was his first instinct, but he managed to overcome it just in time. She normally didn’t go for that kind of approach, but she sensed he had meant the clichés he had just uttered, he was playing his one card left after the inappropriate question – directness would score him some points. He was clearly a spoiled man, used to being blunt in his sentimental approaches, not because of a certain lack of imagination or poetry, but because he felt that such endeavours belonged to a period in one’s life that he had already passed or overgrown.

“Anyway… would you mind if I called you sometime soon, to reach a decision about the summer job?” She kept staring him in the eyes without saying a word, so he decided there was nothing more to be done or said then and there. He was slightly annoyed by her superior, know-it-all look and he wasn’t going to pursue the issue any further, the intriguing brat could make up her mind about him all on her own. “Or you can call me whenever you prefer, in case that’s more convenient to you.”

He hadn’t meant to utter the last sentence, but what’s done, is done, he thought, while he was watching her heading out. Not wanting to completely give in to her, he figured that finding a middle ground was his best option, since she was clearly not going to respond to his “hot and cold” play. Yes, summer was looking up… for sure… And as she was walking away, he felt a pang of unadulterated enthusiasm and challenge, the same way he used to feel when living in the old university town which had also been her home… like there was purpose in life and everything and anything became possible.

For more sample fragments: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 4

Amalia was staring straight into his eyes while she was offering him basic information about her and her studies, about her summer plans and all sorts of other trivia he felt he needed to know. It wasn’t about a part-time job that would reduce the number of boring hours a week over her summer holiday, nor was it about supplementing her income or providing additional experience for her resume. It didn’t matter that she was still using a very distant, neutral and polite tone of voice, Amalia already knew that those warm, boring summer hours would be filled with something else, perhaps more exciting than the tedious tasks of an assistant. Yes, it was the right moment to finally have an affair with a married man, with the married man in front of her, and while they were both debating university and job related matters, they became aware that they knew more than enough about the person they were looking at from their mutual friend, the one who enjoyed idle gossip so much. She had no doubt he felt the same, and even if he hadn’t, her arrogance still wouldn’t have allowed her to think otherwise. Amalia found Robert intelligent, intriguing and strong enough in order to consider him the one to make the final cut; besides, she welcomed the new challenge he presented and the change of direction he was bound to bring into her life.

“So do you have a boyfriend?” The sudden, rudely intrusive question almost shook her new resolution to the core – could she have actually misread him so badly? Was he really that ordinary and if so, how come she had missed all the signs that normally accompany such stereotypical individuals?

“I find that people tend to have a very personal, subjective image of terms such as the one which you’ve just mentioned. I do know men and boys, and some of them are even friends of mine, while others are something else altogether; and some are just acquaintances. Regardless of whether this is relevant to the topic we were discussing or not, I hope at least it answers your question.”

Actually, it hadn’t. He had uttered the out of context question without even thinking of what he was saying, during a very brief intermission in their conversation and he could now see very clearly that it had been ill-received, judging by her vanishing smile and the very vague and cold answer. Other girls… women… girls… would have tried to act coy, some would’ve tried a flirty response, their egos hugely tickled by his awakened interest, whereas she dismissed him with a non-answer, clearly penalizing his lack of finesse.

For more sample fragments: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 3

When Robert noticed Amalia entering the sun-bathed restaurant, he suddenly became aware that he was hoping she would be the woman he was supposed to meet. He was expecting a girl, but something about her made you think “woman”, in spite of the youthful features of her face. And he realised exactly what it was – she looked cold, on the torrid summer day, she looked cold. The clinging noise of her heals on the wooden floor became louder as she was heading towards his table and he felt he had to find a way to keep her close, at least until he could decipher whatever accounted for that cold layer and what was hidden by the elegant, well-organized, attractive look. The long legs, the slim figure, the poised posture and the beautiful face were an additional incitement, if any such thing was still necessary, and as he stood up to offer her a chair when she was only centimetres away from the table, he could sense her perfume and her cold, silky hand shaking his after the quick, polite introduction. “Expensive” was what came to his mind, and before he had any chance to decipher the implications of that thought, she was speaking to him about the reason why she decided to meet him; but the words he was more focused on were her very first ones.

“Hello, I’m Amalia. I assume our mutual friend already told you a few things about me and my educational background.”

But he was no longer interested in her educational background or in the fact that he had set that meeting to find a girl who would be willing to be his assistant for a few hours a week, for the rest of the summer. Yes, actually, he did want to know things about her background, he thought, but he wanted to know everything about what made her tick. His old, perverted curiosity took over and he realised he wanted to break her down into little bits of information and figure out whether there was indeed something different about her or she was just one of the many who managed to put on a nicely carved facade. She was now talking about her BA and the thesis she was preparing and she suddenly became full of life, so he felt contagiously alive too, like he was back in time, back in his student days, in that far away, quaint university town, where – as it turned out – they had both spent years of their lives, not knowing of each other’s existence, probably not even at the same time. The urge to ask her when exactly she lived there was immediately repressed though, he had no intention of feeling old again, he would hold on to that surge of youth for as long as possible.

For more sample fragments: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

(Dis)Connecting

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: This week, show us how two (or more) things — people, objects, places — come together.

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He kept showing her books, one after the other, wanting to know whether she had read them. He would then briefly tell her what each and every one of them was about. You little book snob, you! She should really… But before I was able to find the appropriate punishment for his attitude, I couldn’t help noticing that the two kids were playing out a scene so familiar to me. Not many had ventured out in the sweltering heat that afternoon; and those who had, preferred the beach and the sea to the book fair, so I could quietly observe the two teenagers.

Her answer was invariably no. No, she hadn’t read that one either; no, this one she hadn’t read, but she was going to, she just hadn’t found the time yet. Oh… that one… great, great book, that one… read it – well, not quite, but it was all the same really, she had seen the movie and she absolutely loved it! What, it wasn’t really in the spirit of the book? Well, of course not, it couldn’t have been, it was only a movie after all, but since the movie was good anyway, she couldn’t wait to read the book! Oh, no, no, no… there wasn’t any need for him to lend her the book yet, she wanted to read a few others first… but she would definitely let him know in case she changed her mind.

The two of them had entered the book fair right in front of me and I could see them attacking the shelves and tables with great gusto. Oh, the early days of adolescent love… when you desperately want to know and like everything about the other person… when the emotional/hormonal connection is so strong, that you fool yourself into believing the two of you are connected just as strongly on every other level. (But who am I kidding? That hardly applies to adolescents alone.) He was obviously a voracious reader and he was looking forward to sharing all his thoughts with her, as well as to discovering what her preferences and opinions on the matter were. She was obviously looking forward to discovering and adoring a new side of him; but she hadn’t expected the experience to abruptly reveal a part of her she probably hadn’t considered relevant until then.

Their initial enthusiasm turned into uncomfortable silence. She became silent first, not knowing what to reply to his overwhelming literary tirade. He toned down his discourse, trying to get her to talk. He gave up on showing her books he had read and he started picking up copies of the ones he knew nothing about, reading jacket blurbs or random fragments, joking about the characters and making her laugh. Their connection was almost restored. When she finally reached out to confidently pick up a book, saying, “Look, Osho!”, his face lit up with joy. What did she think about that one, he wanted to know.

“I really love her,” she answered as enthusiastically as she could.

“The author is a guy…” he replied in a low, disappointed tone of voice.

It, it, it, she meant to say “it”; it, the book, it… they have that particular one at home, she browsed through it and she liked it.

I couldn’t help giggling and neither could the lady representing the publishing house selling the book whose author apparently had such a controversial identity. Our eyes met and we exchanged a few amused glances. As expected, the two of them never noticed; since when do adolescents in love notice anything outside their own private world?

Among the thousands of books, the girl was bound to find something she had actually read. Smiling shrewdly, she pointed in the direction of a certain bestseller, wanting to know whether he had read it. After a few evasive attempts, he blushingly confessed to have only seen the movie. The girl proudly handed him a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey, suggesting he read it as soon as possible – after all, she had read it and she strongly recommended it. The boy’s cheeks turned fifty shades of red, not knowing what to say or do next.

I buried my nose in a book, doing my best not to burst into laughter. However, it’s probably not a laughing matter that the only book the girl seemed to have read was exactly that one… But the scene in its entirety was altogether more than familiar to me. I have dragged various guys to all sorts of book fairs and book stores over the years. Some of them enjoyed it, others had to focus on not falling asleep. Sometimes it was just a random choice of something to do on a date; many other times, I would do it on purpose. I happen to believe that two people stand more of a chance to get along if they share some core values and have at least a few common interests. History has taught me that I cannot have anything more than a meaningless fling with a man who doesn’t read. Passion might be crucial in establishing a connection, but it takes passion in all its forms in order to maintain it for more than a few moments…

Parallel Lives – Sample fragment 2

Amalia felt there was something of a sociopath lying dormant in both of them, as guilt was mainly a foreign concept in most of the circumstances with which life presented them, at the most mundane level possible. On a large scale, they both had a very acute sense of right and wrong that responded to their personal reasoning regarding the world, people and morals, a sense that suited their open-minded characters, their egotistic needs and their somewhat legal, more abstract rather than moral, view of correctness.

Robert was old, or at least he was old compared to her, but that was not relevant for either one of them when they initially met; just as it made absolutely no difference that he had a wife and a child at home. If anything, these aspects regarding his condition only made him more attractive and Amalia was well-aware that their relation might have ended before having a chance to begin, had he not been the man he was, leading the life he lead. It was time, she decided about five minutes after she met him, it was time to start dating a married man. Date him? Would that be the appropriate phrase for it? She felt it instantly, nothing about it would be what common souls derive from the idea of dating; after all, he was married, there was an age difference and she had no desire to change his status or to manipulate him, so that he would present her with the opportunity of a “normal” role in his life. They would have whatever kind of a relation they both felt like sharing and they would interact on a commitment-free level.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 1

The buzzing sound of the plane engines and the milky view of the clouds with the protruding mountain peaks below failed to provide her with their usual sleepy serenity. Relinquishing control of her life and relying on the mysterious laws of physics to transport her exactly where she needed to be had been replaced by frantic panic, as her fingernails were deeply embedded in the window seat from the beginning of a flight which would normally allow her to spend some of the calmest hours of her existence. She had to make use of all her self-control to complete the boarding procedures and to maintain her resolution of going through with her trip, but she felt the plane would take her nowhere this time – it had occurred to her that she was only drifting, she never really had a clear idea where any of the planes would take her, she was just spinning in a circle, in the vague hope that access to the right flight would eventually be gained, by chance or by mistake. And as she felt falling deeper and deeper, she couldn’t help wondering why she kept leaping from one flight to another, as none of them had proven to be the right one.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Happy Valentine’s Day!

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved. ”

W. Shakespeare – Sonnet 116

There’s more to this day than cards, flowers, chocolates, heart-shaped knickknacks and all sorts of gifts that make us feel wanted and appreciated. Not that they are completely irrelevant – much like the day itself, they are a reminder that a certain feeling, a certain human emotion should be cherished and celebrated once in a while! (And hopefully there’s a little bit more to that feeling than 50 Shades of Grey 😉 ) So I hope that today you get to enjoy a few special moments with someone you love, either face to face or at least hearing their voice on the phone.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you and to the people you love!

A Little Something Before Valentine’s Day…

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I have a little something for all of you, just to say ‘thank you’ for reading and considering my thoughts. All I can give you right now is a book – I wish it could be more… Last year, just before Valentine’s Day, I created a coupon for everybody who wanted to read Parallel Lives and find out how Amalia’s (love) life would evolve. With the risk of seeming repetitive, I’m doing the same this year, I’m making it a tradition 🙂 So feel free to download the book as many times as you want or send the coupon as a cute gift to any of your friends!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Promotional price: $0.00

Coupon Code: XW47A (enter the code at checkout)

Expires: February 15, 2015

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Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 15

“It’s not like that, you’d understand it if you knew her.”

“I’m sure I wouldn’t, but I’m also sure you actually believe that, so you just tell yourself whatever you need to hear in order to go on.”

The silence was drowning the countryside scenery. Nice, cosy and nightmarish, she thought, but that’s not his fault, that appears to be the vastly spread idea about marriage anyway, why would they be the exception? It’s probably never different, they just end up devouring each other’s soul and character in the nicely furnished confines of a home, burying all the frustration, ignorance and dissatisfaction deep under a sea of smiles and placid lies, all under the silent approval of socially accepted behaviour, most likely under the eyes of some child that doesn’t know any better and will probably just grow up to duplicate the parents’ example.

“How about Woollen Socks? Why do you keep him around and not chase him away, so he could find somebody right for him? Or why don’t you make him into more than that, why can’t he make it to the next level?”

“We met not that long after I moved here and he immediately became somewhat obsessed with me. It was pretty obvious and perhaps I should’ve chased him away from the very beginning, because I knew myself well enough to be aware that I didn’t want anything serious with or from him. But I’m selfish and I was a bit lonely at the time too, and the way he worshiped me was quite nice for my ego. He knew that he had no chance to be more than that, the pair of socks on a cold winter night, but he accepted it, or maybe he hoped things would change, that I might change, I don’t really know and I don’t really care. There are still times when I feel lonely and that’s when he’s just a speed dial away, he knows that total availability on his behalf is what I require and he is more than willing to provide that. Because, no matter how bad you think he has it, he still enjoys it a lot more than he would any typical relationship with somebody else but me. It’s me he wants and this is who I am, so that’s what he gets; no more than that though, because he is devoid of any personality, any ambition and intelligence. He may be a nice guy, but he’s no more than that and he never will be.”

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 14

“You do realise that’s a person you’re talking about, right?”

“Yes, and the person in question is completely aware of my feelings, I don’t pretend he means much to me, just as you don’t pretend not to be married. There’s a difference, however: he knows exactly how things stand between the two of us, he knows exactly who I am and what my conditions are, and he has the choice of accepting them or not. He decided he was desperate enough in order to accept anything, as long as once in a while there’s room for him in my life as well; but he is free to leave whenever he wants. Can you say the same about your wife, though? Does she know exactly who you are? Does she get the choice of accepting you or not, or does she just have to live with a nice, cosy lie about what her marriage is?”

She was right… or maybe she wasn’t… He didn’t know anymore, that kind of questions hadn’t been tormenting him for too long a time. It made sense from a logical point of view, but he knew there was more to it when it came to a relationship, especially a marriage; the make belief factor was actually the more relevant one in keeping things together.

“Marriage is different. It’s cruel to tell people things that are bound to hurt them just to fulfill some need for honesty. There’s more to it than that and relationships, especially marriages, need to be protected, sheltered from certain aspects of life; there’s more than enough pressure on them as it is.”

“Right… What you don’t know can’t hurt you. How about being at the receiving end of that sheltering strategy? What if your wife protects you – I’m sorry, your marriage – from certain aspects of life as well?”

“It’s not like that, you’d understand it if you knew her.”

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

The Nice Guy – Holy Grail or Holy Bore?

Brand-new year, same old questions… Amidst all those champagne glasses clinking and all those people cheerfully chanting New Year’s resolutions meant to magically change their lives, some of us cannot help obsessing over what went wrong, what we could have done differently in order to have achieved better results. I’ll quit smoking… I’ll quit that shitty job… I’ll stop drinking… I’ll recycle… I won’t be such a pushover anymore… I’ll go on a diet and lose ten kilos… That’s what we hear left and right. Why the hell don’t women ever go for the guy who’s gonna be nice to them?! Well… that one you don’t hear too often when a new year is on the verge of replacing the old one and everybody is euphorically celebrating all the potential perspectives.

My oldest friend’s familiar voice made me smile; it was my turn to ask myself an age-old question – why do men think their female friends should be able to answer absolutely any question about women? No offense, guys, but what applies to one doesn’t apply to all, we’re not built to fit the same pattern. He quickly got over his conundrum about the latest object of his desire, he smiled back and wished me a Happy New Year once more, not expecting an actual answer this time. But his question followed me – it wasn’t the first time he had approached that subject and rightfully so, since there we were, yet another New Year’s party with him alone and no perceivable perspectives in sight, because he is such a nice guy. So his phone goes back in his pocket – no message from the girl with whom he went out a couple of times and who seemed genuinely interested… interested in getting back together with her worthless ex, that is, as soon as she got a taste of what going out with a nice guy might feel like. And since this particular one was not by far a remote incident, of course he utters to himself, “The hell with women…”; yet he cannot stop wondering where he went wrong and why exactly it is that so many of us prefer to be treated like doormats by various losers, rather than be worshiped and set on a pedestal by the likes of him.

Who is the nice guy? In this particular case – trying to be as unbiased as I possibly can – we’re talking about a more than decently looking man, intelligent, selfless and kind, always there for you, whose needs always come second after yours, who has a steady, although not glamorous job and who believes that a woman is meant to be respected and cherished, not abused or mistreated in any way by the guys in her life. And on a personal note, I know that nobody can ask for a better friend. In fact, this last aspect becomes so disturbingly clear immediately after you first meet him, that one might quickly decide it’s not worth risking to lose such a great friend only to try and have more, only to have some brief affair with him. Let’s be honest, men come and go, while friends are a constant for many of us.

So our guy is still alone and looking around him, he spots countless men hand in hand with pretty, successful women, in spite of these guys’ blatant inability to respect or be fateful to them, in spite of their clearly spoken out lack of desire to be at least civil to them. It was against some of them that he competed and lost the girls now standing there, half smiling and half crying because of the men they had chosen. There she is – that’s the one who begged that guy to move in with her, after promising to pay the rent herself and support him until he got a job; several years later, he still cannot be bothered to work, he drinks twice as much and she’s buried in debts, but she won’t even consider leaving him, no matter how often she has to run and cry on a friend’s shoulder. And that one – she’s the one who often locked herself in the bathroom to cry after having sex with the boyfriend, that’s how much he disgusted and humiliated her, yet even that was preferable to being with a nice guy. There’s another one – she openly preferred the man who threw a frying pan at her for burning the eggs, the same man who religiously checks her phone and email, driven by some sort of paranoid jealousy he finds to be the attribute of any self-respecting male. After all, what’s all that when the alternative implies having to perceive a nice guy in a sexual manner? No, no, no… he’s only worthy of being the sounding board you need whenever you feel like your head is exploding and your soul is breaking in smithereens as a result of yet another misfortunate amorous choice, he’s the one who has to listen to you mention how much you’d like it if men could also be anything but jerks to the women who care about them. Weary of it all, sick and tired of women and their whimsies, the nice guy decides once more that they’re probably all alike, they deserve what’s coming to them, so he won’t bother to care anymore, he’ll just become one of those guys, all the while knowing he’s neither built or able to behave that way to anyone, much less to a woman…

Yes, his girlfriend will receive much more privileged a treatment than she would have expected; in fact, she’ll suddenly find herself in the shoes of those women whose good fortune she had envied for years – or so she thought. Showered with constant affection, this woman will abruptly experience what it means to have a man who only wants to please her and knows only how to be nice to her. From happily bringing her that glass of water in the middle of the night or driving all the way to the other side of the town only to get her that cake he knows she likes so much, to helping her most distant relative or acquaintance move their furniture to their new apartment, he will always be there to fulfil any menial task she might invent. Will he cheat on her? Of course not, how could he, after having gone through all that trouble just to get in her good graces?… So the now fortunate female of the species also has all the freedom she might desire, because he is trusting by nature, hardly knowing the meaning of jealousy and possessiveness – that is, as far as his behaviour towards her is concerned, because he firmly believes she can chose to be with whomever she pleases, whenever she pleases, even leave him if she might be so inclined, no matter how much this might tear him apart.

The realisation that even if he would not cheat on you, you still have to share him with the rest of the world might be quite striking, especially for those of us who want the man they date to treat them in a considerably different fashion than he might treat any of the other people he knows. But one of the nice guy’s major flaws is that he cannot say no, to you or anybody else. His phone will ring in the middle of the night and he’ll get out of bed and go help some vague acquaintance who has car trouble or whose cat needs taken to the vet after swallowing a hairball. And if he’s late for a date, you can be sure he feels terrible about it, because what kept him was not his indifference to you, but his inability to refuse a colleague in need, who was most likely too lazy to do his job in time. That is probably also the reason why his shirt looks like it just came out of the dryer, in his frenzy to do everything and anything for everybody else, he completely forgets to take care of himself. And why should a woman take offence in the fact that he looks as though he slept in his clothes when he takes her out to a nice restaurant? After all, doing something for whoever has the common sense to take advantage of him is so much more important than looks and appearances.

Since he’s had so much bad luck with women, he does his best not to scare them away, so he’ll start off as the “as you wish” guy. Do you want to go out tonight? As you wish. Where should we go? Wherever you wish; as long as you’re happy, it’s fine with me. What should we do at the weekend? Whatever you wish. And it goes on and on, until even the calmer ones of us will lose their temper. Is it really the desire to please or an innate refusal to make decisions, so when things inevitably go wrong, he will not be the one blamed for it? Unfortunately, by the time this question might receive an answer and he might start feeling comfortable and confident enough to have an input and opinions of his own, the girl has already left. We get it, we get, he was just trying not to be dominant; but how about accepting that having an opinion or making a suggestion doesn’t mean controlling a person?

When the girl is not one for making decisions either or she’s just trying to be nice and leave him to his own devices, things tend to take a not so appealing turn. You can forget about going out, because all he really wants is to be with you, to listen to everything you have to say and invade each and every corner of your mind, so he could find out everything there might be to know about you, the most intimate and private details of who you are. And what better place to do so than at home?… Remember that really cute, sexy outfit you bought for those hot clubbing nights? You might as well forget it, because clubs are for posers and pretentious wannabes, you cannot possibly socialize properly with all that loud music and drunken people fidgeting around you. Let’s just stay home, take a nice, long bubble bath together, hold hands and snuggle… you know, really connect… Without even realizing, your mind wonders off to your ex, that arrogant, obnoxiously jealous fool you left because you thought you deserved better; and your memory will play that old, infamous trick on you, making you remember only the good, fun parts, like that last night in the club when you got to wear your appealing outfit and he was so taken by it, the two of you feeling so sexy and alive. Unfortunately, with all the current bubble baths and hand holding making you feel like you’re a hundred and five, chained to this guy for a lifetime and not only dating him for ten days, you forget that your ex was also so great at noticing how sexy the other girls’ outfits were…

In spite of everything else, you made it to your first weekend getaway with your first nice guy and you decide to reward him by letting him surprise you, since he had already mentioned something about how romantic a sunrise in the mountains might be. So you smile contented – there’s hope yet! Or so you think, until you realise that your romantic surprise getaway involves a tent and a pair of hiking boots meant to help you reach that mountain peak where he knows for a fact that nature is at its wildest, so the two of you can enjoy the most spectacular sunrise possible. There goes your dream of a nice, warm, comfortable mountain chalet, with a cosy bed and a soft duvet from under which you could sneak a peek out the window and catch a glance of the amazing sky while he’s bringing you a nice, hot cup of coffee. Did you think that you were going to spend your day souvenir hunting and your evening in some fancy restaurant or loud club? Put on your hiking boots and think again, because the nice guy often harbours a genuine love for nature and its wonders. He will carry your backpack, though… What are we, thirteen, you might almost have time to wonder, involuntarily looking down at your elegant shoes, before you metaphorically run for the hills. The truth is, he means no harm, you left the decision to him and that is what he likes. The same way you might not understand that, he will never be able to understand why you’re relaxed by an afternoon of window shopping (or real shopping) or what you can find so interesting about a hotel in a nice resort, since that’s not at all how you discover true scenic beauty. The truly heart-breaking part is that he will do whatever you like him to, he will put up with all the plans that you make and all the things you enjoy, but as he most likely finds them completely irrelevant, uninteresting and vane, he will roll his eyes and suffer through the deadly boredom you inflict on him; and since he is far from being an accomplished liar, cannot hide his aversion – besides, one is always supposed to be completely honest to the person one dates – but he will constantly ask you why you seem sad or annoyed. After all, that’s what you wanted to do, his sour face should make no difference and you should have the time of your life. In your turn, you sigh with boredom too and your thoughts wonder off to your ex; but this time you are fully aware of it.

What starts off as an unbelievable revelation often turns out to be nothing more than an acquired taste and I believe this might be the nice guy’s case as well, since not only the example in question, but also many of his peers seem to be creatures of extremes, completely unable to find balance or the proverbial middle way in their behaviour. Since things are either black or white, good or bad, there is no room for anything in between and they have formed their beliefs regarding what should generally constitute “nice” behaviour. It’s simple really, they have subjectively decided what “nice” should objectively be like for each and every woman and it is therefore logically implied that anything outside their definition should be undesirable. And they generally suffer tremendously when they see women choosing all those other men that are different from them, therefore not nice, bad. This is where it all falls apart and the dreamboat becomes something else, because niceness and goodness, much like beauty, are also in the eye of the beholder. And since a woman should be able to accept the nice guy for who he is, there can be no talk about him changing. He wouldn’t dream of asking her to change who she is in order to suit his needs. But, in fact, does he not do exactly that?

Who are these women he likes and who keep rejecting him? By some coincidence, it’s always the type of woman who would never be interested in what he likes, her life revolving around different values. Those who might indeed share some of his passions never happen to awaken any passion in him. On the contrary, they tend to fall into the “not pretty enough, not bright enough, not funny enough, not elegant enough” category, because in the end he’s only human, he has his own preferences and taste. Ironically enough, the man who decries women for being attracted to men who hurt them in various ways is also the man attracted to women who would only mistreat him.

In the end, he walks away from another party, yet again convinced that women would prefer any jerk to him, without even considering the idea that treating a woman nicely might imply offering her what she wants, not what he thinks she should want. The truth is most likely somewhere in the middle. There are indisputably self-destructive women, driven by veiled masochism and a deep need to be somebody’s victims; and many of those alpha males are indeed no more than these women’s chosen oppressors. But it is equally true that many of said alpha males become harmless and cuddly the moment they face an alpha bitch in her own element. Everything is relative. So why don’t women choose the nice guy, the one who makes for such a good friend, yet for such a difficult, antagonistic boyfriend, and always go for the bad boy? Wait… maybe, just maybe, some of us want neither a lapdog, nor a torturer for a boyfriend, but simply a well-balanced man, who in spite of his human flaws, manages to find that middle way towards a non-extremist relationship….

But all in all, how does the story end? Does the nice guy ever get the girl in real life? Or is it just not that kind of black and white affair after all?…

Parallel Lives

parallel lives variantaYoung, beautiful and independent Amalia refuses to apply traditionalist conceptions to any of her relationships with men; therefore commitment, marriage and couple routine are not part of her vision on life. Cynical and highly aware of the realities of an unromanticized modern world devoid of long lasting feelings, Amalia appears to only seek the promise of a few moments of fleeting happiness next to the men in her life. The opposite sex is often no more than a refuge from all mundane problems and deceptions, so the young woman stubbornly refuses to settle down with any of the men who try to win her affection – that would only mean the death of her soul, independence and character.
A man will treat a woman as badly as she allows him to and no man can offer a woman all she needs – these are two of her strongest beliefs; needing to be in control, she will not shy away from being at least as selfish, self-involved, manipulative and cold as men are to other women in their lives. Intense sensations are her idea of happiness and Amalia seeks someone who can make her feel and forget, but as she thrives on introspection and analysis, doubt and disappointment, together with unwanted and unexpected feelings will often overwhelm her. But above anything else, she is their confident, the one they entrust with all their fears, hopes, past, future and prosaic stories, Amalia enjoying their conversations as a means of escaping and forgetting her own issues. Infiltrating the thoughts, ideas and emotions of men who care for her becomes a guilty pleasure in which she will relish whenever she finds the power to remind herself that any drop of happiness needs to be savored.
Getting to know the various men in her life ultimately translates in a deeper understanding of herself and her needs, discovering she can still be both disappointed and amazed by the person she is. Her evolution over the years outlines the image of a woman who refuses to lie to herself and become somebody else in order to please people and fit in, often accepting loneliness as a reward and not a punishment.