Distracting Windows

There’s something about windows… Whenever I’m in a new place, just wondering about and taking in the sights and architecture, I often get distracted from the big picture. My eyes fixate on windows and I find myself wondering what it would be like to live behind some of them. I lost count of all those times I bumped into people, looking up distracted, ignoring everything and everyone around.

Then there’s the other side of the window…

Do you ever get the feeling that there are certain people meant to inhabit that ground floor flat, the one closest to the entrance, with the best view of everybody entering and leaving the building?… I wonder, have they always been that sort of people and their choice of a home is merely an extension of their personality… or is it always location, location, location, and they morphed into the neighbourhood busybody exactly because of it? They always know who you date, what time you got home, from where and with whom, yet somehow they never notice who dinged your car… It’s all about prioritising, I suppose.

Everywhere I lived, in every building I visited several times, they were there, and they never failed to make themselves noticed. I remember the one living in the building I grew up in… and all the ways I had to invent in order to get in and out at the wrong hours, without being noticed. I tell you, it was not an easy job. Getting home late in the evening generally went unnoticed by my grandmother. But another pair of curious eyes would see and report as soon as possible… and god forbid I made my grandmother look bad in front of the neighbours. So what’s a kid to do? Well, nothing else but come home even later, making sure that said lady was sound asleep by that time.

There was no way of escaping them, I concluded a few years ago, when I was contemplating moving. I eventually found a place that was tempting. A couple of visits with the real-estate agent brought him, the ground floor guy, out of hiding. When looking out the window failed to provide enough information on the newcomer, he went out in the garden, blatantly staring at the windows of that flat. To his great delight, we were on the balcony, so his curiosity was appeased. I remember driving to that building the following day, wanting to take one more look without the agent before making my final decision. Parked in what would have become my parking space, I was analysing everything, weighing the pros and cons. The head eventually stopped peering from behind the curtain… because the neighbour decided to come in front of the building to nosily stare at the car and whoever dared to trespass on his “personal” space. Did I really want to live right above this person?… Well, that wasn’t the deciding factor, but it certainly weighed heavily.

Summer is a busy time for one of my current downstairs neighbours, and the good old window and that pulled aside curtain corner are working overtime… so much so, that she even leaves her door slightly open once in a while. The window is just not enough. She may be the keeper of all neighbourhood gossip, but she isn’t among the most obnoxious ones, so I find it easy to tolerate her whenever I fail to avoid her. Hurrying by the open door, I realise I’ve never been too curious to know what life is like behind it… and that’s because the woman living there never fails to overshare. Furthermore, her endless, indiscrete inquiries make people want to keep their distance. Ironically, what most likely is the consequence of loneliness and a need of human contact, is also what prevents her from getting close to anybody.

Bridge

There are certain bridges we should learn to stop crossing back and forth, as they take us to the worst version of what our lives could be. Then there are those scary, almost hidden ones, the ones we hardly ever notice or take into consideration… Who knows what unchartered territories, what world full of options might await on the other side of those bridges, the ones not yet crossed, not yet deemed as worth burning …

Transient Moments

Every time I go to the mountains I am somehow pulled towards these seemingly insignificant water streams. I could almost say that the sound of undisturbed nature is incomplete without that murmur of rushing waters.

Once in a while, it stares you in the face, the enormous strength and consequences of something apparently so small cannot be denied or ignored. Bit by bit, over what seems an eternity, water droplets have carved their way through impenetrable walls.

There’s nothing else to be done other than admire the force of repetitive transient, apparently insignificant moments.

Fleeting instants and unexpected people walk into our lives and leave it just as fast, like water streams… They occasionally leave indelible marks, the consequences of which we only notice much later. Once we do, we need to accept that nothing can ever be the same.

Wanderlust

The snow covered mountain tops seemed… they seemed familiar. We had been driving up and down through the mountains all day long, we were heading towards yet another landmark, but… there was something about those peaks, like I had seen them up close. All day I kept trying to figure out which mountain was which, as terrible at geography as always. My sight oversaturated with all those wonderful landscapes, I still couldn’t help staring in that particular direction. Then I noticed the signs, as we drove into possibly one of the dullest small towns I had ever seen.

My throat closed with emotion for a moment, as I recognized the memory and remembered the place. The name of the place typed into the GPS, I never even glanced at the route. The destination was the main concern. I turned my head and as our eyes met and we smiled melancholically, I knew my friend was thinking the same thoughts.

For a week we woke up to see those peaks first thing every morning. An indescribably old, barely functional truck drove us and our rucksacks several kilometres down a terrible, pothole filled road. Not too long a hike and we were finally at what we chose as our camping site. I stare at the mountain and I remember all the drama and adventure of that trip as though it was yesterday. The guys who climbed all the way to the top of those steep rocky cliffs… the guy who abandoned his girlfriend on the mountain, on a storm, in the middle of a passionate fight, and then went after her… that day I decided to hike up the mountain on one of the more accessible trails and how I decided that torrential rain wouldn’t stop me, even if that meant I had to drag my boyfriend after me, even if that meant my best friend felt compelled to come after us, worried something might have gone wrong. I remember how intense love felt back then; I remember how friendship used to be more important than anything else. But above all, I remember those nights around the camp fire… we were just a bunch of teenagers, having little else in common but our wanderlust and our need to escape our lives. Somehow, right there, in the middle of nowhere, having nothing else but a fire, our tents and each other, we felt safe. And we were happy.

We look at each other again.

“Were we… what, fifteen, sixteen?… Sixteen, we must’ve been sixteen… that’s right…”

And we do the math, but avoid actually saying how many years have passed since then; we feel old, and at the same time, we’re giddy like children. We keep driving down today’s road, giving voice to yesterday’s memories.

As the days get warmer and longer, this crazy urge to just pack my bags and go – anywhere, everywhere – takes over me. Sometimes it finds an outlet, and it also finds company. I can’t help appreciating the irony of then versus now… just like I can’t help noticing how many various ways there are to reach the same destination. We keep focusing on the destination and finding value in the journey that takes us there. How about the company we choose? What if that’s the most important part, especially when it comes to the more difficult journeys? I only know this – if wanderlust hits and I want somebody with me, that person is somebody truly special to me.

Atop

Sometimes, we need to escape more than we know… Only when we start to travel, only when we put some space between us and our “everyday” do we realize how desperately we needed to do exactly that. I don’t know about you, but the right trip at the right moment makes me feel on top of the world – at least on top of my world 🙂 .

In response to WP Weekly Photo Challenge – Atop.

When You See A Guy Wearing Nothing But His Speedos In the Supermarket…

… You know it must be the height of summer season at the seaside.

There’s always one, I keep reminding myself every summer… that is, if I’m lucky, because there’s a good chance I get to see more than one. Living by the sea certainly comes with lots of perks, but there are several peculiarities one needs to learn to accept as well. If nothing else, you never get to forget that “vacation” is that magical time of year when boundaries get very blurry for most people. It may not always be fun to witness, it might often be maddening, but hey, you learn to live with it!

So there he is, our summertime, vacation loving gentleman, proudly strutting his stuff, pushing a shopping trolley down a supermarket alley. Belly elegantly spilling over his tight, three sizes too small swimsuit, worn flip-flops flipping the delicate grains of sand finally escaping the trap of his hairy ankles, he knows exactly where he needs to be.

“Mommy, mommy, is that man poor?”

The little girl he pushes over in his mad rush to reach the beer isle keeps tugging at her mother’s shirt. Giving the man an angry look, the mother tries to avert her daughter’s eyes and draw her attention away from the testosterone wonder.

“Is he homeless, mommy? Why does he have no clothes? Should we help him?”

Out of the mouths of babes… I smile to the little girl as I walk by pushing my shopping trolley and the mother and I lock eyes, exchanging a knowing look. Damn summer, damn tourists, her exhausted, angry face seems to say.

Two of the security people are rushing, almost running to catch up with the inappropriately clad shopper. I was wondering how he’d managed to get that far. Generally they are stopped at the entrance and politely asked to head back to their vehicles and put on some clothes. That polite – some would say common sense request – is rarely met with a decent, polite response, much less with an apology. Generally, rude comments regarding the fact that it’s summer and it’s a town by the sea are proffered, just like in the case of today’s tourist, who simply refuses to leave without his beer… Who would have thought supermarkets might need to impose a dress code…

How many of these people would behave the same at home, on their way to the pool, I ask myself as I stop to let a lady cross the road. She’s barefoot and all she’s wearing is her bikini and a thick layer of makeup covering her face. Granted, we’re not that far from the beach, and that’s where she seems to be heading… But after seeing another similarly dressed lady who had accessorised her outfit with a pair of flip-flops and a transparent pareo wrapped around her hips walking around in the middle of the town, nowhere near a beach, I can hardly be bothered to notice this one.

I see them every day, coming and going to the beach and I can’t help wondering how they’d react if a throng of almost naked, loud, rude, ill-mannered people invaded their home town all of the sudden. Vacation time is also a time for upside-down, Alice-in-Wonderland type of situations, you soon remember if you have the strange idea of going for a walk and then stop for a drink/meal in the afternoon, in beach adjacent venues. No matter how nice the place may be, there’s a good chance the waiters will have to shoo away some disgruntled guest parading around in their dripping wet swimsuit. You see, now you’re the odd apple, for finding those pesky clothes appropriate. After all, it’s summer, it’s hot and you’re at the seaside! What the hell, live a little!

Now that we’re approaching that moment when we’re going to melancholically look back on yet another summer, I must confess – I don’t, resent them too much… at least not this summer. Once they finally go back home, to their normal lives and normal attire, once we get rid of them after we’re finally done making fun of them, the summer will be over. And I don’t want the summer to be over just yet…

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 45

She was terribly amused by the new him… or was this actually the old him, the one he was a long time before they ever had the chance to meet? The two tourists were finally at ease with each other and the remaining part of the day was a nice promise for them both.

And tourists they were. The other’s life is a territory one cannot and does not want to explore to its full extent, as the intricate paths of thought and feeling and the prosaic everyday dramas are just the inherent death of any sort of magic that might have sparked an interest in the first place. The tourist is looking for the perpetual delight of uncharted territories – many have been there before, but what really counts is their own discovery, the thrill of the experience. And although the mark of a good trip is the sad feeling you get when your cases are already in the hotel lobby and you’re on your way back home, any experienced traveller knows better than to linger until the novelty wears off. Shedding light on the unknown becomes that sort of addiction which makes the journey worth traveling, in spite of all the dead ends and godforsaken experiences. And the perpetual thrill is only matched by the perpetual denial of the obvious – there is that type of tourist who will never feel at home anywhere and for whom safety becomes the necessary compromise. This tourist in another person’s life is a most selfish creature.

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

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/parallel-lives-ana-linden/1118140770?ean=2940045563567

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/parallel-lives-7

…. and iBooks, of course. 🙂

One More Cup of Coffee

6

The espresso pot was making its usual burbling noise. Coffee was almost ready. I looked outside through the large glass door. The sky was on fire yet again. I am a not a morning person. I took the pot aside, switching off the stove. I am a coffee person. I poured all the freshly brewed espresso in one of those big ugly cups that came with the apartment. For about one year they had been our cups. And that had been our apartment. Just like that had been our town.

I pushed the glass door open and stepped out on the terrace. It was still winter, but the air felt like a warm spring day was about to unfold. We don’t only say goodbye to people. We also say goodbye to the places with which we connected, which meant something to us. I didn’t instantly like the big, crowded town still snoozing behind the early morning lights. But I had spent so much time there, going back and forth, that it had become a second home for one year. Pretty soon I started to understand its language, its pace and its peculiarities and it grew on me.

I had a few minutes to spare. And we needed to say our goodbyes, the half-asleep town and I. The culture, the history, the fun, the laziness and alternating fast pace, all the discoveries that I hadn’t gotten around to make, I would miss them all. Places can surprise you… just like people. Would I ever return? Who knows… who knows when or how… We can only know for sure when we leave. But one thing I did know, it would never be in that same little corner, in that same little moment in life.

So goodbyes had to be said quietly, over that last cup of coffee, staring at the colourful view I had enjoyed so many times. Curled up on a chair, my bare feet freezing and my palms pleasantly hot around the coffee cup, I took it all in one more time. Goodbye, Madrid!

In response to WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – Morning.