Monday, March 25, 2019

Stealing from eternity

My friend of nearly twenty years was flabbergasted at the sight of my miniature coffee tattoo when we went for, well, coffee two weeks ago. You only notice this baby now?, relying on the premise that I had absolutely told her when I had it done three years ago. After long deliberation, some quirks and memory lapses confessions, she and I finally settled that I did, in fact, forget to mention it. It is gorgeous, she rejoiced. You know what you should do? Add a miniature cigarette right next to itCoffee and cigarettes — my morning ritual; for me, the soul mates per excellence; and my faithful associates for every piece I have ever written. For every great piece I have ever written. I will never give up coffee, I giggled. That is forever; until my skin turns to dust. But I cannot get a cigarette tattooedespecially that I plan to quit. Completely. Sure, I failed until now but it will happen. One day. Then, she said something that still makes me stare into nothingness today — and smile. Well, even if — when you do quit, and the joyful agony -- or agonizing joy -- of a lit cigarette will only be but a beautiful memory... Notwithstanding, you would still love it, won’t you? You cannot regret a part or time of your life, even if it does not last. 

I never believed in love at first sight until, of course, it happened to me. Truth of the matter is that it remains a mad concept in my eyes despite (or because of?) the reality that I am a living proof of its existence. It was the night I was not supposed to leave the comfort of my home. More importantly, it was the night I did not feel like going out at all; but the ever-lasting withholding dance with my posse, naturally, resulted in my defeat, Okay, one drink. We sat at the bar and I forced myself to have fun which, almost unconsciously, I did end up having. Pretty good company breeds good; and even though the one drink policy is, as everyone knows, the biggest lie we will ever tell ourselves; that night, I stayed true to my word. Well... Almost. I was ready to pay and head out when my friend, due to the loud music, shouted it my ear, Turn around, the man of your dreams is standing right behind you. I rolled my eyes. Come on. But turn, I did. And God knows I have not stopped spinning ever since.

The moment I locked eyes with him remains that one thing that still makes me stare into nothingness today — and wonder. For instantly I knew that that millisecond would split my life into two; that from then on, there would be a before and an after. That in this fucking crazy world, there is that One person that you can — and will — love ’til death do me part. I was done. This fateful moment got tattooed on my heart on a crisp autumn night ten years ago. I marvel. Ten yearsIn 1995, Before Sunrise, long before Before Sunset and Before Midnight rounded off the trilogy, breathed life into my ‘idea’ of love. It was filmed in Vienna. I lived in Vienna then. I see a connection there; but little did I know that I would go on well into adulthood and live my, somewhat, own version. Albeit that just merely two days ago, he managed to convince me that we were indeed a weird, yet unmistakable rendition of Jesse and Celine. I giggled. 

I trust that it is in my bones to have an inkling for momentous, yet eternal passionate love -- especially in art form; then again, we are all aware that life itself is unlike any stupendous film, song, painting or epic poem. For all the reasons known to mankind, we do not work. Routine betrays us. Values do not mesh. Visions differ. Real life does not do us any favour. We tried so many times over the past decade, only to have honestly given up on the probability — or possibility — or hope that maybe, just maybe, we do belong together somewhere down the road. Well... Almost. The first time we said good-bye was the hardest thing I ever had to go through. It felt all kinds of wrong granted that, in hindsight, it was of course the right thing to do. That is my definition of heartbreak: putting back pieces together that do not fit. Then, life happens -- as it should; and I kept reminding myself that he was not the right one as every Girl Code magazine would beckon. Thus, life happens as it should. You move on. You do love again. You can get your heart broken again. Each time you think you can no longer recover from yet another disappointment, funnily enough, God has a fantastic way of pulling out a surprise. Time wounds all heals.

But the thing is, the thing is, while experience, maturity, good conscience -- all the rational things indubitably narrow everything down to life's most precious lessonthe art of letting go; still I contemplate, if after the first time — and nth time, he and I still wind up staying in each other's lives -- I ask even the most romantic or skilled -- or doomed wordsmith: what, in the end, is love? From where I am standing, I came to the conclusion that it is still utterly impossible to truly pin down what happens when you fall in love. Madly in love. Selflessly in love. I write. I tried. Just the same, I cannot find the words that could explain why I love him. Still love him. Always have, and always will. 

This is a journey that does not have the happy ending as we would like to read. Yet it still bottles something quite... spectacular. Arresting. Out of this realm. "If there is any kind of magic in this world... it must be in the attempt of understanding someone" (Before Sunrise). He knows my soul and I know his. Essentially, there is little else that matters. At the end of the day, or when my skin will turn to dust, I will rest assured that I did love someone unconditionally, beyond reason, beyond words. It was love at first sight once I locked eyes with him. I knew it then, I know it now. Ten years on, and I have stopped fighting it, forevermore. We are the love that steals from eternity. We are the kind that have lived different versions of ourselves through the years, but always find a way to return to our favourite spot, the Ex Bar. Laughing. We are corny like that. For us, sporadic lasts. Momentary is permanent. My longtime friend's statement simmers in the back of my mind: “Even if — when you do quit [...] Notwithstanding, you would still love it, won’t you? You cannot regret a part and time of your life, even if it does not last.” Well, not in the classic sense at least. Ultimately, not all of us will have a fairy tale, but that does mean the story is any less magical. The saying rings true. Some people do live under your skin. I adore my tattoos. Each time I look at the ten (and counting) of mine, I smile. I can never regret them. I will not regret the One tattooed on my heart.

Usually, the books I pick up end up twice their size after I am done -- 'thickened' with notes, underlined passages, penned emoticons and if the read is that good -- countless pages marked by a folded corner. My favourite French Literature Professor once told me that the 'masterpieces' of your life are the books you can -- and will -- read again every couple of years. Whether you feel exactly the same or see it in a new perspective will not matter -- only the fact that you bookmarked it will. I guess I could not agree more. Love can be described, but never explained. I write. Here, I try. 

For writers, nothing is ephemeral. For writers, what makes you feel alive lives on forever.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

A page folded at the corner

I just ordered 
My third cup of coffee
After all, I am in good company
Words spilled before me.

Could they have known —
I will always look for
The smell of old books
In this digital world.

Words, my words,
My heart treasures
To put pen to paper.

Time is unkind
For a writer,

Nothing is ephemeral.

You are
A page marked by a folded corner
A love I will come back to
In the future. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Friday, March 8, 2019

Comforted nest

The sound of heavy rain woke me up this morning, and instantly I knew, winter only stepped out for a quick smoke to return in full force. I am expecting snowstorms. In the past two weeks though, Zurich graced us with marvelous spring weather (in the middle of February!). Caf├ęs all around the city were eager to bring their service out on the terrace, thus, swiftly becoming overcrowded with smiles beaming behind designer sunglasses; I could even spot teenagers in shorts and t-shirts at the skate park, obviously thrilled — and brave enough — to skip seasons. I, too, was elated to strip down to accommodate the power of the sun, replacing my coat with my beloved black leather jacket. It lasted a minute. Notwithstanding, instead of frowning upon the resurgence of darker, colder days, I reveled in the sudden gratification. I embraced the day. I was a creature of the moment. 

I believe one of the nicest human experiences is to visit someone’s home for the first time, and in less than a month, I was invited into the lovely kingdom of four even lovelier people. One of my closest recently moved into his new loft. With one, we finally decided to eat in in lieu of roaming around town to search for food gems. Up until last Sunday, I only had to pick this friend up so I was simply a regular of her front building. Sooner, or rather later, I rang his doorbell. Though we had known each other for nearly three years, it felt right to shake things up. Funnily enough, I did not necessarily plan to squeeze in ‘these visits’ in such a short amount of time — and each time, to witness this other side of people I am actually most fond of, melted my heart like butter.  

I am one curious gal. Not in a nosey way, not in a prying way, hopefully not in an intrusive way — but yes, absolutely in a cocky way. Home, if anything, is a life museum. Personal. Exclusive. Howbeit the reality that we might recognize a thing or two from our common giant supplier IKEA -- unique. Every picture frame lets you dive in a field of memories. The bookshelf, or lack thereof, is a walk through a person’s mind. The painting on the wall is their message to their own world. The furniture, the decoration, the creativity, the details. I like to scrutinize. I will ask questions... because all things considered, how someone ornaments his/her private space is, for me, the crown into the depths of an individual. We are at our most relaxed at home. At our most intimate. At our most raw. And even though that I may know someone for years, there is such newness to tiptoeing in my host’s comfort zone. It sparks joy. 

I have the impression that households around the globe, in a snap, got besotted with the delightful Marie Kondo, expert organizer, declutter ambassador, and true to form, a real joy sparker. The catchphrase works. She was completely off my radar until Netflix released her series, however, now I cannot get rid of her (pun intended.) I see articles everywhere. She has become topic number one at dinner parties. She was invited to the Oscars. A worldwide phenomenon, and with good reason — I adore her. Like millions of people since the beginning of January, I also felt the need to konmari the insides of my four walls. It is a lot of work, time-consuming, energy-draining; but it has also been such a majestic experience. I am not nearly done; yet what I have achieved so far, such as a methodical make-up area, a library that is not only alluring but functional and a kitchen worthy of a Michelin chef, is bliss. I am still afraid to attack my closet, for everyone who has met me appreciates that clothes are a sacred matter to me. But so random. Oh-so full. My outfits will be exhilarated to be konmari-d. 

I have moved around since the day I was born, it is a fact, my family was carrying boxes to the new flat when my mother had to go into labor. With her being in the foreign service, I had the immense privilege of living the expat life long before the term was even coined; and until my parents’ retirement in 2016, home to me was always but a state of mind. I would not have it any other way. Sure, Zurich has been my base for the last decade — but the feeling of being ‘between houses’ only settled when I settled here. And only here. Geneva was home. Stockholm was home. Berlin was home. Oslo was home. Brussels was home. Zurich is home and today, there is no home-away-from-home to go to — not as often at least. If only I could fly to the Philippines every other weekend. In this respect, I did not give a lot of importance to a ‘fancy’ apartment for the simple reason that home equaled to being on the road. Finally, I invested in a magnificent bed. I bought the suitable closet. I chose my writer’s desk wisely. No offense to IKEA (though it feels like it, huh?), it is not quality but personality it lacks; my next buys — a grand dining table, chairs that do not hurt my butt after twenty minutes, a chic couch — will say a lot about me. When you change cities every couple of years, ultimately, home was in the furniture. I can be picky now. I am at a stage of my life where I want to make myself at home. 

Over the weekend, a long-time friend stirred a little whirlwind. ‘Look, Nicole, people will settle for anything unless they define — legitimately, point-blank, honest-to-God define what they desire. But as soon as they take a good look at the future — the one they create for themselves; and work hard enough, are patient enough — have enough faith, they will attract it; because that would leave no room for anything else.’ Noise-canceling. Standards met. No more mediocre coffee. A cheap pass at someone done and over. Marie Kondo’s slogan is to let go of things that do not spark joy. It is hard to let go. We continuously put it all in the storage room, keep clothes in the closet that were not worn since 2008 and pile up — piled up so much shit (let us be candid here); but there is indeed such a liberating process in tidying your home, and life, konmari style. I moved so often that you would think I would be her disciple by default. Wrong. Far from it. I carry my baggage, and hold on even though it no longer serves its purpose. I just bought a brand new colander. 

This morning, the sound of heavy rain woke me up violently — I smiled. I do not desperately miss the sun when it is hiding behind dark clouds like I used to. Good times come and go, bad times also come and go; nevertheless, what stays, what should remain, is a comforted nest. Where I am at my most comfortable. At my most intimate. At my most raw. In my own home. In my own skin. It is time to be picky. There will be no room for things, people --  has-beens -- that do not spark joy. This, my friend, is my life museum.