There is a beautiful apartment above the bakery. It is welcoming, relaxing, with a touch of elegance and sophistication. It’s where he first time, he said those magic words to her, and for the first time she touched his face with new love on her fingers and warmth in her body.
On the white walls of the kitchen hangs a painting of a dark blue river flowing wildly over black rocks, closing a hole the size of a fist. She thinks of it as her life flowing, fighting, freezing, and unfreezing. As for the hole, she thinks of him and then thinks of it no more.
At night she still wakes up with cold hands and feet, and the pillows piled high under her head. Joy springs from her like loud cries and keeps her awake. Happiness is the only thing unhappiness comes from once it’s used up, and she had so much of it. No wonder it’s overflowing now.
She looks for what little warmth is left in her. The summer has been hot and hazy and breathtaking, and she’s forgotten to save some of it for the coming winter. But summer is always endless while it lasts. No one thinks about when the bright reds will fade into the darker shades of autumn. She still sleeps in the position of a question mark. The answer is still him, every time.
During the day, she locks herself inside. There’s a mountain of her knocking at the door, but her flat is already full of things that came packed fresh and exciting, only to add to the huge pile of things she can not get rid of now. She doesn’t want new versions of anything. After a while she accepts the immobility and calls it maturity.
I know it won’t be long before the girl with the vanilla personality and purple prose dies again. I have seen it happen so many times. I laugh to myself and remember her first great escape. She was in between stories, jumping from one building to the next, making self-love happen in a heart that always needed had to refill from elsewhere. It was a glorious scene.
Someday she will open the door. She will still be afraid of the new, but no more than she will be afraid of the stillness. It just takes some time to shift the balance back in favour of life again.
‘Now,’ she says, ‘get me out of my head. It’s far too quiet in here.’
‘Fine,’ I whisper. ‘Where to?’
I know the answer before she does, because I know the things she misses. It’s the things that make her come alive. I’ve been watching her all night, taming emotions in wine glasses and hoping for stormy weather.
‘You know what,’ she laughs, ‘with you, I’ll go anywhere.’
‘You couldn’t get away if you tried,’ I tell her. ‘I’m so glad you stopped trying.’
She nods. Behind her, I see the flowers she keeps by the light wooden window frame, next to a couple of empty glasses and a half-empty piggy bank. Or is it half full?
‘That was a long time ago,’ she says.
Outside it’s still raining lightly. It hasn’t stopped for a long time, as if the sky knew this would be the appropriate weather for a while. He left in a hurry, because the way he used to feel about things was over. They’d been shipwrecked there for a long time, but one day the music faded to background noise and she could finally hear him. It hasn’t stopped since she leaned out the window and saw him walking to his car.
But her comfort zone looks warm and inviting with too many candles burning all over the place, but she’s not taking any lessons these days. She lifts her head back up and looks in the mirror. Her dark coffee eyes are still full of lust for life. Dear her.
‘How about tomorrow, and tonight we plan it?’
‘Got anything in mind?’
I know that just as she believes in the day ahead in the morning, she believes in better days at night. I’ll not try to fight her on it. She needs to imagine a future that she can get excited about, and I know exactly what she gets excited about. It’s playtime.
‘Tomorrow I disappear,’ she confesses, and I know it’s because tonight was heavy.
‘Oh? Are we running from someone?’
‘Not running from someone, but running to someone,’ she says, and I know what she’s getting at, but I ask her anyway.
‘Tell me everything, I’ll start drawing. Tomorrow morning we’ll breathe new life into them.’
She laughs and says nothing, but she thinks of trains and smiles and sunsets and holding hands with beautiful strangers who remind her that sadness is overrated.
‘I just want to explore how far life can carry me. After that, I can move slowly and quietly again, as if I’m floating across heavens and night skies. You haven’t lived until you’ve lived like that, don’t you agree?’ she asks in a soft voice.
She thinks of playgrounds and rooftops and flying over clouds and cities at sunrise with an energy that no one can tame.
‘You have lived like that,’ I remind her.
She thinks of gentle winds and nighttime car rides with her arm dangling out the window and my favourite songs playing on the radio, of staying up past midnight with a cigarette in her mouth and watching old movies, of bike rides through cities, of being on fire.
‘So I need another chance to live like that. Like a second chance to be born into this world and maybe get it right. I’m going to keep taking them, again and again, because I don’t see what else is there to do with this soul surplus I have.’
‘Yes, you do.’
‘Not now, self. Not now.’
She moves one hand slowly around her neck, and wipes the steam off the mirror with the other. I think we’re done here.
‘I know. Me too. It’s great. I haven’t been scared in a while.’