A boy I once loved said “There is truly no other place bearing so much love as airports”.
Packing is never easy.
When I look at the monumental pile of attire and objects I only gathered in one year of travel I revel at the hoarding habit we humans keep throughout a lifetime. Some of us like to preserve clothes, shoes, family albums, books, things we found on the street. Concert tickets. Fridge magnets.
We have an ingénue passion for memorabilia that makes up for the dots on the map of life which we try to collect and reconnect with the passing of years. Sometimes losing these bits of who we are feels like a natural disaster. We rejoice in counting collectibles because we attach them to moments, milestones, important proof of time passing. I have a deep fear of missing out, thus I like to collect plane tickets. I like to move, and moving has taught me that, aside from my family, my never fading wanderlust and the feel of salt water on my skin, there is nothing else as precious as this freedom, which I’ll always want to put in my suitcase.
Last year I switched 9 homes, packed my bags 22 times, lost several valuable possessions in random places in the world, including a bag filled with Polaroids, money, cell phones, and my mind. I wrote ninety five poems and slept under the sky. I had flatmates, roommates, failed miserably to learn how to ride bikes, cars, tides or to avoid sunburn. Fell in love twice, stopped dying my hair after 11 years, and remembered I like the colour pink and bling. My life has always fit into 3 boxes.
I’m spending the summer in a small town by the Northern Sea in Holland. There is not much to do here but treat your mind with prose and cover your body with sand. I stare at the immensity of sand meeting the cloudy sky when, turning next page in the book I borrowed from my flat mate reveals letter from her best friend. I turn it upside down and do what people do without shame (and driven by curiosity) when they come across the personal belongings of others. Because these small figments of other people’s lives always seem to bear that magical, mystical answer to everything we never had. On the bottom of the page, she wrote in capitals: Viajar es regresar* (Travelling is returning), citing the words of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I fold the letter and stare at the white land in front of me again.
There is a possibility of an island.*
Went to buy water today and instead came home with lemons, cigarettes and shoes. It was a fancy store just outside my building, where they sold these discounted Spanish designer sandals. I tried not to go inside but then I thought, what the hell, the last time I treated myself a good old pair of shoes was three years ago.
I felt like a tourist. For the first time in 3 weeks. Then at the cashier’s, I blurted: you should go and see my show, it’s two blocks from here. I instantly regretted it. Came back inside and lit up a cigarette. The smoke felt unfamiliar too. Camel blue label. The cigarettes I took to because of the same man I took to fishing for new music on Soundcloud, writing love columns and making playlists. My clothes were sticking to my skin again, cat brushing himself up my legs. I just want to sleep. In this air, you only get to breathe properly at night. Sometimes, my night slip slowly sticks to my skin like a deep jelly that’s about to drip. I can feel the sweat becoming part of my attire, like a gown that’s too hard to undress, like peach syrup melting under skimpy sun. The city has no smell and my fragrance dissolves itself nearly before touching my neck. I’m getting new freckles on my nose and cheeks, and while all languages of the world collapse in my head like providential rain, I still ache for cold sea breezes and unfinished sympathies with strangers in trains. The thing is, since I arrived here I have no sense of home any more. But a sense of displacement that runs through every step, every little action I take, like a momentary reminder that I’m lost. I don’t like the city nor the beach here and it feels as if I’ve landed months ago. Time has a strange way to dilate. As if the heat has taken over and exchanged the currencies for what minutes, seconds and smaller time measures mean. I have lost my sense of belonging. I don’t feel familiar with the music that’s been following me on my iPod. I speak my own language but the experience doesn’t feel vast. I listen to all these come home songs that make me feel stressed and distressed. Is this my anxiety ridden feel or is it something else? I just can’t seem to connect. All my former aches and pains for belonging seem stuck, so does the future.
A constant is the bubble.
Sometimes, in the morning heat, I study myself in the full body mirror. My shapes have changed. My skin looks fulfilled, my breasts seem fuller, my face has seem to have forgotten about eczema. So strange. Like the weather is in the favour of my health. But my mind still thinks – why is nobody enjoying this body, this old body that feels alone and craves to be to be touched by a man’s arms, that wants to unravel. I wonder if that will ever happen again. I procrastinate in finding a job and land all my hopes to this Berlin job. But somehow this one feels fake too.
Am I getting crazy? Was this a wrong decision? I just can’t seem to enjoy anything. I feel like Sylvia Plath reckoning her madness in the teenage summer she depicted in The Bell Jar. Who am I? Where do I head? I have no idea and time is not my friend any more.
“You’d look fantastic owning a hat boutique somewhere.” The man across the terrace has slowly approached my table and grins. Well, a serious grin, very tanned skin and a fisherman’s smile with crooked teeth. I smile politely. He decides to sit with me before I can dismiss him, but the sun here makes me almost too lazy to even protest. My sun hat is wide and almost floats in the mild breeze. He asks me where I’m from, about my day, if I enjoyed the stay, the typical touristy dialogue. I tell him I asked for an ashtray and got a fork and knife instead. He burst into laughter with all his broken teeth. We both stare at the open wide.
It’s a brilliant summer day. I look him in the eye while rolling a Celeste Domingo: “People think about going to the sea as contemplative, or to get away from 9-6 jobs, or to make work mates envious on their tan.” He looks at me in bemusement. “Why are you here then?”
“I made a list”, I reply. “The only reason I go back to the sea is to passively stalk some crush. And to eat fried fish, and to eat fried fish”.
Rain in Spain stays mainly in the plane. Paris is arid in August and the streets are empty. 28 degres a l’ombre. I smile thinking of the Spanish siesta when all the restaurants close for the afternoon. I buy two fur coats and a leather weekender in a fripperie to match the ring I got in Barcelona from a local boutique. I sit with A. and his lover next to the river and drink cheap beers. There’s a girl next to us who reads poetry on the street at 1 AM while all the others have their dinner, their last cigarettes, the leftovers from sugar drenched drinks. There’s a girl who forgot about the world and the noise around while everything’s just building up within. I watch her emotion unravel in bare silent motion, in her shadow. I don’t think I’ve seen anything as beautiful in a really long time.
My Tinder profile reads “Based in Berlin & Bored in Berlin. Feel free to break the paradox”. So the boys are trying. T. shoots black and white portraits of me in front of East Side Gallery. Z. takes me out for drinks. The Moscow Mule is the best thing I’ve ever had so we take seven each and drunkenly walk home dancing in the middle of the street at 4 am to Chopin. I’m scared to go and see Roisin Murphy’s big show after the Paris bombings and the Hanover possible attacks. It’s always dark and gloomy in the winter so we have to do stupid things for fun.
But there’s some strange phenomenon going on. I receive poetry from everybody lately: I receive poetry from lovers who mourn their past lives and beg to be reconsidered, I receive poetry from girls whose expectations were longer than those of soldiers’ wives, I receive poetry from fathers who cautiously praise their fourteen year old daughters and gently whisper about how the world goes around the sun; I receive poetry from strangers with whom I want to shake hands and tie arms because their language does not need paraphrase to connect with mine. Finally, I receive poetry from men I once loved, I once changed my mind for, changed my address for, locked my doors for. I publish everything because love is a strange phenomenon and now I understand to be strange is better than to be estranged.
Why do birds fly in a circle above tall buildings? I ask myself this out loud and tweet it in my feed – with a lipstick mark on my glass paired with a white sundress – I’m at a fashion party looking for existential answers. Coming back is never easy. Bucharest is a stage of the old and the new, a cracked mirror of lost times hit by a Technicolor ray of light. I think the word that defines most likely this city is nostalgia. Nostalgia of the young for the youth of their forefathers (especially translated in the music, art and party scene), nostalgia for the pastimes and the glamorous vibe of the early 1990s, and late 1970s.
We are past-ridden in so many ways, and yet we are so touched with anything that’s new, we embrace the trend like there is no tomorrow.
I think it’s a city of contrast, and maybe one of the lost-and-found desks of the continent, where so many foreigners come to revel at yesterday through the eyes of today.
Bucharest was my playground love. Being away from it has taught me that you don’t have a home unless you make one, inside oneself.
Being away from home hasn’t filled me with desires, dreams and hopes like in the songs we listen to because they give us serotonin uplifts but it rather put me in a bubble where – between a mishap tourist and a work seeker – I lost touch with who I was in some points.
The things I still miss are unrelated to geography, people and places but rather to moments. I miss drinking Texel’s beers in Leiden, sun bathing in Holland and smoking on my terrace above the Music Academy as much as I miss waking up at 7 am, working for the fine print and having a club where to dance myself out to exhaustion.
I miss my friends, who are now scattered all over the world but when you walk alone, eat alone, take trains and planes alone, you just learn to believe that the kindness of strangers is sometimes more valuable than the insecurity of long relationships in your life.
Isuppose what distance does, as the wind, is bring people, and places together, and like running makes you kick back into you, travelling is returning, and offers the understanding that broken phones, lost money and missed connections are truly nothing compared to gained friendships, linked points and empathy.
A friend told me that after 30, she understood she no longer had time to do things she didn’t like. I thought about this while I was boarding a flight towards a place where I had to make a new life.
– Is this the life you’ve always wanted?, my friend asked me that day.
– I’ve just always wanted to feel alive, I replied.
I’m always scared of flying, so I close my eyes whenever I’m in an aeroplane. But I can’t sleep at all. So I count my blessings. And if the plane falls, then I know, I always know I did feel alive.