Oppi Koppi: the dusty otherworld

 When we die one day, hopefully everyone would have had the taste of an Oppi Koppi weekend. It was my first and while I’ve gone to a few local festivals, I didn’t quite feel like I had roped in enough knowledge about how to prepare myself for Oppi. I figured that no one can really prepare. All you need to do is embrace the unpredictability of dust-covered blankets, buckets full of ill-prepared vodka mixes and the characters we meet along the way. And there are definitely characters that will stand out in their entire hippie, boertjie, poppie, festival junkie state. I didn’t know where I quite fitted in – I was the first-timer with all the excitement I could hold. From Boom Street to Foktrappies, I encountered people who hung on people, the exposed backs and bums of tall dancers who wanted to share their history, music, cigarettes or whatever dear potions they mumbled off. From pyjama outfits to animal suits, the festival allows for a balls-to-the-wall sense of being – anything goes, anyone goes.

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 And I kept thinking “Why haven’t I done this sooner?”

There might be a cloud of dust in your throat (the dust was not an understatement that’s for sure) and hard ‘beds’ to go home to (if you happen to remember where your camp is) but there will be an emotion that will trump it all – that you’re in a congregation that adores music and the coming-together of fans or people who just want to break free from the mindless, day-to-day tik-tik-tiking on their keyboards. Perhaps, Oppi is an annual bite of heaven; or something that everyone aspires to after they turn 21: an ever-present youth.

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From Jeremy Loops’ seductive, crowd-pleasing antics to the drawl of Mr. Folk in Matthew Mole, the congregation moved like everyone knew everyone. From new experiences in Bye Beneco and the chilled vibes in Al Bairre and Beatenberg, Oppi seemed to churn out musicians in their element. From the absolute mastery of Bittereinder on stage to Crash Car Burn’s old favourites, it seemed that everything that reminded people of work and life and bills and comfort disappeared. And for now we were all experiencing Oppi 2013 in all its glory – and my first one. With the “awe ma se kinders” from Jack Parow to Yellowcard’s flashback to our teenage angst, there was no better way to spend a weekend.

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And with the Redbull Stage demonstrating the liberty of dance while the rock stages attracted oldies with ‘Oppi ‘92’ t-shirts, there was an acceptance of all. And yes, we’re all somewhat segregated with our different likes and dislikes but there is no hostility. A music festival is so different and maybe we can all act like perfect friends in that environment because it seems other-worldly; like we’re spending a weekend in an un-burstable bubble away from daily news reports.

 

The chit-chattering of 4am teeth when the winter seems too long

Deep-dark thumbles and chapped lips

The knocking of portaloo friends and the stink of

wine, smoke, dust

as the sun sets and we order our desserts

The round glasses, the cowboy hats and penguin hats

Coats and jeans and underwear mismatched

And we’re all out of place

The dying, cold fires and tornados of air

The bounce of half n’ half

The colours that make us

All the same but entirely different

The hipster cools

The local wanderers

The zebra pack and whistles late at night

The scream and crackle of the braai

Kisses

And the ‘good morning, round three’ calls

Couches that are planted in tradition

And flags like pirates after the bounty

The promise of a one-day shower

 

Why thank you Oppi…

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Gamble

The lawn table is littered with numbers and colourful chips

The odds and evens and likelihoods of hopeful dreamers

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and the man’s fat wallet is ready to lose itself for something constructed

the deft, dull, ordered ring of machines that make half-hearted promises

and people believe the colours, Egyptian symbols and grinning faces of polished posters

the car sits untravelled

 

I’m all in

This time it’ll be

One more go

 

while the sky-high, secret cameras catch the lady’s glazed-over click of the button, tap-tap of blackjack

the spinning wheel that holds everyone’s instant future

the man sacrifices his leopards

the youngster serves a right of passage

the coins clink to a destination unknown

and the greying figures will spend their last days playing out to more youthful playbacks

and dreams of everyday buffets and a life of fiction

then tomorrow they will wake in a bubble of dark

no clocks

no fortunate souls

no sense of time

no wrongdoing

 

and do it all over again

 

 

 

You deserve better

You know how the corny romantic guy in corny romantic movies always says “You deserve better” to the love of his life? Maybe, instead of the corny romantic woman denying that she deserves any better, she accepts the statement wholeheartedly and dumps him for someone better. That hardly makes sense to the world. Maybe, it’s because we regularly allow ourselves to settle for what we have instead of risking it for a better being, job, adventure or once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Everyone will go through the mindless routine of their everyday with a momentary daydream of what their life could be instead. And in this case, you deserve better. In most cases now, maybe all humans do because we all fantasize about a life that revolves around mansions on a sunny island or cruising in a sports car in South America. Everyone dreams about more money, more things and a perfect kind of job and partner.

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To be quite blunt, most of us won’t be heading for those aforementioned desires. A good 98% of us will be ticking off some of our life missions but will never think to step over the edge. Yes, maybe the mansions and sports car is aiming a little high. Maybe it’s because we duly accept the way things are at a moment in our lives? We accept a certain level of things and people around us we think we deserve to hold. If a friend suddenly complains about a boyfriend that doesn’t treat her well and spends most nights rubbing down a bottle of tequila and she eventually accepts it as her fate, then what can actually be done about it? People need to realise that they always deserve better. It could be your lowly self-worth playing on your decision-making. You’ll think “But at least I have a job! I guess I should be happy!”. Logical point in this damn economy but it’s not the most promising mindset to carry around with you.

It follows-through in every facet of your life. Suddenly you’ll be giving into things that need not exist in your life. Why bite into the bad blueberry muffin if there’s a fresh, hot, straight-out-the-oven bunch with a free, steaming cup of coffee right there? Silly point but you know what I’m getting at. Perhaps someone’s ‘picky-ness’ of Life should be seen as a little gift – why not be open to the better? Why can’t you accept a sense of living or love-of-your-life that is just better? Don’t sell yourself short. If you have a throbbing inkling that you’re missing out and DO deserve better, you’re probably right. Not many will sacrifice their current lives for their inklings and desires.

If you feel that you deserve a half-hearted friendship or relationship, then that’s you. If you feel like you deserve someone that will jump the globe for you, then your heart is telling you to accept the incredible or at least a friend who makes the effort to see you. It’s kind of up to you. It shouldn’t be a “Well, I’ll see how it goes”. Maybe these “I’ll see how it goes” experiences are there for us to learn from and for us to evaluate our own worth.

Let yours be wondrous.

The Selfie

There will always be one thing that stands out as a similarity between cultures, time periods and ages: that we all have a need to be liked, approved, loved; that we all judge the people around us whether we propose our liberalism or not. The opinion of others will also have some hold on one’s identity and development and if you think I’m wrong, you’re naive about the world and the way it works. Especially our modern era where everything is about harnessing your inner Kardashian or wearing the glitzy football jersey of whatever team is ‘trending’ in 2013. With the prominence of social media, the self-important selfie is but one facet of this universe. It could truly be a bit of evidence aliens could use to study the psychology of humankind. One can try and imagine what happened hundreds of years ago when a lady commissioned a painting of herself – there was no doubt some barging in to make sure the painter lightened the skin and brushed away the wrinkles. It will always be human.

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Why else would a seemingly depressed teenage girl pose for a selfie and post it online without the need for human contact? The need for a Facebook thumbs-up or comment that enhances her own self-worth? That’s what we’ve become: something that feeds off social approval or commentary. And what better way to capture yourself in a selfie? You have the ultimate control in the end: the powers of editing and lighting and the common use of a fancy quote attached. There is a multitude of techniques of course. The ever-popular duck pout. The look-away-from-the-camera-even-though-I-know-it’s-there look or the selfie that is taken in oddball places. Like the bathroom or your car. Somehow I doubt there’s a good enough filter to make a bathroom mirror appear fancier. But, its become our age. What I’ve noticed most recently is the appearance of the actual phone in the selfie. There is no shame anymore. There seems to be a norm in giving one’s social family the thrill of a new selfie with one’s glamorous iPhone at the forefront. There’s a silly little mask we give ourselves online and where we seemingly spend most of our hours of the day because it seems a little harmless compared to normal face-to-face interaction, right? Right? We’re creating a more likable self with the common-day swag poses and peace signs that we have to adapt in order to fit in. It’s a scary thing when you actually look at the selfie in that way. Social reception is paramount and we wonder why a particular status update or tweet wasn’t wholly favourited and shared. We crave it.

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I hope it does give way but there needs to that ring of online users with the needs to post their faces and when comments quickly come back with hailing approvals, there is usually a humble, ashamed bit of thanks – almost like the post itself was unintended. Whether its a moody writer face you’re going with or one to show off your new specs, the real reason you’re grabbing a selfie is to create yourself. We’ve all done it. We take a selfie, delete it, retake, delete, filter, edit, delete. It could be for your own personal entertainment or to use your phone camera as a mirror. It could also be your way to fit in. And everybody does it. Even Justin Bieber.

In the year of the selfie, you’re probably all thinking that this post is about you. Remember if you’re going to dive into the selfie, have fun. You might just stand out.

P.S: How’d I do? (Blackberry is a clear fail of society, isn’t it?)

snapshot

 

 

 

A quick reminder to adults

Dear Adults,

Stop telling kids what to do when you’re going grey over life and everything in-between  While you book a massage to relax and get away from the stress of your job, kids are getting their feet full of mud and struggling with their straws and what kind of TV show they’re going to watch.

I know, such a crutch.

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So adults, while we keep our specific laundry days intact and dream of worlds unknown and desert island adventures, make sure you find your inner child. This does not mean you have to start colouring with your finger or wear Disney shirts. It just means that we’re allowed to have fun and we’re allowed to prolong that playfulness that some lose far too soon. And when you find that fun, don’t let an adult judge you for not being adult enough. There’s no such thing. We might be ‘tied down’ by work, tax and the price of petrol, but that in no way should manufacture your sourness for the world. It should in no way determine your mood about your painful life or your forever thoughts about the ‘good old days’. Those days were good but they should not just stop when you celebrate more birthdays. There can be lots of ‘good old days’ if you live in a positive light. It might be a simple life instruction that many will find hard to live by but it’s definitely not implausible.

What I’m trying to say is: be in wonder. As a child, we are so freakishly alive and aware and happy about simple discoveries that we wake up with a renewed energy to experience everything we can. As ‘adults’, we kind of look past the wonder of an autumn tree or the taste of a freshly baked croissant. We rarely look out the window and just see. We no longer explore. We never ask ‘why’ like we did when we were kids. We are confined to a world that is so adamant that you grow up and become a grown up. It’s hardly a fantastic thing to be in its social context. A grown up sits with the expectation of bills and being stuck in a life, a job, a relationship, a route to work.

As kids, we ask the world why it is like it is.

As adults, we accept over and over again, devoid of the need to learn.

Never stop learning

Never stop experiencing

Never stop seeing

or exploring

or asking “But why?”

Or

“Why not?”

We can still be the ones to pay our tax and live life.

Shooting the Creative

When applying for a job, a creative would put out his or her best attributes – a strong spirit, energy and buoyancy. If you’re a number-cruncher, it’s more about how you can apply your skills. As a creative, your ideas and passion is what could set you apart (despite your experience and application). I’ve come across a lot of people who look down on the creative and deem any ‘creative job’ quite easy – especially the sullen, slow nod one gets when you tell a crowd you studied Journalism and English. Recently I’ve come across a crowd drenched in accountancy and law jargon that makes my brain hurt and the lucky few who have these deemed degrees look on mine as a ‘toy-puppet-plaything’ degree.

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There have been some who have expressed their jealousy of a ‘free’ career but others don’t see beyond the amount of figures one can boast. Maybe, it’s just happened to me? Maybe I’m reading too much into the body language of someone who doesn’t understand how images, video, digital and words can make life so much better. We are all walking-talking stereotypes even if we don’t want to believe it. If one comes across a tattooed, torn jeans wearing man in the street, the brain doesn’t really conjure up a “Oh, he’s an accountant.” The same with the typical IT nerd devoid of social skills or the graphic designer with the fashionable specs and newest Apple product.

 

“You’re tired from work? But you just write and take pictures?”

 

The creative life – it might not give you the elaborate lifestyle of a business entrepreneur. Okay, it won’t. You might be stuck in that messed up car and average apartment for a while but does it matter in scheme of things? I’ve decided I’d rather be a journalist than lack any amount of enthusiasm in a job I have no interest in – even if the pay check is heavenly. There has been many friends who have studied medicine, law or business without a clear motivation for doing it besides the clothes you can buy. For me, I can live with the Mr.Price clothes and two-minute noodles as long as I can be as free in the work as I can be.

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Apologies to the lawyers, doctors and business students or workforce that have a deep passion for their careers. I’m not saying they don’t. I just see the creative as a defenseless pinata of society. When a Bachelor of Arts student says they ‘read for their degree’, its somewhat laughable to the kid who is pouring potions in a lab or a kid in a suit arguing for his or her case. There is always the same response to someone who says “I’m a doctor” – there’s undeniably more respect for his or her craft. Should there be? A medicine man might well be crucial in society but should there be this forever pedestal? As much as I want to gather respect for my chosen career, society won’t listen. Even in each sub-creative field, there is a group that is looked down on. In journalism, that may be the sports, fashion or gossip writer while the hard news journo wearing the hard hat is bowed down to.

Creatives. They’re a difficult bunch (oops, I made an assumption) and a bunch who I have the most respect for in the world today. In any situation, it’s easier to talk to Creatives about politics and the world around us than anybody else. Maybe because I see myself as one. While society is slowly patting Creatives on the shoulder, there will always be a slight critique of their life choice.

This in mind, I always think my grandparents might love my future husband to be a doctor instead of a freelance photographer. Time to convince them. Creatives live a hard life, so give us a thumbs up! Its not for everyone.

 

Don’t worry, be happy.

Bob Marley might not have worried and maybe he was happy. He seemed that way cause he sang that way.

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It seems simple enough, doesn’t it? The advice we give others we so rarely adapt ourselves. We all seem perplexed with anxiety and worry and its usually about things that are beyond our control. And there’s a pessimism about Life, too – that things will go wrong, that what’s-his-face might not like you or that bad things will happen. We over-think things and create these imperfect scenarios of disaster instead of just sitting back and watching what transpires – whether bright and shiny or disastrous. In the mindset of worrying, we lose the time to really live, though. There’s an intentional hope that things will work out in the future instead of living our present to make our future work. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. That’s just what we humans must live through instead of thinking the implausible.

I know, I’m confused, too.

There are many times before a night out that I worry what I’ll feel like in the morning. But that’s a youthful, naive, fun kind of worry that is so often overlooked. In other times, we worry about what will happen tomorrow, worry about friends who aren’t there, worry about the pay cheque that’s not guaranteed or worried that we’ll die alone and build forts with our troop of cats.

Is it called a troop of cats?

Anyway, it’s a human condition we should get rid of before we can actually enjoy the unpredictability of Life. We will always worry about what others think. We will always worry about our health, what will happen if we don’t do this and that. Sometimes things will just fall into place like they’re supposed to and maybe it’s alright to worry about what people think – only if those people are people who believe you can live up to more; people who believe that you have the potential for so much more and that worrying is getting in the way of that. The other people? You don’t need to occupy your mind with them. They have their worries and they will judge to gather some sort of happiness in themselves. We are suckers for disaster in our lives. Everyone directs scenes in their heads about the worst things happening. What if. What if. What if.

Happiness is a complete state of mind – so is Worry, so is Destruction. If our immaculate scenes do play out like we envision, your path might make it like that. If you smile, the body responds, doesn’t it? Even if we force a smile, the rest of the body stands up and the smile becomes more of a natural occurrence. We can trick ourselves into not worrying and staying positive. The roller coaster has a destination and journey that we can either enjoy or fear for vomiting all over ourselves. It’s up to you.

 

To be Kind

There’s this thing I carry around with me. Some people think it denotes you to being a scrummy, over-used doormat while others redeem it other-worldly. Mostly, because today it’s a rarity that belongs in TCM flicks and old ladies who bake cookies for strangers. It’s thought to live in ‘do-gooders’ who are just doing the right thing to get a pat on the back in front of their world stage or get into heaven. Why do good, right?

Kindness.

kindness1It should be a simple human condition but it’s not. When I talk to the car guard, give him some change and wave at him, he seems somewhat perplexed at the gesture. Onlookers might, too. That’s what we’ve come to. “Don’t talk to the car washer” “Don’t chat to the teller” “Why are you so nice?” Some might not know it, but an uncomplicated “How are you?” or smile costs nothing. People learn this in nursery school and plant it in the back of their minds and grow up and reserve a good natured-ness because quite frankly it’s not normal. Some even think it’s a chink in someone’s armour. You’re too soft, they say. But Kindness in itself is both an undertaking and painless deed. Some are so allergic to the idea of being kind that they will set their eyes on the road and walk past a stranger for fear of some awkward confrontation. And the teller at the supermarket is probably having an average day – why not ask her how she is. It’s because us humans are aloof to what others feel. Sometimes a trouble-free compliment feels like its wrapped up tightly in a self-conscious nod and the receiver feels like it’s necessary to be nice back. It’s us humans. We can give something without some sort of expectation, right? Perhaps Kindness in itself is an egotistical avenue – it makes you feel good. And if you are kind, jumpstart someone’s car or pay for someone’s dinner, there’s always an expectation of a ‘thank you’ isn’t there? I know I feel a little hard done by if the person doesn’t acknowledge my help. But we should slowly do away with that thinking. Sometimes we have a subconscious list of people we’ve been nice to, who owes US something. No one owes you anything. You owe everything to yourself to be the best person you can be and give of your character without the round of applause. It’s a difficult thing Kindness. It’s definitely not a trembling weakness. It’s something in the heart that gives so easily. It’s something in the heart that will not still if you walk past someone without saying words to still their troubles.

 

And Kindness is not the great Oscar-winning endeavour. It’s something great you don’t have to boast about. I’m also not kind to get something out of you. This ulterior motive condition is normal because kindness is extraterrestrial, weird and funny.

 

I’m kind because everyone has their own battles to fight. A word doesn’t harm them.

Gym

splash

the binding

choreographed

with a push, the fat man grunts

the skinny girl squats

the sweltering box of things and hopes

in a ten-minute shot

the counting to

the counting down

the gain and loss of

our shadows

the measured stake of a man’s grip

a steady dance of happy pain

the ordered flock of traffic mongrels,

the young who tumble in training wings

the old who check their pulse,

a need for their past

and the inbetweeners

who grab centre stage

a flex

a lipstick lady with no order

going through the motions

the pressure to be the dolls that aren’t actually real

the queue for perfect

and the line to leave before the bite into a burger

gladiators with no victors here

the bend,stretch of shameless dressing

the promise that it’ll be like this everyday

 

Joan on the couch

My coffee got cold without me knowing. I wiped the ring the mug had made with my shirt. She saw. Metres away she was smiling, in-between her glossy articles and hot froth. I smiled and looked at the clean table. I wasn`t very good at this. I never was – just ask Joan. She knows how useless I am at putting myself out there in social situations. I looked up at the woman again. She was paging through quickly and then caught my eye. I looked down at my silver ring, heavy, panting, weighing me down, a surrender, a cast for my heart. It was one Joan picked out from the same place I picked out hers. Destiny, she said. It felt so natural to put it on each day, kiss her on the cheek and think about coming back to her smile and grace around the house. Her presence stuck in every room.  Her scent lingered on my suit usually and half way through the day, I`d lose it, get angry and wait slowly for the day to end to smell her again. Her scent was there.

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“Got a pen?” It was her. It was the woman. She was wearing her hair down and had big red lips. She was wearing a grey dress, maybe for work, and black shoes. I tried to speak.
“A pen?” I was shuffling through pockets on my shirt I never had and she smiled wider. Digging through my pocket, I found a pen Joan always used for shopping lists. I was supposed to get the groceries today.
“Here we go,” she was writing her number and two small x`s. Joan usually wrote her letters with three afterwards. It was her trademark and I always teased her about it. She stopped writing though.
“Your number…”
“So you can call.”
I remember her nodding briefly and walking away. She didn`t see my finger under the table, how I slipped my ring off when I dug for the pen. She didn`t see and maybe I was glad. I looked at the tainted serviette: Hannah, preceded by numbers I hoped to forget forever. I stuffed it in my trouser pocket, hoping to throw it away later. I could’ve thrown it away then. I could have.
I put my ring back on.

“Groceries?” Joan rose when I entered and smiled briefly when she saw packets full for dinner tonight even though I`d make toast again. I nodded, walked over and kissed her forehead softly. She felt soft.
Joan picked up her book and left me in the kitchen. Four slices in the toaster, Marmite out and kettle boiling. Hardly a feast. Joan always liked Marmite, though.
“Joan? Joan, I made some toast?”
She was probably reading Gatsby again like some troubled ex who had once been a fictional lover. The Marmite was hot and perfect and the tea floated in the room. Never bothered Joan when she was in a book. The last few nights, she never joined me for dinner anyway. She`d always greet me though. Maybe this was it, then? A hard day at the office, a cup of something for lunch and a meek homemade dinner. I`d probably just watch the news, weather and whatever game was on later. Joan sometimes came to check the score but not like she used to be. We used to make nachos on big game nights and invite friends over. Now, friends don`t want to come over. They invite me out instead and tell me things like “Don`t be stuck in this rut, mate.” or “How you`re doing? You need to get out more – it’ll be good for you.” They never mention Joan.

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After dinner, I flicked through this and that and found a program on wasps. I felt like it was the sign I needed and went off to the shower. In the far corner of the room, Joan was reading Gatsby and nodding along.
“You`re almost done with it? Again?” I chuckled. Joan looked up and smiled at me, genuinely pleased, “Yes, one hundred lines to go.” She seemed to say that phrase wherever she was in the book but I didn’t care. I got to see her smile.
“Gonna pop in the shower. The toast got cold.”
“I’m sorry, love.”
“Don’t worry.”
Before I put my trousers off, I found Hannah and her x`s and put it safely in a box Joan would never see. I could have thrown it away. Especially after Joan had smiled.

“Are you happy?” It was Joan who put her head on my chest. It was early and I was supposed to take a jog before work. Was I happy? This was happy.  Joan`s hair was still perfect and her scent lingered on me. Her hand was playing with my messy hair.
“Like this…”
“I want you to be.”
“I am like this,” I mumble and smile, rolling over and kissing her forehead. She smiles wide and I feel it in my heart and wonder if she can, too.

Joan didn`t speak to me when I got home. Mostly ‘cause I got a pizza and she had wanted to cook apparently. She usually got upset like this. This was a day when she greeted and the retired to her couch. Hannah in the box did not seem too bad right about now.
“Joan?” she was curled up again and smiled.
“Sorry about earlier…”
“No, I`m sorry. I thought a pizza and something different would be nice…”
“I love you.”
“I love you.”

Hannah was dressed in a sharp red dress and a new scent filled my nostrils. I didn’t smell like Joan at all but I liked it.
“So I told my boss I need some time off because I work so hard,” she chuckled and put a hand on mine in the middle of the table, “but I feel like I’m talking too much.”

“No, no, not at all,” I watch her fingers on my knuckles and I smile softly at her.

“You’re shy.”

“I guess I’m not used to dating?”

“You don’t date?”

“I guess not for a while,” I shrug and look at the way she looks at me; the way she seems like she’s enjoying herself and the idea that she wants to listen to every memory I want to talk about. My ring is in my pocket and maybe I’m the only one in the bistro that can hear it buzzing.

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“So, if you could have time off work-“

“Oh no, that’ll be a while,” I interrupt, “I had some time off not too long ago but now I’m back and need to stick to a routine for a while.”

Hannah sipped her wine and I could see her lips curl up, “If  you could get time off – where would you go?”

“If money was no option?”

“Yes, if money was no option,” Hannah looked excited and her eyes washed over the room quickly as if she were picturing new scenes before her; like I was discovering the globe’s treasures with her. “I’d go to India or Thailand – somewhere hot, with colour and the opportunity to get lost and take photos.”

I grinned and looked down at the glass of wine I haven’t touched yet.

Hannah’s finger was on my knuckle again, “You do have a destination! I can see your brain working overtime!”

“Well I guess I always wanted to go to Rome. I was going to. It just never happened.”

It didn’t. Joan and I had spoken about it a few times but nothing came of it in the end.

“That’s romantic.”

I nodded, away in a memory, “I imagined dinner in a little place where no one spoke English-“

“And those quaint coffee shops!”

“The food!”

“And the art, the history! I think you picked a winner…”

I sipped the wine and it was the best thing I’ve tasted in a while. It was better than the hot toast and small cup of tea. It was better than going through the motions of work and making friends with the television at home. It tasted like this moment was meant to happen. I couldn’t shake Joan’s “I love you” or the way she smiled in bed. I couldn’t shake the way she’d make me feel or the way she fought about the silliest things.

I couldn’t shake Hannah’s exhilaration or the way she looked at me. It was like Hannah was actually there.

“Having fun?” Hannah asked softly, her lips playing on the glass’ edge.

“The most fun I’ve had in a while.”

 

Joan was kissing me and it felt like it was. It was that scent on me again that made me think about the first time we met. Unlike the Hollywood play-outs, we were in the same McDonald’s and Joan was just behind me in the queue. Before I scurried to bury my burger, I heard her at the counter, looking for change.

“I could swear I bought my purse…”

The server lady, far too large for her uniform, did not look impressed and mindlessly pointed to the next customer, “Next! What’ll it be?”

I dropped a note on the counter for Joan and she looked up like she had been electrocuted. Maybe it was a little condescending? I wondered why she hadn’t said anything when the server lady took the cash and put the order through.

“Thanks…”

I nodded and smiled and felt her smile back. It touched my heart and it felt weird because I never felt that before. I remember her sitting next to me for the next three hours talking about Gatsby, Roald Dahl and poets I never heard of before. I told her anything funny so I could see her smile over and over again. It was easy. It was what life was supposed to be – thrilling yet so completely in order that you knew something more powerful than you existed. God did this to me. God brought me Joan.

 

Joan was on her couch again when I came in from the jog and she looked excited.

“Listen to this,” she said proudly as if announcing Life’s overall mystery to eternal happiness, “So we beat on…boats against the current-“

I knew the rest, “…borne back ceaselessly into the past,” I say.

Joan smiled and read on. Perhaps Love is this eternal thing that some of us never reach. When you do, when you really know Love, there is no other thing that matters. You do what you do; you do Life as a middle thing to seeing her again. Nothing gets tiring. Maybe imposing on the moments that make the Love stronger – even when you think it can never be possible.

“So you’re finished then?” I ask as she closes the book and moves swiftly to the bed to put her hands on my neck. It feels warm and I feel it stretch along my spine.

“Yes…maybe we can watch the game tonight?”

“There’s a game tonight?”

“I’ll make nachos,” she whispers and kisses me softly, “then we can fight and bet and make sure the bed’s messy tomorrow.”

I felt her completely in my heart and saw her eyes flicker to mine. Love.

After the awful refereeing, laughing at Joan who choked on the spicy salsa I made and the in-between kisses all through the game, I was laying by her watching her sleep. I watched the way she shifted, her brow creasing and then relaxing and her subconscious movement to lie so that her arm was touching mine under the covers.

There was knocking at the door. Something odd on a late Saturday morning.  Joan didn’t wake when I moved my arm away; she rolled over and mumbled something in her dream. I guess I forgot to pay rent on time.

It was Hannah. And she was leaning against the doorway with her smile – one that I forgot and it stung my chest.

“Your pen…” she lifted my pen from behind her back, “you left it at the restaurant. Maybe on purpose…maybe I just wanted an excuse to see you.”

I took the pen and then suddenly became conscious of my boxer briefs and T-shirt. That Joan might be awake.

“I’m sorry I was in bed and-“

Hannah was walking inside and she stopped in front of me, tilting in and I had no intention of stopping her. Her lips were on mine and I felt something real, something completely life-like. She stopped, her forehead on mine and her eyes dancing.

“Just thought I’d say hi.”

“Hi.”

“Hi.” She stepped away and checked her watch, “I have to run. Talk soon?”

I smiled, nodded and watched the door close behind her.

“She seems nice…” Joan’s head was peeking from around the corner. She looked tired, haggard and I wanted to hold her.

“Joan, its not-“

“It’s not what! Huh, it’s not what!?”

I shook my head. She gave me that look. It seemed like it all came to her for a moment: a grave acceptance, a small beat that told her I’ll be alright. She was allowed to feel this at some point and with all her Love, she knew that she had to walk away.

“I guess it’s alright…” she whispered, smiled that smile and walked to her sanctuary.

“Joan, come on! It’s nothing! It’s nothing!”

I followed her into the room and she wasn’t on the couch. She wasn’t on the bed. She wasn’t in the bathroom crying or locked away in the study.

“Joan? Joan?” I looked to the couch again and saw the mould of her body in the cushion. I looked at the bed and saw the dent in the pillow.

I looked to the desk beside my table and saw Joan. She was in the urn, watching like she always was and now hoping that I’d overcome the stormy night when she crashed and nobody could help. She sat there every night with me – through the game, the un-eaten bits of toast and the empty, empty bed. She was still here; the scent lingering. But it was slowly but surely fading and all I had was her smile in my heart and a Life on a serviette. I had my ring on my finger and I could feel her faintly kissing me good-bye until I meet her one day again.

xxx