Short Story: An Angel Passes By



As I am (slowly) putting my website together and applying for freelance writing jobs I have been going through a lot of my writing and trying to group everything together. I noticed that I hadn't posted this story, which is strange as it quite naturally goes with Autumn's Place and Of Instability and Growing Roots. I wrote them all about the same time and with the same frame of mind.
In any case, everyone needs a Marlena in their lives, just to make everything a little brighter and happier. Not long after I write this one Bat For Lashes released her last album, with the song Laura on it, and it really made me think of my own Marlenas. Cherish those friends forever.

An angel passes by ("un ange passe") is a French expression that always takes me back to moments in the dead of the night during my late teens with the friends I grew up with, that moment when everyone goes quiet, contemplating their own thoughts, and then all go back to their conversations at the same time. That silence that doesn't feel uncomfortable, but warm and fuzzy. These are the people that will always be with you, your own personal angels in your lives. I dedicate this one to those who aren't here anymore.



An Angel Passes By

She stood there in her little babydoll dress, her long, skinny arms wrapped tight around her body, as if she were protecting herself from an invisible force that was about to hit at any moment. Her eyes stared wide into the distance, somewhere away from what we could all see around us and her forehead was creased into a frown of concentration. This is always the image I will have of her in my mind, touchable but unapproachable. Surrounded by a ring of fire keeping her away from the rest of us.

She stood there in her skinny black jeans and black velvet jacket, cigarette smoke encasing her body and a bright smile on her face when she recognized a friendly face approaching her. Nothing fake about her smile – once bestowed upon you, you felt like you were the center of attention for a minute; that no one else existed but you in the world. There are so few people on this earth who have the ability to make you feel this way, that when you meet them you cherish their love for life, long after they have moved on to other places and other people. This is the other image I have of her, happiness and sadness, encased in that body with the beautiful face.

Some people leave and their memories fade over time, until they are remembered only when a photo is found, or a random memory pops into your mind. Other people leave a special legacy behind, one that cannot be erased by time, or alcohol, or drugs or age. All I need to do is close my eyes and conjure up her face and all the emotions I felt every time I was in her presence, even after all these years. Her foot prints can be found all over the world, in the many countries that she traveled to and the many people she met and loved along the way. She was never famous, she never felt exceptional in any way, but she simply made everyone she came into contact feel special for a few moments, and those few moments always lasted forever. Some days I walk through the streets of Manhattan and see a swish of long, blonde hair and a cigarette in a hand and my heart stops for a second. Maybe it is her? Maybe she is still here, walking and talking and dreaming and crying and smiling and just simply present. Maybe I can have one last hug, and this time I will know it will be the last and I will remember it forever. I never knew the last time she hugged me would be the last time I felt her touch and smelt her shampoo and perfume floating around me. If I had known, the last time I told her I loved her I would have looked her in the eyes for more than two seconds and would have made sure she knew that I meant it with all my heart. I hope she knew that before she left.

Marlena was one of those people that you felt had always been in your life, however long you may have known them. She arrived in my life randomly one night, a friend of a friend drinking in a bar that we didn’t often frequent. I didn’t really talk to her that night, she was wrapped up in a conversation with another person who didn’t want to surrender her attention, and then she left abruptly, hugging everyone as she made her way to the exit. A few days later I bumped into her on the street, and she smiled at me and invited me to grab a late lunch with her at her favourite restaurant. She gradually introduced me to all of the people she knew in the neighbourhood and I became part of the family of people working and living there. Marlena always had time for a chat, however tired or overworked she was. She had the ability to make me laugh and smile, even when I knew she was having a rough day. And when she was tired or unhappy, all I wanted to do was make her feel better, a small gesture, a hug, a cup of tea at 3am. Anything to get that look of pure gratitude she would give you on those days. 

There are no perfect human beings. If perfection really existed it would be a flat, boring piece of blank wood. Imperfections create the depth that makes someone human. As much as Marlena was an amazing person, she was definitely not perfect. She kept herself distant from certain things, and locked away parts of herself deep inside so that you could not even see a glimpse of them in her eyes. She would turn away when someone tried to get too close and shut down, wary of giving herself fully to another, wary of being hurt again, and having to deal with pain, again. But she would cry openly and sometimes let you into what her life had been and what she wanted to hide from. What she had finally got over and what she was still going through. She could be as stubborn as a bull and would butt heads with people with her strong opinions. I could not even count the amount of times I had seen her jump up and smash her fist on the bar shouting “but you aren’t listening to me!!!” and stomp off outside for another cigarette, ranting under her breath about idiocy and hypocrisy. But two minutes later she would be back, buying rounds of shots for everyone and laughing at the argument that had taken place moments before. There was never a boring moment in her presence.

Marlena taught me how to find the perfect beaches near the city, wild places where the waves would drag in shells and crabs and city trash, where you could sleep at night if you felt like it and you knew you were safe. She showed me special places in the city where the walls were painted with so much art you could spend hours just looking at them. I taught her where to find the best bagels and where to go to feel like you were in the middle of the countryside right in the city. She would sometimes disappear for a few days and apologise when she reappeared, always saying she needed time away, time to herself, time to finish a song, time to listen to her own voice in her head, away from others that were always crowding it. She would wrap her arms around herself and frown worries away until she could smile lightly again. Some days I would walk into her work and see how tired she was despite her smile and other days she would jump up in happiness and throw herself into my arms, a little ball of energy that couldn’t stop itself from showing all her emotions. She was just a normal girl, but one who created a special place in her heart for everyone.

“I think it’s time for a pint – who’s in?”

“Marlena – it’s only Noon! We have stuff to do today!”

“I said a pint, not 20, and I could really murder a Guinness right now. We can have it with lunch, that way we won’t feel like we are just drinking. And let’s call Robert and Liza and Sandy and the rest so they can join us!”

“OK – and here goes our productive Monday. Let the fun and games begin!”

Never a boring moment. Being friends with Marlena meant being friends with everyone she knew. And being friends with everyone she knew meant that you never really felt alone anymore. Some people you liked less than others, some you felt great connections with while others remained acquaintances, but everyone had something in common: Marlena. She loved to be surrounded by friends and watch them interact and be around each other. She loved to try and match make but hated it when people tried to do it to her. She didn’t get angry often, but when she did you could never see it coming until her rage had broken free. After you saw that you tried hard not to cross her or upset her. No one wanted to be on the other side of that!

When I put her in a cab that night and hugged her, telling her I loved her, she asked me to text her when I got home, which was always the last question she asked all her friends when they left the bar. Twenty minutes later I got her text saying she was home safe and getting into bed. She never made it out of bed alive. Her heart just stopped beating, gave up and sent her off to another place. There was no real medical explanation for this happening at such a young age, so we all ended up deciding that she was needed more somewhere else, and that she had given us everything we needed and everything she had to give. That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t devastated… It took me months and months to stop waking up crying and looking at pictures of her. I found it hard to walk down the streets where she used to always be, hard to be in places where I always wondered if she would miraculously walk through the front door. All of her friends banded together and talked about her and stayed friends, but it was always surrounded by sadness. Her presence was always around, but her voice could not be heard anymore.

Even now, years later, we always hold a Marlena party, a night out together where we drink pints, do shots in her honour and get completely drunk and silly. There are people who just won’t go away, even if they are dead and long gone. Marlena is one of those, an angel passing through lives, making them just that little bit better than they were before she arrived. Cherish those Marlenas as they are special people that may not be able to stay long. 

Catch some of their essence before it drifts away elsewhere – it will stay with you for life.

Ramblings: 38 Weeks and Still Growing...


It’s hard to accept the fact that you are allowed to be tired, that you are allowed to actually not really do anything all day except for watch that TV series that everyone has been telling you to watch for the past year. It’s hard for me, because most of the times in my life when I feel this tired it’s entirely my fault (out partying, up all night writing, stress-related insomnia), so I am so used to pushing myself through it that I feel guilty just letting go and just being tired.

Yesterday I woke up at 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep again for a lot of different reasons. I had to be up at 6am anyway due to an early doctor’s appointment. So I waddled my 38 week pregnant belly to the subway and went to the clinic in Fort Greene to get everything checked up. I guess I am now the one nearest her due date so everyone is very excited for me (they actually were all a lot more excited than I was, it took me enough energy to muster the courage to keep my eyes open during the appointment). I could give birth any day! I waddled back to the subway in the gorgeous sunshine, trying not to burst into tears until I got home.

And then I did what I have never done before, I asked my boss if she had anything important for me to do, because if not I was just going to rest. And guess what?! She told me to rest! Yes, Jade… There IS a reason you are working from home now, and this is because you are supposed to be resting! So for 10 minutes I tried to work, but numbers and words kept flying in front of my face and I couldn’t do anything correctly so I grabbed a cup of tea and went to the couch. Where I stayed until just after 8pm. And from the couch I graduated to the bed, and fell asleep, sleeping about 12 hours of interrupted sleep until this morning. You can’t be too demanding – there is no way on earth I can sleep more than 2 or 3 hours without having to get up. Bathroom trips, water drinking breaks and of course, a cheesecake eating break at 3am when C. got home. I still feel tired today, but more able to function. I think this is the new golden rule… No fighting the fatigue or the sleep: naps and bed whenever my body wants it.

So now the waiting game has begun. Any day now little Munchie could decide that she wants this to be her birthday and she will start making that journey towards daylight. While I would like her to wait until her due date of April 1st, I have now accepted the fact that she might want to come early, or that she might want to come late too. And that’s absolutely fine. I think I am ready to cope. Everything is pretty much ready (apart from all of her little baby clothes need to go to the laundry and I don’t know why we are procrastinating about that); she has a bed and a bouncy chair thing and blankets and clothes for every occasion and diapers and wipes and even heart-shaped sunglasses to match her mummy. She also has a hopefully endless supply of food that my body will provide for her (the alternative is not an option right now, so I really, really hope everything will work properly). And, so important, she has so much love waiting for her here, all that love that we hope we have projected into my womb over the past 9 months, and much, much more. So many people are waiting for her arrival and to finally meet her. Not the least her parents of course!

To be honest I think I have had a wonderful pregnancy, and I have been very lucky that up until a few weeks ago I really didn’t feel uncomfortable or too heavy. I’m not super huge, my weight gain stabilized in the third trimester (so much that I have actually lost a few pounds even though Munchie has gained quite a few); I’ve had a few aches and pains but nothing major. My feet only started swelling this week, after I started to work from home (so now I need to go for little walks every few hours so as not to sit at the table all day without really moving). I just recently had to develop an elaborate roll to get out of bed and that can only be done in at least 3 steps, and I don’t remember what it was like to jump out of bed in a spritely manner! Actually, I don’t remember what “normal” feels like anymore. What actually WAS “normal”?? I don’t really think I care, because that “normal” has gone, and will be replaced by another “normal”, one that I am more than ready to embrace. My main issue other than not being able to walk fast anymore (and I mean SLOW), is a burning pain I began to feel last month at the top of my belly on one side, that has now graduated towards the other side too. I realised that it’s basically from the skin stretching so much, but it wasn’t until I did some research on the web last night and read people describing it as just like a sunburn, without the redness (and without the sun, because that big golden orb has been on another planet for the past 3 months). Aloe Vera! Luckily I always have a big bottle of aloe in the cupboard as I spend enough time on the beach in the summer, and it really helps relive the soreness! Better than any other lotion that I have already tried. Who would have known that all you really need (outside of a good doctor or midwife) is a large bottle of aloe, a large bottle of Tums, a comfy body pillow and a healthy diet to get through these 9 (I mean 10) months? And yes, my iron level is STILL normal, even though I was anemic as a teen and I am a vegetarian. I guess I did something right by listening to my body. 

And I will continue listening to my body after Munchie is born. I’m not too worried about losing the extra weight immediately – it will happen naturally. My body has never been one to put on weight too fast, and if I make sure I get enough exercise I will be fine. I’m honestly looking forward to evening runs in Flushing, and using them to discover new places to go and new parks to take Munchie to in the summer.

Oh summer… I am looking forward to you. Showing my little daughter all of the things that I love about life: sunsets on the beach, waves, walking barefoot in the sand, listening to The Cure while dancing in the living room (not just for summer of course), and reading on a warm park bench under the trees… So much to be excited about!!! In the meantime I will continue to wait at home, not feel guilty about resting anymore, and watch as our cat follows me everywhere I go, just so that he knows that I am OK. Maybe the next post will be one with newborn pictures, or maybe it won’t – now that I am at home I have a little more time and energy to devote to catching up on writing. I say “a little” because a lot of that energy is put into making sure I am happy with how our apartment is set up. And catching up on TV shows. And thinking about making food, and then ordering salads from the delicious diner down the street.

That said, does anyone know where there is a regular supermarket in Flushing? One that isn’t Chinese and that sells an array of Western goods? I was so excited that we had a supermarket within walking distance, but it really doesn’t have a good selection of non-Chinese goods, and I need a little more for my palate!

(On a side note we are EXTREMELY grateful to everyone who has helped us out and given us gifts over the past few months. This alone deserves its own blog post and everyone will receive their own personal thanks, I promise, I am just a little slow at getting round to doing things these days. Without you all we would be having a much harder time getting through this, and the amount of love that we feel around us is extraordinary!). <3>

Ramblings: Happiness, Moving and Getting Closer to that Date

I’m so happy.

Despite the fact that it has snowed at least once a week since the beginning of the year, that the pavements are icy and slippery and despite the fact that the wind is bitterly cold. Despite the fact that my belly feels like it’s getting heavier by the day and despite the fact that I feel like my bones have expanded and I have become a clumsy woman with a waddle.

I’m so happy.

Every day I wake up and feel excited as well as nervous about the idea that we are one more day nearer the moment that I will give birth to our daughter, and therefore one more day closer to the fact that I am nowhere near ready. Or I don’t feel anywhere near ready. Mentally I have always felt ready, but practically I feel that there is so much more to do, so many things to fit into so little time. I know that everything will work out and I am forcing myself to stress out as little as I can about it. Which doesn’t make it too hard when I am walking around in such a state of happiness…


After signing the lease and then a lot of back and forth on getting the keys to the new place we finally have our new home in Flushing, Queens. It is fully renovated and cleaned and waiting for us to move in as soon as we can.  Our room in Brooklyn now looks in a state of distress, half full with boxes and half full with just stuff. My next steps are to cancel the electricity here and install a new account at the new place, find movers and decide on a day to move that is on the only day C. and I have off together, and then set up the new place in the way we want to before the baby arrives. That’s the really exciting part as we are really starting from scratch again, new couch, TV, dresser, tables… All furniture that we need to buy at some point in time. Nothing can be rushed though, for 3 weeks we practically lived like paupers so that we could pay the three months upfront for the apartment. Thankfully we work enough hours in a restaurant that we can eat most meals there, and I wasn’t too tired to take the subway home at 2am. The latter is only something I can do while still in Brooklyn as it’s only 6 stops away - once we get to Flushing I don’t think I will be doing the late nights anymore, so there won’t be the anxiety of having to find a cab that doesn’t charge you through the roof to take you to Queens…

We are now into the single digits, with 9 more weeks to go. I love how so many of my regular customers at work take a real interest in how the pregnancy is going and love to chat about it and hear updates. I love how everyone at work is excited to see the growth and excited to finally meet the baby. I also love how surreal it still seems to this day. Even after I finally managed to put my registry together another pregnant friend and I were walking around baby stores exclaiming how we still couldn’t believe that this was us, deciding on the best type of stroller rather than the cutest new party dress. I am pretty sure that I will always talk about the best party dress to pair with a Doc Marten boot, but nowadays I’m more into what type of sleepwear I want to dress my daughter in when she comes home from the hospital with me.

C. and I went for a tour of the Labour and Delivery department of Brooklyn Hospital the other day as that is where I will be having the baby if all goes to plan (and I really hope that it does).  It’s a lovely hospital (if you can actually say that about hospitals…). Not that I have much experience of hospitals – the last time I was in one for myself was when I was born. My knowledge of hospitals comes from the TV show ER. But I am determined to have my baby in a hospital. I want to have my baby naturally, but I want to be hooked up to monitors and have access to pain medication if I want to, and also be surrounded by people who can help if something goes wrong. Of course I am hoping that the delivery will be as easy and as great as my pregnancy has been – but who can predict that? Walking around the labour and delivery rooms, and then seeing the rooms that you stay in after the baby is born reassured me a lot, and made C. feel more nervous. This is all very very real now, even if it still feels surreal! The lady who showed us the rooms asked me if I had a birth plan, to which I just responded “Umm… delivering the baby here?” Should I be writing one of these? Yes I want to breastfeed so I suppose I need to write that down so people know. At the same time I am hoping I am going to be fully conscious so I can voice all of this myself, and I also don’t want to set a rigid plan that probably isn’t going to work out anyway. I want to be flexible and make sure that whatever happens is the best for me and the baby. 

Ah, before I forget, as a gift to ourselves (amidst all of the stress of finding an apartment and really not having any money to spare) we booked a 3D ultrasound in a place in Midtown. It really wasn’t too expensive, especially seeing as my Medicaid is covering for everything else and this really was a little extra, just because I wanted to see Munchie again… We went to Goldenview Ultrasound and booked the Silver package. It was a really lovely experience, although I would only recommend it to women whose placenta is not anterior – it’s much harder to get a clear picture of your baby if they are hiding behind the placenta all of the time! The technician was lovely and tried all sorts of techniques to get Munchie to move away from the placenta, which she was cuddling like a teddy bear, as well as take her hands away from her eyes. She finally moved in the end and we got to see her lovely little face, her chubby cheeks, her little hands and her big feet! I do have to say though, that seeing your baby that way is a little creepy and they look a little deformed. It’s a little scary and quite wonderful at the same time!!


I do have to apologise… Over the past few months I have pretty much only posted about being pregnant and having a baby. I have just been so consumed by all of this, as well as trying to work as much as possible and relax when I can that my writing has totally fallen by the wayside (which is also the most common excuse I always have whenever I start slacking in writing). It will get better… Once I have a little more time. But will I have more time?! Maybe I will be able to get a few sentences in here and there between baby feedings? Maybe I will be so overwhelmed by motherhood that all I will be able to write about is how much I love my daughter? (I kind of already know that is going to happen). We will see. In any case, there are still many stories and reviews and essays to come out of me, enough ideas for more than a lifetime of writing. In the meantime I am just going to keep them as ideas and hope to bring them to fruition in the near future. The first plan must be moving my blog over to my own domain and finding a template that suits me. Decisions, decisions…

In any case, despite the next impending snowstorm and despite the fact that I really wish I didn’t have to work for these next couple of months, I am still so happy. I feel like there is so much happiness that is still inside of me, waiting to get out and I can’t wait to share it with everyone. Well everyone who deserves it anyway ;)

Ramblings: The End of the Second Trimester




It still feels like a dream. Even now, while I am heading into my 27th week, and starting to feel those little kicks on a regular basis. It still feels like a dream, an amazing, wonderful dream; a dream that I am going to be a mother in just a few more months. That we have created this little girl who is growing inside of me and who I am going to love and be responsible for for the rest of my life and beyond that. How incredible is all of this? And yes, I know that millions and millions of women have done the same thing since the beginning of time, but it’s all such a new and wonderful feeling that I can’t get enough of it. Every day I wake up knowing that I am carrying the being that I will love more than anything I have ever loved in my life, and that I am responsible for bringing her into this world and making sure she is as healthy and happy as possible. Everything else seems just so ephemeral, but this is real, however much it may feel like a dream.

I feel like I am lucky as I am having a relatively good pregnancy – although I don’t really have anything to compare it to, so I am just assuming that it is. I’m still working 55-60 hours a week, maybe a little bit slower and clumsier than before, but I’m still able to do it. Yes, I get aching feet and my ankles sometimes double in size, but it’s nothing physically crippling. The back ache that I get on the cold days when I have been standing for too long is definitely annoying and the days when I get the indigestion/backache/feet ache/headache/tummy ache all combined together are the worst, but I’m mainly at the healthiest I’ve ever been in my life. That might come from the fact that for the past 6 months I have been thinking that one glass of water is the equivalent of a pint of water and I have been trying to down 8 of them a day. I only learnt last week that one glass is the equivalent of 8 fl oz, and therefore half of a small bottle of water. Not feeling as much of a water drinking failure anymore!

I think for me the worst symptom of all is one that I just cannot manage, and one that I have had from the moment I got pregnant: the tears. I literally can cry at the drop of the hat and there is no stopping it whatsoever. Something makes me angry: I burst into tears. Something makes me sad: I burst into tears. Something makes me happy: I burst into tears. That cute little doggie that needs a home? I cry. Don’t even get me started on reports of starving children, bombs and civil wars… I don’t mind crying, it’s a good release and it helps get rid of some pent up emotions. But it’s really, really annoying when you are trying to manage a restaurant and the basement starts leaking at 2am when you are about to go home and instead of formulating a plan of action to make sure it doesn’t flood the basement all you can do is burst into tears. Or when someone annoys you and you try to explain to them in a decent manner why they are wrong, but all you can do is lock yourself in the bathroom and hope that ice cold water will make the redness in your eyes disappear so that you don’t appear to be some kind of pregnant maniac who can’t keep her emotions at bay.

Or you just go with it and just hope that being pregnant will give you some kind of VIP pass to be able to cry in public without anyone batting an eyelid. I mean there are much worse things that I could do in public in my condition apparently, things that I may experience once the baby is bigger and heavier…

Talking about being big… One thing that has been bothering me is the weight gain. Actually lets reword that, the weight gain itself isn’t really bothering me at all, it’s on par with the course and I expected it. It’s the talk about weight gain that bothers me.  I never expected to be one of those women who only gain a few pounds with a large tummy and stick-like limbs. I know what the other women in my family looked like pregnant, and I also know that they naturally went back to their pre-pregnancy weight afterwards. I also know that doctors recommend a weight gain of 25-35 pounds on average while pregnant. And I also know that they monitor your weight gain every time you go to the doctor and talk to you about it. Yes, I am eating more than I did before I was pregnant. But yes, I was on the low end of what is considered normal for my height and build. Yes, I am eating healthy, with some exceptions, but I naturally crave veggies and healthy carbs and protein. I do eat chocolate and crisps and cheese, but I don’t eat more than I did before I was pregnant. I don’t drink soda or anything other than water, tea and the occasional fruit juice. And no, I am not going to cut down! I’m enjoying food! Although nowadays I have to start eating smaller portions as I feel like my stomach is beginning to get slightly squished… Actually, as a piece of advice to anyone: don’t look at a picture of what your insides look like at the end of the second trimester… Who would have thought that your stomach would start getting squished into your lungs?! Then again where on earth did I think all my organs were going to go?! So yes, I have gained quite a bit of weight, and yes, I will be going over the high end of the recommended average. But I am still on the slim side… Apart from the belly which is growing very, very fast now.

This brings me to the next subject: people and their words. In normal circumstances one would never tell anyone else that they are “huge” or “enormous”, would they? So what makes it OK to tell a pregnant woman these things? Weight gain is always going to be a sensitive issue for women, so telling anyone, especially a pregnant woman who is probably hiding her feelings about her weight gain, that she is enormous, is never an acceptable thing to do! Just like the woman who asked me if I was having twins and if I was sure I wasn’t… Yes, lady, I am very sure I am having one child. Everyone is different, some people show fast, some don’t show for months, in the end the most important part is that we are healthy and doing our best to ensure that our babies are growing correctly and in a healthy manner. And yes, I am going to have fries with that because they are absolutely delicious and I don’t feel like restricting myself! I really hope that I was never one of those people who mentioned the words “huge” or “enormous” inadvertently to a pregnant woman in the past, because if I did I apologise profusely! 

I have a feeling that these next 3 months are going to fly by, as my movements get slower, time is just going to get faster. There is so much to prepare for, and so many things that I still need to learn and I know that there is not enough time left to do it all. That’s all right, I am sure that I will learn as I go, as will C. There is only so much you can prepare for, and the rest is just going to happen anyway. I’m so excited about it all (and I little scared too, I don’t think there is anything wrong with admitting that), and wondering if this will still feel like a dream when the belly gets even bigger and the kicks harder. Those little kicks are pretty amazing too, and I am so glad that I am feeling them all the time now – I was getting a little worried that I wasn’t feeling enough movement. All I needed was to voice my concerns to the doctor last week and little Munchie decided it was time to step up her movements in the womb. I guess it’s true what they say about the baby being able to hear now!


2014 is going to be such an amazing year.

Book Review: She Matters by Susanna Sonnenberg


It took me a while to read this book, not because I couldn’t get into it, pretty much the exact opposite, just because it’s a book that can be read in installments, each chapter a story in itself, intertwined with all of the other chapter/stories to create a life in words. She Matters – A Life in Friendships is a collection of stories of Susanna Sonnenberg’s friendships that have come, gone and/or spanned a lifetime.

I had actually never heard of Susanna Sonnenberg before, and picked up She Matters one day while I was roaming around St Mark’s Bookshop for something new to read. The idea just really appealed to me, and after I had read the first chapter I wished it was the book I had thought of to write. It’s beautifully written, and a lot of the stories hit very close to home, mainly because of Sonnenberg’s complete ability to be truthful to herself and the reader. Some of the friendships she describes are balanced and go the distance; others end in tears, break-ups, or just sputter out along the way. Friendships that are built out of happenstance or a mutual interest; women who are brought together via a common cause, because they share the same classes or become roommates randomly after college. Some of the friendships have their ups and downs but settle down and become lifelong. Others last a couple of years and disappear due to neglect or distance. And others end in tears and pain, due to one or the other woman’s issues or selfishness. All are friendships that we can relate to – we have all had a Rachel, a Debra, a Louise in our lives. We have all met women with whom we have bonded immediately, women with whom we wanted to be friends no matter what, women who we disliked but then learnt to love. We have all had long-lasting and short-term friendships with women, and we have all had our hearts broken by a woman friend.

If I were to write a similar style project I think that I would not be able to only contain my work to female friendships that have shaped parts of my life, but I really love how Sonnenberg wrote and produced her work, creating a book that is both wonderfully written and so truthful as well as true to life that you don’t really want it to end. Very inspiring.

Ramblings: The Importance of Writing a Journal



You could ask yourself the question of whether it really is that important to write a journal. Especially nowadays when you can keep an ongoing collection of words and images and videos of your everyday life via social media sources such as Facebook, Instagram, Vine and other. If writing a journal is just tantamount to keeping track of what happened to you on a weekly or daily basis, then I suppose it isn’t that necessary, or important, not with all the other mediums we now have at our fingertips. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, mainly after reading the new Bridget Jones installment (Mad About the Boy – and yes, Helen Fielding hasn’t lost any of her talent or wit… I laughed and cried loudly all the way through it); and then randomly watching a movie called Stuck In Love, where a writer father makes his two kids write in their journals on a regular basis, as a way to train them to record their experiences and to be passionate about writing, just as he is. Both very different forms of journal writing (daily updates on the mundane activities of life with the occasional spurt of change, seemingly boring in theory but actually incredibly heartwarming and endearing; a collection of experiences, thoughts, poems and drawings created from a happening, a word, an encounter or just a thought in a day), but both technically a way to collect the threads of a life in writing. 

And in the end a journal is private, not meant to be shared with anyone. Which makes it still very important in my mind and heart – there are so many things that I want to express, but that I don’t want to post on Facebook, or even on my blog for that matter. 

All of this got me thinking about my own journal writing. However inconsistent in quantity my own writing has been over the years, I have always kept some type of journal, since the age of 10 when I was given my first diary as a Christmas present. I still have every journal that I have kept over the years. Sometimes a book full of the day to day activities at school and the boys I was in love with, sometimes a tremendously deep and sad recount of feelings and pain, sometimes an image of happiness, surrounded by pictures and clippings from newspapers or others. Here and there a poem, written on the spur of the moment and recorded that day, to be rediscovered years later and added to a collection of poems that I am trying to put together. I started to reprimand myself the other day for not keeping a “proper” journal anymore, when I realised that that is not true – I actually have several. They are just not the “traditional” forms of journals that I kept all these years. One is more of a “picture” journal, where you can find photos, magazine clippings, words, photos, random song lyrics, thoughts, movie stubs, concert tickets, post cards… The other is a collection of essays and short stories that I have been adding to a folder amidst other folders on my laptop for the past couple of years, all stories involving places and people in my life, all essays reciting certain experiences that I felt the need to record, all with the idea of publishing together one day. Now I realize that I don’t think I could ever publish these essays as they are, not right now anyway, as they are so very personal and don’t just involve myself, but other people who are very much real and alive. Therefore this is just my way of continuing to create a journal.
I don’t know why I do. It’s not like I want anyone to read all of these journals. Not while I am still on this earth anyway! It’s not like they contain my best writing either (although I sometimes do feel surprised when I come across something I wrote at the age of 16 when I was so unsure of myself and of my writing, and wonder why I felt that way because I had a way with words then). Even when I am at my least inspired I have always been able to write in my journal and I also think that this was (and still is) my only way to really describe how I feel and say what I really want to say in words. An outlet for emotions that are often kept pent up inside. A musician will release these emotions in song; I do it in words on paper, and on screen, the only difference being that I don’t want them to be seen. But would it be that bad if they were seen? Music has always helped me in good times and bad times and very, very bad times, so maybe my words could help another soul? I know words have always helped me too, be they in fiction, non-fiction, newspaper articles that hit home, song lyrics, poems… Even other people’s journal entries.  That said, I have never read anyone else’s personal diary (I am a huge stickler for privacy and would be the last person to go through anyone’s phone, journal, email, personal items, even if I feared the worst). I have only read published journals. From the darkest thoughts flowing from Sylvia Plath’s mind through her pen; a young teenager’s recount of being persecuted by the Nazis through Anne Frank’s eyes; trying to understand Kurt Cobain’s pain through his journal excerpts; to the fictional diaries of Adrian Mole that kept me laughing all the way through adolescence into adulthood (and still today). These journals (as well as others that I haven’t mentioned) are works of fiction in their own right, tales of moments in time that we may also have lived, or may be able to learn from, or just provide us with a historical reference to a time gone by, coloured with personal experience and thoughts.

Some of my favourite writers, Gerard de Nerval and Sylvia Plath for example, wrote their stories based on completely personal experiences. I find that I do this a lot too – although not all of the time, some of my stories are completely made up in my head, ideas conjured up by part of a conversation heard on the subway, or the sight of someone who grabs my attention on the street. Other stories are completely autobiographical and you just have to change the characters’ names to know who I am writing about, or what time in my life I am referring to.  I’m sure I have many, many more stories I could pull from my journals, stories that will finally help me finish this novel I have been working on, on and off, for the past three years. Or maybe they are all best staying right where they are, ink on paper, for my child to read when he or she is old enough to read my deepest secrets (if there is ever an age for that!). All in all, maintaining a journal has always been something that I cherish, and I will probably continue to do so until I die, in whatever format I feel like. I do miss writing, fountain pen and lined paper, but I always find nowadays that I start writing and finish by typing on my laptop and end up with random notebooks full of half-written essays and stories, as well as notes for blog posts and lists of photo numbers that I want to add to collections on Flickr. 

I just want to make sure I record everything I can… Not for anyone else, but just for myself. So that I can go back to my journals years later and remind myself that I have or haven’t changed. And just for that I think that it is incredibly important to maintain a journal – for oneself. A photo album in words.

Ramblings: There is no I in Me anymore...

By the time you are reading this you probably already know (if you are very, very close to me), have an inkling something has changed, or really just don’t know and are going to be super surprised. In any case, it’s all been a little surreal for myself over the past nine weeks… Yup. There is no I in Me anymore, there is an Us. Me and It, It being a little munchkin that is eventually going to grow into a He or a She and eventually be born in late March/early April of next year.

Everything seems surreal and exciting and scary at the same time. There was that moment I had that dream where I took a home pregnancy test and the test appeared to be positive with a due date marked in the screen… Which lead me to run out to Walgreens as soon as I woke up in the morning to buy a real one, and then sat around staring at the packet for hours until I finally dared to do it. The two lines appeared almost automatically, and at that moment I decided there was no way I was going to be able to keep a child and I needed whatever it was inside of me removed as soon as possible. Needless to say, by the next morning , on my way to Planned Parenthood for a “proper” test, I had already changed my mind dramatically and was hoping that the home test wasn’t a fake positive… I mean I knew it wasn’t. I already knew I was pregnant, there are certain signs that you can’t ignore. And yes, it was positive.

That Friday I went around in a haze, lying on the grass in the middle of Washington Square Park, trying to fathom the idea of having a child, and then raising said child. I stopped smoking and drinking that very day, and surprisingly enough it was easy. I mean REALLY easy. No nicotine withdrawal, no crankiness, no nothing. Just the knowledge that there was a little me growing right inside of me. For the next 10 days it still didn’t feel real. I told a few people close to me, but that was it, my little munchkin was going to remain a secret until I was ready for the world to know about it. 

I don’t have health insurance. That was my main concern about actually having a child. Planned Parenthood lost all funding to provide prenatal care, so they just gave me a number for a low-cost women’s health clinic in Brooklyn, and I was able to get an appointment for 10 days after I found out I was pregnant. In the meantime I found out I was eligible for Medicaid, so I started working on all the paperwork I needed for that. In the end, the clinic filed for me (they are amazing – and there I was worried that I would have to pay for everything by myself!). I had blood work done, and exams, and went over all different kinds of things with the technician and the nurse and the midwife, and then finally got a referral appointment for an ultrasound at the Brooklyn Hospital for the following week. I am really happy with the people who are following my pregnancy – they made me feel comfortable and a lot less nervous than I was before I got there. 

Unless you have already been through this yourself, you can only imagine what it feels like to see your baby inside of you and then to hear the heartbeat… It’s mind-blowing. That little blob on the screen, the actual size of a bean which is beginning to form into a person is actually part of you and created by you. And that heart beating… Honestly it was only then that it fully became real to me – I now have two hearts beating in my body, and one of them needs to be protected and nurtured and loved at all costs. Every day I wake up and (after the immediate feelings of absolute hunger and thirst, followed by a wave of nausea) I feel blessed that this is happening to me. I remember my 17 year old self writing in my diary and telling my best friends that I wanted a child by the age of 19, and that I would call her Luna. Instead I got a cat and called her Luna, and as the years went by started to wonder if I would ever have a child. Growing up with an amazing mother but with a father figure who disappeared too early and another who wasn’t around for too much longer I always promised myself I wouldn’t have a child unless I was completely sure the child would have parents who would stay together forever. Well, unless you remain a complete and hopeless romantic with no shred of cynicism in your bones all of your adult life you will certainly realize that this was quite a tall order. And a straight shot to never having children. And I have to say that at the beginning of this year I was really starting to think that maybe I wouldn’t have kids, and that, in a way, that was allright (as long as my siblings were going to have them). I could just live in New York City for the rest of my life and live like I have enjoyed living for the past 8 years…

And when have I ever done anything conventionally anyway?! Every time I try to I fail, so I gave up on trying a few years ago and started living life in the way I wanted to. I have never been happier, or more comfortable in my own skin, and everything is just another adventure to embark on… This one probably being the most amazing adventure I will ever jump into head first. And don’t get me wrong, little munchkin’s father is more than present, and won’t be going anywhere (unless I decide to move, because then he will be moving with me, and munchkin). Which brings up the idea of moving… For some silly reason being pregnant kind of changes your perspective on everything. I mean everything. Obviously the idea of moving away from NYC has come to me over the past eight and a half years, but I’ve never actually really acted upon it. But now I just want to move to California, be nearer my family over there and actually be able to live in a house with a back yard where I can grow my own food, not feel like I am constantly hustling to make ends meet like I do here. I will always love New York, but I don’t know if I really want to bring up a child here. I’m most certainly going to have the baby here, but after that, who knows? Within the next 18 months I am pretty sure that I will be making a move over to California. It’s always been my dream to live in Santa Cruz, but I think I will probably have to start in Sacramento and then see where life leads me. 

But all of that is not for a while yet… In the meantime I am going to enjoy the amazingness that being pregnant is (especially now that the uncomfortable first trimester is over), and be happy.

Short Story: 9/11 - The Day the World got Darker

I don't know why I have never posted this one, but it was written years ago one September, as I remembered what I was doing on 9/11/01. I will never forget that day, nor how it made me feel for a few years after that. It's important that we always remember this day, for the horrific acts that happened, for the people who perished, for the heroic people who ran into the buildings to save lives, and for the aftermath of the attacks, all over the world. I know that I will never forget.

9/11 - The Day the World got Darker

It was just another day really… No classes to attend, no teaching classes to give either, so I was just sitting at home pretending to put together some research points towards my MA thesis, but really scrolling through the web on my slow dial-up connection looking for something interesting to read, and watching Derrick on the TV. Nothing better than a daytime German detective show dubbed in French to pass the time.

Until the phone rang.

“Have you seen what’s happening?? Attentats!!”

“What on earth are you talking about? I’m watching Derrick and drinking coffee. Want to meet up and hang out?”

“Put the fucking TV on. Someone has bombed the World Trade Center in New York. LOOK!!”

I groaned and changed the channel and then just sat there in silent shock with the receiver stuck to my ear. All I could see were images of smoke billowing from one of the tallest buildings in the world. I couldn’t even register what the reporter was saying, I couldn’t even read the words that were flying by on the bottom of the screen, but it appeared that everyone was in the same type of shock and no one really knew what was happening.

“Can you please come over right now? This is scaring the shit out of me and I don’t want to be alone here.”

“I’m on my way, will be there in 10 minutes.”

I sat there with the receiver still in my ear and waited. No one knew what was happening; the journalists were trying to scramble together as much information as possible and everyone was obviously in a state of shock and fear. And then all hell broke loose, a silence, and then the reporter’s voice saying that it appeared that another plane had crashed into the second tower.

The moment that that happened the world knew that this wasn’t a freak accident. Two planes flew directly into the WTC towers and exploded inside. I sat glued to the TV, trying to make sense of it all. There was no way on this earth that two aeroplanes had flown directly into the Twin Towers by accident. It was too precise, too calculated. I let my friend in, he made some coffee, and we continued to watch the news together, in silence. There was a hush, a chain of images and then the reporter’s voice, trembling slightly, announcing that there were two more planes in the air somewhere, two planes that had turned off their radios and were most probably heading for the Pentagon and the White House.

Then a plane crashed into the Pentagon. The images on the TV screen hovered between the Twin Towers with the smoke billowing out of them and the Pentagon where there were also clouds of smoke appearing from what looked like the center, and the reporter who was obviously as shaken as we were, civilians all over the world watching in horror as the biggest terrorist act ever carried out was taking place, live, before our eyes. Three planes crashed into important American landmarks, a fourth plane still in the air, possibly heading for the White House. All of those people dead and dying, all of those people trapped above the flames and the smoke, waving for help out of the windows so high up in the sky. I saw something black fall from a window, and then another, and realized that people were jumping to their deaths rather than waiting to burn or die of asphyxiation. There were no real words to describe all of the feelings that were going through my body at once, pain, sadness, confusion, disgust, anger and also the feeling that this couldn’t be real.
Then there was a rumble and all voices stopped talking, and as if in silence, one of the towers just collapsed into a huge cloud of dust and debris. It didn’t fall down sideways, but floor by floor, as if a huge hand had come out of the sky and shoved it down from above. I say in silence, but only because I heard silence in my head, the world had stopped and the impossible had taken place. 

“All of those people!! Oh my God, all of those people!! How could they survive with THAT falling on them??”

And then the same rumble, and the collapse of the second tower. I just hoped that those who were trying to escape the second tower had made it out, because all that was left was clouds and clouds of smoke and dust. The TV went silent for a second, while the commentators tried to gather their composure and explain what had happened right there, in Manhattan. Visible on screens worldwide, the entire world population had been able to see a terrorist act gone completely right, probably even better than had been expected in their wildest dreams. More images on the screen, and then the reporter giving us news of a plane that had gone down in Pennsylvania, probably the last hijacked flight that had fortunately not met its intended destination.
I continued to watch the scenes, listen to the words, hoping that it was all a huge farce, a prank to see how gullible we were. I was speechless. My friend refilled my coffee cup a few times and went out to buy cigarettes, as I couldn’t move. Couldn’t eat, couldn’t really formulate any sentences. I realized I was in shock and then felt terrible, as I was lucky to be thousands of miles away, in the comfort of my little apartment in France. But then again, how safe was I? How safe were any of us anymore? Planes had been hijacked before, not one, but four in one go, right under the eyes of the American officials. Before this plane hijackings were used as a way to extort some kind of deal, money or other (apart from the Lockerbie bombing). When had hijacked planes been used as deliberate weapons to kill? The name Osama Bin Laden was said over and over again, as many times as the images of the attacks spiraled over the screen. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t even think straight. I finally got through to my mother in California, and she had only heard the news when she got to work, had been spared the horror of seeing it all happen on live TV. I saw those people die when they jumped from the top of the towers. Flying through the air, all hope lost.

I continued to watch through-out the night, fell asleep to the same images that I woke up to. All regular TV shows had been suspended and the news reports kept coming in the rest of the next day. Death tolls and interviews and pictures of women running for their lives, covered in dust and debris. Statements from different terrorist groups, images of people weeping and people cheering, a collective feeling of horror in most places, chants of joy in certain countries. Death is death. It kills you just the same. I couldn’t wrap my head round the enormity of the acts, the change that they brought to the entire world. The day those planes crashed into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and into a field in Pennsylvania, was the day the world changed. No country was safe anymore, and no country would ever be safe again. Ever. During the Cold War we feared nuclear attacks, but we also knew that they would never really happen, neither the US nor the USSR wanted to commit that much damage and death. Not really. But on September 11th 2001, a new evil emerged from the darkness and bared its teeth to the world. There would be no warning, no amnesty and no guilt. You were going to die, wherever the fuck you may find yourself in the world. 

I lost the little hope and optimism I had left that day. For weeks afterwards I was obsessed with watching the footage, over and over again. I followed the war in Afghanistan with baited breath, with some anger that it had taken such a terrible act to actually care about what was going on in Afghanistan. I think that I couldn’t help feeling like it was too little and too late. I started to stay in as much as possible, just in case something else happened. The TV was on day and night, with me waiting  for the next attack, the next images of death and destruction and hatred and sorrow. A plane disintegrated above Queens and all of the national TV channels went on high alert until it was determined that it was just a “regular” crash, based on some kind of technical fault. Engine failure.

I started suffering from brain failure. My slow decline into depression that had started months before took a nosedive, right down into the pits of the dark world that surrounded me. There was no hope left inside. Food tasted bland, and I couldn’t concentrate on anything apart from the news, terrible chick lit novels and my thesis. Sylvia Plath? Why not, I mean I was more than willing to crawl right under the bell jar with her, snapping it tightly shut. We could breath the same foul air together, but at least we were protected from the outside world. Three CDs on eternal rotation on my CD player: Tim Buckley’s Greatest Hits, Tom Wait’s Used Songs and Bob Dylan’s Desire. A Tim Buckley cassette compilation I had made was in the shower, nothing else. The Cure’s Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me on my record player in the living room. I couldn’t drink alcohol anymore, it just made me want to vomit. My dreams just turned to nightmares, so it was better off I didn’t really try to sleep, just toss and turn and think of death and how much warmer it felt than life.

How can something so much bigger than you, something that effects the world as a whole, something that triggered events that would never end, wars that had no meaning, more death, more hatred, more despair, affect one person in such a way? Why did  not let it change me for the better, why did I crawl away into a hole and hope that I could hide away in death, because life had no more happiness to offer? I felt like I was wasting away, I withdrew myself from my friends and stayed in my apartment, cuddling my cat and watching the news. There was no more hope. What happened to the girl who was an idealist? Who lobbied for the rights of the Tibetan people in front of cinemas and bars? What happened to the girl who tried to talk to everyone about the fate of the Afghan women under the Taliban? What happened to the girl who cared, who wanted to make a change, who wanted to make things better?

She lost hope. The day those planes crashed into those buildings was the day I finally lost the will to survive.

“Want to go out for a drink? I’m out with the boys at the usual bar, everyone is asking about you and is wondering why they haven’t seen you for a while.”

“Ah… I’m in my pyjamas. It’s too late, I have class tomorrow.”

“No you don’t! You have one class a week this semester, and don’t use the thesis excuse, I saw how far along you are. Take a night off, come out and have fun. Please. I miss you. We all miss you.”

“Don’t just say that to make me feel better love, I know you will all have fun without me. I… Just… I just can’t right now. I don’t feel well, I feel like I may puke and just want to stay in bed. I love you.”

“I love you too… I’m worried. I’ll bring you coffee in the morning.”

Click. 

What did I say? Lost all hope.


Ramblings: The beach in September


I love the beach in September. Just after Labour Day the beaches are much quieter, and there is more room to spread out and enjoy the sound of the waves breaking on the shore (as opposed to people shouting and blasting music from every side). September has always been my favourite month in NYC (even though it signifies the end of summer and the beginning of autumn which is always followed on by cold, cold winters…): the air is cleaner and les muggy, the sun is still shining and warm and the nights are cooler. There really is nothing like walking barefoot in the warm sand, relaxing right by the water and soaking up the sun, never knowing if this will be the last time you will make it to the beach before the cold sets in.


The Rockaways have always been my favourite part of NYC. I’ve written many times about my trips to the beach, to Rockaway Park or Fort Tilden (when you could still go there before Sandy). A 45 minute subway ride from my home in Bushwick finds you in the middle of a lovely beach community, with miles of beaches to choose from, a perfect place to get away from the oppressiveness of the city and the humidity that coats everything through-out the summer. There have been years when I have spent at least a day per week on the beach, and then other years when I have struggled to make it out there more than a couple of times a month. I have to say that I have done better this year than I did last year, and mainly because I felt the need to support the place that I love so much after all of the devastation that happened there during Sandy. The first time I walked down the street towards the beach the boarded up places (especially the Sand Bar, a regular stop-off place for my friends and I), made me sad, although the fact that so many businesses were back open and ready for customers surprised me and made me realize how hard people had worked to go on with life even after part of it was destroyed. The beaches themselves were completely different. Smaller, with only partial boardwalks, the rest swept away during the hurricane. Fort Tilden closed for the foreseeable future, but beaches that were still accessible, comfortable with all of the amenities that one would need. I’ve always preferred the Rockaways to Coney Island – it’s more laid-back and less noisy (and there is always Pickles and Pies deli where you can buy sandwiches and fruit, not just places where you can only get fried food like hot dogs and fries). Coney is fun, but the Rockaways are my real place to go to, to relax and swim and be in the sun. 



I realised this week, listening to the Psychedelic Furs and contemplating the future while lying in the sun on Beach 106, that this is probably my last summer in NYC and that my future visits to the Rockaways may just be that – visits. There are oceans and beaches all over the world but this one will always have a very, very special place in my heart. Today some of the beaches are “closed” (although if you listen to the construction workers they will just tell you to walk over the dune and hang out on the beach – that no one is going to stop you from going there), but only because there is still so much work to be done to clean up after Sandy. I just worry that we will get hit by another super storm again this year… Or next year. Hopefully the work done will help avoid the extent of the damage that we all suffered last year. Right now a huge man-made dune has appeared all the way down the beaches, exposing a large pipeline (carrying water?), and the beach is even smaller, especially at high tide. But the same feeling is still there, it will always be the same place, no matter what the natural and man-made changes are… And it will always be a place that represents freedom, happiness and beauty in my heart. Hopefully I will still make it out there a few more times until the end of the month as I still want to finish a photography project I started using film earlier on during the summer. Fingers crossed that the weather will hold out until October. 



Ramblings: August in France



Amidst a time when a lot is going on in my life, and where there is a lot of uncertainty in the world, I have chosen to write a piece based on a nostalgic feeling I had the other day while I was eating toast with Kiri cheese on it, to remember my favourite month in France, the month where everything seemed to slow down and, contrarily to nature, nights seemed longer and days shorter.

August was always my favourite time in France, especially in Grenoble. The city would empty itself of people, running away to long holidays in the south by the sea, or into the mountains where the haze of city pollution would disappear, making way for fresh air and blue, blue skies. The weather was always hot, often muggy, the humidity broken up by spectacular thunderstorms that would throw bolts of lightning through the sky, sometimes right to the ground in front of you, rain would pour for an hour and then before you knew it everything was clean and clear and silent again. For a few days. Afternoons were for drinking coffee and/or cold pints of beer “en terrasse” of a bar somewhere in Place du Trib, or the Champollion or L’Excalibur if we are talking many many years ago. Mornings were for sleeping and/or working, watching the news and eating a light lunch, napping for a few hours in the heat with the shutters closed. Reading books and writing poems and stories, listening to music and watching series on TV until it was time to go out and grab coffees and beers and see what the night had to bring us. 

There were the days of lying by the pool in the hot sun, or hiking up the mountains to the cooler air, or just driving (or walking) up to the Bastille and having a picnic or barbeque up there, looking over the city and waiting for night to fall and the stars to light up the sky. There were days of hiding in darkened rooms, waiting for the day to go away, listening to Type O Negative and Sisters of Mercy and The Cure with some Slayer thrown in there, wondering what kind of parties the night would bring. There were afternoons spent at friends’ apartments, eating late lunches of pasta and vegetables and cheese and yogurt and fruit, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee, chatting about life and relationships, love and anger, and where we would be in 10 years time. There were afternoons spent in my apartment with my best male friend, watching American crime series and talking about how we were going to change our lives and go away somewhere special and start over. There were those afternoons when we would go and watch movies at the cinema, just to get away from the stifling heat and sit in the cool of the air conditioning.

And then there were those August nights, mostly spent going from one bar to another, to someone’s apartment, to some area outside in the city, by a statue or a fountain, in a square, surrounded by other people enjoying the summer night. We would grab bottles of wine and beer, and sit in different spots around the city, daring ourselves to get up to some kind of mischief, looking for parties in different apartments, ending up dancing the night away at the Dock or the Mark XIII, or just standing on the bridge over the Isère, feeling the light movement under your feet and singing to the breeze. I remember one night, during one of the infamous electrical storms, just after watching The Craft with a friend, standing on the steps of the St Louis church across from the FNAC, watching the lightning hit the ground right in front of us, and instead of feeling scared, just feeling euphoric. Nights that would end at 5 or 6am, when the sun would start rising over the mountain tops, and the air would feel fresh and clean for about 10 minutes until the heat and the pollution would kick in again. 

I miss those afternoons where everything would shut down for three hours after lunch, where you could walk around in silence and just hear the tram bells ring from time to time and some cars drive by. I miss those days of eating warm bread just out of the oven, nabbed from the still-closed boulangeries at 5am, I miss those days when it felt like nothing else really mattered and when there were no real responsibilities, well not until September started again, and with it school and university and jobs and real life. And so now, until September starts in a few days, I will continue to dream of August nights in Grenoble, of real French food, of time spent with friends of long ago, who are still friends of today, of cheap wine and laughs and mountains and magnificent thunderstorms, of dubbed TV series and of music that I still love today…