Short Story: Of Instability and Growing Roots

Of Instability and Growing Roots


She walked out of the airport into the humid air, so humid that each breathe was a mix of droplets and warmth. She didn’t turn around to look behind her; she just walked straight over to the men with their cars, to what appeared to be a taxi rank, disorderly, loud but with the main direction of taking people where they needed to go. This was the start of all new, a place where she could soothe the aches and pains of a life that had failed her and find that core that had gone missing months before.
Another country, new people, a new adventure. Gone were the days of sitting at the bar and drinking the night away. Gone were the days of lying in bed under the covers, wishing for the time to stop so that she wouldn’t have to face anything outside of the house. Gone were the days of pretending to smile and laugh at everything and everyone, waiting for that one moment when she could start drinking and drown herself in oblivion. This wasn’t even a new start, just an awakening of sorts, a change and a time to reflect on the years lost and found.

“The beach please. Just the beach.”

Emily was your quintessential wild child. Rebellious and quiet as a teen, adventurous in her twenties and free-falling in her thirties. Strong-willed and strong-hearted, but lost in the world that surrounded her. She spent so much time looking for something that had departed so many years before; that she often forgot what it was like to actually enjoy her life in the way that it should have been lived.
There were the days in the squats, cooking vegetarian food over a gas stove, foraging the market for the cheapest foods and inventing meals that were filling and savoury on a tight budget. While Emily would go to school and dissect poetry and fiction, her boyfriend Neil would sell weed and coke in order to provide himself with the odd heroin fix. Nights were spent talking about the world and listening to old records saved or stolen, scratched and warped. It was hard to afford food, but the alcohol was always present, as was the white powder that would make its way into everybody’s noses at some point or another. Electricity was not always an option, and in the days of darkness the instruments would appear, or they would all pile into a van and drive around, looking for a warehouse party or an outside rave. Sell drugs, consume drugs and dance until the sun went down again, sometimes multiple times. The only milestone was the degree that Emily wanted to obtain, not for any real purpose except for an accomplishment. The first person with a degree in the family that she had lost sight of.

Emily tired of the squat and of Neil once his dabbling in heroin became a daily need, and branched out on her own, traveling to places that her eyes had never seen before. There were the days with a small backpack and random friends picked up along the way. Ashrams in India, third class train rides in Egypt, kibbutzim in Israel, barefoot walks on the beaches in Morocco. Postcards home with the words “I am safe, I love you”. Men who fell in love with her, and men who she fell in love with along the way, sad goodbyes and lies about being together again someday, somewhere else on the planet. Friendships forged over campfires and during bumpy bus rides. Cheap cigarettes and vodka, beach parties and long discussions involving copious amounts of weed and tobacco. Emily lost herself in the different worlds she ventured to, and came out of them with a new sense of self, with a confidence she had been lacking in her younger years and with a new sense of fulfillment and goals for the future. It was time to settle for a while.

“Left and then a right here. Go straight down the road until you get to the little shop on the corner, and then make another right.”

Emily contemplated the world outside the open car window, breathing in the smells of ash and incense, food and rubbish. People clad in garments of all colours and shapes, voices talking in different languages and cars honking at every intersection, trying to make their way through the traffic of people and cars and bikes. The only thing that mattered at this point was the beach and the peace it would always bring.

There were the days in the city, working in the office, scraping by to pay rent on a tiny studio that she only ever used to sleep in. Nights in dive bars and days picking up the brain cells lost in those bars, only to lose them again in another location the following night. Emily despised her job and the stress that she let overwhelm her on a daily basis, but persevered under the notion that this is what she should be doing with her life, conforming in her own way, tattooed sleeves under business shirts and barefoot wandering in airports during business trips. It couldn’t last, it just wasn’t for her. The partying took its toll and pneumonia and depression crept in, taking over the smiles and laughter that used to fill her days and nights. A sure sign of needed change, time to move on and find that natural light and happiness again.

Emily left those days one rainy, blustery day and found what she had been looking for for years, a life that she had always wanted. Jobs that she enjoyed and friends that had the same outlook as her. People who did not want to conform but who just wanted to be who they were, despite the fact that they may not always be accepted by others. She realised that there was no calling in life, but ideas and needs and destinations and sights. Places to go and people to see and experiences to feel. Freedom was always available; you just needed to take advantage of it. Some may call it another form of running away, but for Emily it was just another adventure, another place and another time where her insomnia died and her laughter came back. The simple parts of life that were so fulfilling reappeared and she woke up most days with a smile and an interesting thought. There were some days and weeks of grey areas, times when the tears would fall freely for a while, before drying up and leaving her be again. Emails came and went, with the words “How are you? Should I be worried” and the usual response of “I’m fine, doing great!”

Then came the days that the grey turned to black, and the light disappeared once again. Back to the bars and the oblivion that she had been fleeing for so long. Sadness prevailed happiness and the tears would never dry up, even when the sun was shining and the sky was pure blue. Christmas lights and songs of freedom did not help, all cares were gone and hugs could not fight the growing sense of impending doom on the horizon. Night turned to day and day to night and the most important thought was that of escape, once again. Ties bound her down, and the scissors to cut them were always just a few centimeters out of reach.

It was time. Time to leave and time to return. A small bag of belongings and a ticket to fly away, no looking back, no looking forward.

“You can leave me here. This is perfect.”

There she was, right there, on the beach, in the same spot as she had always been. In front of the hut, looking exactly like she always had. A few more wrinkles, lighter hair and the same ocean-blue eyes. Some things never really changed, even after months and years of outside changes.

“Hi Mum.”
“Emily… You came home at last! It’s time to let the healing begin and to rest within the confines of this paradise we have always called home. I love you child, I knew that you would make it back when the time was right for you. I never doubted your strong spirit would guide you back to me.”

Time may not heal all wounds, but love and peace may just do the trick. Home is where your heart never leaves.



Anthropology of an American Girl - review & musings


I find it very, very difficult to categorise books. There are books I liked, there are books I loved. There are books I really didn’t enjoy but forced myself through anyway. There are books that I couldn’t get into, but went back to after months, even years, and loved. There are good books that I didn’t enjoy. There are books that are not considered “good” that I really loved. I read for several reasons, the main one being because I cannot remember a day in my life when I haven’t been reading one book. The other reasons are completely self-explanatory: I read to learn, to escape and to let my imagination run away from me. I am never bored, not just because I always have something to do or to see, but mainly because I always have a book to discover, to read, to finish. I live surrounded by books, as do/did my parents and my grandparents, my sister and my brother. I read fiction and non-fiction, classics and modern fiction. I love poetry, plays and prose. I love to read poetry out loud to my cat (she prefers French literature to English, but I think that is more because of her national pride and all that). Words inspire me, reading inspires me to write and vice versa.

I read many books that inspire me, I read many good to very good books, but there are only a few times a year that I read a book that hits me so deeply that it affects my entire being for the time I am reading it, as well as afterwards. I read a review of Hilary Thayer Hamann’s first novel Anthropology of an American Girl a while ago, and tried to bookmark it in my brain, but didn’t remember about it until I was browsing the new paperbacks at St Mark’s Bookshop a few weeks ago. Once I started it I went back to the Jade I was when I was 17 and 18. It’s as if I had a direct connection with the main character, Eveline Auerbach. I am probably not the only one who feels this way, but I am not kidding when I felt I was being literally pulled into the story and became Eveline. First love, second love, heartbreak, freedom, passion, thoughts… The last years of high school, growing up in a “bohemian” household, friends who know your fears and help you through them, fragility but so much strength. But then, halfway through the book Eveline and I became separated. We went our separate ways, she took a path I could not agree with, could not really understand, while I took another path, that of personal freedom from everything.

There is a very specific break in the story, between high school graduation and the beginning of college and it was at this point that Eveline and I became friends and I no longer saw her life through her eyes, as one, but by her side, through her narration.

To understand, you must read this novel. On the outside it appears to be another coming of age novel, girl becomes woman, loves and loses, to love again, but there is so much more to this than that. The prose is wonderfully well written, so much that instead of reading you feel that you are living the story. When Eveline was sad, I cried. When Eveline was depressed, I walked around in a haze. When Eveline walked away I threw the book on the ground in anger. What I am trying to say is that Hilary Thayer Hamann did a remarkable job of writing a novel that is right up there on my favourite novels that I will read over and over again and that will never cease to make me cry list. Right up there with Marge Piercy’s Gone To Soldiers, Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles to name a few. We go through Eveline’s late teens and early twenties, follow her from East Hampton to Manhattan, watch her grow, then wither, then grow again.

We all have an Eveline, a Harrison Rourke, a Jack, a Kate, a Rob and a Mark in our lives, whether we are male or female, they all exist. I know who they are in my life. At first I thought I could be Eveline, it appeared that I am not, but I still love her as a person. Person or character? Although the main character is female, the story is for everyone. Be prepared to be punched in the stomach and in the face, to bawl your eyes out and to want to run to the ocean and watch the waves. Just read this book – you won’t regret it.

(When I bought the book I thought I was giving myself a break and that this was going to be some fun, light reading. I was so wrong! I didn’t realize exactly how much it had affected me until I found myself crying at everything this week, even for my crying average it was over the top. For some reason this story just hit me right in the core).

“Everywhere there are angels.”