On the morning of August 8th, 2014 I was commuting to work by bus. The seat to the right of me was taken by a young man. The young man was texting his mother: ‘Mum, I think I’ve got a girlfriend. She is very nervous about the fact, so I’ll update you later.’
I was the girlfriend in question. For months afterwards, I would flinch at that word and, in my turn, introduce Sam as ‘the person I’m seeing’. He expected me to bail within the first week. I did not know what to expect, feeling the nervous excitement that normally accompanies the rides down the Indiana Jones roller coaster at Disneyland.
I was wearing my short dark-blue dress with a flowing skirt, its navy fabric covered in tiny white stars. We were sharing the bus with half a dozen pensioners, out to run their errands. The vehicle wobbled from Old Marston to city centre, and I was very happy and very silly and a bit warm from the hand-holding.
We only started dating after trying not to. That is one of the catchphrases. Another one is ‘What is Latin for softer and stupider? We should take it for a motto.’ Another one is ‘This relationship was based on the solid foundation of pizza, chocolate, and Game of Thrones.’
Sam is tall and funny. He makes me lentil soup when I am sad, or sick, or both. In bed, we tessellate like waves do. He tells me stories that involve chasing crabs on the seashore, and I tell him stories about long car drives through the winter and snow and woods. Sam is always Sam, and I am many names for many purposes. We keep his childhood plush toys in a pillowcase in the cupboard under the stairs. My childhood toys did not survive constant moving, and so, for my birthday, Sam got me an elk. The elk is called Ernest and is a perfect companion, especially for rainy weather. My books are kept on the right side of the living-room, and Sam’s books are kept on the left side, and you do not need to be told to notice the difference. (Hint: battered fantasy volumes versus cloth-bound Austen in hardback.)
We went to Dublin where I got ill, and so we spent most of the stay in the hotel room, eating takeaway and watching Eurovision. We saw each other graduate in a big ornate theatre, in the company of those closest and dearest. I took him to cold places where one can dance on frozen lakes (dressed up in too many layers for that to be graceful). He took me to zoos and family parties, to Christmas celebrations with so many gifts that the roast interruption becomes welcome and necessary.
I posted a poem on Sam’s Facebook wall once:
I was bringing you a little cheese sandwich. It was two in the morning, everybody sleepy, shops closed but in the I Love You bar they gave me a little cheese sandwich.
I was in a taxi bringing you a little cheese sandwich ‘cause you were lying there sad, perhaps even ill, and there was nothing good to eat in the house. Was real expensive, around one lat, but that’s OK.
So I was in the taxi with my little iluvu, all squished, practically cold. But for some reason I didn’t make it home. Somehow I ended up where all were merry and witty, and starving. So I drank, I sang, but I saved my little sandwich.
Must have been the third day when I could finally treat you to it, you were so angry, you ate the sandwich hardly looking at it. Had I had more courage, I would have said: but you know I love you, you know I admire you. Don’t make me say it again.
‘Come to Me’ by Kārlis Vērdinš, translated by Ieva Lešinka
I love you. There. I love you. We are two young and selfish people, and this relationship has been a roller coaster ride, and I do not expect it to get easier. But oh, let’s be tender and oh, let’s be kind. Let’s see where this journey takes us, my darling. There are so many miles in our feet and so many tales in our mouths. I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.
Sometimes, when feeling lost, one of us says, ‘What are the most important things?’ And the other one replies, ‘You and writing.’
Okay. Okay. I love you. Lace up your shoes, darling, we are set for a new adventure
since the thing perhaps is / to eat flowers and not to be afraid
* * *
August 8th, Day Sixty-Nine: Juggling.
Juggling was not something I had ever attempted before, so this was bound to be an adventure in its full sense (i.e. ‘an undertaking with the inherent risk of everything going wrong’). I decided to take three Royal Gala apples (the red ones with slight vertical stripes of a darker shade) (that is important) and turn to the Internet for instruction.
The first video I used to educate myself was ‘How to Juggle Three Balls’ which gave basic guidelines but not nearly enough detail. Yes, I can stand with my feet shoulder width apart and arms bent at a 90° angle. No, simultaneously throwing and catching three balls is not equally simple and does require further instructions.
The second video was ‘Tutorial – Learn How To Juggle 3 Balls’ by Niels Duinker. Duinker is a professional comedy juggler and also holds three Guinness World Records. There is no doubt about him knowing his art, but the immediate impression is that of necessary and regular practice if you want to get anywhere near juggling. Even if it is just a ‘Flash’ you are trying to attempt.
I managed to juggle two balls (apples) well enough, but adding the third sent my Royal Gala flying everywhere. Clearly, a single practice does not cut it, alas. The apples are now somewhat bruised but still edible, and I have a newfound appreciation of multitasking.
Current album: Belle and Sebastian, Belle and Sebastian Write About Love
Current book: Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls
Current TV series: Hustle, Series 1 (2004)