Winter serenade

I’m sitting at my table, browsing the Internet and waiting for him to call and tell me he’s downstairs. My stomach and my thighs feel tense and my lips are pursed and my jaw stiff. I can see myself from the outside but I still cannot relax. I am so afraid of a tragedy I think it would take a miracle to avoid it, with my strong attraction force.

What if he changes his mind? This is his first time too and he is clearly uncomfortable and weird about he whole thing. What if my first Valentine’s date ever doesn’t even happen…

Then I hear something at the window and I think some snow must have fallen off the roof down on the terrace below. And then I hear it again, a little stronger. And again, much stronger. I start thinking the radiator might be slowly and almost quietly exploding, piece by piece. So I reluctantly get up and, before I get next to the window, I have this whole film in my head about hot water splashing everywhere and pieces of radiator metal stuck in my flesh and my first Valentine’s Day date ever fucked. (Perfect word choice, I know.)

I get to the window, grab the curtain and pull it away from the radiator to check it out. I am looking down and, from the corner of my eye, I see movement downstairs, in front of the terrace. I look up and see him waving at me.

I start laughing. I know now his phone is dead and realize he’s been throwing snow at my window. Nobody’s ever thrown snow at my window to call me out. I like that. The dead phone is the best gift. I am giggling as I am going down the stairs and I know it’s gonna be the best Valentine’s date ever. (Especially since I have none other to compare it to and it is actually happening.)

Freedom and power. Fuel in my journey

Freedom has always been extremely important to me. I remember my childhood, full of restrictions and frustrations and my incapacity to understand why they were being placed on me, since most of them seemed improper, irrational and unfair. Not being allowed to stay outside after 9 pm, getting punished for coming home wet after playing in the snow, not being allowed to play with other children from the neighboring houses when I was visiting my father’s parents, being forced to eat food I resented, not being allowed to cross the one way street in front of our block of flats until a certain age, not being allowed to leave the house for a week when my father was upset with me.

“I can’t wait to come of age and leave home”, I remember telling my best friend in childhood. I must’ve been under the age of ten. We were taking a walk through the gardens surrounding some neighboring blocks of flats in our street. Independence street.

And so I did. I came of age and I left home. Packed my bags, put everything in my father’s old red Audi 80, took my boyfriend with me and had my father drive us to the capital city, where I was starting my university studies. We made a stop on the way to do some shopping for my new home – a rented studio not far from the city center, that belonged to my high school desk mate.

I can still feel that heaviness in my heart when I remember my mother’s eyes, trying to hold back her tears as she was kissing me goodbye before getting into the car and driving back to our home town. I was finally free.

A few days later, when my boyfriend had to return to our home town to his job and I was left totally alone for the very first time in my life, I was crying my heart out in my empty studio and made the decision to walk to university and back home every day so that I had less time on my hands to feel alone. A period of long walks and intense study started. Then friends and parties and beers and laughter. And freedom paid off.

“When I am not in a relationship, I am free to do whatever I want, with whoever I want”, my cancer boy tells me rolling on his belly and hiding his eyes, his cheeks red and a tremble in the tough muscles of his arms giving him away.

And all of a sudden I remember my long marriage and all my affairs and all the lies and all the loneliness and all the unhappiness and the desire for freedom. Had I given up on my freedom? Had I made my ex husband give up on his? Is this what I do? Am I so possessive and insecure that I take away people’s freedom?

And I also remember sitting on a park bench with a former lover and friend and giving a speech about how wonderful it is to feel so free as to have sex with anyone you find attractive and not form attachments, but keep free and affectionate at the same time. And I remember the violent storm that burst out in my lover’s chest and how the pulling of strings from my heart felt so painful. And my guilt. And the strong and clear feeling that I broke something precious and rare and ever so sensitive. Something that I can never put back together again, no matter how hard I might try.

“No”, I reply. “I am free and you are free. We are both free people. I am not willing to give up on my freedom. And I don’t want you to give up on yours. A relationship is not about losing your freedom. It is about being free to choose to be with one person. And this is a choice you don’t only make once, but every day for as long as you are in that relationship. In my freedom, I choose to be with you. And if you need to have sex with other people too, you don’t ignore your need and don’t give up on your freedom. You find a partner who can accept that. You are always free.”

2016 has been the year of my freedom. And in this freedom my personal power could grow more than ever before. And from my increased personal power has come even more freedom. And love. Unconditional love. This is the fuel in my life journey and the purpose and the destination. Love is my motivation. It is unconditional love that I wish to stabilize and serve with my great personal strength. Inshallah.

The dating nightmare

i am the designer of my own catastrophy dating nightmare

It’s the second day after my return from my birthday trip in Turkey and all the adventures I’ve gone through (some of which I still have not written about). I’ve got two theater tickets as a birthday present from a friend. Before leaving, this guy I met at an outdoor party earlier this autumn, the friend of a friend, wants to set up a date, so I tell him about the tickets and invite him to the theater in a week’s time. It’s Sunday night and I put on a black dress, a shiny cardigan and my oriental perfume, I pick up my oriental purse and I go down the stairs, my right eye still purple and yellow, my mind still wandering among fairy chimneys in Cappadocia and my heart still with Shams in Konya. I don’t want to be here. And I don’t want to be there. I just want to disappear.

He’s waiting in front of his car and when I come close, he kisses my cheeks and I hug him. We get into the car and start talking. I’m making efforts to be here. He’s a truly nice guy. The kind you want to settle down with. He’s determined to be serious and detached, a bit too detached perhaps. I tell myself the lack of chemistry is just a byproduct of my aloofness. We can get over it. If we are planning to take a nap together maybe. Or just have endless, serious and intelligent conversations about important life issues.

It’s still early, so we leave the car close to a park and take a short walk together before going into the theater. It’s a fine night and I’m feeling beautiful, independent and smart. It’s not one of those dates when you try hard to impress the other one or are feeling in any way inadequate or there’s a teasing war going on, making all your muscles tense. I’m feeling perfectly fine. And not at all attracted to my date. Unfortunately.

We get to the theater, leave our coats on the same hanger at the cloakroom, I wait for him as he goes to the rest room and abandon the thought of visiting the place myself when I see the long queue of women moving slowly, all shiny and perfect and bored. We then get in and find our seats. They’re very well placed and I enjoy lifting my feet as the seat balances under me, lowering my ass and bringing my knees close to my chest. The room is full and I can’t say I like the vibe of the audience.

The play begins. This old couple at night, in their beds. He wants to leave her. She’s snoring. He brutally wakes her up. They start a fight. “You’re an ass. You’ve never been more than an ass! That’s what you are!” he screams and the word “ass” reverberates in all the chair seats, making us all feel a bit guilty for hearing it. They’ve been together for thirty something years and know exactly what to expect from the each other. After fighting all night, they decide to stay together. Because they conclude being alone is worse than being unhappy in their crappy marriage.

I keep startling when this horrible song starts, although the moment is predictable, announced by a short silence on the part of the actors and the lights going down. I hate it so much that I have to cover up my ears and crouch in my seat, trying to make myself smaller as if by occupying less space my body could feel less present. My date, sitting on my left, looks at me from time to time and giggles from a safe distance. People are laughing at the stupid, vulgar fight and I am truly horrified. The only thing that could be remotely funny (if it weren’t painfully ironic) is the fact that I’m actually here on a date.

“Oh, God! I shout when we finally get out. We need a drink now. A shot! A couple of shots! Although I never drink shots. I really need that now! Jesus Christ! What was that?” I continue and I can’t help thinking it’s like a terrible, cruel, ironical, brutally honest preview of what our potential life together might come to. “Ok, God, got it. Thanks for not wasting my time by being too diplomatic.” I secretly tell Him as we’re heading for the old town in search of a pub.

We sit down in this place and I’m having my first mulled wine cup this autumn. He makes an indirect apology about not having ironed his shirt properly and we continue discussing about our lives prior to our first encounter. We make confessions and ask questions and it is interesting but not at all attractive. There’s this distance. As if we were interviewing each other. I, for my book writing. He, for his film making. So when he drops me off in front of my house and says we should do this again, I hesitate…

“Come on, you are there, I am here… You are my friend. My miracle friend”, the Konyan brother Shams brought on my very last day in Konya texts me the next day and I am crying my heart out as I call a friend to complain about my terrible loneliness. “What is wrong with me?” I ask. “Why can’t I be loved?!”

“I think you are a bit crazy…” the Turkish physicist tells me three weeks later, while petting my knee over a glass of red wine in an English pub close to my home.

“Really? Me? Why?” I ask feeling very curious about the way he perceives me. Two years and a half younger, drop dead gorgeous and very smart, he makes me enjoy his public displays of affection.

“Well, with all these adventures, travelling alone, living alone with your cat… You know… Usually people want a family now. Get married, have kids, that sort of thing…”

“Well, the cat is 13, so I’ve had her since before I was single. And I want a family, too”, I quickly reply. “And kids. Three. And I have been married, so it’s not like I haven’t tried that, too.”

“Really? I never knew.”

“You never asked.”

“I know… I am sorry. How long were you married? When did you get a divorce? Why didn’t you have kids?” he follows and I see it in his eyes how I’m becoming more and more interesting and less crazy as I’m answering his questions.

“You really have tried… For almost half of your life…” he concludes feeling impressed.

We like each other’s company and we respect each other for being awesome, smart, funny and hot. And proud. Still, it seems too difficult to find the time to meet. Too often things just seem to come up – the gym, a friend’s birthday, cinema with friends, time mismanagement. (“What is this? Is he in kindergarten or what?!” a friend asks as I confess about the troubles. Or “I can’t believe you haven’t figured it out yet. He’s lying, of course. You’re just an option for him. Do the same.” another friend advises.) And I do get the feeling complete honesty has not (yet?) settled in. Moreover, I feel like being bitchy and I hate that. I hate having to play games and beating about the bush. I can do it only too well. But it bores me to death and I am too impatient for it.

“Come for wine”, the creepy Canadian guy texts me at 2 am, before I finally decide to block him, after too much harassment. The first person I’ve ever had to block. And although our encounter was so brief and shallow, I still feel he’s come too close and I want to do some sort of cleaning to get rid of all his slimy traces in my life.

“What’s your work schedule?” is another kind of text I get from this other guy who finds me on Facebook “by magic”, as he says. Exactly my age. Seems nice and would like to meet up with him, only he never asks. The sign of cancer. I can actually feel he’s writing to me before the message beeps and my phone vibrates in my pocket. Our conversations are official and polite, sounding more like a job interview. And then, after a week of texting, he just disappears. “Do you think he’s read my blog and freaked out?” I ask another former lover turned into a dear friend. “No, my dear, your blog is fabulous. If he’s read it, he must really want to meet you.” she tries to encourage me, but I know brutal honesty, a sharp mind and balls are a total turn off for most men out there. (Sorry, guys!)

So yesterday, as I’m watching my fifth episode from “Divorce”, still in my pyjamas, there’s a loud knock on the door. And another one before I get up and hesitantly make it to the door. I sense danger. I know there can only be my neighbours and friends downstairs, who also own the house. Or the police. (I don’t know why I think of that, though.) I open the door and my neighbour is looking at my messy hair, feeling slightly amused by my apparition.

“Hi. There’s this guy downstairs who insists to see you. Says you’re not answering him. Or your phone is shut down.”

And by the time he finishes talking I know exactly who the guy is and I am so angry and shocked (although I did get the feeling he might do something like this), that I don’t know the exact words I use when I reply and apologise for the mess, assuring him I’ll call and talk to the guy.

I close the door, pick up my phone and being so damn furious makes it so difficult to use it, so I feel it takes forever before I hear the guy’s voice and want to smash his face with his phone. So I congratulate myself for not going downstairs to meet him. It all started a week ago, in a pub where I’m with other dancers from the contact improvisation Saturday evening class.

“I’m going home. Do you wanna come with me?” I ask the 29 year old German guy travelling and working with Syrian refugees.  The Turkish physicist is forty minutes late, so I’ve just canceled our date and I’m angry.

“Oh, my God. I am overwhelmed. Yes… You are so beautiful, really.” and a few minutes later he apologises and says he’s actually felt a connection with another girl. I laugh and back off.

This other guy, who’s come to the pub for me, decides we are going to take a walk together. I hesitate. I know he’s a bit crazy. I suspect schizophrenia. I reluctantly agree, so we end up spending a few hours together, since I’ve got no better plan. I figure it’s a learning experience – taking a peek into another kind of reality.

“Hey, how are you? I want to talk. Let’s have a coffee.” he says and I just want to kill him now, after a week of turning down his invitations and avoiding all contact.

I am screaming in the phone and I don’t know when or even if I was so angry before. I am sure my neighbors can hear me and I find that embarrassing. But I still can’t help shouting at him. This feels so close to being raped. Having my space invaded like this. And being asked to give explanations and account for things that have nothing to do with other people except me. So I state my freedom and defend it loudly and bravely. He still accuses me of not being brave enough to face him. I remind myself the guy is not all there, but don’t ease up on the firmness. By the time I hang up, half an hour later, I am calmer, but still shocked. He promises never to bother me again.

The force with which I repeat to him again and again that I have no reason to give any sort of explanation or answer any questions or see anyone I don’t want to see is something I’ll be forever grateful for. Still, my whole body seems to have gone through a storm and now I’m trying to recover, outrage still pouring out of my fingertips as I’m typing all this. He accuses me of being cynical. A couple of hours later, I’m wondering if I have become a heartless monster.

Earlier in the day, my former lover in Istanbul, now a very dear friend, sent me a message telling me that a mutual friend’s mother had just died in a hospital in Syria. And he is worried about our friend, who hasn’t seen his mother in years, but is in so much pain himself that he cannot get out of the house to see him. I send our friend a message and all the love I am capable of. And again I wonder about the way our lives are intersecting and the part Syria and Turkey are playing in my own story.

And although I was planning to go out to a concert, I change my mind and stay in, so I later light candles, make myself dinner and eat it alone in my bed, after spending the day in my pyjamas, having watched quite a few episodes from “Divorce” on HBO online. And then the very first episode from “Sex and the City”. Worst choices. And I think life can be worse than deciding to eat dinner alone in your bed on a Sunday evening, in your cosy house, next to your purring cat.

Many of my friends who are married and have kids, after initially pitying me for the divorce, are now envious of my freedom.

“But you have kids and that is so beautiful. And someone to share your life with.” I usually tell them. Or “You are pregnant, wow, congratulations…” and my eyes become wet.

“Yes, but look at you. You are young and beautiful and smart. You can do whatever you want. You can travel. You can date. You are free. Your time belongs only to yourself.” they explain trying to convince me my life is better than theirs.

And then I say hey, Joe, take a walk on the wild side…


PS Took the photo on the theater date night, in a window in the old city.

A Canadian date. A story of pride and failure


It takes me a while to find the restaurant, after a short stop to do my shopping: dish detergent, makeup remover and nail polish, urgently needed, now hiding in my bag. That’s how serious I’m taking this night – it’s on the ‘to do’ list: plan lessons, deliver lessons, do shopping, go on a date. When I get in, I notice the size of the place and how full it is. I can’t help thinking I might bump into someone I know. I immediately spot him, although he’s sitting with his back turned to the entrance. I think it’s odd to sit with your back at the entrance when you’re waiting to meet someone for the first time, but I don’t bother with that now. He’s sitting at a small table with tall chairs. I go directly to his table and my hand reaches out to him.

“It’s cold” he says shaking my hand. “You’re so wrapped up” he continues without getting up.

“Yeah”, I reply unbuttoning my coat, putting my bag on the chair in front of him and searching for a place to hang my coat.

“Try over there” he says pointing to a wall nearby, still not getting up.

He looks the way I thought he would – short and cold and struggling to be proud. After meeting Turkish men though, watching other men attempting to be proud is so hilarious. It’s like stuffing your bra with socks and walking around as if those were your real boobs.

I sit down next to him and he passes the menu. Small, white, cold hands, unattractive. They look old, although he says he’s thirty. Blue eyes. A two day beard look. Tight blouse and slim jeans, revealing the perfect results of regular gym workout. And I have a hunch there’s some relevant drawback he’s trying so hard to make up for.

“I was thinking of wine. What do you normally drink?” he asks.

“Well, I don’t normally drink, but wine sounds good.”

“You don’t drink at all? No alcohol?”

“I don’t drink so often, but it’s ok, I’ll have wine tonight.”

“Ok, I’m looking at this Merlot, but I don’t understand, it seems so complicated with all these flavors – chocolate, cinnamon, fruits, it’s crazy, too many things. What kind would you like? I know women usually prefer white.”

“I prefer red. Dry.” I reply and check the menu and find this simple red wine, with a nice description of flavor – dry plums, raisins and cinnamon. Sounds perfect for this time of year. “This one, it’s more simple and straightforward, I think. And autumn- winterish.”

“Ok, I’ll go for that one as well”, he says.

For someone who claims to be writing, he’s so severed from life. Like he’s put himself behind a thick wall. I look at him and I sense fear and that he’s hiding something. I don’t buy his story with the sabbatical year and his private blogging. I’m not sure if I should believe his story about having worked for an oil company in Texas, either. Or that he lives in Calgary, Canada.

“I’m sorry I’m asking so many questions, but, you know, I write… I feel I cannot trust you”, I tell him with my brutal honesty.

“Really?” He says sounding so surprised.

“Yeah, it feels like you’re not telling me something. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you everything about my life, either. It’s just that I feel you’re not open and seem so separate from what’s going on.”

“I don’t really understand what you mean”, he says feeling more and more uncomfortable. “You’re looking at me so inquisitively”, he adds, grabbing and squeezing my hand gawkily. I escape the touch and recuperate my hand, placing it under my left armpit for a while, to warm it up after the cold encounter.

He changes position and his knees are now touching my legs more and more insistently, but I almost don’t notice it and cannot be bothered.

“It’s easier for you to travel alone. You’re a man.” I tell him without feeling any traces of envy.

“Yes, for women it’s more complicated. You have your makeup, your shoes, clothes, everything.” he replies and for a moment there I hope it’s a joke. When I realize it’s not, I try to explain what I mean in an effort to build a bridge, but the construction stops halfway in midair.

“Couch surfing has become an unofficial dating site”, he informs me.

“I still think maybe you should try to find people on couch surfing to travel or meet up with if you want to explore Romania.” I advise him enthusiastically.

“Maybe I can go with you”, he offers trying to tempt me without the slightest chance of success. “Muslim countries are not interesting for me”, he continues.

“Why not?”

“Because I cannot find women there. Dating women is an important part of my travels. In the Philippines I was an attraction. They all want mixed babies. I’ve never made a woman pregnant. It was hard. I could never go unnoticed.” he says sounding almost upset in his attempt to cover his synthetic pride like silicone plumped lips under a nude lipstick.

I talk a lot, giving more information than I would and should normally give, attempting to make him feel more comfortable and open up and give both of us a chance. Nothing works. He’s so much in his head and nothing, absolutely nothing seems to surprise him or move him in a visible or even slightly perceivable way –bike fall, journey, threats, sexual orientation, risks, relationships. You name it. Nothing opens the door.

“Your center seems to be in Turkey. Everything is around Turkey for you. Any marriage proposals you got in Turkey?”

“Not really. Or maybe just one, indirectly. Anyway, I was almost like a star. All I needed to do was to be out of the house, that’s all.” I reply.

“So here I guess you have to put on a short skirt or something to get that kind of attention” he continues.

I ask questions and I pay more attention to the way he’s answering them than to what he is saying and, before finishing up the last sip of red wine from the bottom of the fat glasses, sex comes and lands on the table, like a big fat slice of meat still bleeding.

“Do you like crazy things, awkward things? What attracts you in men? Do you like women? The fact that we are here is because of biological reasons, not logical. It is nature’s way of telling us we can have valid offspring. For reproduction. That is what motivates us, even if we are not conscious of that. That means that your eggs are good.”

“I like Romanian women because they don’t wear a bra. Do you?”

“I do.”

“Oh, what a pity.”

“Yes, I know. But I have to. I get too much unsolicited attention anyway.”

“Do you keep fit?” he asks, his hand sliding under my cardigan and trying to pinch my abdomen. “You didn’t show me how you look”, he insists leaning backwards and checking me out from head to toe, like you would a horse you’ve just fed and are getting ready to ride.

“Really? Is that how you do it? Do you want me to stand up and make a pirouette for you?” I ask making it all a big fat joke.

“Yeah, so I can see your back, too”, he says eagerly.

I don’t bother to answer this time and I just laugh as if he’s just made a good joke.

And if I was trying to give him a chance, he totally blew it and by now I really want to go home and sleep. No, go home and write. I’m wasting my time on this stupid date and I have so much writing to do.

“Do you wanna come hang out at my place?”

“Sorry?” I ask, really surprised he’s actually still taking the risk of asking.

“Do you wanna go to my place?”

“I don’t think so, no, thanks though. I have to wake up at 6 in the morning and I’m tired. I’d better go home.”

“Come just for ten minutes, it’s just here, around the corner”, he insists.

Now why would I come just for ten minutes, really, I wonder. “No, thanks, I’m really going home.”

And after he pays the bill we get up and he hands me my coat, waits for me to put on my gloves and I take it from his hand and I put it on and as he heads for the door I’m following him at a safe distance. He opens the door and I can’t help thinking he’s not holding it for me and he’s getting out before me, leaving me to follow him behind.

He stops in front of the door outside, takes my hands in his and pulls me next to him, stretching his neck to reach my lips above my thick, fluffy scarf. I think it’s funny and I giggle. He doesn’t.

“I love your lips”, he says, placing small, quick and dry kisses on them, as if tasting some delicious cakes through the polished glass of the shop window. “And your nose. You’re so hot.”

I place my hands on his small shoulders and gently keep him at a distance. I’ve already told him I’m often too polite or shy or stupid to say no and I see he’s already taking advantage of that. So I smile and step back.

“Do you also have a big ass?” he asks, trying to grab it under my coat.

“I do.” I reply proudly and take a step backwards.

“You have big boobs. And you also have a big ass. Big everything?”

“No, just big boobs, big ass and a big mouth. That’s all.”

“And you also kiss with your eyes open.” he insists.

“Yes, when I’m getting ready to leave.”