there is light somewhere
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness
there is light somewhere
there is light somewhere
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness
I could tell you about the group of students behind us who were arguing loudly about what playlist to play, but I couldn’t tell you what songs they ended up picking. I’d tell you about how heavy the wine felt in my bag, thinking, it never used to be this hard to just sit and look at the clouds in silence.
I could try to explain how safe I felt lying on the grass with my head on his chest. Our hands almost touching but never quite. How I didn't think about exit velocity for the first time in weeks.
What I wouldn't say is that I've known the thrills of a summer romance long enough to recognize an expiration date when I see one -even one as prettily fashioned up into a fantasy as this. Maybe, especially, this.
What I'd keep quiet is the indomitable fear, the red light blinking on both our foreheads screaming run while you can damnit.
What I wouldn't admit, really even to myself, is that the cost of trying is high but the price to pay six months from now will be ten times higher. That I’ve never been good with numbers but relativity endlessly fascinates me, and there’s absolutely nothing relative about this.
I’d push that down, talk about the clouds a little longer.
I’d lie about all of it, maybe, especially this.
Weeks later, lounging on a deckchair in the beach town where I spent most of my childhood, I will try to twist my own arm and memory in an effort to shift the unshiftable. How safe is safe, anyway. How red a red flag.
How deep the need for lips on a forehead, and not having to explain my favorite jokes all over again to somebody new. The ache for a familiar set of footsteps and for a cologne that smells like Sunday mornings in hazy bedroom light. The yearning for a head on my spare pillow, or better yet using his arm as my pillow.
How broken the fantasy, how fixable the puzzle pieces.
What can you compromise, and what is beyond repair.
Bianca will say to me, don’t underestimate what it means to be an animal. Which is to say, nothing makes us feel more evolved than playing at suppressing our most primal instincts and needs, when in fact the suppressing is the very thing that leaves us drunk and crying on the bathroom floor at 4 in the morning on a Wednesday. Animals we are, and animals we must remain.
Don’t forget why you went out looking for it in the first place, but don’t underestimate the simple human value of an arm around your shoulders and sharing a pizza with someone who knows you well enough to let you have the last slice. How much lighter leaving the restaurant feels when you know exactly where you’re headed after.
Wild at heart, animals nevertheless.
I could tell you about the panicked voice messages I sent when I put two and two together, how I didn’t sleep at all that night. My nails bitten to the point of swelling and my dairy-intolerant skin stressed from all the yogurts I’ve been swapping my meals for in an effort to fit into the dress I know he likes.
I could tell you about the way I obsessively re-wrote the very first text after that night, or re-read the same words I’ve been going over since June to absolutely no avail.
What I’d keep quiet is the indomitable fear, and my heart wanting always a tiny bit more than it can handle.
What I wouldn’t admit is that knowing the ending doesn’t make me want to stay for the movie any less.
this whole album, holy shit
I leave my job in exactly a month. And the country, technically, at least for a while. My brain is a mess of jumbled words and night terrors, and there will be a time for unraveling that but for now there’s only the stretch of sky in front of my bedroom window and the heavy weight of the ground under my feet. The ache in my muscles and the chocolate covered ginger bites in my bag. The chat on my phone that I’ve pretended not to open all day.
The deep breaths I’m forcing myself to take with every walk home.
These summer evenings, whatever may follow.
These lighter months, whatever may follow.
Whatever may follow.
It’s in the title track, the last chapter, the half-sung praise for everyone that follows.
The coffee he made and left on my nightstand on a Sunday morning spoiled by the fact that he’d done the same for her just weeks prior. The late night argument over which Kanye album was the last good Kanye album. That afternoon his stupidly precious Alexa refused to play his favorite song unless he asked her in an accent, and how I laughed so hard I thought I might have cracked my freshly-healed ribs. That December evening, how I must have already known.
Afterwards, he said he saw me in a dream.
I thought of that Jenny Holzer quote and that late night at the Tate Modern, and I wanted to cry.
I’d packed the dress for Paris, the first time, and even tried it on at one point -but could never bring myself to do it. It was too tight, I told myself, and I’d had a lot of croissants.
And the thing is -there’s a lot of baggage that comes with that sentence. Most of it is shitty and all of it is dangerous, but sometimes all it asks for is to be left alone long enough to disappear of its own volition.
So I let it.
I let the thought come and go as it needed, toxic and terrifying as it might be, because it felt better than admitting it’d be a long time before I could wear that dress without thinking of him. I’d rather blame the croissants, any day.
It took two months and three planes out of the country for it to click.
But it did, eventually.
There was a different man, on a different evening, who looked at me the way some people do on a cold spring evening in a city that’s inspired more poems than my granddad could recite by memory -and my granddad can recite a lot of poems. He wore familiar glasses and a loopy smile, and made the kind of jokes that I was desperate for. Kind. Clever. Light.
Light, light, light.
That’s what I resolved for, that evening in Paris. More jokes, more croissants. Less pressure, less guilt.
One more hand at the game. More chances for it to spin the right way.
I still maintain that Pablo was Kanye’s last good album.
I went back to the Jenny Holzer exhibit all by myself.
I wore the fucking dress, and I didn’t crack once.
“You made me who I am today, Nanni. All this might as well be in my head, and in my head it stays. But I've lived and loved by your light alone. In a bus, on a busy street, in class, in a crowded concert hall, once or twice a year, whether for a man or a woman, my heart still jolts when I spot your look-alike.” — André Aciman
It is not the union, but the separation. Of that, I am convinced.
I am never more interested in the multitudes of the human heart than I am months, years after their first passing, obsessively scouring my memory for scraps and clues. Misplaced, tampered with, perhaps a little more rock’n’roll than I left them. Never untouched, but forever unmoved.
Something happens to memories examined: they turn sour for a moment as they land their blow, as I chew on them with the fervour of a starved woman longing to taste the sweetness she knows, knows will follow. It always does.
I’ve been looking my whole life for a taste half as sweet as lost love, but I never came close.
It’s the naivety of blossoming love. A devotion I would die for in any other form but know I will not find, for by the time I turn to look, it’s gone for good. And it endlessly fascinates me, ‘how we move through time, how time moves through us, how we change and keep changing and come back to the same’.
Given a chance, given a chance, given a chance.
Would they survive, given a chance. Would they snap under pressure. Precious little things, marks on their throats right there where their hearts sit, would they make it.
You and me, but also: the people in the novel on my nightstand, the ones in the songs I play on snowy days, in stories that leave me frozen in my seat long after the credits have rolled? Would the boy in the story I can’t not come back to, even after all this time, even after all I know?
In another life -or perhaps a parallel one- they’d stand a chance.
The red string would bend but not snap. I’d pay more attention to my words on that very first week, on the flight home, on the night I slept on your floor and she in your sister’s room. The following August, I would meet you where I said I would instead of pretending not to hear your ringtone in my pocket as our friends’ laughter echoed in the empty square. Fast-forward a couple of years and maybe I wouldn’t lose your number, so I’d have something to remember you by other than the knowledge that your mother named you after a composer I cannot stand and the faint memory of your arm around my stomach, the boat rocking us and your brother calling from the shore. That night in the bar painted red and gold, we would speak of something other than that one author you don’t like and oranges in summertime. Two years later, I would walk back out to the smoking area just in time to catch you leaving, and wouldn't spend the journey home crying on the N8 thinking, how the hell did I let it get this far. That same summer, I wouldn’t chicken out before the clock rang 4AM, or lie to everybody’s face the following morning. Six months later, I would say yes to Paris. I would, I would, I would.
The revelation is in the separation, you see.
Multitudes of the human heart, forever unmoved. But never, never the same.
“Our star life, yours with mine. As someone said over dinner once, each of us is given at least nine versions of our lives, some we guzzle, others we take tiny, timid sips from, and some our lips never touch.”
Saw Bon Iver in concert last night. Have been in a state of trance ever since.
Pure, pure magic.
Someone told me recently, I should make space for love before I go looking for it.
But there's clothes at the foot of my bed since I can never remember to hang them up, and empty breakfast plates on the floor since I never have time to put them away. I sometimes switch my phone off for hours on end and I am a terrible, terrible texter. I hate making Sunday plans because there’s nothing I love more than the golden stretch of morning that is mine, mine, only mine. I hate sharing desserts, and I hate sharing my time. I don't own a spare toothbrush, I always run out of milk and sometimes I look at my thighs as if they were separated from the rest of my body.
Planning takes energy, but making space takes a village.
He says all the right things. I play all the right moves.
Soon enough we’re dancing in circles and promise we’ll only stop when somebody comes looking.
Afterwards, I will say I didn't really mean any of it. It’s a lie and we both know it is. He won’t call me out because his arm feels nice around my waist, so, who’s keeping score anyway. A friend will loudly remark: ‘Oh, isn’t the beginning just so wonderful!’ —but that’s a lie, too. Which is it say, beginnings absolutely are, but that’s absolutely not what this is.
It’s the nostalgia of it, the pretense that under different circumstances we could almost keep the game going. The sobering reality of a loud crash somewhere near the kitchen, someone yelling out my name, his name lost in my mouth, my phone refusing to charge, glass breaking under our feet and that fucking song stuck in our heads.
The nonchalance with which we lie to ourselves.
It’s the fleeting moment at four in the morning on a Sunday in an overheated, overcrowded flat in Camden, almost letting myself believe that his fingers tracing my back could still mean what I so desperately wanted them to only half an hour ago. Or was it two hours. Or have we just been going through the motions this whole time.
Maybe it was the moment I spotted him leaning against the fridge and thought, I guess tonight is as good a time as any to make sure I never forget what he looks like with his hand on the back of my neck.
We only falter when we forget.
We only remember when the music stops, and oh god , isn’t that ironic.
Hugging a lamppost in solidarity with 17 year old me who used to live two streets down from this glorious establishment and spent many a night there, naively downing 3€ shots (lol) and excitedly making plans that she had exactly 0 chances of seeing through.
She used to go by a different name and dream of very different things, but as I walk the same streets all these years later I’m reminded that really, all she wanted was a tiny spark of magic. Back then it meant mattresses on rooftops and kisses under arches, cameras rolling and desperately loving anyone who’d admit to feeling the same. A language I’d come to claim as my own and one I would look for on every stranger’s lips (as I type this sentence I realize that in therapy this is what they call a breakthrough, and holy shit).
These days, I’ve given up on the show. I look for quiet magic instead. A letter from my grandad, a dog licking my cheek. Warm baths on a friday evening and really bad chinese food on the wonky piano at tottenham court road long after the last train has left. Still, I carry the lines I’d memorized for our final scene and the one our teacher spoke that july afternoon, and I know I owe them everything.
Also good to know I’m just as partial to a diy experiment resulting in accidental red hair at 25 as I was at 17. Watch me do it all over again.
We took about 1000 photos that evening on the balcony, as I fixed my hair and sucked in my stomach and tried to think of anything other than the fact that March made me sadder than I‘d been in months; which is to say the words printed on my eyelids were cruel but familiar, and sometimes pushing back is a bitch but that only makes it so much more important; which is to say I love this picture because I look like my mom, and I look happy because I was, and all things considered that’s good enough.
We got all dressed up ‘cause we were supposed to go to a boat party but it turned out to be closed down so we sat in front of the eiffel tower and drank wine and took polaroids and if it all sounds too chic it’s only because we got drunk and went to mcdonald’s right after. I lost a shoe. I didn’t think cruel words once.
It’s my heart beating a little too fast, threatening to spill out of my ribcage.
My feet moving but always in circles, thoughts spinning in a blur of tentative ‘why’s and ‘how’s and ‘what is this trying to teach me’s but never able to give any answers.
If pressed, I’d admit it’s the fear I get on a January night when the light hits just so, eyes damp and the smell of vanilla burning from the window sill. It’s the fear that follows every other night, when the notes aren’t flowing and something has been stuck in my throat long before my lips touched the second cream cheese bagel I ate in a frenzy after 2AM because I just, couldn’t think.
Lately it’s been a hand on my shoulder. Soothing the hurt, keeping me sane.
You trace your lips on my knuckles and trail your fingers down my back. I promise in turn, I’ll keep this feeling as safe as I can.
It’s a fragile feeling, you see. It puts one foot in front of the other, but never seems to put them down quite right. It’s an anxious feeling. Its breath catches from time to time and it can never find the right words. It spent months warily wishing for a sign, then wanting to be heard, or felt, or just acknowledged long enough to make a home in a hidden corner of my heart while I wasn’t looking.
I remember where I was when it finally did.
I’d promised I would cook so I spent forty minutes on the phone to my mother while she explained how to make a risotto for the hundredth time, then downed two shots of vodka while waiting for the doorbell to ring because my hands were shaking and I couldn’t stop pacing. The risotto was edible. The feeling was there. Hours later I sat on a white pillow with my head in your lap and my legs dangling off the couch, and as Streets of Philadelphia played through the speakers I felt my resolve crumble faster than you could say ‘this is where I ask you to stay’.
So fragile. But it was there, right then, in the corner of my heart it claimed as its own while I was too busy laughing like a kid and snorting into my glass, so happy it hurt.
It’s months later now and it’s up to me to keep it safe. To protect it when someone takes a swing, keep it warm when the nights get cold. Guide it back when it wants to run free, which is often. Guide it home when it wants to destroy everything that’s good, which is not as often as it used to be because, look at that, progress.
This much I can promise.
A shaky rib cage and a fearful heart, willing to put in the work they need to for this whole thing not to crumble. A snorting laugh and the certainty that given a drink and the opportunity, I will inevitably spill it on the nearest white shirt. More dog pictures than you will know what to do with. Burnt toast, but really good coffee. The fact that I’ll wait too long to introduce you to my friends, but when I do, they will all love you. The knowledge that this fragile feeling grows a little stronger every time you rest your head on my shoulder or your hand on the small of my back. That I breathe a little easier every time I go to check and find it right where I left it, where I can protect it, where I want it to be.
It might not be everything, but I think it might be enough.
In short, yellow makes me happy and so does drinking cocktails in fancy hotel loos. February made me the happiest and saddest I’ve been in months, but on the first Tuesday in March I wore my favorite jumpsuit and felt real pretty and laughed and laughed and laughed, and cried a little bit but only at the emotional bits of the night. I sent myself a voice memo on the cab ride home that went something like this, please remember these moments. I know you’re feeling partly crappy and mostly overwhelmed right now, but you will want to kick yourself months down the line if you waste these nights away. celebrate yourself, tonight and tomorrow and in three years. when you think of how far you’ve come and how magical it felt to walk an artist your dad admires more than most through the crowd of tables and mic stands, how freeing to sit where you stood all those years ago at your very first, very shitty catering jobs, how special to know you survived it all.
“The post-it is a metaphor, Kristi,” I yell.
We met three hours and a few drinks ago, after she texted the WhatsApp group asking if anyone else needed company on this sunny but stupidly lonely Sunday.
It’s the first warm day of the year and I’m wearing the only item of clothing I own with superimposed French text on it, because ‘drama queen’ wasn’t only my MSN screen name when I was fourteen but also very much a life choice I committed to then and clearly haven’t since renounced.
On any other day, I’d almost find it funny.
All the dreams were held so close
Seemed to all go up in smoke
Let me whisper in your ear
There ain't a woman that comes close to you
Come on baby dry your eyes
Angie, ain't it good to be alive
24 was fun.
I broke two ribs! Read a lot of books! Ate more meals than I skipped, sang out-of-tune songs in bed with Fab, had sunday rituals with myself and heard the words ‘You’re doing good’ for the first time in a while.
It was more work and less sleep than I thought I could get used to, but also -not as hard as I’m used to. I didn’t break, I didn’t heal. I didn't —lose— myself. I stopped trying to —find— myself.
24 started with Helena and Kristi surprising me with tiramisu & balloons and ended with me surprising even myself, because holy hell, there’s a lot of stuff I could have fucked up by now and somehow still haven’t.
Sometimes not for lack of trying, but I guess there’s poetry in that, too. Just like there’s poetry in scary nights, and messy parts, and crying with your head in the toilet on the morning of your twentyfifth birthday, because it all works out in the end but that’s never going to be what’s interesting, so.
I made a wish. I’ve had leftover cake every day for a week. Life is fine. Fine, I tell you.
Accidentally wandered into an old bookshop, serendipitously found a Stones biog I haven’t read.
Page 64: “Mick and Keith at the time were living in Hampstead, at 10 Holly Hill.”
I walk out of the café, turn right, and, well.
I am so in love with my little corner of the city it sometimes stops my breath —but sometimes it’s for a different reason. Both are mine, mine, mine. And I am grateful, grateful, grateful.