Repunzel

“You’re serious? You think she merely exists to infatuate you?” he asks me, as though struggling to believe that I’m being serious.

“Well, maybe not to infatuate and please me, but I’m positive that she serves some purpose in my life. She was meant to trigger something in me. What that ‘something’ is, I don’t know. But I had to encounter her.”

I take a long gulp of my drink and order another. He mulls over what I’ve said, then lights a cigarette. A lukewarm silence dawdles between us for a short while.

“One question – what is it about her that fascinates you so much?”

I take a moment to think of how to condense a response into a few sentences.

“I guess it’s just her whole… aura. Everything about her, her interests are almost entirely likewise to mine, she’s wise and insightful and possesses this uniqueness about her. Just from the little I know about her I can tell she has a beautiful mind, a beautiful soul. I just wish she were a book for me to read and to take in. Not to mention she’s quite stunning in looks.”

He stares at me intently and nods his head, then stretches towards the ashtray on the table.
He’s an old friend from high-school whom I hadn’t seen in over 9 years. We’d decided to meet up at a bar towards the eastern side of Milan as he was on a business trip for two weeks, but normally he’d be situated in London with his fiance. I wasn’t too clued up on what exactly he did, but it had something to do with Consultancy, which from time to time required him to go abroad to meet particular clients. We’d kept in touch and when he found out he had to come to Italy  for business, he saw no better opportunity for us to meet in person.

“Well that’s fair enough I suppose. So you’ve met her?”

“Not quite ‘met’ as such, I saw her briefly a little while back at a library in Venice”

“You didn’t speak to her, no?”

I shake my head slowly.

 

***

There she was, standing right before me.

I came across her online blog which was filled with her writing; her opinions and thoughts and observations, primarily. She quoted many of my favourite authors and read books I had read or was yet to. She was into philosophy, abstract art, travelling, Greek mythology, theatre, history, musicians I was into such as Jimi Hendrix, Erykah Badu, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Tame Impala, Outkast, etc. She had this great, rare sense of humour, an open mind and an alluringly interesting view-point on most things. All this I analysed just from occasionally viewing her online blog. And each time I visited her blog, I found yet another thing we shared in common or discovered something new about her which would instantly provoke my interest.

And there she was.

It was the beginning of Summer, and I had managed to hitch a few days off of work, so in the spur of a moment I decided to pack a small bag and spend a weekend down in Venice. No concrete reasoning to my decision, it’s just something I felt like doing at that moment in time. I managed to do a lot of sight-seeing and treated myself to a little shopping. Nothing special. Just a few shirts and a couple novels. I stayed at a 4-star hotel and ate out at a different restaurant each night.

Sunday afternoon came, and after lunch I decided to visit the Venice Central Library. And that’s where I saw her. Unmistakably my eyes definitely beheld her right in front of me. She looked even more attractive in person. I froze for a while, speechless and rather astonished.

*

She’s stood by a bookshelf, skimming through the blurb of a Khaled Hosseini novel, and she walks off with the book, apparently intrigued enough to sit down with it. She’s wearing a simple sleeveless Summer dress and is barefoot. Her long legs stretch gorgeously as I watch her walk and take her seat beside a window in a quiet corner. There’s a small desk beside her with flip-flops next to it. A sunhat matching her dress rests atop the desk.

I begin to think of her blog, and of how we share so many interests, and about how beautiful and eccentric her mind must be. Just merely glancing at her triggers a desire to get entirely and perfectly intimate with her. I get the urge to want to explore her mind and being. She perplexes me to the point where my brain starts to question whether she is real or not. How could a person be so appealing and enthralling? I feel like she’s here for a reason, as though I came to Venice for this very moment. I am convinced she carries part of my destiny, she holds a piece of me which was long lost and forgotten, or rather, maybe, a piece of me which is key for self-fulfillment.

I watch her for a moment. This moment can not be measured by conventional time span. This is the type of moment which is unconstrained by time and minutes and seconds. A moment taken out of the spectrum of time for sole purpose. I am taken aback by her beauty. Her face is so pure and her every movement graceful. Jet black hair streams down past her hips. Her hair is lavish, like a black river Nile flowing down her back from her head.
She sits there and begins to read her book. I simply watch her and feed my infatuation. She holds the book with her left hand while her right slowly lingers gently around her face, tracing undepictable shapes and characters, eventually reaching her ear and she starts toying with her earlobe and rubbing it smoothly.This time-immune moment endures, and the atmosphere feels light. The library is strangely quiet considering the number of folk present.

***

“Do you regret not striking up a conversation with her? Or at least exchanging greetings? I’d be pretty bummed if I saw the girl I found astoundingly perfect sitting right in front of me and I didn’t even say a word to her.”

“I don’t regret it as such. There’s no point in me regretting. I wanted to speak to her, I wanted to hear all she had to say. Everything. I’ve seen glimpses of the contents of her mind on her online blog, but that’s just snippets, brief fragments. But a conversation… A conversation with her would have been extremely adventurous and entrancing. It would have been out-worldly, and spellbinding. Her mind must be filled with amazing thoughts. Maybe even too astonishing to take in.”

“So what stopped you from speaking to her?” he asks me in a slightly firm but curious tone.
I remain silent and sip away.

“It’s not easy to explain. If I’m being honest, to be quite frank with you, I’m not altogether sure ‘why’. I asked myself the very same question, and I’ve summarised I couldn’t speak to her.”
“Couldn’t?”

“Yes. Right there when I was stood a few meters away from her, I was overcome by a bizarre feeling. Two re-occurring thoughts played about in my head as I contemplated approaching her and speaking to her, both are somewhat weird thoughts. You might not even believe me.”

“Try me.” he says.

“Well… there more I marveled at her and thought about how immensely intriguing I found her whole persona, the less I believed she was real. Or at least, the less I believed she was really there in front of me. I mean what are the odds; I’d just seen her online blog and took interest in her, I take a weekend out in Venice, and of all the people in the world, there she is. I’m not even really sure she lives in Italy. Her blog’s all in English. Til this day I’m in two minds as to whether she was even there or not. Maybe she was just an extension of my deep-seated infatuation with her, an intangible figment of my imagination. Some trickery of the mind.”

He stares at me but remains silent, deeply pondering what I had said. It’s hard to tell what he’s thinking. I don’t expect him to believe me or even take me seriously. I put my drink aside in hope that he takes me that much more seriously. This undoubtedly sounds like nonsense coming from my mouth regardless of whether I am drunk, tipsy or sober.

“That was the first thought that kept circling in my head.” I continue.
“The second is probably even stranger. You decide. But anyhow, the other thought in my head at the time was that maybe I couldn’t have a conversation with her. Perhaps her mind and thoughts were too amazing and overwhelming. I thought maybe her words would be so overpowering and profound that it would be too much for me to take.”

“So you’re saying she couldn’t have a conversation with anyone because her thoughts are too complex and amazing?”

“No, it’s not that. See, this is what I meant by it’s difficult to explain.” I adjust my position and try to piece my explanation together. And at that, he lights another and takes a single sip at his white wine.

“I’m not saying that she can’t have conversations with people because her mind is too amazing – but it’s different with me from how I see it. I don’t know her personally, of course, but I’ve been through her online blog plenty times. I’ve imagined speaking to her many a time. But at that moment in the library when I saw her, I felt I couldn’t speak to her.
See, when people talk, there’s only so much depth of meaning between speaker and listener; words can be just words in a conversation. Two people can toss sentences between each other with no meaning, with no depth. And also on the other hand, two people can talk with great depth and meaning. As they talk there’s an intense, deep-rooted connection between the two speakers, a force of meaning which stretches beyond just merely hearing and understanding what the other speaker is saying. But as though their very souls are connecting through conversation.
“But with me and her, I feel that there can be too much meaning and depth. I felt as if if I had spoken to her, our souls would have connected so intensely that it’d turn something beautiful such as two souls connecting through conversation into something complex and difficult to grasp. I thought her mind was too impressive and appealing to me that a conversation would only leave me speechless, and it wouldn’t have been much of a conversation.”

He says nothing.

“It’s not easy to communicate to someone who doesn’t see her the same way I view her. She’s not just a mere human-being who shares some interests with me, she’s a master-piece, she IS abstract art to me. It reminds me of this quote I came across not long ago about a flower. It goes ‘If you love a flower, don’t pick it up. Because if you pick it up, it dies and ceases to be what you love’ or something along those lines. I’m not entirely sure how this connects, but, I think proceeding to have a conversation would have caused more damage than simply admiring her from a distance.”

“I think that’s just an excuse” he says, taking another sip at his wine.

I don’t respond to this.

“I think I understand what you’re trying to say, but I’m no where near understanding how you must have felt. I guess it’s one of those things you’ll never be able to communicate fully to another person.”

“I guess you’re right” I say.

October (To be continued.. or edited. Perhaps).

(‘***’ is indicative of a shift in time, place, or part of the story.)

Finally, the long and heavily anticipated October had arrived. It’s not so much October itself I was waiting for, but rather the end of the Summer. I leaf through the back of my mind to try find a single word for someone who strongly dislikes Summer as I fry my usual morning eggs. Nothing comes to mind. I always found that I enjoyed the Winter to a much larger extent than I enjoyed the Summer that preceded it.

Summers were always expensive, and throughout this supposedly joyous and bright season, I often found myself exhausted and sad. I didn’t have anything to do; there was no routine to follow or schedule to work around. No lectures, no job, no hobbies. So it made very little sense to me that I was always so fatigued during the Summer. I just sat beneath my mother’s roof and watched the cursory days passing by, having achieved somewhere between ‘very little’ and ‘nothing’ by the end of each one of them. I suffered a great deal of ‘summertime sadness’ each year. But it struck pretty hard particularly this year and the last.

I found myself idle and unmotivated, trying to give a name to this alien emotion which I remained convinced that no one else had felt yet. (It was one of the handful of emotions and feelings which I thought only I’d experienced and no one else had ever felt). It was a strange emotion; the only words the English language could lend me to describe this feeling were discontent and deep-seated longing for the unknown. But this was barely scratching the surface of conveying what I really felt.

I add a splodge of tomato ketchup to my steaming eggs, and pour myself a fresh glass of cranberry juice. Tame Impala’s Lonerism album plays loudly from my room. Every Summer I felt as if I were fading into the background of life. Time glided furiously through me while I glided nonchalantly through time, and I never really felt alive. I didn’t feel. I constantly felt as if I’d been transitioned from a living, breathing, active person to an item. A finished book left on the window sill. A nearly empty, lukewarm bottle of Volvic water forgotten in the backseat floor of a car. I felt sad maybe because I wasn’t doing anything, or perhaps I felt sad and so didn’t want to do anything. Who knows? I read books, skimmed through half-written blog post drafts, watched old movies and cleaned. I very rarely spoke to anyone from outside my house.

I didn’t like the idea of barbecues, going to the beach, spending time with friends or anything of that kind. I just wanted to be left alone to wallow away in my unavoidable sadness and nostalgia. I’ve never liked making memories. ‘You might have Cherophobia’ a girl I used to chill with the Summer of last year always used to tell me.

*** 14 months earlier ***

“That’s bullshit. What kind of person has a fear of being happy? It’s not that.” I say, playing with two pebbles in one hand, holding a half smoked cigarette with the other. “Don’t be so quick to dismiss the idea. Okay, I explained it wrong – Cherophobic people don’t have a fear of being happy, my bad, but rather they are scared of something bad or tragic happening to them as a result.” She pauses briefly and looks up to a cloud with her eyes slightly squinted, as if trying to remember if that was the exact medical definition. At a loss, I say nothing and cue for her to continue her explanation.

“They believe that life and the Universe work like that; to keep everything fair, that when it’s right, something has to go wrong.” She had these funny hand gestural movements whenever she was trying to explain something. She was reasonably intelligent, and this always took people by surprise at first. They didn’t expect her to be as wise as she was, with all those piercing stationed in various places around her face and body, a half shaved head and tint blue hair colour. She spoke carefully and made sure to articulate almost every word neatly and fluently when she spoke, but this commonality of hers failed her whenever she got high.
I didn’t know her all that well, but I knew her father was a Psychology lecturer.

“So, what about people without homes or food, or families in war-stricken countries? Does the Universe ensure they, too, have a harmonic balance between life going right and wrong? ”
“It’s not a theology, it’s a psychological illness. If you’re that keen to understand cherophobics, read up on ’em.” she answers, to which I say nothing and toss the end of my cigarette to the side.

***

It definitely wasn’t Cherophobia. I had no fear of being happy, but during the past two summers, I just found myself incapable of being content. There was always this strange feeling of discontent and yearning I could not quite ignore. Like a sore on the inner side of your cheek or an itch at the back of your knee. After I finish my small breakfast I light a cigarette and smoke it while flicking through yesterday’s paper.

I tried to dissect the issue of my summertime sadness and figure out the psychological logistics to why I experienced it. But all my hypotheses remain fragmentary. I turn to him and ask him for help. I’ve approached him many times before with the same matter.
I remember once speaking to a family friend I referred to as ‘Uncle’, he told me that it’s very key to be able to be honest with yourself more than anyone else. “Reflect, be completely transparent with yourself, and often ask yourself the question ‘why’. In the same way you look at other people and question why they do things and wonder what draws them to make the decisions they make, also do the same with yourself.”
Undeniably, this resulted in being one of the most profound principles I had applied in my life. It’s become a habit to look deep into myself and question my own decisions and actions. I ask myself why, and answer myself without an iota of dishonesty or shame. The answer I give myself, from time-to-time, is rather embarrassing (surprisingly, it doesn’t take much for one to embarrass one’s self. A little bit of reflection with absolute honesty and you’ll find yourself shaking your head in shame at your own self. But you must be completely, entirely honest).
We don’t really take the time out to think about and study ourselves and the actions we take, so much so that when we do, with absolute honesty and shamelessness, we can be quite taken aback at what we discover about ourselves. There’s a certain way we like to look and think of ourselves, which, more often than not, doesn’t match how we really are, or how others perceive us.
When I say “him”, I’m really referring to myself, the honest, transparent self. The subconscious self which stands back and observes as I do the things I do and say the things I say. He knows why I do these things, He knows me better than I even my know own self, but somehow, he is still me.

I turn on the shower while undressing, thanking God for allowing me to carefully reach yet another summer’s end. I hope to myself that the summertime sadness will ease itself out of me, just like it did last October, and that I’ll find some genuine happiness and feeling as the trees shed their autumn leaves.