It all started with a misplaced Oyster card which I thought was in my usual coat pocket. One morning, we woke up to freezing weather. I changed coats and used my contactless debit card. It was a couple of weeks before Christmas.
We went on holiday with my family in France. London, the grey tube station, deep escalators and the nasal voices chanting “mind the gap” were far away.
It was like a breath of fresh air. The smell of youth, oxygen pixels, a movie she had seen so many time but that she loved, time after time.
There was nothing nostalgic or sad as she was browsing, head titled, weaving the moments, the season, the years, the homes where they lived, the countries where they had moved to.
Most she remembered easily, prompted by the images. But sometimes she would look at strangers, a place she had no recollection of. It was often sunny on the photos and they were leafs on the trees, flowers in the gardens. A string of summers, vacations, travels with seas and rivers and mountains and castles and statues in parks and on fountains, bas reliefs on the building. She would smell the summer air, the scent of the garden flowers, the iodine breeze of the ocean.
The rain had not stopped for days. Luke slept better on rainy days, window wide open. The regular soothing noise, the soft moisture in the air. In his lung and eyes.
He would forget his umbrella in places he could not remember. Offices and homes and shops may be. They all looked the same. His hair would curl slightly, little unruly hair on his temple. He had curly hair when he was a baby.
It had never occurred to him before that the rain made him look different. His wife Elisa would tell him: "You look different". She did not know why.
Joy and sadness were inseparable. One would follow the other at some incredible pace. She would beam, laugh, talk without stopping, marvel at small things and hug us tight... we loved her most in those moments, she was fun and playful, our mother and best friend. She would chase us in the garden and in the streets in her sleeping gown, hair wild, eyes bright and mischievous. We would scream and run in front her her. Never mind the neighbours looking at us through their window, the old lady in the house with the red door nodding her head with contempt...we were happy and free and she was the most wonderful mum on earth.
After all those years, his hands have never betrayed him. They firmly caresse the pieces of wood, gage its hardness. He checks for imperfections, rugosities and cracks. He welcomes them, anticipates the meeting shapes they will draw on his creations. He designs around them. Under his hands, they become embroideries, vigorous veins, mysterious maps on the wood.
Tom never sleeps alone. He always brings someone in my room. Tom is one of my regulars. But there is no pattern or apparent logic to his stays. He just appears occasionally. I do not know much about him.
I trudge through the soaking woods, the lush green stillness trembling in the afternoon shadows. There is no one around me, and the wild desire to pierce the thickness of my solitude is immense. Mother is gone, and I know very well that she will never come home. When she left, I think she was already fading away. It was something I never understood, and that is why I am standing in sheets of rain, vulnerable, and weaker than I have ever been, here in the unknown. The stories she would tell me! Mother, I mean. She would grab me by the waist, slip her hands under my knees, and carry me, breathless, to the old Moroccan rug next to the hissing fire. I think dreams were here favourite thing of all, but the harsh truth of reality confused her.
Maria always chooses Room 27 when she visits her dad. For a long time, I assumed that her Dad could not host her. Maybe his flat or house was too small. But I understood after listening to a couple of conversations over the phone that Maria's dad was married with someone who did not want to meet his children.
It was a small provincial hotel, in Marseille "vieux port". In the guides, they called it "hôtel de charme". Its original name was "hôtel Beauséjour". It was renamed "hôtel du Vieux Port". Room 27 remained room 27.
They would meet every Easter Sunday at Kew Gardens. Family tradition. The kids were running ahead, laughing and chasing each other. The adults were walking in a disorganised line, peacefully, and Emma would move from one to another.
‘She is a fish’, Tom had said to Lea one day, looking at their little girl, Marine.
Marine had loved being under water since she was a baby. From the moment she was born, Marine’s bath was the most extraordinary moment. Marine would not mind at all having her head under water. She would open her eyes, her face covered by water, and giggle.
There I was, my feet curled around the windowsill, twitching as unpleasantly cold night air came to greet them. The window was three stories up, it was extremely long, rimmed in washed-away white wood. I had flung it open, shortly after settling the cream envelopes (I ran out of white ones) onto the large mahogany desk of my father’s office.
They had picked the wrong season. It was a rainy late autumn vacation. Julia lived on the East Coast before and the fall was the most beautiful time of the year. The colours and the trees. The softness of the sun. She remembered of times were her extended family had Thanksgiving lunch on the deck, kids playing in the backyard.
I found this sturdy leaf and pulled out my purple fountain pen from the back pocket of my soaked denim skirt, and decided to write this letter hoping you would find it. When I was washed onto the white sand of this island, I befriended a seagull. She was gentle and kind and approached me when she heard the sound of my voice. Now, I have decided to let her go with this letter attached to her leg. She will return and when she does, I will know that she has found you.
Mia decided to give birth in the inaccessible remote corner of the entrance cupboard. In the middle of Margot's most expensive shoes. Pierre and Margot had prepared a comfortable place in a warm corner of the kitchen with a stack of old woolen jumpers in a basket. Mia even seemed to like it and sniffed around the basket for a couple of days.
She found him particularly annoying in those moments. As if nothing mattered.
Since Alex was born, she could sense the shadows. At night they would come in the form of terrible stories; Alex would die in his sleep, swallow one of his toys, fall from his bike, be knidnapped whilts she was asleep. They were millions of stories, like dark birds flying towards her, keeping her awake and terrified.
For a long time, you thought the walls were rigid. Hard concrete. Grey. With some yellow patches. Covered with scratches and inscriptions. Some that only a really tall man would reach. Some men are giants you thought when you first entered your new home. Then you realised that they were probably standing on the narrow stool. The men before you. Some writings in languages you do not know. The fact that there are so many languages you do not know gives you comfort. You are well learned and well-travelled. But there is a big world out there. Outside those six walls.
A distant memory. One that could never be forgotten. She was dressed in thin garments on a frozen winter morning. The sky was of an abnormal depth, even for such menacing times. Clouds of fog moved towards her, enveloping her frail ankles in their icy wrath.
She tilted the jug of pink lemonade and the ice cubes tumbled into her glass, three at a time, clinking together. He was at the other side of the room, slumped in a sofa, a cup of steaming coffee in his trembling fingers. Miriam wanted to say something, anything, but as her mouth opened, a single breath came whooshing out before she clamped it shut, her teeth grinding, hard. All this was giving her a headache and so she sat down, dizzy and flustered.
Have you ever pushed the door of a store, driven by the nearly magnetic attraction of a name or visual on the front window? I have, many times, often to be disappointed by what I discovered once inside.
There was this one time though were I entered a small narrow shop called Serendipity in a sleepy village in Cornwall where I had rented a B&B.
It all started with a misunderstanding. Zara agreed to meet me at the bottom of the stairs of the Paris Opera, and I waited for 30 minutes at the bottom of the stairs of the Paris Opera.
Except that my sister Zara meant the old Paris Opera and I understood the new Paris Opera, also called the Opera Bastille. Technically I was right of course. The old Opera house has been converted into the home of the national ballet and replaced by the new Opera...
This time, a Moroccan taxi driver picked me up at the airport. He was having strange conversations on the phone mixing English, Arabic peppered with some colourful French words. He specifically fancied "deguelasse" to qualify all things related to American politics and the price of housing in San Francisco.
Jason whipped around, the crackling hum of wind made him fear something. It must've been death in general, or maybe just the idea of it. The sun was long gone, and the sliver of a pale orange moon was glassed over with blue dust, liquid moonbeams easing through the burning cracks of the sky. His little brother, Oliver was just seven years old, and clutching on to Jason's arm as if though his life depended on it. And maybe, just maybe, it did. Rosie, the hyperactive dog, was slouched over, hunched into a skinny ball of fur. They were late, and they didn't quite know why.
I've been sitting on the top of the stairs in my building for approximately three and a half hours. Sometimes I feel like it's the only place in the whole of the universe where I can reflect on things. Reflect, not think. Because I can think almost anywhere, whether it be about the colour of the stain on my new shirt, or the controversial theories regarding evolution, I know how to think.
He was lucid but the expression on his face was thick with blankness. Or maybe it could've been a deep, trifling concentration, a rare investment, If one was to capture it in a photograph of language, it would translate such: eyes slightly narrowed, brows furrowed, the line between them deep and important.
One September morning, it occurred to me that Canada was the place where I really wanted to go. My boss Bill told me to take “as much time off as needed”. One by one, my colleagues came to say a silent good-bye.
I know you may not read this letter for fear that I am writing to shower you with bitter accusations. I assure you that I simply could not hold a grudge against you for much longer, as justified as my anger may be.
And I don’t mean a dimness where you press your nose to the page and squint a little. I mean pitch black. It’s funny how when you switch on the light you have to blink a few times and wait for the spots of colour to fade.
Def: Sleepwalking is characterised by a series of complex events, walking being the most common among them.
I discovered I was a sleepwalker when I was six years old. I stumbled to the kitchen and started scrubbing the table frantically. I imagine I felt guilty for never cleaning up the strawberry milk I would perpetually spill during my waking hours