Fruit and vegetable stalls begin to attract me. They remind me of markets in Bulgaria and bring me nostalgia for home. However, I already know that’s not a call to return. That’s the trap of Bulgarian summer. Its promise of eternity that can’t be kept. I don’t believe in it like I used to but my soul and body still respond to this call which roars like sea in a conch and has a sweet-juicy flavour of a sun-grown tomato, of a fig, only washed under cold water and eaten unpeeled, of peaches whose juice trickles down the arm and then sticks, of watermelon which makes your stomach cool but also heavy in the summer night. The call has a light yellow, straw, sunburned colour which doesn’t flow into but clashes – albeit in a harmonious way – with the dark blue afternoon sea. With the beach where the towels and umbrellas disappear to give the sea its well-earned break of a few hours before the night falls and summer life starts in full swing. These same “dead hours” are my hours – the time preceding the sunset when everything has quieted down in anticipation. I’d have the quieting, not the anticipation. I blend better with the stillness and the bright yellow/bright blue of the afternoon than with the neon lights, the voices and the music of the night.
I dream of long walks in these dead hours – be it with my son and husband or alone… A walk and conversations and something to drink before a light dinner outside – not in a restaurant, somewhere in a temporary home. A salad, watermelon, bread with something, perhaps even warm food. More conversations until late at night. Stargazing. The young one’s questions after a few years: “Mum, will you show me Orion again?” How much this child is going to give to us! How much rediscovery of the world is in store for us.
I see myself in a few years’ time, with suntan and more wrinkles around the eyes and a long rather than a short dress and I like myself. I like the calmness and the feeling of wisdom which my son’s eyes give me after each answer and each explanation.
I should enjoy the fact my life is now so full of responsibilities, because I know very well what I’m like when I have a lot of free time. Completely disorganised. I find it easier to fit creative activities in a full schedule than in an empty one. A sad paradox. I guess I need some kind of momentum. Energy gathered in some other activity (wasting energy creates more energy, demand creates its own supply, isn’t that right?) which I can then put into creativity. It is the most bittersweet moment when I’m particularly busy with work but I suddenly have a certain idea or see something I need to photograph. In these moments creativity and responsibility fight for superiority, with creativity being the more frequent winner. It needs a little time anyway but can’t wait for too long. It’s like an itch. The harder you try not to scratch yourself, the more overwhelming the desire to do just that.
I’ll accept the change with open arms. As a new stage in life. More immediate, more physical but also more meaningful. With more important effects of my actions. I want to fully live through this stage. To not forget it. To write it down, photograph it but mostly to experience it. Slowly and consciously. It will be as new to me as to the baby. True, he won’t have a “past life” to go back to – apart from the one in the womb which I’m going to remind him of by keeping him close to myself and my heart – unlike me, but both/the three of us will have the same mission – to get to know one another and live a happy life together as a family.
I miss getting up early during the weekend so that I won’t be late for the meeting at Sofia’s railway station which smells like metal, still cold. I miss the chill that gets through the slits of the windows of the old trains. I miss having breakfast together in the old train, eating something that’s not particularly nice like a Seven Days sour cherry croissant or Lavazza coffee in a plastic cup. I miss the moment when, after an impossibly long ride for the kilometres covered, we get off the train and it’s so warm already that we need to undress to T-shirts and tops. And then I miss walking with company. Not a purposeful walk sometimes but always accompanied by nice conversations. Such small but important are the things I miss.
I know I look on life in an abstract way. I know that. And when I look on it in an abstract and philosophical way its little annoying sharp edges don’t get in my way. The abstract is as soft as a cloud. But I wonder… Yes, that helps me bear the difficulties of everyday life more easily but… don’t I really live in a cloud of intoxicating gas which dims my senses and hides the truth from me? (The truth?) In such moments of doubt I find consolation in people that are like me and an abyss under my feet in people that are different.
Am I naive and stupid? Are my ideas cloud-like? Why am I like this? Who has made me such? And most importantly, does this help or hinder me? Deep in myself I know it helps me. But what if the voice I can hear there is also dimmed? Isn’t everything dimmed when we choose to believe in one thing instead of another? And can we believe in everything? Or is that the same as believing in nothing? I am always suspicious of everything that I choose to believe in because I like it. Is that the key? Perhaps this “liking” is the preference of my soul? Perhaps it is my soul, and not I, that chooses what to believe in? Does the soul believe or does it know? It’s so strange and difficult. I want to discover my truth one day but I keep thinking this is a never-ending journey with no destination. There’s no truth. One. There are different truths for different moments.
However, I feel that the warm weather takes me back to Bulgaria in my thoughts. To that Bulgaria which I already know either doesn’t exist or exists only in half. The Bulgarian summer from my childhood doesn’t exist – I can only hear its echo in the way the wind ruffles the trees. The Bulgarian summer from my student years still exists, but partly. It appears in the form of feelings – the dark yellow colour of the Burgas beach in the afternoon, the taste of cold cider drunk on a bench looking at the sea. Conversations… Nothing so special. My most vivid summers are the ones with Lukaš. I still hope I will be able to go back to them physically too, although it won’t be just the two of us anymore. Hot summers, nights threatening with rain, dolphins we’re trying to catch up with while running along the shore, raised thumbs along the sun-baked roads, photographs, campfire, hugs in the water.
Sometimes I go out, breathe the air in and automatically smell the sea in it. But in reality the sea is quite far away.
On the other hand eventfulness in life doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s happiness. Sometimes it’s as if we need to do interesting things so that we can look nice in the eyes of others. Active, motivated, able. Are the smiles in the photos ones of happiness though? Not necessarily.
And yet, I believe in activity and eventfulness. I believe life is to be lived, although the only way to make sense of it is to step aside and look at it from a distance. As comfortable as this position is to me, I know I miss a lot of the “earthly” life if I choose to think more and do less. This body of mine is made for moving. It will grow old anyway – it will be a pity if I don’t use it (the way people used to cover their remote controls with plastic foil so that the buttons won’t get erased. Why???). There’s nothing better than the light signs of wear and tear. Than a wind-blown face. Or light wounds from tree climbing on children’s knees. Or a piece of clothing with an ember hole. Dirty sneakers or sun-bleached trekking sandals.
And yet, I’m not sure why I want eventfulness in my life – because of myself or so that I have a better answer to the question “How are you doing?”
I shouldn’t forget my body knows much better how and when. My body doesn’t know “why” – it doesn’t need it. Everything is explained beforehand and set into the natural laws. If the body starts asking itself “why”, it will stop being a body.
Is that the lesson I’m supposed to learn? To live in the real world and play by its rules instead of forming unrealistic ideas. I once faced such a thing – our wedding. A total collision of ideas and reality after which just… flatness remained. A “50/50” wedding – both horrible and nice. Or are things in life like this when they’re balanced? Horrible and nice in equal amounts? Flat, so that they don’t cause misbalance and a necessity to be made up for with events or feelings with an opposite charge.
I often know what I want – no, what I need – on an intuitive level but I can’t express it. That’s the difference between the need and the wish. The wish is a need expressed. And I’m not good at wishes. I’m not taught/used to want and demand. Not from anyone else but myself anyway. That’s why my needs remain unsatisfied. Because they never go over the threshold of reality and never turn into wishes expressed.
And I shouldn’t forget things can be different in practice. I should always approach the different models and philosophies as experimental ones. As ones we’ll only try out and give up in case they don’t work. I have this huge need to cling to ideas in order to feel a safe ground under my feet but it’s the easiest thing to topple down from this position when ideas fail the test of practice.