Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Here’s a place to begin
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 3:38 pm
How do we love?
Here’s a place to begin
Come and go, take and give
Sand goes out, wave comes in
Oh my love, your face is a faraway place
from ‘A faraway place’ by The Guild League, from the album ‘Private transport’
I stood on the beach, not entirely alone but almost, away from the people I had come with, away from any people at all. I stood there with my feet on the pebbles, with my dress blown by the warm wind, and with my ear to my mobile phone. I stood there looking at the waves come in, crash, and go. It was a late Easter, the beginning of May, and unseasonably hot: two weeks before it had felt like winter and now it almost felt like summer, the skipped spring like a word unspoken and almost forgotten in between.
She was telling me of all that she had dreamed the previous night, of her friend and of the man she loved. She spoke of dreams of previous lives, of intrigue and passion and even, I think, of murder. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know if I believed in previous lives. I didn’t know how important I considered all that night time dreaming to be. I didn’t even know why I was there, on that particular beach, in that particular conversation at that time of my life, not really — although I felt that there must be a reason for it all, and so I stood, and as I stood I listened.
I remember it as a kind of sublime moment, a moment made of silence and space inside me, of the wind and the waves outside me, and yet I must have been struggling at the time: struggling to understand, to find the right thing to say, to find the words with which to say it. As it happens I don’t remember any of what I said except for the moment, near the end, when I asked her to picture this man, the man she said she loved, the man she was telling me she thought she had killed –out of love and passion and jealousy– in a previous life, to look at him and to tell him, simply, ‘this time I will love you in the way that you need to be loved.’
I have no idea where that sentence came from. I don’t know if what I said meant anything to her at all. What I do know is that I picked up a pebble then, and threw it towards the sea — and then, because that didn’t seem quite enough, another, and then another. It was that kind of moment: the kind of moment that needs to be punctuated somehow, the kind of moment when the whole wide world seems to hold its breath and gather around your heart to listen. It was the moment I found myself alone with the blue of the sky and the blue of the sea, with the brown of the sand and the white of the sea foam, with the wind dancing all around me and with this promise shining clear inside my heart: this time, I will love you like you need to be loved.
I didn’t know it then, but I had just began to find my way home.
Friday, August 16, 2013
How my world began to grow
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:14 pm
July 2001. Paris.
The train rushed out of Paris at a speed that made the lights of the suburbs blur, or at least that’s how I remember it to be. We stood by an open window with the wind on our faces and the thrill of being there rushed into my heart at a similar speed, making the fear and the worry and the loneliness that had been residing there blur as well. I was on a train leaving Paris at midnight. That fact alone was enough to send goosebumps down my arms.
You could, somewhat arbitrarily but no less truthfully for that, say that this was the moment I was born into my new life — tired, heartbroken, and excited. For years, this had been the kind of thing I didn’t even dream of but longed for occasionally; the kind of thing that I considered out of the reach of my young-university-student-in-northern-Greece self; the kind of thing other people did, people I sort of hoped to grow into one day. And suddenly there I was, in France, on the train, moving oh so fast into the night, my old life in tatters all around me, my new one as yet unknown to me.
A few weeks before that I had sat in a patch of struggling grass in my northern-Greek-hometown with my young-university-student friend and asked him to come on a trip to Europe with me. “But wouldn’t you rather we went to a Greek island?” he replied, which I very much wouldn’t. That day I walked home in the heat feeling forlorn in every sense of the word –sad and lonely and abandoned– because for once I had the money to go on my dream holiday, and, as usual, I had no one to go with.
Twelve years later –a few weeks ago, in fact– he reminded me of this moment and all I could do was laugh and thank him sincerely from the bottom of my heart, because without his refusal to come with me I would never have been desperate enough to make plans with an almost-stranger on the internet, an almost-stranger with a story that was different-but-similar to mine, an almost-stranger that apparently shared enough of my dreams and my craziness to be found next to me in the dark corridor, as the train rushed out of Paris at a speed that made the lights of the suburbs blur, as we stood there with the wind on our faces and years of yet-undreamed-of adventures ahead of us, as my world began to grow.
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Halfway across the world
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:53 pm
June 2001. Thessaloniki.
He ran to close the windows because of an approaching thunderstorm. There is nothing special about this in itself: thunderstorms come, people go and close windows. It’s an ordinary enough experience. What was not-so-ordinary this time around was that he was in Boston, halfway across the world from where I was sitting, and we had been having a conversation. I had struck a conversation with a perfect stranger on the internet over a song by a band I did not know, and it had turned out to be lovely.
In fact, in a display of serendipity or generosity or grace on the part of the universe that was as spectacular as it looked unremarkable, all of them turned out to be lovely, the song and the conversation, the band and the stranger. The song captured something of the pain I had pushed to the back of my heart, and so made it a bit easier to carry; I would grow to love the band so much I would end up naming a three-year-long adventure after another one of their songs; the stranger would end up inviting me to visit him across the ocean, which I would never do; and the conversation, oh, the conversation was my first encounter with that inexplicable, miraculous experience of truly meeting someone on the internet — of how, against all odds and expectations, this can work better on the internet than it does in real life.
Michael and I didn’t become best friends. He didn’t even stay in my life for long. He hang around for a while, said something lovely things, then faded out; a year later I sought him out again and we repeated this —he hang around for a while, said some lovely things, faded out– and that was the end of that. But despite the briefness and the ephemeralness of these connections there was something in them: something in the way that they sprouted and blossomed, so unexpectedly; something in the way that they sparkled and shone, so brightly; something I didn’t know existed but which I seemed to have been looking for nonetheless. Something that made me smile widely to myself as I sat alone in front of the computer screen, as he ran to close the windows.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
A light that never goes out
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:14 pm
December, 1999. Thessaloniki.
I’d waited for a while, and then I stopped. I even stopped dreaming. There was something like an emptiness inside me, a calm, bright, almost beautiful emptiness, reflected impeccably in the world around me as I wandered through the town with wet, cold feet and the snow fell, landed, and melted tirelessly throughout the day.
Night had fallen, a dark, cold, quiet night, and I, alone in the flat, stood in front of the front windows with the phone in my hand. He was a teacher, which is how I’d met him, he taught one of my friends — but he had an occasional radio show, too, and that’s what where I’d called him. I don’t remember why I had, although I am guessing I just wanted to have a meaningful conversation before the day was out. (There had always been something between us: he had a habit of looking at me, really looking at me for a moment, and saying something oddly profound.) I don’t remember what we talked about, although perhaps I asked him to play something for me. I don’t remember if he agreed, or how we said goodbye. I can’t even remember if that was the last time we talked — it might have been.
What I do remember is him saying, unexpectedly, on the radio that “she is looking for whatever positivity is left in people. You wouldn’t say her life is filled with love, no, but, well, there is always a light that never goes out,” and following it, of course, with the song by the same name. And I remember standing in the dark, waiting for my heart to quiet down, and wondering — how did could he tell?
Saturday, November 5, 2011
How a list of words changed my life
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:42 pm
August, 1999. Thessaloniki.
It was an exhaustingly hot afternoon of an exhaustingly empty summer, and there was nothing that gave out something was about to happen. In fact, it was the sort of time that convinces you that nothing will ever happen — and indeed, nothing really did. And yet every time I look back my thoughts stop on that day, and every time I realise it changed my life.
To say thank you for helping out at the shop, he gave me a CD, fresh out of the parcel I’d carried back from the post office. It was called ‘Try a little sunshine,’ and it claimed to be a compilation of the ‘Greek indiepop scene’ — whatever that was. “Take this,” he said. “It’s better than all the Belle and Sebastian records put together.” I didn’t believe him for a minute. What could be better that all the Belle and Sebastian records put together?
And yet. The compilation came with a poster, and the poster read —
“This is a compilation about love, fun, cupid, sweetness in chocolate, romance, innocence, lollipops after the pain, melancholy, dreams in the city, happiness, sunsets from the rooftops, water and bubble pistols, southbound excursions, stars in the sky, sky in her eyes, journeys, doo be doo, bicycle rides, dives in the lake, buried treasures, clouds, postcards, ocean rain, lovers, lunatics, giants, suncastles in the shade, moonflowers, lost friends… magic.”
And I thought it was the most beautiful, evocative, touching list of words ever possible. I was inspired: I put the poster on the wall above my bed, I lay down underneath it, and I dreamed the best dreams I had ever dreamed. I imagined a life lived in a world more like the one described by those words and less like the one I saw around me every day, and that thought was enough to make me infinitely happy. I felt like I’d just found something I’d been looking for all my life, something I’ve always known about but had forgotten, and I was just realising how much I had missed it. So amazing was that feeling that when I went out to walk around the city in search of ‘something as colourful as these words’ (which is exactly the way I thought about it at the time) I really believed I would find it.
I didn’t. Of course I didn’t. The world looked as grey as it had done on the morning, maybe a little greyer even; although I spent the next few days waiting for something to happen, I was feeling let down. But in the end, that didn’t matter: the magic that made me wander around town on an otherwise uninspired and sweltering evening was so strong that it never let me forget. To this day it is behind all my dreams of happiness, and every gratuitously romantic attempt to make them come true — even the ones that work.
It’s good to have something to show you the way.
If you think you’ve read this before, you have a very good memory. A longer, more detailed version of this story was originally published (in Greek) on Mic and (in English) on Friends of the Heroes in September 2003 — such a long time ago.
Friday, November 4, 2011
I took a photo of that puddle
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:39 pm
May 1999. Thessaloniki.
In wintertime, Thessaloniki belongs to the Balkans –it’s dark, and cold, and foggy– but when spring comes it becomes positively Mediterranean. It swells with life, with light, with the cries of swallows and sometimes, even, the scent of flowers.
We stood outside the record shop, under a struggling tree. He worked there, I was the owner’s girlfriend. We loved one another but didn’t always get on, except that afternoon we did, and he said, “here, listen to this: it’s the record of the week, and you’re going to love it.” There was no such thing as the record of the week, he’d just made that up, but I did love it: it was Hefner’s ‘Breaking God’s heart.’ I took it home and put it on a tape so I could listen to it on my walkman. That’s how these things were done in 1999.
That’s how I came to be standing on a street corner one freshly sunny afternoon, looking down at the sky, recently cleared up after a storm, reflected in a puddle, listening to ‘The sweetness lies within.’ And as the song rushed into life and spring rushed into town all around me, something –something like the ability be present, and happy, and alive in the moment– rushed into my heart, from where it had been absent for too long. Just like that. Suddenly my heart was swollen too, with light and life and the promise of better days.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
The closest we ever got
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:01 pm
April 1999. Thessaloniki.
Although our relationship lasted less that nine months, you could say that I grew to love him just as he grew indifferent. I, unconvinced for a while, moved towards him, and he, initially enthusiastic, moved away, falling back into his usual state of almost-apathy. I wonder sometimes if we met in the middle, even for a moment. I’m not sure; but there was this:
A sunny Sunday morning. We were listening to Belle & Sebastian, the ‘Dog on wheels’ EP, and it was my first time. He came in from the kitchen in his awkward, lilting gait, balancing a cup of coffee in one hand and a cup of water in the other, with the flower I’d quietly left in the kitchen the night before between his teeth, and as ‘The state that I am in’ turned into ‘String bean Jean’ and my heart soared, as the sunlight streamed through the window and I fell in love with the band that was going to change my life, he said, “is that what I’m going to have to listen to you if I marry you?”
I grinned, and nodded.
“Well, it’s not so bad,” he said with a shy, cheeky smile, as he sat down in front of the computer and settled into his work.
And I grinned some more.