Saturday, November 12, 2011
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:56 pm
April, 2000. Thessaloniki.
We ran through the downpour to get to the cafÃ©.
That’s all, really. I could tell you that I was wearing a new skirt, and my pink shirt; that the rain made my hair curlier than usual; that he thought I was pretty, and it showed in his eyes. I could tell you that we had already started to argue, that we had started to doubt our happiness, that this made the temporary harmony all the more precious. I could tell you that we sat and talked, what the coffee tasted like, about the way the raindrops hit against the window. But really there wasn’t much else to it. Spring was coming; we were together; we were young and in love; and we ran through the rain.
Friday, November 11, 2011
The first big miracle
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:26 pm
March, 2000. Thessaloniki.
We stayed up until four am waiting for the almost-best-friend to come back from work, while the cake my godmother had insisted on making for me was slowly falling apart in the fridge. It didn’t matter, though: it still looked beautiful. We put it down on our new wooden floor and sat in a circle around it, drunk on a bit of wine and a great deal of happiness. I looked up, at their faces illuminated by nothing but nineteen birthday candles and the light in their hearts, and I realised, quite suddenly, that the wishes of the years before had all come true.
You see, when I turned sixteen I’d wished that the world I imagined was actually true. Not in these words exactly, but that’s what I meant. When I turned seventeen, I’d wished that I would one day live with strange people who liked strange music. When I turned eighteen I didn’t wish for anything, because there was no cake, or candles; but had I had a chance, I would have wished for a friend. I hardly had any. And suddenly there I was, turning nineteen between a friend and a boyfriend, both decidedly strange and wonderful, in our very own flat — and none of it would have happened had it not been for a list of words, and the world inside my head.
So I looked up and I wished with all my heart that what we were trying to do would work.
This moment was the basis of my first ever post to the Sinister mailing list (a mailing list centred around the idea of ‘life as a Belle & Sebastian fan,’ for the uninitiated) in June 2001 — which probably deserves a post of its own. I don’t suppose anybody remembers this, but I thought I’d mention it. (And for the very much uninitiated, Belle & Sebastian are a band. But really, it doesn’t matter.)
Thursday, November 10, 2011
And then suddenly
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:02 pm
January, 2000. Thessaloniki.
That was the kind of afternoon that made you think something was about to happen. The darkness of the sleepless night before had been transformed into glittering light, both in the world and in my heart. In the world, it shone against the domed roof of the church; in my heart, it danced and turned somersaults. I noticed, for the first time that year, how the days were getting longer; I felt, for the first time in ages, the exaltation that makes the world look like it’s made up of infinite possibilities.
That was the night we got together.
“I’m leaving,” he said. “I’m going into town. Nothing will ever happen to me here. I’ve spent years of my life here, and nothing did.”
“You don’t have to go somewhere else for something to happen to you,” replied my almost-best-friend. “Perhaps the girl of your dreams will walk right through the door.”
And wouldn’t you know it? I did.
The north wind blew, hard and cold. We went into town together, and we walked around in a daze. Very, very late that night we sneaked into my bedroom, just for want of somewhere to go. Half undressed, we stood opposite each other across the carpet, one of us pale-skinned in white, the other dark-skinned in black, and for that moment before everything started we were everything at once: similars, opposites, lovers, fighters, friends — everything that we were and that we were going to be.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Soap bubble box
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:33 pm
December, 1999. Thessaloniki.
Christmas Eve. We gathered in a taverna at lunch time: the inner circle of the record shop people, some of their old friends, and me. I did and didn’t belong there. I loved them all, and they were fond of me, but they were, roughly, twenty years my seniors, with lives that were falling apart when mine had just started, with disappointment in their hearts where mine was filled with longing. I was starry-eyed. I think I’ve told you that before. “What do you have to do with all of this?” one of them asked me, and I replied, truthfully, “I must have something to do with it, or I wouldn’t be here.”
Our faces glowed red, with wine, and love, and warmth, as the snow from the previous entry continued to fall on the city. As the day faded a spontaneous decision was made, and three of us –the one who asked the question, my sort-of-best-friend, and me– sneaked away. We drove off, out of the city and into the countryside, into what you could call another county. They talked about life. I listened.
Having delivered the sort-of-best-friend to his parents’ house, the two of us drove back, almost silently, occasionally singing along with the Nits, watching the snow; and when we got back into the city, during ‘Soap bubble box,’ he turned to me and said, “I could go on driving like this all night” — and I knew just what he meant.
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?
Monday, November 7, 2011
The second attempt
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:18 pm
November, 1999. Thessaloniki.
Another wall to lean against, this time outside a bar toilet. It was better than it sounds: I was leaning against my friend’s coat, which helped me hold on to my courage. I had to do something, and this was the only thing that I could think of.
He came out.
“I’ve got three things to tell you,” I said before he had a chance to speak.
“The first one is that I’m in love with you.” I paused.
“I have forgotten the second one.” I thought for a moment, then gave up.
“The third one is that I will not wait forever, but I will wait for a while. If you want to change your life, you know where I am.” Another pause, and then —
“Oh, I have remember the second one. It was all flattery: you are beautiful, and so on and so forth,” I finished, sounding simultaneously dismissive and earnest.
“I knew that — well, the first one,” he said, and smiled, and walked back to the table where his girlfriend was waiting. I walked back to where my friends were sitting, took a deep breath, and started to wait for a while.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
The first attempt
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:30 pm
October, 1999. Thessaloniki.
Dusk was falling as I leaned against the wall, waiting for him to come out. This was my third attempt: the week before I had waited outside the wrong college, twice, before I realised my mistake. Seeing as I could not, at the time, conceive of taking no for an answer I’d waited around for the next available opportunity, jumped on a bus, and stood against the wall. I’d even brushed my hair at the bus stop.
It was the magic from the previous post that had brought me there. It started its work one sunny September afternoon, when I took a break from fixing my broken bed and sat down, alone, amid the bed planks and the screws and the dust that danced in the patches of early autumn light coming through the window — and found myself thinking of him. I hardly knew him then – we’d only met him a handful of times, only talked twice– and I certainly had never thought about him before; and yet suddenly there he was, in my head, and that was making me happy.
Before long I was overtaken by a conviction unlike anything I had experienced before. “I wander the world for you,” I wrote in my diary, “knowing that you are at the other end of something, quite what I do not know, holding the balance.” “It’s simply that I think that my life complements yours, and yours mine.” “Somehow I think that the heavens will send down the right moves, and, sometime, it will all happen.” But I must have decided that the heavens needed some help down here on earth, too, because there I was, leaning against the wall of the right college.
He was the third one out. He looked around for his girlfriend, quickly, and then said, appreciatively, “you’re very brave.” ‘What would I have, if I didn’t have courage?’ I thought, but thinking that too serious I simply said, “it runs in the family.” Saying little more we walked to the next corner, where I gave him a kiss and a little wooden aeroplane (the best thing I had ever got in a Kinder egg), and we went our separate ways.
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.