GoodBYE Alice

March 23, 2010

Five years from where I was then, some calendar sheets have fallen down like leaves and I still find myself in the same situation within the same setting, still being the same old me with the longing to shed my skin, stripping bare all the inhibitions that had stopped me from being me.

Although there was a time in my life, where I was keen in wearing other people’s dresses and slipping into someone else’s shoes, I reached a point where being me and myself became of utmost importance and the pursue of all these things that life had forced me to postpone for the one or the other reason became of high priority.

Life, some years ago, was largely a matter of mere somersaults. All I cared about was to be a female version of Huckleberry Finn walking barefoot across other people’s clear-cut lawn or sitting on the little bridge with my feet slightly touching the surface of the water.

Once I longed for some sweetness but one of life’s lessons told me that life & love are not always sweet as in dreams and some episodes have no fairy tale endings.

In situations like that I wish I would believe in something, would see that green light that Gatsby used to admire across the bay at night. Or preserve that sense of wonder and strength for living life like Jo and her little women. And be brave like Pippi and see the best in life as it is.

But in the end it’s gonna be all good and just fine and I think Jewel is damn right when she sings that “dreaming is a good thing ‘cause it brings new things to life, pretending is an ending that perpetuates a lie…”

A year or so from now, tomorrow will still come after today. And around the corner life will still linger, presenting bits and pieces of my past and present. And for now it’s okay to slowly slide back into my shoes and step back into the scenery that surrounds me, eventually joining the crowd of all these strangers out there in the daily grind, stuggling to navigate through the chaos called life.

There are but a handful of moments in our lifetime that truly stay with you for the rest of your life. Amongst mine are those that relate to my grandparents, all bittersweet memories filled with glee, comfort and some ‘pleasant’ pot belly ache over my Opa’s stories and my Oma Christel’s ‘magic’ Christmas cake.

When I was little and both my dear grandparents still alive, we would spend every Christmas day down at their place. My favourite thing to do there was to crawl underneath the side-table in the living room, becoming completely invisible under the crochet lace tablecloth, neatly tucked away from the adult world. In my secret little hidey hole I’d do furtive kiddie things like playing detective and eaves dropping on the enemy’s adult conversation, singing self-composed little songs and for most of all, listen to the stories my Opa would tell about those days when he and my Oma were both young and bold and beautiful.

Every Christmas my grandpa would pull out this old story on how he and my Oma met during the war in December 1942 – she a young pretty nurse at medical school, he a proud assistant doctor that would become ‘weak at his knees’ by the mere sight of her. According to my Opa (this part of the story he would tell me in a whisper), he did not so much fell in love with my Oma’s blonde locks and good looks but more with her ‘magic’ Christmas cake, filled with ’the taste of love’ that led to the romance unfold and eventually develop into something more.

Maybe it was because this story somehow depicts one crucial chapter in my family’s history or really because of the magic and ’the taste of love’ in my Oma’s cake but I remember the incredible amount of love and safeness I felt each time upon hearing my grandparents’ tale (and still feel every time I think back to those days). And my little pot belly would comfortably ache in agreement, the result of eating too much of the warm cake’s custard filling too fast.

After my Oma passed away, her recipe book became a way for me to remember her, to keep her in my life. All in all my Oma was a damn fine lady. She was soft-spoken and sweet. And she loved to share good, home-made food. She came of her cooking age in an era where food was scarce yet said to be ‘the heart of everything,’ a mantra she would pass on throughout her recipes, all living proof of her love for cooking, baking and creating, and above all, the people she catered and cared for.

And just as I could never have imagined my life without having to get to know both my grandparents, I can no longer imagine my life without making that ‘magic’ cake each Christmas, recalling the story of how my Opa and Oma fell in love and remembering how their presence shaped me to become the person I am today. No, Christmas wouldn’t taste the same without that ‘magic’ cake and the memories of love attached to each slice.

Even trivial moments can turn into adventurous childhood ventures. Part of mine were those days when my mama and I would take a trip into town. That was a big deal for me – on that day I would be an early bird, rising up from the pillow pile before everyone else in the house just to be ready and on time for all the exciting city adventure yet to come.

The bus would depart at 8.10AM sharp – a miss would mean going 3 hrs later or not all. In any case this would suck a lot, after all these 1-day trips into town would be my fortnightly highlight. When finally on the bus, I would spend the entire trip staring outside the window, catching houses grow and faint on the horizon, seeing fields of gold in autumn, brown snow match in winter, tint of grass in spring and green grass in summer as season sceneries passing me by; and then, the closer we would get, city buildings appear like gatekeepers to another world. The times I wouldn’t be glued to the window, mama and I would chat about ‘the list’ and the ‘VIP missions’ we had to accomplish in town, including buying some fabrics and other crafty things for my little doll house, chasing after a new pair of pink shoes or browsing through the Joan Aiken or C.S. Lewis collection in the small but cramped bookshop in the side alley. And then there would be the ‘obligatory lunch’ on level 3, followed by a chocolate coated, vanilla dripping Choc Nig.

Nothing fancy yet special to me would be having lunch at that restaurant on level 3 in the one and only centralised shopping mall, one of these canteen-like food-chain supplies where people queue in front of glass counters with chunky food piles on display and grumpy old check-out chicks past their prime (time) and far far away from making your day with even the slightest crack of a smile. Even though the location wasn’t that great I enjoyed every single bite, a chunky-punky meal was just part of the deal of some quality time spent with mama in town.

As a special treat, there would be a chocolate coated ice-cream cone waiting for me outside on the way to see great-grand ma. In a language that is not appropriate to use anymore that dark brown ice cream would be called a Chocolate Nigger. Despite the controversial naming convention, it was yum. I still remember the first bite that cracked the frozen chocolate coat and the melted vanilla ice-cream below that would drip on my shirt. Over the years I witnessed the sign of the little ice-cream trolley change from the inappropriate term mentioned above to a mere Ice-cream Cones with Chocolate Coat. Pfft, adult world – who get’s it? Words should be judged according to their meaning not for the abuse they are used by irresponsible adultrish idiots.

And then after the BIG day out there would come the ride home. Sitting in the bus, I would spend the entire trip staring outside the window, seeing city buildings disappear in the back-rear window, and then fields of gold in autumn, brown snow match in winter, tint of grass in spring and green grass in summer passing me by. Getting off the bus, the smell of country in the air and mama’s hand as safety-net to guide me home, trashed but soaked up with contentment from the city-venture. In retrospect, this trip to town with my mama was all worth it – early bird rise, mass canteen food and the Choc Nig just to slide back into rural bliss called home.

There’s something in the air around NYE that literally screams words like CHANGE, NEW LIFE and GOODBYE VICE. And so with all these New Year’s resolutions well on their way I started to think about my own guilty pleasures. As I do not smoke and only drink in moderation, the only vicious vice I found is cheeky cheap, comes in paper cups and gets called foreign names like Espresso, Latte and Cappuccino.

Yes, you guessed it right – my vicious vice is C-O-F-F-E-E. I tend to compare my addiction to that of a rocky long-term relationship with a fiery bad boy lover. We met in the dark corner of that edgy café around my high school in 2000. He (I assume all dark characters are male) had a dangerous reputation, and I’d often seen him pearling from the lips of the rebellious cool kids.

When my friend Nora offered to introduce me to him, I was apprehensive yet powerfully intrigued by his dark mystery. Weak against the gloomy grey shades of a fading Monday morning and too tired to object or resist, I held the steaming hot paper cup, fumbled in my pocket for the coins, and soon found my lips burning, and frantically engaged in a long hot kiss from heavenly hell. My fingertips burned. My lips sizzled. My head sang with merry-go-round dream liqueur. I was intoxicated with his s. He tasted dark and bittersweet. And he suited me well, adding that philosophical touch to my school girl innocence. His smooth taste drifted across my throat. His aroma was on my clothes, in my hair, inside my (pott)belly. It was there that I discovered the true meaning of love at first sip.

In the early days I had to hide our affair from Mum and Dad as ‘the one’ had the reputation of negatively affecting my health (think high blood pressure and high risk of heart attack). I would cradle my forbidden love on-the-go or in cafes my folks wouldn’t set foot in. There was something about his dark amour that would pick up the morning bluntness and afternoon blurriness of the world. One sip and the taste of his black gold would make the time-chaos stand still, allowing my sleepy morning/afternoon thoughts to get back on track and reconnect with the casualties around me.

Within the next couple of months, I realized that my sacred-secret lover boy was not mine alone. He was on the lips of other women, gossiping in cafes, lingering with drunks outside bars way after midnight and with barely dressed girls in the early hours of the morning, having a quickie on-the-go. He could be with me, strong and hot on my lips one moment, and cooling down like a cranky, moody lover the next. There were moments of complete indulgence, followed by phases of empty bitterness and a pale after taste with his temperature swings alluding to the fact that perhaps I needed him more than he would ever need me.

Over the years I would make several attempts to leave him. Cursing his effect on me as I jogged along the park, committed to regaining my natural strength and awakened state without his fierce, hot touch in the morning. At cafes and stations his mere smell would tempt me. Like a vicious ex, he would wait for me on the corner, dripping from the lips of his new lover. For almost 3 weeks I remained defiant, yet despite my small amount of inner strength, I was unable to resist the clever marketing campaigns of looming deadlines, late night shifts and afternoon writer’s block. Like a summer breeze he would sneak in and sense the aftermath of my emotional wars, breathing that inner woman to life with his dark golden poetry.

To this day our bi-polar union continues, swinging between joyous morning wake-up calls and daunting long afternoon fallouts. I know my co-dependency is pretty obvious and I also know that his love is a cheap vindictive poison that tricks my senses and leaves me anxious, jittery and wanting for more. I am highly aware that our on again/off again affair is causing me a lot of heart-ache, pain and torture. At the same time I know a split with him will be the hardest break-up ever. And I think I am not ready for it – at least not yet. Maybe in 2011. Until then, my only wish? To quit, and this time for good.

PUGSLEY was his name

December 1, 2009

My first car was a VW beetle, born and build in 1981. His name was Pugsley and he was covered in a vintage beige similar to the shade of soft rose skin or the pastel pink of the 3 piglets in those Mickey Mouse cartoons from 1954. His superb interior included b/w peppercorn patterned seat covers, a hip-swinging golden Elvis figure whipping in the front window and a lone 81 AM radio whose reception used to crack in every valley and went slightly out of tune on top of every hill. But for most of all Pugsley was mine.

With Pugsley and me it was love at first sight – his adorable vintage beigeness and smiling retro carriage rendered him more human being than automobile. I instantly knew that Pugsley would be more like a friend than just an ordinary car. He and I were the underdogs of suburbia, sharing road adventures and rewriting music history – him playing those cracked up old school tunes, me belting out loud the chorus, double trouble here we’d tugged along.

I remember one time when we hit – or better hobbled – the highway, me patting his dashboard and saying encouraging coos, him cursing the road with an anxious aching and suspiciously slow sliding noise. By the time we finally made it home it was a proud moment for both of us – for me because I made it home safely after the 1st trip driving alone; for Pugsley because he managed not to break down on the autobahn even though the hand-break was ‘accidentally’ pulled on for about 10km straight. No, I won’t forget the steaming breaks, the smell of burned rubber and my mum clutching tight to the fire-distinguisher in our driveway – a moment to remember!

During our time together, Pugsley’s successes may have been small for most people but his deeds were more than significant to me. Charming in his own ways, Pugsley was the king of the road and the hero of the highway, getting bug-top pats from passersby, smiles from strangers and waving hands from fellow VW drivers.

After all it was Pugsley who was there all along the way and kept me company during some life-changing events – the 1st awkward attempts to get from A to B as a P plater, the first big break-up (and subsequent break-down), the nerve-wrecking days during the Abitur finals. No matter what – Pugsley was loyal until the end, driving me through all the highs and lows, listening to my vigorous vent-sessions, my tearful tantrums and shameful sing-a-longs.

But unfortunately all great love affairs have to come to an end one day. Pugsley and I were wrenched apart by forces larger than both our little lives together. In other words Pugsley’s advanced age and lack of modern safety features such as air-bags and an anti-lock braking system (ABS) as armoury against road trauma alongside my virgin driving skills were reasons enough for my dad to submit good old Pugsley into the hands of a lovely old chap who assured me to only drench him out of the garage for the occasional leisurely Sunday rides.

This is to you PUGGY – I hope you’ll remember me as much as I do remember you. I hope you’ll still around somewhere, tugging along the roads Pugsley-style – slow, graceful and with dignity. And be sure, whenever I think of you, I’ll shed a tear and picture your polished pastel pink as you humbly rumble into a picture-perfect setting sun. xoxo