missed connection

There sat a man on the stairs leading to the platform. His hair was hidden underneath a black hoodie, and his pale hands clutched a mobile phone. His jeans-clad legs were bent, and his arms hugged his knees. His head rested on his them. He looked like a tired, sad man. His eyes were at once empty and overflowing with a raging storm of emotions. Maybe he was homeless. No one could tell for sure. Appearances can be deceiving in this day and age. Everyone who took a moment to look at him saw that he was engrossed with the scene before him.

A busker stood next to a pillar. He was there for everyone to see. His fingers picked at the strings of his worn guitar, creating melodies, and his voice pronounced every word he sang with as many emotions as he could muster that day. His guitar case lay in front of him; opened wide so that passersby would be tempted to toss in some of the loose change they kept in their pockets. So far, not many coins were spread out on the black velvet. The romance of busking in the underground and being discovered accidentally by someone influential was wearing off. Sometimes he wished he hadn’t quit his day job because of a fluke. He had fulfilled his dream of becoming a fulltime musician, and there was no turning back. And now, he played for people who hurried past him without seeing him and homeless drunks like the one on the stairs across from him, who didn’t listen to him.

I stood at the busker’s left and observed both men. Both had a similar aura. Tired of their situations. Not of their lives like me. I felt a momentary connection with these strangers while I projected my own struggles on them. I imagined back stories for them, pasts and futures. The man on the stairs looked lost in thoughts and mesmerised by the busker singing and interpreting songs we both knew from the radio. And rightly so. He sang a beautiful version of Mad World. I hummed along.

The man on the stairs moved his lips in time with the lyrics too. Three strangers who had no connection whatsoever connected over a song. It was magic. I smiled to myself. It was a strange and foreign sensation for me. Serenity, being calm, smiling – I was not used to these emotions anymore. During this brief moment of contentment, the man on the stairs looked into my eyes. He nodded ever so slightly, and, to me, it seemed as if his eyes were less tired then. A glimmer of hope was radiating through him and enveloped my own hopeless self. I felt seen, usually, I was invisible. It was at once comforting and weird.

The train arrived, and the spell that had surrounded us dissipated and vanished with the throng of people invading this bubble that had been so magical and safely guarding the three of us mere seconds ago. The masses swallowed the stranger, and when the rushing brook of busy people had turned into a trickle, he was gone, and the busker was unplugging his guitar with a smile on his lips. I turned to leave too. Without direction, without purpose. I had missed the train.

The Busker

Turning off the light switch, Johnny shoulders his guitar, puts on his woolen hat, and leaves his home. He lives above a café in a small apartment he rented from the owner. It shouldn’t be called an apartment because it is so tiny a shoebox would be a better description of his all-in-one living space. But it has a bed, a bathroom, and heating. It is not much, but it is all Johnny can afford. When he is behind with his rent, the owner of the building makes him work at the café, but that is okay, it pays nicely, and he is allowed to keep the tips for himself. Johnny locks the door, turning the keys twice, and puts them in his bag. It’s one of those large bags that you can sling over your head and onto the shoulder. This particular model allows him to carry around all sorts of things and to wear the straps of his soft guitar case on his shoulders. He would love to be able to afford a hard case, they look cool, but they are too expensive, and the soft case is more comfortable to carry around anyway.

It’s cold outside, and Johnny’s breath freezes mid-air when he exhaled. A look up into the sky makes him realize that there will be rain sometime during the day. The crowd will be sparse. People hurry from one store to the next when it rains. They don’t stop to stare or listen to random buskers playing their songs in the street. Johnny puts his scarf around his neck and pulls the zipper of his jacket up to his chin. He blows hot air into the palms of his hands to heat them. Somewhere in his bag are fingerless gloves, but he doesn’t want to wear them yet. One of these days, when he put enough money aside, he will buy a new jacket. One that will keep the cold out of his bones. Not that long ago, Johnny saw one at a second-hand store, with a little luck, it will still be there when he has the money for it. But for now, it has to wait, and he is content with the clothes on his body. Johnny glances at his watch. It is time to hurry up and stop dreaming.
In quick steps, he jogs for about fifteen minutes before he reaches the stairs to the underground. He takes them two at a time,  knowing exactly where to go. He knows which tube he needs to take and how to ride it without paying the fee. Of course, if he gets caught, he will have to deal with paying double or even triple. It happened once or twice before. For today, Johnny chooses not to think about it.
Johnny quickly finds a seat on the train and puts the guitar between his legs. Every day, he waits for the morning commuters to vacant the trains. As soon as they are at work, his customers emerge from everywhere, and it is them who help him pay his measly rent and keep food in his belly. Most people assume that he doesn’t have a schedule or plans when he wakes up in the morning. But he has. Johnny’s day is well organized. It is something he needs to feel safe and protected.

In his mind, Johnny repeats the songs he wants to sing today. He puts buds if his headphones in his ears and put play on his old and battered CD player. It has seen better days, that’s for sure, and the kids who see him with the old gadget never spare their pitying looks or condescending comments. He puts his favorite self-compiled CD in and hopes that his batteries aren’t too weak to play for the remainder of the train ride. Johnny composes a mental tracklist for his day. He will start with a couple of cover songs, those that make people stop and sway along and then, a couple of his own songs to sell maybe one or two copies of his home-recorded, unedited and raw album. That’s the plan. But things never go as planned. Johnny knows that all too well. The rain could ruin everything but, on the other hand, someone important might hear him and make him a star. He shakes his head at his own thoughts. Johnny is not a dreamer. In his life is no space for dreams anymore. And yet, he keeps fantasizing about a career in music. Rain or not, he will play.

Two more stations until his stop. Johnny watches a young mother making silly faces at her child. The child laughs out loud, and the mother kisses its head. Both seem happy, and their happiness fills the cart of the train. Observing the mother and daughter reminds him of his own child that he hasn’t seen in a while. He misses Penny, every day and he keeps a picture of her in his pocket. It is worn and faded, but it is his little princess. She should be five years old by now. He recalls the times when he took her with him to ‘work.’ She used to dance, and people stopped to watch the little, then three-year-old sing and dance along to her daddy’s tunes. Those were happy days. The carefree days are long gone now. Often times, Johnny feels as if he is existing, not living. His girlfriend – ex-girlfriend, has a new life, and she moved them to the suburbs. She has it all now. The car, the big house, the dog, she even has the fucking white picket fence and the model husband who works a regular desk job. Not to forget the conservative clothes and hairdo, too. She has everything they ever mocked when they were together, and the thirty-year-old musician has no justified reason to exist in her world anymore. She refuses to see him, and she refuses to let him see his child. She erased him from her past, and all that is left of them – his own family, are sad lyrics in songs no one has ever heard. He continues to watch the mother with her child, and for a tiny moment, he wishes that his life has turned out differently.
Where would he be now if he hadn’t dropped out of school at fifteen to pursue his dream of making it big as a musician? Where would he be now if he had looked for a ‘real’ job when his ex-girlfriend became pregnant? Where would he be now if they were still together?
The crackling voice coming from the speakers above his head announces the next stop, his stop. He gathers his bag and his guitar and gets up. As soon as the train stops, he leaves. He doesn’t look back at the woman and her child. It takes some effort, but he doesn’t turn his head. If he only had the chance, he could be an amazing dad for his little girl. He wonders if she even remembers him or if he turned into a faded memory mistaken for a dream once in a while.

Johnny takes the stairs two at a time again. At the top, he stops to take off his hat and rearrange his baggage. The streets are still empty, but it doesn’t bother him, not yet. He sees familiar faces and greets some of them, making small-talk. It’s good to have allies on the street. It’s not always as romantic as it may appear to be. He has his corner, and others have their corners too. As long as no one plays on the other’s territory, everything is easy, but overstep the invisible border, and you and (or) your instrument will suffer severe damage. Johnny prefers his world to be peaceful and stays out of as many brawls as possible. His corner is a good one, though. It’s close to a fountain, and in summer, when it is hot, people sit on the steps with an ice cream cone or cooling their feet in the water. In the colder months, it’s a bleak place, yet it is his, and it is across from a well-frequented coffee house. His back is turned toward an expensive boutique—the kind where one pair of jeans costs more than two months of his rent. The people going in and out are not the type of people to stop and listen to his strumming, but it’s okay. He is realistic enough to know that he can’t win them all. Unconsciously, it bugs him more than he will ever let on.

He sets up his little workspace and tunes his guitar. He opens his case for people to throw in some money and decorates it with his homemade CDs along with a sign that they are pay-what-you-want. Most people give a Euro or so, it’s nowhere near as much as they are worth, but it’s better than nothing, and Johnny is not the type of person to complain. He takes what he can get, but never demands more.

He clears his throat and starts to sing into the microphone. The first songs are always hard to sing. Every day he needs to find the courage and the voice to sing in the street for the passing people, and that from the top of his lungs. Three songs in and the first group of people stops. It looks like a class on a day trip. The young girls giggle. He knows it’s because he is handsome. And he has to admit that he likes to look good. Enough of his fellow buskers look like bums, and he sees how people look the other way when they see them; he wants to stand out with his good appearances. He takes care of his daily hygiene, and he doesn’t walk around in holey, grubby clothes. In his mind, success and looking good go hand in hand in the music industry, and he wants it more than anything else.

Johnny winks at one of the girls. That small acknowledging gesture always works, and she starts to rummage in her purse. Before he knows it, she put a 5 Euro bill in his case. He smiles. It’s a great start. The song stops, and he thanks the young girl. She blushes and asks for a particular cover. Johnny is happy to oblige. He isn’t able to take on every request because he doesn’t know every song, but he knows this one and starts singing about seeing fire inside of mountains. The girls clap, and because of them standing in a half-circle around him, more curious people stop to listen, and more money is thrown into his case. At one moment, he closes his eyes and almost forgets that he is only a street musician. Almost. He imagines standing on stance; professional equipment makes him sound better than ever. The spotlight heats his cold fingers. But as soon as the song is over, he is back in the cold reality too, watching as the crowd disperses. Another song finished, and this time, the girls buy one of his disks and ask him to sign it. Johnny has to laugh out loud, he has never signed a CD before, but the girls insist. He poses for pictures with them, and for the minutes they share with him, he feels like a rock star. One of the girls asks if she can share the video she took of him on her Facebook page or Instagram account. He agrees. Usually, those videos are shaky, and the sound quality is terrible anyway, but he is also aware that they put his name out there. They make a little small-talk about this and that, but the conversation dies down, and the situation becomes awkward. Johnny excuses himself to play some more songs, and the group of girls leaves. And while the city is fully awake now and the grey clouds moved on to reveal patches of blue sky, Johnny continues to play. The day announces itself to be a good one after all. He plays for money, yes, but he also plays for his tormented soul. To ease the pain, that threatens to drown him some days. He plays to fill the hearts of every listener with love and gratitude, and he plays because he is grateful too. Maybe one day, his heart will be filled with love again too, but Johnny is a cynic, and he doesn’t count on it.

After three hours of singing and playing, the tips of his fingers hurt, and his throat is as dry as the desert. It’s time to take a break. He sits on the steps of the fountain and looks at the busy crowd. He rummages in his bag to find something to eat, and when he looks up, he sees her face, and it feels as if time slows down. She vanishes into the forest of legs and bags. He jumps up to search for her in the crowd. Was it real? Is his mind playing tricks on him because of the mom and girl he saw on the train? People move in slow motion, but then her face appears again. Her hand is embedded in a larger one. Johnny’s gaze travels up the arm, and that face is familiar too. They come closer, and he straightens his clothes, runs his fingers through his hair to smooth it down, and, with a racing heart, he waits for their reaction.

To his surprise, she stops in front of him.

“Hi,” she says, looking down at the little girl he would recognize everywhere in the world.

“Hi,” he answers, rocking on his heels and burying his hands in his pockets, not to reach out and touch the child’s blonde locks.

“Remember Penny?” She asks. Of course, he does. How could he forget his child? He nods, and then he has an idea. He takes one of his CDs and scribbles something on the case. ‘For my dearest Penelope. You will always hold the biggest place in my heart.’ He hands it to the girl with a smile, and she looks up at her mother as if to ask permission to take the gift. He hasn’t much to offer and doesn’t have the money to buy her toys or anything. Instead, he gives her something that comes straight from his heart. The moments between Penny asking permission and her taking the gift stretches, and Johnny releases a shaky breath.

“So. You’re still playing then?” His ex nods at his worn guitar, and it makes him feel small, like a failure. She wears an expensive coat, and even her perfume smells expensive.

“Yes. Every day. Always here.” She looks at him with a longing expression on her face. Is that remembrance? Is she thinking of all the times she sat here with him? She looks down at his worn boots and up again. Her face has changed.

“Take care, Johnny.” She pulls at the girl’s hand, and they move on.

“Who was that man?” Penny asks, looking over her shoulder at him. He wants to yell, “I’m your dad,” but the girl’s mother is quicker with her answer.

“Nobody, honey. Just a busker.” Johnny turns away and grabs his guitar. His heart is heavy, and his voice hoarse. His eyes are moist, and his pride a little bruised, and he clings to the only thing that ever offers a hint of security to him. A hint of normalcy. His break wasn’t long enough, his fingers still hurt, but he starts to sing again. The physical hurt is not as bad as the hurt he feels inside. Until then, he only assumed that Penelope wouldn’t know him. The assumption became true. And the truth hurts. For the remainder of the day, he sings songs of lonely hearts and broken dreams. Passers throw some money in his case, and he wonders what they see when they look at him. His ex’s voice reverberates in his mind. “Nobody. Just a busker.”

untitled_20200306

She was glowing from an unexpected bout of happiness, and for a brief moment, the world did not matter. At that moment, nothing mattered. Just the peace she felt within. Every interaction with him made her happy, and she wasn’t sure if he knew. He made her happy. Thinking about him made her grin. Browsing the pictures he sent on her phone made her heart race. Nothing was perfect about him, and it was those imperfections that she loved the most. He was not hiding, not holding back. He was real, raw – there. He was a unique man, and somehow he had found her. And she couldn’t imagine a life without him anymore. He made her feel safe and understood. He made her feel loved.

Their call had ended moments ago, and like a lovesick teenager, she sat on her bed, thinking about the way he made her comfortable, the way he made her laugh, the way he had succeeded in getting her out of her shell. She was a woman in her mid-thirties, she had a job, kids, a home, and yet, he made her feel young again. He reminded her of how it felt to be in love.

Some days, she was scared to be hurt, but that fear was meaningless compared to the fear of hurting him without intent. Her past had been hard here and there, but she was able to handle it most days. Did that make her strong? She preferred not to think about it, not since someone had called her weak in every aspect of her life. He had a past life too. He was damaged and bruised, sometimes even bleeding. There wasn’t anything she could change about it; she could only be there and hold him through the bad times. Both of them were broken, but somehow, together, they were whole again.

Next to her, her phone was ringing. It was him again, and the butterflies in her stomach spread their wings again. It was his second call in the same hour.

“Me again. I just forgot to say, I like you. A lot. I like you.”

Before she could reply, he had disconnected the call. And the smile on her face grew even wider. She shook her head. Had this really happened? She laughed out loud, a bubbly happy sound she couldn’t prevent from filling her empty room. She held her phone close to her heart and waited a moment before sending a text message to him.

She liked him too. A lot. She didn’t want to admit it out loud, but he was her last thought at night and her first in the morning. She missed him when he was not there and worried when he was not well. She broke out in internal happy dances when he sent texts or pictures, and with every call, every meaningless and every meaningful conversation, he got a little deeper under her skin.

With a deep worried breath, she realised that a piece of her heart belonged to him, and she had no idea how and when it had happened.

Welcome to Eternity (repost)

And so it began. Her reflection in the mirror faded with every time she dared to look. Her skin became grey, and her eyes had lost the living spark. Color was a distant memory she only vaguely remembered. Grief had taken over the moment he had passed on. She rubbed her face with bony, wrinkled hands, trying to find the person she once was. But she was gone. He had taken everything with him, and he had left her with an old and worn shell.
She shuffled to the bedroom and closed the windows. The evening breeze was crisp; winter was lurking around a corner. She shed the last pieces of her clothing and laid on the bed, folding her hands on her soft stomach. Then she closed her eyes and conveyed the images of him that she had stored away in her mind. They came and took her away. Away from the grey. Away from the grief. She felt her feet touch the ground, and her eyes sought out details to understand where she was. She was in a strange land where no age and no pain existed. A land between life and death. But she didn’t know that yet. Her vessel was still inhaling air to fill her lungs and making her heartbeat on.

She could hear his voice; Henry’s voice was teasing her, asking to come see him. But whenever she turned toward the direction of the sound, nothing was there. No one was there.

“Henry?” Her thin voice reverberated through the nothingness — the uncertainty spread inside her body. The soles of her naked feet felt a change in the surrounding before her mind was able to catch on. Where the ground had been of sand and gravel before, it was now cotton-like and soft. Walking became more like floating. A burst of familiar laughter made her walk on with a smile. She was where she wanted to be. For a moment, her chest had felt constricted, but it wasn’t anymore. Panic that had threatened to arise was pushed back down. She knew that she would be fine because he was near.

There was no way to describe what she saw around her. There were no shapes, and yet everything was of different shapes. There were no colors, and yet everything was so very colorful. There were no sounds, and yet, it wasn’t quiet either. Everything felt familiar and well-known. Almost intimate. Even the smell of the air reminded her of a place she had loved once upon a time.

“Henry?” she asked again. She felt the touch on her bare arm before she saw him.

“There you are, my love,” he replied and kissed her forehead. “I missed you, what took you so long?” She needed a moment to answer. She took his cheeks between her hands and exhaled sharply. “Henry, is this you? This can’t be you.” The man looked familiar, but he was young. So very young. Her Henry had been old and sick, marked by his age and everything he had seen in his lifetime. His hands covered hers. The heat of him seeped into her. His smile was contagious and familiar. “It is you,” she whispered, stepping back and bringing her hands to her lips. If this was Henry, what did it mean? How could it be? The blurry shapes and colors changed around her. She was on the farm she had grown up. The grass was green; the shade of green it has after a recent summer rain. The sky was blue and cloudless. The barn that had burned down and had killed livestock stood tall and was painted in red and white. Looking down, she realized that she was standing on a wooden porch. She was wearing a thin dress she had loved because of the flowers on it. She turned around. Everything was familiar. Young Henry sat in a rocking chair, looking at her.

“Did the other shoe finally drop?” he chuckled and reached his hand out to her. He was engulfed in light. The glow was so bright, she almost had to look away, but she couldn’t. She took his hand, and he pulled her toward him. “Oh, Henry,” she sniveled. “Are we…?” She didn’t finish her question.

“Yes, Vera, my love. Welcome to eternity.”

Dear stranger…

Holy fucking hell; I miss you more than I ever knew. I saw someone crossing the street today; he looked like you: the same curls, the same pale skin, the same walk, the same posture. My heart went like mad. Eyes wide and wild, I had troubles to get my car in gear again. But, fuck me, I began longing for you; for your voice.

The moment I could think straight again, I reminded myself that it had not been you, crossing the street. You are in the UK, sound-checking for your upcoming show.

But man, I miss you. Most days, I don’t. Most days, I am indifferent, because yearning for your touch makes me feel empty and numb. Other days, it feels as if I cannot breathe because you are not here. You weren’t here for a long, long while.

I am fine without you. Seeing your doppelganger threw me for a loop though. And so, I did what I can do without calling or sending a text. I checked social media channels for your face; I listened to old interviews, and I floated in a serene mindset listening to your music. It is all I can get; it is all I am asking for. At times likes these, I am glad that you are visible and that I can get my fix (like an addict) without you noticing.

Of course, I also write these letters. Not that you will ever read them, stranger, but my thoughts can soar free like an eagle like this, instead of being trapped in a cage.

I don’t like to be trapped, but I want to believe that you waste one or two thoughts on me too, once in a while.

When we spent time together, life was good. When we went our different ways, I was devastated and wanted to die. I am not writing this to put pressure on you, and I am sharing this to show you how dependent I was on you.

You made me, and you broke me.

It’s been a long while. And these days, I look back on what we had with a smile. You were there and showed me what passion and love is. You told me that I am worth to be loved – and I believed you; still do.

There are moments like today, when I wish we could be together, but then, a couple of hours later, I remember that we are too codependent and that our deep emotions are dangerous for our sanities.

Maybe I am in advantage because you are a public person and if I want, I can see you.

I want you to be happy – I know you are not because you still think that you don’t deserve it, but you do.

Still and always yours,

Sweetie

Heatwave – mature content

The heat, it got to her. She had always had a healthy sex-drive, but this here right now was a lot, even for her standards. She felt insatiable. Always in the mood.

Naked as she was, she let the light breeze, that found a way into her bedroom, caress her skin. It was as if her lover was gently tracing her nooks and folds and crannies with his tongue. She closed her eyes and arched her back. This felt good. Her hands knew where to go on their own. No explanation needed. One hand massaged her breast and played with her nipples, while the other hand traveled south. Legs spread wide, she didn’t waste time. Too good. She was wet. Not moist; no, dripping wet. The sound her body made as her fingers entered her spurred her on. She needed it. Right then. Right there. The smell of her own sex engulfed her and laid a thin veil over her senses, blocking out her environment. Sweat was covering her; droplets rolling down and pooling between her breasts. She wet her lips with the tip of her tongue moaning deep within her throat. Almost there. She didn’t take her time, didn’t prolong the explosion that was at the tips of her fingers. Her legs were shaking. Ragged breath. She bit her bottom lip, her eyes were closed. More. More. More of this. Her hips moved on their own accord, trying to find more friction. The tingling that had started inside of her was spreading fast. She threw her head back with another moan. Her back was arched, her hair was drenched in sweat. Pulling her legs back to reach more; to enter herself deeper. It was there, she felt the wave coming. Ready to let her lose her mind.

Another touch startled her. Not her own hands. They ruined her orgasm. Calloused, male hands. Asking for permission to continue what she had started. She took her hand from her pussy, tasting her own lust with a sly grin. Eyes meeting eyes. Dilated pupils didn’t hide their carnal desires. The sensation of his hands on her was too much to bear. He knew how to push her buttons. He knew exactly how to read her body. What had started slow and casual was building up again. She was biting her hand to keep herself from screaming out her lust, but he didn’t allow it. He demanded to hear her. And there it was. The right touch. The right pressure. Too fast. Too soon. Her entire body tensed. She stopped breathing. And the heat swallowed her from within. Sensitive to his touch, she tried to move away, but he was not done. The night was young and it was too hot to sleep anyway…

untitled-20180502

6:37 in the morning. Tears and shower water mingle. It hasn’t been this bad in a while. No way of getting her thoughts straight and too many responsibilities to rest. Nowhere to hide, just in plain sight. Getting dressed. One task done. Getting the kids ready for school. Another task done. Did not cry for an hour. Success. Husband didn’t notice – or hasn’t said anything. Success. Driving to work. Another task done. Working on autopilot. Smiling, singing. Out of body experience. She wishes she wasn’t there. Nowhere. No one notices. Success. She’s winning. Not this battle, not this fight. One task at a time.

don’t move on

No amount of positive words he read could change the heavy feeling inside his chest. If he didn’t have all these responsibilities, he would probably leave everything behind. But on top of being a responsible man, he also cared. And he was a coward. If he ran, he didn’t know where to. And the unknown scared him more than anything else. And so, he stayed inside his bubble, breaking to pieces with every breath he took, and falling apart with every thought that flooded his mind. He kept reading every inspirational quote on the internet. It made him angry. But there was nothing he would or could change. Trapped inside his own inability to move on.

No answers

She didn’t know the answers to many questions. She didn’t know why this special man needed to be a part of her life. She didn’t know how she felt for him. She didn’t know why him. But she knew that she deserved better than him telling her “see you in another life”. She deserved better than that. She accepted that he didn’t want to talk to her. She accepted that she didn’t know why he was like breathing air for her. But she didn’t accept “see you in another life.”