I suppose there are some people who are more inclined than others to get addicted to things. Whenever I latch on to something that I like, I devour it. A bit like Pac-Man, apparently I cannot content myself with just a few white dots. I must have all of them, and then more, and then more. It might be food, or literature, or a good TV show, or a stupid game app, or some pretty crazy behaviour like categorizing everything in alphabetical and chronological order. Yes, I’m looking at you, CD towers and bookcases. It wouldn’t be so bad, you know, but as it usually is with addictions, it means you tend to let go of everything else. Sleep, money, order, brushing your hair…
Last weekend I had to take a break from writing. I didn’t have a block, I kinda knew what the next instalment was going to be about, but I had been losing sight of the other things in my life that are important. First and foremost, there are people in my life, the ones that live outside my head, that deserve to be given at least the same amount of attention the ones I create get. And in some cases, well, even more. Secondly, wanting to be a writer mustn’t mean I can forgo being human and living in a human dwelling that wouldn’t resemble a prehistoric cave. And finally, enough with the egomania, I really cannot float through life expecting people to bend over backwards to help and support me and not be willing to do the same for others. I mean, I usually dismiss the guilt Scott Pilgrim-style, but I’m not a twenty-something any more, and egotism stops being cute when you’re supposed to be building a future with someone. So yeah, I spent last weekend sorting things out.
Which means I haven’t edited any of the things I wrote last week yet, nor have I reviewed this one. Same old same old, it’s late, I’m tired, etcetera. I’ll probably end up mass editing everything during my Christmas break. Ho ho ho!
Day 7 of #NotNaNoWriMo
Deaths & Rebirths – part 3
Greta stopped living with us when she was 17. I was just a child but I will never forget how mad mom was at her. It set the maximum intensity of the Ingrid magnitude scale, on which I based my own calculations and was then able to determine just how much I could get away with before she’d blow off the handle.
I remember lots and lots of yelling. The tones escalating, the words getting harsher, Greta crying out “You’re not my mother” and the chilling silence following that remark. Apparently, after a while, my mother whispered angrily, “Just by saying that you have proved how much you’re not ready for this.”
Greta then decided that she had been tackling the issue in the wrong way, while my mother initiated the most effective tactic in every family’s cold war: the silent treatment. For the next three months my mother resorted to never talking if her sister was in the room, while Greta spent them ferociously demonstrating how self-sufficient she was. In the end it was my mother that folded, Greta’s stubbornness being a force even she had to reckon with. Also, the long night the two of them spent talking, during which I overheard a couple apologies being made, might have helped sorting things out. The condition on which they agreed was that my mom would help her choose the place, and Greta would get in touch every day.
Naturally she wasn’t surprised when it turned out her baby sister had already picked a place, and one that didn’t have a single aspect she could object to, either. She signed the lease for her and from then on made sure her mobile phone was always within ear’s reach. I wasn’t even allowed to play Snake on it until Greta hadn’t made her usual call to check in.
Even months after Greta had moved out, my mother couldn’t help feeling restless. Yes, she had a stubborn streak. Yes, she was rebellious. But her sister wasn’t stupid, she knew she would have turned eighteen in a matter of months and my mother wouldn’t have been able to stop her. So why the hurry? Why all the unnecessary drama? I remember resenting Greta a little, I guess that just as my mom had when she was younger, I felt slightly deprived of a spotlight I thought I was entitled to. The events that followed, when the penny finally dropped, did nothing soothe my feelings towards her.
The apartment Greta lived in wasn’t the same she had picked out when she was 17. Like many of the things she wanted to move on from, she left it behind as soon as she could. You know those personality tests you find online? The ones comparing you to a fictional character, or a philosopher, or an animal? If Greta were a piece of music, she would probably be a fugue.
About a month into Spring I went to her house to have a cup of tea. I had been in touch with a publisher offering a summer internship and that day I had had my interview. I sat at her kitchen table, legs outstretched and hands intertwined over my face while she tried to make up her mind on which tea we should drink.
“Are you sure you don’t have any particular preference?”
“I told you, I’m good with anything you give me.”
Not being particularly fond of tea, I wouldn’t know where to start anyway. I heard her moving boxes around and sniffing their contents. She had a ridiculously vast collection of tea blends, I doubt there were any existing shops that had as much variety as she did.
“OK, we’re going to have Chocolate Super Berry Burst!”
“Do you make these things up?”
She giggled like a child and filled the teapot with boiling water.
“Trust me, it’s delicious.”
“It sounds like a My Little Pony…”
It did smell inviting, though, so I cautiously sipped it while Greta ran around the apartment opening every tin box she had until she found one with cookies.
“So… tell me all about your interview!”
“Actually, I don’t know if there is much to tell,” I mumbled, staring at my knuckles. “I was expecting more interaction you know, more questions, more talking. I had been anticipating this thing so much and in the end it was over before I even noticed.”
“Well, that probably means that they were immediately impressed by you.”
I raised an eyebrow and she shrugged. “Sometimes the most optimistic outcome is the one you get. You shouldn’t be so cynical, Oriana.”
I was cynical, but I also thought it was hardly my fault. Like Henrietta, also my mother wanted my name to mean something. So she named me after the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, a headstrong, independent woman who made a name for herself. And who later in life used it to start an anti-Islamic hate campaign. But to be fair, my mother couldn’t very well predict the future, could she. If I have a daughter, I’ll make sure to name her after someone who’s already dead.
(to be continued)