You are as delicious as gnocci

This week it occurred to me that I’ve been living here a month. I’ll do something lovely for Dan to celebrate, I thought. But when I looked up on my calendar to find the exact one month anniversary, I realised I’d already missed it. Time goes so fast out here.

The weekdays pass with reading and writing and coffee and cooking and the weekends are Dan time. I find I’m never not looking forward to tomorrow.

Last Friday morning, Dan and I caught the first U-Bahn. We spent the weekend in Hannover attending an exhibition at the IAA of Dan’s work for Mercedes and hunting for Indian food. We stayed in a ridiculously cheap Airbnb with a ridiculously comfy bed and a gorgeous view.

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It rained constantly and was freezing. Stuttgart is in a big dip and therefore never has any wind, which we realised we’d been taking for granted when we had to buy coats and jumpers over there. When we arrived we sought shelter in a simple and beautiful Italian restaurant and I had my first glass of red wine since last winter with a seafood pizza.
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Obscurely, I’m learning more Italian out here than German. Angela, who lives next door to Dan in Stuttgart has been teaching me the language over beers and introducing me to her Italian friends. My very favourite thing to say is, ‘tu sei gnocco’. It means (when said to a man) ‘you are as delicious as gnocci’.

We’re going to her flat tonight and she’s cooking us a traditional Italian meal. We’re bringing extra plates and cutlery, flowers and, of course, prosecco.

I still have no idea what I’ve done to deserve this life of free rent, Riesling, creativity and self-care. I’m so extremely aware of how fortunate I am. It’s the first time I’ve not had a job since I was thirteen.

Someone pinch me.

Aside from our apartment, there are three places in Bad Cannstatt I love to write. For my early morning sessions, an Italian café, for mid-morning and lunchtime, a French bistro, and for the afternoons a German brauhaus.

This new story I’m writing I get more and more interested in every day. Angela says when I talk about it there’s a light in my eyes and Floss and I have been laughing about the characters like they’re our friends.

With any luck, there’s something wonderful brewing, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned since being here is that wonder breeds wonder.

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Guilt Trip

She’s a welcoming sight in her favourite velvet skirt and her usual burgundy red smile. In front of her are two glasses of white wine, misty on the outside from the cold condensation and fingerprinted at their bases from her fiddling.

‘Will you hate me if I say I knew you’d come?’ she asks.

‘Not forever.’ I assure her.

‘Cheers,’ she offers, her fingers curling exquisitely around the stem of her glass.

‘To us,’ I say.

But my glass stays on the granite top of the bar and hers is lost somewhere between us as I take her powdery face in my hands and kiss her.

‘We’re in public,’ she mumbles.

‘And in fourteen hours we’ll be in Tokyo,’ I tell her. ‘And I’ll kiss you there, too.’

She pulls me into her then and her lips find my neck and my ears and the top of my chest. This woman, like water, is cool and fresh with diamond eyes that fill and glitter.

‘Every day I want to drink you,’ she says. ‘That doesn’t make sense, I know it doesn’t.’

‘I want to drink you, too,’ I reply.

With pure and unbreaking eye-contact we sit on the high leather stools and drink the wine. When the man in the green waistcoat asks if he can get us anything else I say, ‘the same again, please.’

‘I’m so impressed by you,’ she says. ‘How are you feeling?’

‘Good.’

‘Guilty?’ she asks.

‘Yes,’ I tell her honestly, ‘but we knew that would happen.’

‘We did.’

‘I wasn’t happy with him. I haven’t been for such a long time.’

She says nothing. She knows I am only talking to myself and she lets me.

‘He wasn’t good to me.’

‘Sweetheart, he was awful,’ she says, slowly, carefully.

‘Look,’ she says, glancing up at the board. ‘Gate fifty. Are you ready?’

‘Very much.’

What was once my husband’s backpack, I swing over my shoulder.

‘Wait,’ she calls, a little too loudly. She tips what was left from the glasses onto a black serviette and twists my arm sharply towards her. Our eyes met, but only for a second, because I think, in each other’s eyes, we see something that suddenly isn’t easy anymore.

I watch, as she scrubs dry crimson red off the inside of my wrist.

‘Okay,’ she breathes.

 

Standing Order

Life has been so kind to you, Sammy. You don’t understand now, but you will learn. I hope you will learn because it would kill me if you never understood how hard it is for me to ask you for something like this. I am embarrassed, Sam. That I know you will never understand – embarrassment is one of those things you will have prepared for; one of those human things that you can buy out of with the right currency and Lord knows you have enough of that.

It has taken a lot for me to accept that who you are is not a product of how I raised you. When you sit down in the evenings – when your family has gone to bed in their silk bed-sheets and whiskey rolls around your tongue as you notice at the new way in which the maid has started to organise those beautiful designer cushions: you feel grateful – that’s got nothing to do with me. I imagine I wouldn’t even make the list of polite acknowledgements. Or maybe I would – you’re etiquette never ceases to astound me.

I would resent you so much when you were a teenager. I hope you never know how it feels to be undermined by someone who holds the potential to make your dreams. I used to wish you’d hate me. I used to will you to stand up to me, shout at me, tell me that I was a useless hippy pothead. I needed you so badly to lose your temper. But you never did. You just got quieter and quieter – and my instinct was to make the noise to counter-act it, but that was never going to work with you.

I assumed for a long time that you had no friends because of who you were with me. I realise now that that was never the case, was it? You just never told me. Were you scared of what I’d do? Scared that I’d feed them cold baked beans? Although that wouldn’t make sense because you’re never scared.

I need money and I would like you to lend me some.  You will not, I’m sure, be surprised to hear that I have exhausted every other alternative. I am also going to ask you to save me the conversation of asking me what it is for. Or how much I am in debt by. I will pay interest on your money and there’s nothing else that you need to know.

Tell me that I don’t have an interesting face. Say that the colours of the clothes I wear wouldn’t accurately translate into a picture. Or tell me the truth as to why you never once asked to photograph me. I’ve seen some of your collections – you do portraits, mainly, don’t you? Thousands of stained lips and lined faces and grey roots – and are the smiles real? Do you really get them to smile, Sam? (How do you do that?).

Five thousand pounds is what I would like.  One dinner out for you – isn’t it? Starting in April I will pay you back seventy-five pounds a week. I would like you to get back to me on that. I can save the re-payments, if you’d prefer, and give to you all at once, only because I do not know how to set-up a standing order but I can find out from Uncle Sean or somebody.

It’s a lot to ask and I am acknowledging that. But it’s not a lot to give.

My phone number hasn’t changed. You could text me if you like.

If your children know me then send my love.