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To my women

Today, let’s tell all the little girls out there to wish for something more, something bigger. Instead of reading them fairytales validating the notion of the damsel in distress – cause let’s be honest Arthurian legends can only bid so far – read them stories about our warriors. About the women that fought for our rights, and paved the way for our bright futures. 

Let’s remind our little girls that it’s not about being princesses, they should foster to be literary legends, doctors, lawyers, painters, dreamers. Believers in themselves as opposed to believers in happily ever afters.Remember that a woman invented the novel in the 11th century – where would we be without the novel? Free-falling that’s where.

Let’s remember that Virginia Woolf was the mother of modernism – her A Room of One’s Own goes so far in teaching young women that being a writer is boundaryless and that women need spaces. She was talking about this concept before it was even created. Let’s never forget her words,

“As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world.”

Today isn’t about one upping another gender, it’s about finding balance and constancy. It’s about realising that gender should not be a deciding factor in determining someone’s capabilities. 

So today – here’s to all the strong women out there who aren’t afraid to speak their minds. 

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Bukowski or Beyond

The rain fell softly in the distance.

Every drop created a melody that enchanted her mind into oblivion.

Rainy days were the best days, she thought. The drops danced off of the cobblestones as she sat at Baylon, reading Factotum by Charles Bukowski.

She looked at the cobblestones. Then back at the book. There was a lifespan of differences between the world outside, and the world of Bukowski.

The girl thought about her future—the vast openness of it both empowered and terrified her. She thought about Petrarch and how life would be so simple if defined in iambic pentameters, she wondered about Machiavelli and how life would be so entertaining if underlined by satire.

She took one last sip of her cappuccino, and got up. Deciding that today, Bukowski could take a backseat to Rome.

She walked down Via di S. Francesco a Ripa.

Sometimes she forgot how beautiful the city was.

Today was not one of those days.

The rain was stopping. The sun was rising off in the distance. The aura of fresh cones and coffee wafted around her.

That was the thing about Rome—movement wasn’t valued over a single moment. The city echoed a past that the people could not. The girl lived for the stories the city could tell her, as well as those that were left unspoken.

Rome wasn’t just one story. One past. One history. It was strewn together the way our blood pumped through our veins. Each cobblestone a diastole and systole meshing into the heart of Rome.

She thought about all the authors and artists that had once lived here. She realised that none of them could be her future because all that had been said and done, painted and written and now she stood in front of the open street; an empty canvas waiting to come to life with the stroke of her future.

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Il Palazzetto and Me

I sat atop Il Palazzetto. Why I had never been here before? Maybe laziness did really confound me. Sometimes it was easy to wander in Rome. When you weren’t tied to a person or a place. There have been so many days where I sit almost trapped in Trastevere dreaming of open streets unmarred by cobblestones, and of buildings higher than two stories tall.

I sat atop Il Palazzetto. It was a strange feeling—beautiful. What did that word really even mean? It could mean so many things at once. Free? Maybe. Yes. Kind of. It was a kind of freedom that I didn’t feel in Trastevere. But then freedom wasn’t what I was looking for.

There was something about this city that made me want more than just that. I wanted inspiration. I wanted to sit in a Piazza and listen to the old man with glasses playing that song on his guitar that I now knew by heart. I wanted to write about it. But I couldn’t capture sensation on paper. The same way a picture doesn’t do justice to a feeling, sometimes words don’t either. I looked out and in the distance I could almost make out the top of St. Peters.

I looked down and saw the vast Piazza di Spagna. Across, I saw Via Condotti and the people that didn’t really look like people at all. There were so many tourists and I wondered where the Romans where. Were they hiding from the tourists? Was I? I guess not since I was sitting in the most touristy of places. I hope people didn’t think I was one. That was always one of my greatest fears—being deemed a tourist.

The bar was pretty, in a quaint Romanesque sort of way. The flowers that stayed hidden all throughout the winter had finally begun to sprung and the railing next to me was filled with a vibgyor of coloured flowers. There were too many people around me, but my table felt small. The city was stretched out before me, but I felt alone. It was a strange feeling, feeling so big yet so small at the same time.

The table I sat at gave me a perfect view of the cafe one story below, and straight ahead, of the people down in Piazza di Spagna. The people in the cafe were speaking in English and instantly I looked towards them. It was a group of international people. One of them was Indian and I kept my eye on him. Wondering if he felt the same way I did. If he missed Desi music, and weddings, and samosas as much as me.

It was overwhelming, if anything. To be sitting so high up, surrounded by nothing but my thoughts. I ordered a glass of wine. The waiter looked at me and said “solo?” I nodded, trying to show him I was confident in my own company. My phone had no service. My bag had no books. I was alone. I hadn’t been alone in a while.

I tried to decide what to do as the waiter placed my wine glass in front of me, I call it a glass but it was more like five drops of Chianti in a jug. I sipped on it, feeling peaceful but extremely uneasy at the same time. I looked around me, people watching. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. The couple on my left sat taking selfie after selfie, tourists, I rolled my eyes at the air.

There was a man at the far end of the cafe, and I thought yes, someone else is here alone. But soon after he was joined by a woman and they sat looking elegant and classy sipping on some red wine. The woman was dressed in a white chiffon suit, and I secretly hoped her wine would spill on it. I wondered what I looked like to them. Definitely not elegant. Definitely not classy. My hair was in a bun, my denim shirt was swaying around in the wind, and my shopping bags sat in a fort around me. Yeah—definitely not classy.

I decided people watching was not working out for me so I began writing notes on my phone. “I haven’t felt this relaxed in a long time,” I wrote. But then I didn’t know what else to write. Writing on my phone seemed silly. I scored through my bag for my notebook, why was today the one day I left my house without it. Finally, I found a pen and almost let out a little shriek. I grabbed a napkin that sat under my wine jug, since that was the only thing I could even think of writing on.

I slowly wrote my name, curling the M and the N like I used to in fifth grade when my teacher would tell me to write in cursive. But then the pen stopped working. Just my luck. The need to write was kicking in. Everyone was either laughing, or talking, or silently swaying to the music and I needed to write. I looked through my bag again. There was another pen, it wasn’t my favourite. I had grabbed it from the front office right before class the other day and it was not appealing to the eye. It wasn’t a writing kind of pen. But it was my only option. So I began.

The laughter coming from the cafe below would have been distracting on another day. But today didn’t feel like just another day. Why I didn’t do this more often? Why I didn’t do this everyday? I kept writing, trying to block everything else out. This was what I was here for. This moment, this feeling, this pen (well maybe not this one) and its contact with paper. I felt, after a long time, that there was something uplifting in being completely alone.

There was no phone to distract me from my thoughts. No book to guide my stream of consciousness. I could think of anything my mind let me. I was alone with my pen and my napkins. I didn’t need anything else. I realised that happiness was easy to find. In the small moments at least. Yes, it was fleeting and fickle. But it was also ephemeral when you found it. I wrote on napkin after napkin until the waiter came up to me asking if I was a writer. I smiled. Yes, maybe. In this moment, on this day, I am.

I sat atop Il Palazzetto. Alone. Happy. Writing.

Maybe this kind of happiness couldn’t be found just anywhere. It had to be the right place, at the right time. And today, it was. The music was low in the way my mother whispered stories into my ear as I lulled into sleep as a child. The sun was heavy in the way it scorched my skin on endless summer days at the beach back home. “I haven’t felt this relaxed in a long time,” I wrote again. I called for the bill, picked up my napkins and headed down the stairs back into a reality I was all too familiar with.