Akira

I was Akira’s only friend. I was also the one responsible for her death.

I met Akira when I was 19. She had the most beautiful eyes and I fell in love the second she looked at me. We had one of those short and intense relationship. We fell in love, we were happy for a while, then we started to hurt each other and it all became awfully painful. I would lock her out at night and she’d scream at the door until the neighbours came out and told us to shut up. There were moments when I genuinely didn’t want her in my apartment. I hated knowing she was there, watching me, studying my every move, yet giving me the silent treatment. She would just give me ice-cold stares, that made me feel angry and, eventually, guilty. But getting Akira’s forgiveness was never easy. I’d have to beg and plead and even cry. More often than not, I’d go to bed by myself, while she fell asleep on the couch, watching tv. She loved watching tv. But late at night, I could feel her climbing into bed, curling her warm body next to mine, the tip of her nose resting on my ear lobe. And I knew I was forgiven.

After three years of a love-hate relationship, I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. I’ve had had enough of the cold stares, the silent treatments, the hate in her look whenever I was home late from work. I hated having to feel guilty and scared whenever I went out with my friends and I knew she was home waiting for me. If I was too late, I’d come home to find the results of her anger – broken dishes, ripped off curtains, clothes thrown all over the house. It was too much for me.

So one day, we went to visit my parents and spend the week end with them. It was a nice autumn afternoon. I was driving and she was on the passenger seat, looking outside the window. There was no expression on her face, but I knew she loved the beautiful autumn colours. She would’ve never showed it, though. That’s when I told her. I told her everything. I said I loved her, but I couldn’t do it anymore, everything was too much for me, I needed some space. She turned around to look at me and it was the saddest look I’d ever seen on her face. My heart broke and I almost changed my mind. But in the next second, Akira was all over the door, trying to get it open, to jump off the car. I was driving with 195 miles per hour. I pulled over and tried to calm her down. I lied to her. I told her I’d never leave her, I said everything was a stupid joke. We hugged and she seemed okay. But that’s when I realized Akira needed help. Professional help.

I talked to my parents. Akira had nobody but us. She was part of the family. I couldn’t afford healthcare for her, but my parents loved her and they offered to help. Leaving her there, with them, was the hardest thing I ever had to do. As I was climbing into my car, I looked back and she was at the kitchen window. She gave me the coldest look she was capable of. As I drove off, I was certain Akira hated me.

She killed herself three days after I left, by jumping in front of the train. There was a railway close to our home, but nobody thought she needed constant supervision. We had all underestimated the depth of her issues. I went back home for the funeral. It was just me and my parents. Akira had no friends and no family, but us.

I still miss her. I miss her hair in the sink, I miss her stealing bites from my food (oh, how I hated that!), I miss the tip of her nose on my earlobe at night.

Akira was my first cat. The most beautiful cat in the world. She left behind a little kitten called Mint, with black hair and yellow eyes. She hates me too.

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Take me to church

So I was listening to this song this morning (thank you, Nick, for introducing me to it) and apart from being a great song, it’s also an important message, one I’ve been thinking about for a while now, ever since I’ve seen Ruby Rose’s short film.

Just to make it clear, I’m all for tolerance. People deserve respect, no matter who they love, what god they worship, what country they were born in or whatever political group they support. I believe that your freedom ends where mine begins. So I don’t care if you’re gay (as long as you don’t go for my guy, we’re good), or a Muslim, or a Republican. I really couldn’t care less. But this post is about homosexuality, so I’ll stick to that for now. What annoys me the most is when people say things like “I disapprove of gays”. What the fuck does that even mean? That’s like saying “I disapprove of blonde hair”. Okay, well it still exists, it’s still a reality and it won’t stop being so because of your disapproval. Or do you, by saying that, mean that you wish homosexuality stopped existing? Would you have all gay people burnt at the stake? Well, guess what. The Middle Ages are over. Do you call them perverted or sick? Here’s a piece of information for you, the Omniscient one: in 1901, there was a medical dictionary that actually listed heterosexuality as being perverted. Also, homosexuality was officially removed from the list of psychiatric disorders. In short, gays are neither perverted or sick. What else have you got? Oh, yes. It is not “natural”. I suppose that the 1,500 species of animals that engage in homosexual activities would not convince you of the contrary. One of the most retarded anti-gay argument I hear is “[homosexuality] is just a trend, people do it because they want to be cool, it’s the fault of modern society”. Of course, it’s not like god damn Plato talked about it thousands of years ago.

I once read somewhere that in Renaissance France there was even a form of gay marriage, where two men could live together and share their assets and basically have the same rights as any married couple. And here we are, in 2014, having god damn bakers refusing to bake cakes for gay weddings, like it’s the most natural thing to do. Fuck, I’ll bake my own cake, then go home and have sex with whomever I want, because nobody else has a say in it.

As for the church… oh, the church! I seem to remember a chapter in my history book where the church believed that knowledge is dangerous and proceeded to burn books and kill people who dared have more than half a brain. The same Catholic church excommunicated a young girl for having an abortion, but not her father, who raped and impregnated her. And then it just went on sexually molesting little boys and girls. Every time someone brings church as an argument for their ideas, I keep thinking back to the priest my grandma used to take me to. The priest who drove me home one day, when I was 14 and he touched my thigh, noticing how I was “growing up”.  The bible and the church are not valid arguments, for anything going on in the world at the moment. There might be a god out there, I won’t deny that. But church is shit and all it ever does for me is prove how narrow-minded some people are.

Everybody needs to stop being so self-entitled as to think they actually have a say in other people’s lives. We all have the right to love and be loved and I don’t think consensual sex between two adults is anybody’s business. Now, don’t get me wrong. I also don’t think we need parades for it. Basically, what we need to do is grow up and realize that love is beautiful, no matter what form it takes!

Now go watch Hozier’s video and then Ruby Rose’s short film. They are both beautiful and strong and touching. Maybe you’ll learn a lesson.

SB

187

This is the public shaming of London transport. I’ve only been here 6 weeks now and I’ve had plenty of opportunities to get furious because of it.

First, my tube line suddenly gets cancelled at 10 PM on a Sunday, when I’m on the other side of London and need to get home. “Please talk to a member of staff” the voice says, over the radio. Well, surprise, surprise! There is no member of staff around. 20 minutes later, when I finally find one, I have a great answer – there is some rail work going on, so they had to cancel a few tube lines. And no, he doesn’t know how I can get home. I will spare you the details of me going to two different stations and getting the same result, while hoping that nothing would happen to me, walking around alone in the night.

Then, the 187 bus. Oh, boy, the 187 bus is a wonder, a delight! I have to take it every morning to get the kids to school. Actually, I had to. I don’t, anymore, because my kids were late four days in a row, after the 187 failed to show up on time. So now we just walk to school, even if it means waking up 30 minutes earlier. They’re not happy about it and, to be honest, neither am I, because running after two kids scooting away for 25 minutes, while thinking of the washing and the dishes waiting at home is not fun. When I pick them up, they’re inevitably tired and hungry, so we usually take the bus back (funny enough, on the way from school to our house, the bus is not as late). So yesterday, we were coming home from school and as we were approaching our stop, I pressed the stop button. Of course, the bus kept going (why wouldn’t it?). A few ladies got angry at the driver and told him to stop the bus, ’cause they’d missed their stop. The drivers yelled back “the bus stop moved to the other end of the street, so stop pushing that button!” Oh, okay then. Why wouldn’t it move to the other end of the street, really? Who would even need a slight warning about that? The extra walk is actually good for your health, right? Even if you have two very tired children dragging their feet and complaining, while you’re carrying two heavy backpacks (seriously, do schools want our kids to grow hunchbacks?) and two scooters they’re too tired to use. Even if you’re pregnant and your feet hurt like hell because there was nobody kind enough in that whole damn bus to give you their seat. Even if you’re old and your hip is acting up on you. Even if you have to push your wheelchair for 10 extra minutes.

Seriously, what is this shit? Do we just move bus stops now? Who comes up with the bus routes and the stops? Because, on my way home, there’s like 100 feet between the stop on All Souls Ave and Doyle Gardens, while there is an approximately 10-15 minutes walk between the stop on Doyle Gardens and Whitmore Gardens. From one end of one street, to the other end of a second street. How does that make sense?

Shame on you, TFL, shame n you!

SB

My new dress

When I was 16, I fell in love with a dress. I saw it in the window of a shop as I was walking home from the park and I stopped right there, staring at it, slightly hypnotised. It was a simple dress. A-line, white cotton, knee-length, with a V-neck. What caught my attention was the little pattern right above the hem – a string of crimson red tulips blooming right there, under my eyes, on the snow white cotton of the dress. I can’t say why it got me so hooked, but that day I went home and told mum about it. We went to see it that same evening. The verdict was gloomy – beautiful dress, but way too expensive for us.

A couple of weeks passed and the dress was still there. Nobody was buying it and the crazy idea that the dress was waiting for me got into my head. I managed to convince my mum to help me out with half the money I needed, provided I took on a summer job and came up with the rest. She thought it was crazy to get a job for such a reason, but I was so excited she couldn’t say no. So I took a job at a local fast-food joint. The money was ridiculous and the hours even more so. But I would have done anything for that dress. Every evening, after work, I would walk by the shop, to make sure it’s still there. It never crossed my mind that the dress was so expensive very few people would be willing to pay for it.

Then, finally, it happened. I remember as if it was yesterday. I got off work and took the usual route, by the shop, even if it meant 10 more minutes of walking after 10 hours of standing. The dress wasn’t there anymore. I got home a few hours later, with a broken heart and determined to quit my job the next day. As I walked into our apartment, my sadness was too big to notice the gloomy air that filled the living room, where my mum was on the phone. I went straight to my room. And as I entered, I saw it. My new dress, neatly laid on my bed, waiting for me. United, at last. I put it on and looked at myself in the big mirror in my room. My heart was beating so fast. Do you know that feeling, that heart beat skipping moment, when the person you adore is about to kiss you for the first time? That anticipation, that immense joy that’s threatening to crack open your chest. That’s what I was feeling in that moment. It lasted for a few seconds. It felt like forever.

I saw my mum in the mirror, entering the room through the door behind me. She smiled, but that wasn’t her smile. And the look in her eyes… that was not the look of a happy mum, who managed to give her daughter the gift she had yearned for. Now imagine the person you adore, the one who was about to kiss you for the first time, suddenly vanishes, like dust in the wind, taking the delicious anticipation of happiness with them. Imagine the joy that was knocking at your rib cage deflates, loud and quickly, like a balloon caught in a barbed-wire. You see that 16 year old, with her new dress? Look at her. She’s pretty. She has black long hair, with shiny curls falling over her shoulders. She has a wide smile on her lips, because she is wearing a new dress. A white cotton dress, with crimson red tulips right above the hem. She has no care in this world, her days are filled with joy and friends and her boyfriend – her first love. A regular teenager, with a love for books and music and pretty new dresses. Now look again. Closer, this time. Look at the red tulips dancing as she turns to face her mum and the dress twirls around her skinny knees. Look at her arms, her long tanned arms, with hands pressing against her chest. And inside that chest, if you listen carefully, you’ll hear the crack of a most fragile heart. Now look at her face. Her pretty happy face, now disfigured by the expression of utter pain that has the corner of her lips arched down, in the opposite of a smile, her nostrils flaring and her eyes welling up. Now she shakes her head as she mouths a silent string of “no”s and the shiny curls are dancing around her face. You can’t hear her screaming. I’m muting her scream, because, dear reader, should you hear her, your heart would crack, too.

It is 15th of August 2007 and I just found out G. was dead. I suppose my mum bought the dress trying to ease the pain. Of course, the idea is ridiculous, but only if you’re a mother you can understand the pain of having to tell your daughter that one of the most important people in her life is dead. Murdered in the most brutal way.

I never wore that dress again.

SB

Beauty routine

“First Russian woman to go to International Space Station gets angry at a pre-flight press conference…because she is asked about her hair and make-up” says the title of a Daily Mail on-line article. I open it, intrigued by the discovery of yet another case of misogyny in the world. I find a quite poorly written article (they usually are, on the website of Daily Mail), that says Russian cosmonaut Yelena Serova got angry at a journalist after he asked her about her hair, make-up and beauty routine in a press conference. I watched the short video, which sort of contradicted the whole article. I was expecting a furious woman snapping at a moron journalist. Instead, I got a delicate young woman, giving a very subtle response which ends with “I’m sorry, thank you!”

Now, apart from the poor quality of the writing, the fact of the matter is, that journalist was, indeed, an a-hole. Is it acceptable, in the 21st century society, to treat women like they’re dumb bimbos, spending their days thinking about new hairstyles and make-up? It certainly isn’t. Are some women to blame for this? Absolutely. Should Yelena have been harsher with the journalist? I’d say yes. If I were her, I’d have made him regret the day he went into journalism. But then again, I am meaner than other people and less tolerant of this kind of idiocy.

However, if you correlate this issue with other similar ones, from different parts of the world (the Hollywood nudes leak is still in play, isn’t it?), you get a bigger, more frightening picture. It doesn’t take a genius to notice that the status quo hasn’t changed much in the latest century. Sure, women can now have management jobs, but they will earn up to 35% less than their male colleagues. Women can also study and pursue a career, but they will be expected to do it while having children. Many women will have to choose between their career and their children. They will be judged no matter what their choice is. They’ll either be “slave of their children” or “workaholic neglecting mothers”. But what if a woman decides she doesn’t want to have a baby? Ever. Oh, God forbid. She’s the most selfish, egocentric bitch.

How much of your brain has to be non-functional, in order for you to ask a cosmonaut about her hair and make-up? What kind of sick mind should one have, to leak nude photos of famous women, just because? And even more so, how incredibly retarded should one be, to threat more nude leaks on the reason of a woman speaking up for her sex?

You may think I’m being judgemental, that I should refrain myself from calling people stupid or retarded. Well I can’t. I honestly believe misogyny (among other social issues we’re not discussing at the moment) is perpetrated by stupidity and ignorance, as well as cowardliness. And the sad part is that not only men abide by misogynistic rules, but also some women. Too many of us are quick to judge each other. A woman is a whore, because she wears a short skirt or a deep cleavage. A woman is selfish because she doesn’t want to have a baby. She doesn’t decide whether to get married or not; if she’s not married by a certain age, she’s probably undesirable and/or unable to keep a man by her side. She’s inconsiderate and she’a a bad mum because she goes back to work. She’s stupid because she stays at home with her children. She’s vain if she puts make-up on. She’s prude if she doesn’t.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not really a feminist. There are plenty of male gender stereotypes that should also stop. I don’t think the world needs more feminists. I do, however, think that it needs more of justice, equality and “minding our own business”.

SB

He’s not always like that

That’s what Joan says, with a defensive tone, looking at me as if I was talking s**t about her husband. I haven’t said anything. She’s actually the one doing most of the talking. I’m just sitting there, drinking my coffee, listening to her story.

She met Dan when she was 17. She was the good girl, the one with the good grades, the one who would go to college (in a communist Eastern European country of the 80’s that was a big deal). He was the bad boy, the soul of the party, the rebel. She fell in love, obviously. We’ve all been there. We all have a bad boy crush in our teens. Some of us grow out of it. Some of us don’t. Joan is of the latter category. She married Dan as soon as she graduated from high-school. He was 20, handsome, unemployed and had no penny on his name. She still wanted to go to college, but Dan didn’t agree with that. “Why would a woman need to learn so much?” he’d say. “You know how to cook, how to do stuff around the house and that’s enough” There was no changing his mind. Their first child was born a year later – a daughter, Andy. Joan looked at the little girl in her arms and her heart sank at the thought of all the challenges she’d have to face, simply for being a girl. She thought of the Dan her daughter will meet, the Dan who will tell her she doesn’t need to know more, she doesn’t need to be more. She promised to her daughter, in the first hour of her life, that she won’t let any Dan ruin her dreams. Four years later, Dean came along. Their beautiful, green-eyed son. To everybody around, they seemed the epitome of a happy family. But they were far from it.

Joan had always thought that Dan’s partying would stop after they’d get married. She hoped he would get a job and live up to the responsibilities he had towards his family. He didn’t. He kept on doing what he used to do before – partying, drinking, occasionally gambling or doing drugs. One day, soon after Andy was born, Joan had the imprudence of scolding Dan for being home late and drunk. That was the first time he hit her. She put it all on the booze, thinking he’d apologize the next day. He didn’t. He never did, in 30 years of marriage. He did, however, keep on hitting her, every time she had the guts of saying something “out of place” or, simply, every time he was angry and had no other punching bag in sight. Then he started hitting the children. They were too loud, he needed rest after partying with his friends all night long. They needed to be educated and disciplined.

I wish I could tell you a story of strength. I wish this paragraph was about the new Joan, the one who took her children and left Dan behind, to drown in his own misery. Unfortunately, I can’t. Joan is still living with Dan. She got used to the beating, to the drinking, to the two jobs she had to take on in order to support her family. Her children are grown up by now. Andy is 30, Dean is 26. They both got their lives. Andy moved away from her hometown and she lives with her boyfriend, but she told her mum she never wants to get married and have children. She urged Joan to leave Dan numerous times, but Joan says she can’t. Therefore, Andy only visits her parents on Christmas and/or Easter, for a few days. She can’t stand being around her abusive father. Dean is not speaking to his father. He still lives in his hometown and sees his mum for coffee occasionally. He only goes to visit when his dad’s not around. When I talked to him, he told me something that might sound a bit harsh. He said “Both me and my sister tried to take her away. We both asked her to come live with us, to have a safe home, for once in her life. She refused every single time. What are we to understand from it? Maybe she likes it that way, maybe she just doesn’t want to get away. If that’s the case, she deserves him” Upon thinking about his words, however, they seemed less and less harsh and more and more true.

Joan looks at me and says “You understand, don’t you?” I wish I could I say I did. I wish I could give her the approval she obviously longs for. But I can’t. Because the truth is I don’t understand. Women have fought for their rights for centuries. Hell, they still are. There are thousands of women out there who want to get away from their abusive husbands and they truly have nobody to help them. Joan has two wonderful children who were more than happy to take her in. She had numerous exit signs handed to her on the proverbial silver plate. She turned all of them down. She made a conscious choice of standing beside the man who abused her and her children for 30 years. There is no understanding that.

Joan’s story is touching, but it’s not a story of bravery. It’s a story of cowardliness and pusillanimity, of lack of self respect and confidence. Joan still has a chance of a happy ending, but it’s unlikely that she will take it. Don’t be like Joan! We can all write our own stories and choose our own endings. There is no destiny, no “written in the stars” for any of us. Our life is made up of choices, consciously made choices. If we don’t make those choices for ourselves, somebody else will. And we all deserve more than that. We can be more than that. In the words of Gloria Steinem “we shall overcome”

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