Sorrow

I always complain.

In general, I tend to complain a lot. I came up with the understanding, or rather, the best way of justifying myself by saying that the feeling of sadness – preferably referred to as sorrow, melancholy, grief, is the most noble feeling, and that any worthy piece of art has been created by troubled souls.

Misery, is another synonym for it.

Not that I like making my boyfriend assisting at the too-many episodes of me sobbing profoundly after the lady at the cobbler shop had the unfortunate role of informing me that my leather boots could not be repaired. But at the same time, I don’t know how to prevent this from happening.

And besides raising an important issue with this little iconic scene, that is hormones are real for however much we try to avoid talking about them, or worse, suppressing their functions with pills – it also reminds me of the many times I have been coming up with the harsh conclusion of how difficult I find to live in a different country, i.e. Belgium.

Like here and here.

It came out in those posts, and during the conversations with people who more or less share  my point of view, that it’s been (it is!) very difficult for me to adjust to the behavior and personality usually to be found in Belgians. Like when they don’t let you get out the carriage before getting on the train; when they would pay taxes just because “it’s fair” (I am Italian, you should have a much more solid argument than that); when they never say “hi” and “goodbye” in social situations with limited space, like doctors’ waiting rooms, or elevators. When I raised the last point to a lady here, she admitted she took the habit of saluting after living in Panama. The first times she saw people doing that her reaction was to ask herself whether they actually just knew each other.

This whole strange sense of individuality, sometimes selfishness, together with a very clear perspective of what is the common value, always startles me.

Kind of French, but yet colder: almost Dutch, but less loud. My friends and family in Italy would always refer to me as the one that moved “to the north”. Mostly justified by the lower temperatures and bigger clouds, by which people are effected consequently Despite this parallel being exquisitely synaesthetic, it never really satisfied me the description of Belgians – or Germans, Norwegians, Danish – just being “colder”.

But I know that would feel more at ease hanging out with an Argentinian who was born on the other side of the Ocean, rather than with a Belgian. Don’t get me wrong here: I just feel that we would understand each other better, and not only because Argentina is full of Italians – there are so many here too, as Belgians love eating spaghetti bolognaise.

Some nights ago I attended a Belgian wedding. It’s not the first one I’ve seen here, either as a guest or a server – my boyfriend manages an Irish pub and there have been a few there already. And yet, it’s still strange to me that people choose to have their wedding reception in a pub surrounded by strangers; that they would choose burgers as their dinner; that the thing would last maybe 2 hours and a couple handshakes; or that the bride and the groom wouldn’t get utterly drunk, or smashed, as my boyfriend would say.

And yet, that night something more happened.

The longer I saw that couple – her gorgeous embroidered dress, the shy smile on the face of him – the guests politely asking for orange juice rather than the cava they were offered, the more I saw them all smiling, chatting, joking around with their kids, taking pictures and making some games I could not understand entirely as I still don’t master the language enough – who am I kidding, I don’t have it at all – I noticed that each one of them was connected to the other, they were all living there, that moment, and nobody, and I mean nobody was interacting with a screen and the very distorted image of themselves, the people not there, and the whole world it offers.

I hadn’t fully realized this until I was tidying up the table – I rightfully was too busy before that – and my thoughts went to the approaching wedding me and my boyfriend are going to in Italy, in September, of my cousin. I thought about the very close relatives of my family, especially the ladies, even my mother, flooding their outlets on the fabricated-world online with the best representation their cameras are able to give of their lives. I’ve seen them doing that plenty already; during holidays, dinners at restaurant; times spent together. I haven’t seen many Belgians instead having their meals with their faces stuck to their phones. And I don’t know from where they take all the social confidence that it requires these days, but oh God if I love that.

And if it’s true that Belgians and Italians are so desperately different, the question now is who’s right on what here?

I don’t think I can give this question an answer – nor do I want to, but I am glad that I can see a bit clearer sometimes, and appreciate the cues my surrounding is giving me in the midst of what I consider being a sad moment of my life. Or I should say, a sorrowful one.

 

Yours forever,

Hungerness

S. – II

S.
You know about her from this article.
She might appear lost. The holes in her one-week worn blouse suggesting negligence; remissness; having given up. She orders another red wine. Wjintje, as the Flemish dialect goes. We obey; the glass appears next to the two already standing in front of her.
I have piety for her. The superiority that accompanies every person’s eyes when meeting her figure, her state, has reached me as well.
But I try to shake it off when finding a place next to her. Not literally, since even if she is a very big, swollen woman, she gives me the idea that she can be knocked down from my simple breath; a sentence sounding like an order; a critique.
And I sit by her side, as she loves the sight of the pedestrians walking in front of her.
It has been a couple of beautiful months in Belgium: sunny, warm. We have been talking about how pleasant the weather is. Such small talk, chatting about the weather.
But then suddenly, she will affirm it; she does not show, but she is aware of it. That she needs help.
I nod. I just do that, after years I’ve known her and understanding that what she says is true, but also a promise she will never keep.
And then, she would say:
«Summer is nice» and she often accompanies this sentence with a small wave of her puffed hand «But then the winter comes back».
And I nod again, this time to myself.

The tuna loaf

It was the only time we ate mayonnaise. That jar in the remotest corner of the fridge flanked by salty capers, the creamy texture yellowed and hardened around the brim. Finally, it seemed to exhale when my mother took it out.
My nose right up over the table, peering over the wood surface, because there was no odor anticipating it, only the bzzz of the kitchen robot that had called me from my bedroom. Because its smell was so muffled, like it was the beige of its color, like it was the white cloth, boiled, which covered it, hiding it until a vapor cloud, like a breath of relief, came out from the corners that the fingers of my mother gently unfolded.
“Are you making the tuna loaf?” I then asked her almost in one breath.
And she nodded without too much enthusiasm, her dry hair fixed on the scalp, her eyes didn’t meet me, I was not sure if they even looked at the metal blades blending the mixture.
And I started running through the corridors, brimful of joy, because in the end, what more exciting can a seven-year-old girl expect from a Sunday afternoon?
We sat around the table at nine, nine and a half, always too late, we had already allowed those stupid evening entertainment programs to flood us with commonplaces.
“Don’t you eat?” To my mother, the red fire of the cigarette drag was the only signal proving me she was in the balcony wrapped in darkness.
“Mom eats after” she murmured.
My rounded knife plucked the mayonnaise’s thick surface to pick up a generous portion, flickering during the delicate journey to my plate, then I dropped it with a plop on the tuna loaf slice, without worrying about spreading it. The fork sectioned the thick surface of the slice into bows-shaped pieces, forking them as to not dropping the pale yellow dressing for any reason. Then I made each one plane into my mouth, the tuna loaf was still warm and it blended together with the greasy mayonnaise, almost no chewing was needed, they descended perfectly jointed to the bottom of my throat. Pure ten minutes of ecstasy, the speed at which I ended up my plate.
Then one day my mother lent the kitchen robot to my grandmother. She never brought it back.
“I’m sorry, but that blade did not turn very well already when you gave it to me…”
And there were the bills and the car’s battery that were more expensive and the tuna loaf was never made again.
“Cause mum need the big machine to prepare it”
I asked her so many times, I did not want to give up. But no, without the kitchen robot was really impossible.
And the mayonnaise expired, and we threw it away. Mom and dad divorced. And I took my degree and left home and country.
In Belgium they put mayonnaise everywhere.

We eat with auntie and Marty tomorrow when you arrive
Last seen at 17:45.
At 18:39:
Can you prepare the tuna loaf?
Seen without reply.

Rome is warm, tremendously hot, I am steamed in the long jeans and gray sweatshirt, this morning in Brussels there were seventeen degrees. But my mother is beautiful, her shiny hair picked up with an elegant slide, her eyes skirted by a graceful green emerald.
I place my luggage in the boot.
“What are your programs for the afternoon?” She asks.
“Studying, actually. Yours?”
“I have to cook for tonight”
“What do you make in the end?”
“The tuna loaf, as you asked me”
And at dinner, my mother turns to me, shaking slightly the piece of loaf, “That’s really tasty. I do not have the kitchen robot but I used the mixer instead, and it came good the same, didn’t it? ”
But I can just nod only, my mouth is too busy in chewing the loaf and the mayonnaise that finally had met again.