Lift: Our Story (1000 Word Challenge)

 

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I could sense he wanted to say something by the way he was looking at me, eyes wide open. But I waited patiently, brushing his hair with my fingers, until he gathered his strength. “Why… Lift?” I smiled with melancholy when memories started flowing through. There were so many of them, still fresh like it had happened yesterday… “Well, where should I start? You know most of the story, I could just jump to the conclusion-” “No. I know all of it, but I want to hear everything from you… Please.” He smiled, the same smile with perfect white teeth that intimidated me at the beginning, when I had no idea what role he was about to play in my story. I sighed.

“A couple of months ago, one of the most powerful companies in the city was going through a pilot study. Some employees were about to receive a personal assistant, shaped for their personality, which was supposed to help them increase productivity at the workplace. Of course I was sceptical. I didn’t want any help, I thought I could do everything by myself, even if that meant working more hours. But oh, how wrong I was! After endless questionnaires, I was about to meet him, or her, or… it. The day came when I had to spend some time with my new assistant, to check if any changes were to be made, if I’m fully satisfied… Someone knocked at my desk. ‘Come in!’ I said, unsure what to expect. I was afraid I would feel uncomfortable, I thought I would be able to tell the difference… That’s when I met you. When that tall, dark-haired man entered my office, smiling shyly at me, remember what I asked you?… Of course you remember, you don’t forget anything, I know.”

A white smile flashed on his face.

“Yes, that’s the smile you were wearing! Although it became more amused when I asked if the robot wasn’t ready yet…”

I was feeling emotional again, but I knew he wanted me to continue, to live everything once again, together. So I told him about how exhausted I was feeling because of working extra hours, even with his help, since I still preferred to do most of the job myself. About how he approached me, joking that I was the machine, not him, and about how close we soon became.

“I knew I wasn’t supposed to call you by a human name, to avoid becoming too attached. But we were getting along really well together and I started to get bored with just using your unique ID number. So one day after you made me blush with your compliments – and it wasn’t about my pretty blue dress, but about how smart I was for solving that annoying system error – I was standing alone in the office after you had left, with a stupid smile on my face and a familiar feeling. You know I usually take the elevator in the office from the 10th floor, and halfway through I have that sensation when my stomach is dropping, falling… but then, standing there, I knew that time it was my heart that was actually falling – falling in love with the wrong species.”

I sighed again. It’s always easy to get lost in the past, especially if the past is full of warm, happy moments. What’s more difficult is to come back, to face the cold, blue reality… He smiled at me. “And?”

“Well, that’s when I found your nickname: Lift. Because I realised that when I was with you, I felt either the happiest or the saddest I’d ever been. My moods and feelings were going up and down, I knew we weren’t supposed to be together, but I just couldn’t help it…” I could feel tears forming at the corners of my eyes, then my sight got blurry. I didn’t want to cry. So while Lift’s hand was carefully brushing my tears away, I tried to focus on happier memories.

“The day we kissed for the first time was almost a dream. I knew it was forbidden, you knew that too, didn’t you? It’s imprinted in your mind… But that didn’t stop us from sharing another kiss the next day, then another. I remember how much more confident I was feeling, I thought everything was possible with you by my side… Work became almost a pleasure, we were so much more productive than anyone had anticipated. But it was still just like a dream… I woke up when we got caught, I could see the terror in their eyes, it suddenly struck me that no one would understand that love doesn’t care about such differences. We were split apart, I got fired, they took you away. I never heard back from you, I begged them to let me speak to you one more time, but they looked at me as though I was the lowest person in the universe. And now you’ve come to my door after so long, and without any word you just collapse in my arms – you scared me, Lift! And telling me that they’ve started the shutting down procedure – that you’ve been labelled as faulty because you kept saying my name… Oh, Lift! How on earth did you manage to run away and come here?! I mean with just only hours, maybe minutes left until-”

My voice broke. I couldn’t say it. Tears were now running down my face, but this time no one was making any effort to wipe them; my hands were still holding his head. I could see the lights in his eyes dimming slowly, and I knew I had to be brave. Like he taught me to be. I leaned down closer to him, hoping he could still hear my whispers. “I love you, Lift. And I swear I will bring you back to life.” Between tears filling my eyes I saw him, smiling shyly for a split second, before becoming just another soulless machine.

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About a Stranger and Depression

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She looks at people, trying to imitate them. But they wear shorts while she has gloves.

In April back home there’s a tulip festival, and colours, warm colours, just like the weather. And happiness. Here, she takes photos of tall buildings, grey sky and crowded underground stations. Everything is grey, the weather, even the people dress in pale colours. But that’s fine, she can get used to that, right?

She is scared of being different, of standing out from the others around. The gloves remind her of her grandma, she used to have a pair just like that, made of wool. But she will never be there with her.

She tries to call home, for the third time, but no one answers. Ah! She remembers. It’s night time at home. She goes out as often as she can. She eats fish and chips, cause that’s how it’s done. But she likes it.

People seem colder in a way though, even her friends. They are all fine, of course, but distant, even when they’re nodding and smiling while listening to her. She still likes talking. Talking about her home, her past life, her future hopes. Cause that’s why she came there.

That’s why she left everything behind, even the blue sky. To start a new life, amongst the black cabs and red double-deckers, and grey clouds, and raindrops. A different place calls for a change, it’s always like that. She oscillates between changing to fit in, and preserving her true self. She has changed so much, though. So much. Is that good or bad?

Some things will always be the same. But she can’t adjust her body temperature when she’s dreaming of proper summertime. She tries to listen to other people’s accents, copy them, cause they can sense she’s not from around when she speaks. They don’t mind that. But she does.

She likes feeding the squirrels, but what kind of squirrels are these anyway? Where are the red squirrels she knew, with fluffy pointed ears?… Even the squirrels are grey here.

They say home is where her heart is, but she can’t remember where she left it.

***

P.S.: I’ve been recently diagnosed with mild depression. That was about a month after I wrote the short article above, at the Arvon creative writing workshop (more here and here), but I though I could talk a little bit about it here. The article had to describe a struggle caused by moving to a new place, and I wrote it before I moved into the capital. It’s funny and sad in a way, how I found inspiration in something that hadn’t even happened yet. It’s like I saw it coming.

The cause for this ‘mild depression’ is, according to the doctor, the struggle of moving into a new environment. A little ironical. But I know that’s true, and I know that almost each and every one of us experiences at some point something that can be defined by a mild depression, nothing unusual. The thing is to decide what you want to do in order to make sure you’re heading in the right way. Exercising helps, usually. And friends, and hobbies, and family. It’s not the end of the world.

I obviously don’t feel depressed all the time. There was a video that someone shared on Facebook about a black dog which I find really interesting; some good points are outlined, so take your time and watch it here. An idea I liked is that you’ll get exhausted if you try hide your feelings all the time. Since I believe in honesty, I’m not trying to pretend I’m fine when I’m not. I can’t really see the point, and I don’t understand why people can be ashamed of feeling down, but I guess everyone is different.

Anxiety and depression seem to be quite related, so I tried learning how to relax in order to feel better. Yoga didn’t really seem to work in my case (who can bend their arms like that?!) so for now I’ll stick to what I know from the past that calms me down even if I feel like crying (that happens sometimes): my number one song in case of feeling low, from a magical movie.

Apart from that, having faith that any new environment and situation become familiar after a while 🙂 and sport. And talking about it if I feel like so. Which is what I’m doing now.

 

Violet, Horseradish, P.S.-s

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I decided to buy a horseradish and a bunch of violets to give my day some taste and colour. The funny thing about both the horseradish and violets is that they aren’t easy to define. You could think about the colour violet that’s actually a mixture of red and blue, two states of a soul that are contrary in such a way that the final result can’t be explained in an easy way. It’s almost dangerous to mix the passion of red with the sadness of blue, it creates an explosion which is just as strong as the perfume of these violets. As strong as the horseradish taste, which is too strange to be defined: is it bitter?… is it sweet?… It’s violet. Just like life.

P. S. 1. I wrote this little article at the Arvon Creative Writing workshop back at the end of August – if you follow me on Facebook, you know about it already. The very first exercise we received was to choose two random words that we like or we find interesting. Easy. Mine were ‘violet’ and ‘horseradish’, violet because of this and horseradish because of this. But actually both of them come from Lemony Snicket, with Violet and the word horseradish that I first encountered – in English – in one of those amazing books. But anyway, while the first exercise was piece of cake, the second was to write a sentence containing both, and the next one to just immediately continue writing and see what you get. That’s my result.

P.S.2. I didn’t have the chance to post it until now. I actually didn’t have a chance to post anything, not even another piece of writing from the workshop, or something related to one of the many, many ideas I have. It’s been a long time, I know, and I thought that starting a new job, moving into the capital city and getting used to everything that’s new could be good excuses. Guess what, they aren’t. I had a chat last night which made me realise they aren’t. Made me wake up in the morning and write this before work, and I’m thankful for that. Everyone knows that if you really like doing something, you’ll make time for it. So I hope I’ll manage to find a timeslot in my busy-or-not-so-busy-but-lazy life for writing on the blog 🙂

P.S.3. I haven’t forgot I promised myself I’ll create my own website for the blog. It’s there, in a very early version, but again, it wasn’t in the top of my priorities recently… Same as in P.S.2, I’ll make time for it, at least until I decide it looks good enough to be publicly announced, even if not completely finished.

P.S.4. I GOT PUBLISHED!! Or actually, I will this Saturday 😀 One of the articles written at Arvon was chosen to be included in an anthology for young people, which is launched this Saturday in Winter Gardens, Sheffield, UK. (Facebook event here). I will post it here as well after that. I know it’s probably not much, but then again, it makes me a little more motivated to continue with all this, which can’t be bad at all.

P.S.5 I realised that instead of P.S. I could have used ‘Note’, as P.S. is usually for ending letters. But perhaps all this was addressed to whoever is reading, so it makes a little bit of sense. I know it wasn’t the usual type of posts, but those will come pretty soon. It’s a promise.

The Versions of Me, of You, of Us

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I’ve recently finished a book called The Versions of Us, a title which sounded interesting enough to make me read the back cover, then buy it. There were three intercalated stories which actually related the same story, but, well, different versions of it. This article though is not going to be a book review – the book is just a background, a pretext to write, a mere inspiration for giving my thoughts some depth and direction.

A similar idea was written in some of my previous articles. One of them described multiple versions of me, but chronological versions, the ones you need to go through one by one – just as I explained here, such an event is called in computer science the depth first search, in which you just keep moving forward without looking left or right. But the opposite is called the breadth first search, in which all the possibilities are evaluated before taking the next step. And these versions of me, corresponding to breath first search, would be far more complicated that the chronological versions.

Back to the book, the two main characters are an aspiring painter and an aspiring writer, occupations which both require a large amount of creativity, and lots of patience and practice. But creativity and imagination are exactly what’s needed to have your mind wandering, in my case not to find answers for What if…? questions, but to find the questions themselves: which were the turning points in my life so far, what were the precise decisions which made me take this specific path in life?

The reason I’m not thinking about the answers, about different possible lives that I could be living, is that I don’t like being trapped in the past, nor in a future that will never happen. Not that it makes me sad to think about different versions, cause it doesn’t (or does it?), but it’s a bitter-sweet sensation, the kind that’s too strange to be classified as either sad or happy. Like this song here.

An alternative life was mentioned during a fantasy movie I was watching some time ago. Just a brief idea, but enough to make me think – and perhaps also make one of the guys I was watching it with, think. The main hero’s crush, which is, unfortunately for him, not a mutual crush, tells him something that sounds cliché but at the same time really profound: Maybe in a parallel universe we end up being together. And the worst thing was not watching the friendzoned hero’s sad eyes and sensing his broken heart, but knowing that the exact same situation was happening between two of the people whose eyes were silently glued to the screen.

So, yeah. I guess saying Yes instead of No is always a (major) change of events, a new opportunity which could push you on a whole different path in live. But no regrets means the right choice was made, I think. Cause that’s one thing that keeps us from being happy, regrets. Comparing ourselves with others and with other versions of us. Asking ourselves What if…? and then fantasising about a better path in life, when actually there’s no assurance that the current path is worse that the hypothetical one.

And the same happens about accepting an invitation to going out, to dinner, to a movie or whatever. In those seconds before answering, make sure you realise that, as strange as it may sound, that answer may push you away from a path and onto another. Choosing your high-school profile, your university course, your friends and job – anything is just another step on a specific path which will later form the current and authentic version of yourself – all the others are just possibilities that slowly disappear into time.

Of course, it is not always us who make the decision. Maybe the guy I never knew would have answered the way I thought I wanted him to. But that’s part of his versions, not mine, and unfortunately we can’t really know much about the versions of others that don’t involve us. Cause all the others around us have their own power of choice, and all the paths together create a spider web which is by itself so complex, that one shouldn’t even try to think about all the other versions of it…

What’s more, apart from the other persons there’s also something else that contributes to moving on a particular path: chance. There’s always a chance for something to happen, and some say that the more you fear it, the highest the chance for it to actually occur. And something such as unwanted pregnancy seems to be quite a major turning point into one’s life, so how can one not fear it?… (don’t worry, not a major book spoiler).

A situation when a complex life with lots of choices can be explored is… in computer games 🙂 Cause you can choose a path, or how to answer to someone, or not kill another character and then load the game and explore other possible versions of it. But you can’t really do that in real life, so you just have to live with whatever decisions you make, or do your best to move on a desired path.

Somehow thinking about this topic reminded me of the animated movie Hercules, or more specifically the sequence when he risks his life to save the girl from death, and becomes immortal – I still remember his life thread turning into a material that couldn’t be cut anymore. To be honest I’m not entirely sure how this relates to the rest of the article, but the idea is that we always have a choice for the overall life we’re living: our decisions, thoughts, how we act and react will define us, and in the end we’re just going to live the version of us that we shape ourselves.

Maybe another version of me was perfect for another version of you. Or is, or will be… Who knows?

The Pursuit of…

happiness

The inspiration for this article comes from three different comments I got from three different persons. They were the types of comments that stay hidden into your mind for a long, long time, and you think about them from time to time, but you never truly forget them. They’re just there, and you can’t even explain why you keep bothering about them, why can’t you store some other kind of information into your brain, rather than random remarks… except they’re not that random.

These three comments seemed quite different from each other until I suddenly saw them like the pieces of a puzzle, which somehow started making sense in a second. It’s the same feeling you’ve got when you start thinking about something, then your mind wanders towards something else, and so on until you stop and wonder how you got from A to Z, when they’re not related at all… But anyway, the first remark was given to me by a girl of my age, whom I had just met that evening. Somehow we ended up talking, and somehow the topic turned out to be the long distance relationships, which I mentioned that I don’t particularly enjoy. But right after that, her comment, half question, half pity, froze me for a second. ‘You have been in many long distance relationship, then?… ‘ Well, guess what, I have not. Not even in one. But I’ve seen enough around me – I have eyes, you know. I have ears, I have imagination, I have friends who’ve been there. And yes, I know you can’t really put yourself in someone else’s shoes when it comes to feelings and all that, but still, I do not have a good opinion about a relationship with someone you meet once a month, at least of course not without a proper foundation, let’s say. I know it’s hard, I know everyone knows it’s hard… Still you are allowed to say that I haven’t experienced such a level of love that is above all these – cause you’re probably right. I’m aware of the fact true love beats distance, but does true love really exist…? (I’ve written here an article about soul-mates some time ago – and I pretty much still have the same principles).

The second remark was made online by a friend, with whom I somehow managed to have a deeper conversation even though that didn’t happen often. And by deeper, I mean about happiness. I mentioned not having a boyfriend and then I asked for his opinion about how I could be happier. I don’t know if I expected his answer to be related to some relationship thing, but it wasn’t. ‘Just make more of what makes you happy.‘, then ‘And having a boyfriend doesn’t guarantee happiness, does it?‘. And he was right. I knew that, I had known that beforehand, I had experienced it at some point. And I know that there’s no one who can make you happy except yourself, as you can’t really be happy with someone else until you learn it by yourself. And you may be sad now that you’re single, but you may be even sadder with someone wrong near you. So as much as I like to pretend that being single is the reason for my occasional lack of happiness, I know I have to admit that’s not the case. It’s something deeper, that no one can figure out except myself; after realising what makes me happy and what doesn’t, I can start working more on the first bit, and improve my happiness, I guess.

The last remark is the one that put everything together in a bigger picture. It was addressed to me by that one guy which I could consider being the cause of my unhappiness, except I know that’s not the case. I think I’ve mentioned him about that, about sometimes being unhappy. And his reply made me half frown, half smile. ‘You’re the one who’s got a job, so stop complaining‘. And I stopped, but just because I didn’t know how to respond. Yes, I got a job, and yes, I will be moving to the capital city soon. But an old cliché proverb says that money doesn’t necessarily bring happiness – although, I know, it’s a lot more comfortable to cry in a Mercedes than on a bike. Still, it doesn’t guarantee happiness, the same way having a boyfriend doesn’t. What the job guarantees, though, is the fact that I’ll move outside this city. Which brought into my mind the first remark; what if a boyfriend would have been left behind? Then it would have been a long distance relationship. So… isn’t it better that this is not the case? Isn’t it better that I do not have a boyfriend, with whom to have a long distance relationship, which I doubt would be that pleasing?… Yet I’ve heard though that such relationships do have their benefits; plus of course, many other possibilities exist, such as the boyfriend coming to the capital city, money buying happiness, or me discovering that even a long distance relationship is not that bad. For now, though, I’ll stick to what I have, which is the future job. That may not be enough to make me happy, but hey, it could have been worse, right?

NOTE: Three months after writing this as a draft, I had the chance to date someone and perhaps even be in a relationship, but I chose to end it after a really short time. And it proved me everything I had already written in here, everything I was trying to convince myself when I was typing the above thoughts. Now I know, I’ve felt it, I’ve lived it. A relationship does not guarantee happiness. Your attitude does, and the better the relationship is, the better your attitude – but also the other way around. Until you realise you’ve got the relationship you want, don’t offer your happiness “bare-handed” to anyone – it’s too precious and too fragile, just like your heart, and you should handle both of them with kid gloves. Learn to value yourself and be happy whether you’re single or not, whether you’ve got that job or not – but hey, at least you can still do more of what you like, and if that doesn’t make you happy, I don’t know what else does.

Bottom line, of course, don’t worry, be happy! It’s well worth it 😀

1/2 a <3 (A Valentine's Day Short Story)

halfAheartShe always could barely wait for the first day of each month, as it was the day when donations came in. When she could finally catch a glimpse of what the normal people were wearing or using – not that she wasn’t normal, of course, but it was hard for a girl that lived in an orphanage to own all those amazing items in any other way. This time, she was hoping for a purse – and yes, there it was, right at the bottom of the sack. A brown purse with many pockets, including a little zipped one, so little you could perhaps think it was fake… But wait – what’s this? Something inside, a hard piece of paper, maybe a label… But no, it doesn’t look like a label, it’s not a label at all! It is a little card, not larger than an inch, painted in red and white. Minutely cut in it was half a heart, so that one could see through it the inside of the card before opening it – then, once opened, the full heart is shown, but with an empty half.

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For P, hugs & kisses
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It was obviously a Valentine’s letter from one a year ago, and she remained speechless realising how much love and care have been put inside something so little, just by the fact that it was manually designed and written. But… What is something like that doing inside the smallest pocket of a donated purse?! Perhaps the girl who received it forgot it there… She could imagine the smile on the girlfriend’s face when she received it, how she hugged him and thanked him for it, then put it inside that pocket where it fit perfectly, and forgot it there…

But still, who would forget something like this in a bag? Not when it means so much, more than something expensive, actually, cause a hand crafted object takes time, and a piece of your time is the most important gift you can give to someone… Well, this means it didn’t mean so much, in the end. Perhaps she wanted to forget him and left it there, put it somewhere where you could even trick your mind into thinking that the pocket is false, so that you will never see it again… But then, why not simply throw it away?

It’s so small and still full of details, though, that I feel it was made by a girl. And assuming it was meant to a boyfriend P, what is it still doing inside her purse? Again, she couldn’t have just forgotten it there, neither before nor after giving it to him… A shadow of sadness covered her face. This letter never found its destination, cause she changed her mind. Perhaps he broke up with her right on Valentine’s Day last year, which would be so sad, but it does explain it. Or perhaps she felt ashamed in the last minute to give him something so small and inexpensive like a hand crafted paper, but in this case she was more than wrong, as this kind of gifts values sometimes much more than a golden bracelet or so… And indeed it values, or else the little card would have been burned by now – but perhaps even though she did change her mind, she didn’t want to forget. The gift still meant so much, a symbol of what had been, of infinite love, that she couldn’t just erase it as if it was never there, she couldn’t just destroy something she had put so much love into, something she put inside the smallest pocket of her everyday purse, cause it fit so perfectly there, and then carried it with her everywhere, but somehow never feeling the urge to give it to him, not on Valentine’s Day and not even months after that, when there were only the two of them, and the bag, and the card, alone abroad in a place they say it’s the most romantic city… It just never was a proper time, and then it wasn’t anything at all.

Should I then throw it away, or leave it where it belongs, in the old purse that I’m going to give to orphanage, to enlighten someone else’s imagination?… Would I be left with half a heart?