When I was 15 I was madly in love with a beautiful girl called M. She was absolutely gorgeous. I still think she must have been one of the most beautiful girls in our town. Tall, thin, only 15, with long black hair flowing just right to her hips, an incredible white and delicate face and a specific way of walking. She was like floating or something. I was on fire.
An important part of my adulation was to gaze at her window for hours. She was living at the fourth (and last) floor of one of the communist blocks in my small town. Oh, I didn’t tell you but until 19 I lived under communism, in a small city in the middle of Romania, near the mountains. We lived in grey, ugly, concrete made and freezing cold blocks.
Luckily, M. was living very close to my place. We were practically in the same building, only her mother’s apartment was on the opposite side. Her windows had the view over a state kindergarten (the one that I attended as a kid) a place which was opened all the time. I used to sneak inside the playgrounds of the kindergarten, find a place from where I could see her window and start my gazing.
Sometimes, I could see a shadow. Sometimes I could see her hair for like 20 seconds, from behind, she was talking to somebody. Fact is, I stayed in that kindergarten for a few weeks, long afternoon after long afternoon, until she finally noticed me. She opened the window and we finally started to talk. From that moment, we went out together. Well, getting out together is a little exaggeration. We were just having long walks, trying to find hidden remote places where we fooled around for hours.
I was absolutely sure I was going to marry her. I even started to plan where to move out. There were rumors that a new neighborhood of blocks was on the city council plans. During those times you didn’t have many options for shelter. You couldn’t own your own house. Your only chance to live in your own apartment was to have a specific job. Your employer was the one giving you the home, which was, exactly, an apartment in a block.
So, the whole city was waiting for this new neighborhood. I even researched the location. It was close to where we lived at that time and I was absolutely sure I was going to have an apartment in one of those blocks. I knew what type of job do I need for getting one of those and I was determined to get it. Yes, there were the same ugly, cold and concrete made blocks. But that was the highest point of my horizon at that time. Living with M. in a one bedroom apartment in a communist city. That was all I could fathom for a happy life.
Time passed by. Next year I went to a different school, spending less and less time in my neighborhood. In a few years I was admitted to college and left my city for good. I was 18. Our long walks became more and more sparse. Somehow, our worlds became more and more distant and each meeting required more and more energy and time to happen. Then I went to the army and shortly after that the Romanian Revolution came, a bloody carnival which basically replaced stupid communists with stupid liars.
Fact is, after a few years, I didn’t even remember that I once wanted to marry a girl called M. If I think now, I don’t think she was as convinced as I was. She didn’t went to college, she remained in the same city and eventually got a job at her mother’s work place. We saw each other again for a few more times while I was in college, during my holidays. And then silence. It was like a candle going off, without any noise or drama. The fuel for our encounters wasn’t there anymore.
25 Years Later
A few weeks ago I spent a week-end at my parents, with Bianca, my 5 year old daughter. I don’t know how, but one afternoon we ended up in the playground of the same state kindergarten I use to sneak in and gaze at my girl window. Bianca started to play and I started to look around. A few things were changed.
The kindergarten had one more floor and a few more playgrounds. The blocks around got parking spaces and modern roofs. And as I was trying to remember the places how they used to be, I realized there were also loads of other changes. This time, it wasn’t about the places. It was about me.
I was having two kids, a boy of 14 and a girl of 5, each coming from its own different relationship. I also had 2 divorces and countless of other longer or shorter relationships (what can I say, I loved women. And I still do 🙂 ). I was living in my own house, in one of the most soothed after neighborhoods in the main town of the country, Bucharest. And I was also doing business in New Zealand, a place 20.000 kilometers away from that place.
Yes, there were a lot of changes.
But at the fourth floor, where M. used to live, nothing seemed to be changed. I don’t know if it was a coincidence, but even the curtains on the windows looked the same. For a moment, I thought I saw M. at the window. I can’t describe what I felt in that second, but it was enough to make me move my eyes away from the window.
The mere thought that I could meet M. again was not at all comfortable. My teenage dreams were ages behind me. I wouldn’t know what to tell her. I wouldn’t know what to do. I wouldn’t know who she really was.
The Current Cut
As I was turning my eyes from that window to the playground where Bianca was having fun with other kids I realized something so important, so deep, and yet so simple, that I had to sit down.
Yes, the first cut is the deepest. And it will always be. Your first love will always define the way you understand love. And the first woman you loved will always live in your memories.
But the things is, you’re not living with your first cut anymore. That cut is way back in the past. You’re living with the current cut. What’s in the past will always be in the past. And your memories can only be used as a huge white screen, where you can project every now and then some short movies. Like the movie with the most beautiful girl in town, tall, thin, only 15 and with a fantastic long black hair.
But at the end of the projected movie the white screen must be folded and stowed away. It was just a movie. The reality was right there, right now, playing in a state kindergarten playground.
What The World Should Be
It may seem the easiest thing in the world, to live right now, right here. But in fact it’s the most difficult one. Because we keep these mental representations of what the world “should be” instead of what the world really is.
25 years ago, my ultimate model of happiness consisted in life with a beautiful girl M. in a communist apartment. And there was nothing wrong with that. Right now, my ultimate model of happiness consists in living my life as a digital nomad, all over the world. And there is nothing wrong with this either.
As long as I keep each happiness model in its place. The “life with M.” model is in the past, the “digital nomad” model is in the present. These are two separated entities living in two different times. If somehow, by any chance or misfortune, they will start to collide, my world, as I know it, will collapse.
In fact, for many of us, our world as it should be, is already collapsed. It’s made out of different debris, some from our early childhood, some from our teenage time and some from our present. We combined them in a shiny carousel and we think we’re doing a great job at living it.
But fact is, we’re deluding ourselves. We’re looking at dead memories and we’re mistakenly taking them for living creatures. We’re following goals that aren’t ours anymore (and highly doubt that they’ve ever been ours). We’re trying to revive old emotions because we’re afraid to experience new ones. We’re surrounding ourselves with images from the past, trying to create a carnival, but behind those images, there’s nothing. Just emptiness.
We’re hanging on to the first cut, to the first big emotion, to the first big achievement, to the first big intuition, forgetting that life is just moving on. And we’re losing the real picture, while focusing on a fake movie screen taken over by our own unresolved shadows.
Slowly, I turned to the playground again. Bianca was playing, laughing and running in circles. The other kids were shouting and laughing big time. I stayed there for a couple of hours just watching them and then headed back to my parents house.
I don’t know why, but for the rest of the time I spent in the playground, I didn’t feel the urge to look at M.’s window not even once.