The Procrastinator: There Once Was a Man Who Would Try.
To organize my ideas in words seems impossible. The tangled thoughts I have inside myself seem to be everywhere around me.
Typing them onto a crisp white page would feel akin to cobbling the streets of Lisbon again with small flat pieces of stone. Neck bent, and a single-minded focus on the liminal space in front of me. Don’t think, just keep putting the words down, in neat and tidy rows and build a path for someone to follow. I begin writing.
How can I explain the streets of Lisbon to you as I experience them? When I turn a corner, I see them when they were still trampled earth, bare; I see them as the stones are being laid; and then I see them worn and grey, sunken and smooth. I am brought to a standstill with the enormousness of the potential of the road in front of me and I find I can’t move.
I hear the impatient tsks of the people walking behind me who have to stop, navigate around me as they walk purposefully towards their destination, while I remain rooted to the spot unsure of even my next step. There are so many I could take, but instead I take none, letting the moment pass and allowing the sway of thoughts to continue to rise within me.
I raise my hand high, and bow my head humbly, and to all who might see me it looks as though I’m asking for help. But really, I’m placing my hand into the swarm above me, and with this action I will pull down something from the dark whorl above my head and make sense of this to you.
I will explain to you how I see the world in all its potential, unhindered by time or tense, although I worry I won’t find a sentence which encompasses the past, present and future.
And then I do.
There once was a man who would try.
This man once sat in a cafe when a woman came in with her niece. They sat opposite him and ordered and laughed a little but not loudly. He was grateful for this. It is impossible to simply observe when the volume is turned up and every sound intrudes and grates on the listener’s ears.
He would find it difficult to study their movements and gestures if his ears were assaulted with loud outbursts or a common dialect. The women drank their coffee and talked about the young girl’s studies and her roommate and her boyfriend, as though these were the most important things in the world.
The aunt reached over from time to time to hold the girl to her and kiss her on the top of her golden hair. The rest of the time she listened intently to her niece’s stories about university and what her boyfriend was watching on Netflix, as though these were the most important words she would hear that day.
In that moment, the man saw the aunt as a young woman, held in the same way by her mother and aunts, adored and cossetted and safe and secure in her position in the world. He saw the woman deftly pull the girl towards her with a practiced hand and he envied her confidence, her self-assurance that this embrace would be welcomed and returned.
It is a different world, he thought, where people love easily and with entitlement. It feels as though they are a different tribe of privilege, a bunch of people who reach out easily across a table, whose words are always heard and whose feelings routinely find a home.
The woman noticed him watching and didn’t flinch. She leaned back, better to observe him and drink him in. Hers was a confidence born of those who grew up in happy homes where there was never a whiff of disaster or a touch of tragedy. Where everything worked out just fine and as it should be. The kind of luck you can’t argue with for at least three generations at a time.
Until disaster finally strikes and the lovely homes are abandoned and the gardens grow wild and the descendants are scattered to new nations on the other side of the world where they desperately attempt to recreate the conditions of their previous privilege.
Sometimes they are mildly successful at shaping the discourse of the burgeoning nation, but often just appear pathetic and uncomfortably hot in their new climes.
The man had met this woman many times in his former home in one of these newer, promising nations which usually failed to deliver on their promise of a new start and equality for all.
He recalled the fabulous hairstyles that wilted in the oppressive heat and humidity, the cracks which baked into their makeup at the corners of their smiles as the day grew unbearably warm and the women struggled to maintain their poise under the porticos of some fabulously constructed hotel.
But in this moment, she remains cool and still privileged, unshaken by life and untarnished by tragedy and our man can only smile. He remembers another woman who told him of the Aboriginal tribes in her new nation who also didn’t view time as a neat and tidy progression through past, present and future, rather placing themselves in the middle of their very own time-circle.
The man lives firmly in the middle of one of these and views events in terms of their importance to him, rather than when they occur. He often feels as though important events happened just now even though they may have occurred years ago.
Like the time he met the woman who told him about time-circles. There are days when it seems as though she is still there with him in Lisbon, and he is meeting her again for the first time, but then he remembers he is just remembering and she is gone.
A longing for belonging, and in those arms there had been a feeling he had come home. As the words whorl above him, so do the images of dark bedrooms and beautiful faces illuminated by the glow of candles or a gentle lamp.
Skin pale and sometimes dark, soft curls resting against his pillow, the glimpse of a breast as it peeks out from a casually draped bedsheet. Long limbs hanging gracefully over the edge of his bed in a kind of exhausted repose; shorter limbs plump and full beneath his touch; lips that meet his in a succulent greeting from beneath him. All of it.
He sees and remembers and smells and tastes all of it and he is trapped in his seat in this café, unable to move.
He doesn’t realize that the young girl has left her aunt. Girls her age are always keen to return to the lives of their boyfriends. As though there were no better place to be than with him, and whatever he is currently experiencing. As if her existence is somehow less colorful than his, pale by comparison and diminished in some way.
Yes, young girls view their menfolk as the party everyone wants to be at. The fear that somehow if they are not next to him, they will miss something. Or worse still, they won’t be missed.
And yet the woman stays and continues to evaluate him from across the floor. Still seated, eyes narrowed, she takes him in coolly, lips slightly pursed, a gentle pout resting at her mouth. Suddenly she stands and makes her way across the room to him. She is there standing right in front him and he looks up at her, still seated.
“People waste so much time on pleasantries,” she begins. “Just tell me.”
His eyes meet hers and lock. There can be no hesitation and he doesn’t dare blink for fear of breaking their connection. He breathes again and readies himself to speak.
“I am so in love with love,” he tells her.
She smiles kindly at the man, and moves closer, never looking away. She places her right hand gently under his chin and lifts his face so that he is staring up at her as though she were the sun and the stars and the moon.
“Try harder,” she says and turns and walks out of the café. Out onto the cobbled streets of Lisbon, once bare, then laid and finally worn and grey, sunken and smooth. And she is yesterday and today and she will be there again tomorrow and he will remember her as though it were the very first time.
And he will be unable to move.
Rillos Soklea is an intrepid traveler, learner of languages, and speaker of her heart. Her favorite journey is the one which brings her closer to her truth. Currently residing in the most isolated capital city on earth, she is patiently awaiting life’s next adventure.