“A winter journey” – short story

Lost, I stand barefoot in a puddle on my balcony, looking at the shattered clay pots from Tunisia, the bikes which are to each other as they would sleep and the scattered bits and tools that my husband would have to clean up long ago. I feel whacked. It stormed and my soul has not yet arrived. In the storm I did not know where I belong, and whether it is cold or warm.

I felt and dreamed of this day, and when I woke up, the spray lashed against the shore. Who am I? I wonder silently. Then I go to the washing machine, put it on and wait for the familiar sound. Later I should remember an email because in the normal everyday world there is laundry and email. Each trip gives me the feeling that I could leave the world forever. I wish that the apartment is nice when I return so I clean. In my sleep, I thought that perhaps we would have a snow storm and I’d be trapped in a hotel in London with an open fire place.

I can not imagine snow in Hyde Park anyway. I wonder about the snow photos KB, my Sikh friend has recently sent me. I wonder about KB. Did I save his life? Or did I not? He calls me “sis”. I think it’s nice. In the toilet at London City airport, I imagine his mother saying: “Bring her home. We want to thank her.” I have a special connection to many Indians and Pakistanis. Even while I’m buying the ticket for DLR I feel in perfect security. And then, something unexpected happens: The Docklands Light Railway has a problem.

The driver advises us after a long wait to take the bus. The Indian bus driver does not accept my ticket and I have no pounds. A young man (maybe Pakistani) leads a discussion with him. Then I am allowed to ride. I am sure that the bus driver knows that I am a foreigner and therefore the drama. Thanks to the young man.

Then I realize it was not a good decision perhaps. The bus is a little scary. I hide my rings and feel totally stupid. Which reminds me that I always used to have a book with me in London in the old days. Armed with the book, I am no longer afraid. Next to me a man is staring at me. I get nervous but nothing happens. He gets out and, unfortunately, my savior leaves too. I now see more women. That reassures me. I hear the announcement “Aldgate East station” and think that I can go into the tube. That’s a good idea. In the tube I feel safer. I drag my three bags up and down stairs. Then I finally stand in the red Central line. I stand wondering and usually in someone’s way.

In Marble Arch station the ticket inspector takes pity on me. I do not need to pass the stupid barriers, but he would like to see my ticket. All is well. I even get pounds from an ATM. I see a sign saying “Park Lane” and follow the directions. Then I walk from Marble Arch to the hotel. Actually, nobody else walks here. I feel quite inappropriate with my jeans and sneakers. The hotel is directly on Hyde Park. I only recognize the address now “Park Lane” … that’s the most expensive road to live on in London such as Central Park West in NYC.

I amuse myself with compassion for all the contradictions and imagine that I am a writer or a rich heiress who is dressed simply to hide her identity. The only thing that betrays her is her jewelry and her fluent language skills. In the lobby, I’m not the only one who is badly dressed. A group of Arabic-speaking men looks rougher than me. It seems to me that they live here and often come here to the hotel to talk in peace. Arab men are worse than washerwomen. They talk a lot with each other and drink like tea or coffee. According to Samir, they never talk about their wives. That would be disrespectful.

A woman with a “facemask” is also interesting. I guess, she had too much botox or she was outside and it’s just very cold. Next comes in a woman with long black hair and fur. Her pumps have a height of 12cm. I guess she is American, but it would not surprise me if she was a hooker. It is always exciting here. A blond Meg Ryan blend flirts openly with the waiter while her husband does not know what to do with himself.

Seeking eye contact with a woman in a headscarf and wondering why she is alone at the time. Which reminds me that I am also alone and have long celebrated this alone-ness. Every now and then of course I have contact with people. My job needs me to go out, but these days I prefer to be alone like a snail and watch out of my house.

I used to be different. A person who is described by tests as an extrovert. A woman who drew attention to her. I left her in the past. I am old and fat. No man turns toward me. Since my conversion I will no longer be perceived. How did this happen you wonder. Yes, I also do not remember exactly. One day I woke up and was a wallflower much like the man in the Kafka novel, waking suddenly as a huge beetle. Was the name Oscar or was he the drummer?

Heavy rain on the window from the Novotel and the views of the Olympic Hall and the many construction sites make me relax slightly. It is quiet here, despite proximity to the airport. I liked the blonde model with a Swiss accent and her boyfriend. They are relaxed as we dealt with the chaos in the airline. Of course we could have insisted on our right and fly, but something prompted me to report to the staff and I volunteered to stay behind. Perhaps my constant fear that any flight will be my last, but maybe just the fear to come back again in an empty apartment. The breath of my husband still on the premises, yet he cannot be seen. Again.

Maybe it was the prospect of EUR 250, which I could really use, and of course the fact that I only have one three o’clock tomorrow. I sat in my third hotel in one week and exchanged my wallflower look to the look of a woman who knows who she is and what she wants. The night before, in a red dress and with a lot of makeup, I was a little uncomfortable.  I heeled relatively alone and unprotected through the streets of London. It made me nervous. After three beers I no longer noticed that. Only thing that annoys me about London: It is so hard to find a taxi.

Did I subconsciously give my hubby the wrong visa information? Why would I do that? I have affairs with men on the phone and chats. Some of these men seem to worry some more about me than him. I used to be different of course and the two who remember me from RL, have another picture of me. They remember a younger, leaner and more self-confident version of me. One of these guys is Arjun. The other one I cannot name. Thing is, they are friends.

My Twitter friends certainly love me just because I’m just as crazy as they are. It is still a mystery to me how I can develop feelings for someone with whom I have phoned twice at most. The explanation is simple from a professional perspective: Emotions must be a pure illusion. Reality in the adult world has no romance and no erotic agitation. Reality is objective and neutral of emotions. I basically create emotions through projection. Completely idiotic but very effective if it is used just as an aphrodisiac.

My Twitter friends certainly love me just because I’m just as crazy as they are. It is still a mystery to me how I can develop feelings for someone with whom I have talked twice at most. The explanation is simple from a professional perspective: Emotions must be a pure illusion. Reality in the adult world has no romance and no erotic agitation. Reality is objective and neutral of emotions. I basically create emotions through projection. Completely idiotic but very effective if it is used just as an aphrodisiac.

In the past my behavior was driven by ego and alcohol. Now, thanks to an inner peace, I manage not to cry constantly. The tears often were a result of too much alcohol the night before, and my mind is on these days was very fragile. Today is such a day. I feel small and self-alienated. Still looking for the big goal, the wonder of the decision that will suddenly bring back the direction in my life. I feel shipwrecked, stranded.

The art of survival in chaos never seemed like a special quality of mine, but when I think about it longer I had many moments this past year with experiences on the edge. My unconscious mind is obsessed with the idea that there can be no stand still in my life. My life should be full of drama and passion. Once I feel mildly satisfied with my life, I expect that the next disaster is waiting around the corner. Do I sound like Bella Swan? Is my transformation into a vampire starting?

Nothing, absolutely nothing can give me the feeling of temporary safety. In the state of transition between the worlds of travel I feel safest. When traveling there is at least the hope of coming home. Once I am home I am bored. Once I have all pictures on the wall of a new apartment I want to move out again.


Fought through endless holiday emotions. Then finally with hubby on New Year’s Eve, I still cannot see clearly. Wallflower has won. Gone are the thoughts of a free and independent life. My life will be more determined by the routine of everyday life of a woman who did not manage to have children and is especially disappointed by the institution of marriage. What finds the wallflower that evening is a view of the next thirty years, Saturdays on the couch in front of a huge TV eating food that took a while to prepare, eaten in less than ten minutes with no word of appreciation from the hubby. We watch a couple of old episodes of “Mr. Bean” or some other show that runs every year. At midnight watching fireworks alone on balcony, standing outside wishing and dreaming, watching fireworks, opening Champagne, wishing “Happy New Year”, kisses, 2 minutes sex, Pause button.

On New Year’s morning I wake up refreshed. The boredom of eve program allowed me to wake up without a hangover and had me finally turn to the long-awaited book. The book has a message. The message that I want to hear today. It’s not too late. Life still has a treasure for me. I just have to go on my journey, open the door and walk outside. Do not give up yet. Not today.

The beginning has a secret. My friend Pablo said: What you are doing on January first determines the rest of the year. Today I have been working on a dream of mine. A tool I had wanted to develop for two years. Today, I realize that it’s no longer about making money but above all finally realize a dream and create something of my own strength, my mind and my heart.

Even though my beloved no longer believe in me so I learned today that I have to say goodbye to the recognition of my family. This will come at the end, if at all.

I realize that I want to be independent of him. I used to be independent. I have made myself dependent. With money and material care I have turned him into a monster and killed our love. I need to be independent again. When we “separated” love might rise again. The “separation” is symbolic, but it must be completed.

In my current relationship I dissolved. I have to find myself again. Then I will also disappear from the wallflower house and can look my friends in the eyes again. I want to go to India to work there for a while, want to see more of this world and experience more cultures. I want to relieve me from my family, from their needs. They depress me and hold me back. They would like me to join their misery but I will not. Maybe I could do that if  – like the shepherd Santiago from the book by Coelho – I had already traveled in search of my treasure.

Samir is my faithful companion, who reminds me from time to time that I have to eat and drink. I would take him with me, but the first step I need to do alone. It would take too much of his self-confidence if he now had to adjust his life to mine. We may both need the physical separation until our desires are clear.

– to be continued –

“A winter journey” is Vivienne M. Sharma’s first short story. Let Vivienne know if you wish to read more.


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