I remember it was a rainy spring day and I skipped school to go meet him. My favorite month is May in Bucharest, it smells like flowers everywhere. It was raining and my umbrella was broken, looking like a dead bat wing. He was an art school student and tried to teach me about joy, about the most rewarding thing on earth: putting your genuine heart into something. He introduced me to his professor: she is an artist. But I was only an artist of criticism back then, specialized in bitterness and cryptic poems. I remember him feeding the cats from the fourth floor window of the student housing where he was living, his legs balancing over the void, me horrified and him laughing. I remember how fascinated I was by the paintings on the walls of him room. But also a bit scared because I couldn’t fully understand them. I couldn’t fully understand him, just as I couldn’t fully understand myself. I was fascinated and scared at the same time, because this is how it goes, feelings come in pairs, human nature is contradictory.
I remember carrying water in my shoes all day and his hands recalling a forgotten rhythm on my ribs, trying again to teach to me about the joy of living. But I had a golden cage inside my chest and I had it for many years until I understood I actually had more golden cages inside myself and I need to open them all to be able to find peace. I remember a picture taken on a street in Bucharest in May, a picture smelling like flowers, possibility of joy and refusals. Because after we sat on a couch in the middle of the street, me, his friends and him, me looking almost transparent, like a ghost incapable of absorbing joy, after we sat on that couch in the middle of the street waiting for a picture to be taken, a picture destined to smell like flowers, some of us looking bright and some looking transparent, I ruined everything. I started feeding the void, instead of feeding cats from the fourth floor window. I put an end to the beautiful connection we had. How exactly I did that, it is a very long story, maybe I will write it one day.
Everything we live goes into compartments, separated by thick or thin walls, sometimes transparent, sometimes fully opaque. Memory is a transparent thing, I wished I had the chance to apologize for feeding the void, instead of feeding cats from the fourth floor window. There was the guilt for hurting him and mistreating him that suffocated me every now and then. I once met him by chance in a bar. He said he recognized my voice and my laughter. Crystal clear. I tried to grab his hand: check if you recall that rhythm on my ribs now, check which golden cage is smelling like flowers.
I remember a day when I burst into tears, thinking about Frida Khalo’s watermelon and the joy of living, how I ended up painting and teaching joy myself because back then I was just an artist of criticism. I think together with my tears, one of the transparent walls broke because I heard glass breaking. Crystal clear. And I felt wind blowing between the compartments, a spring wind smelling like flowers reminding me of the rhythm of life he tried to teach me about. I danced on many rhythms during my life and one of them was a self sabotage pattern: the act, the guilt and the suffering. The day when I understood this I did a painting, I called it : break the weakness chain with beauty. I did it after I saw a theater play about madmen, thinking that is why they chose to be actors, so they could be madmen on stage for two hours. I did the painting thinking about the weakness chain, people hurting others and so on, ad infinitum. But I knew something new, that the difference between an artist and a madman is strength, the strength to be who you are in front of others, but especially in front of yourself, the strength to break the walls between the golden cages you carry inside and let go flying to the world some poems of apology. Break the weakness chain with beauty.
There are these four stages in healing: the confession in front of another human being because a secret locked inside our heart condemns us to isolation, the understanding of the situation and our own self-sabotage pattern , the normalisation process which means fitting in society but keeping in mind our own desires because normal defined as an average of all human beings is just an abstraction and last, but not least, giving back something to the world that we are part of. I write these very personal confessions, but I developed a sort of immunity to direct judgement. I noticed that the most vocal critics of the others are precisely those who practise rough judgement on themselves. I write these very personal confessions hoping that accidentally, they would touch some secret buttons in the hearts of other people and they would start accepting their own contradictory nature and they would forgive themselves and practice compassion on others. Nobody wants to be treated badly, we all expect love and respect. There is this rule I try to guide myself by: do not do to other people what you wouldn’t like to experience yourself. But if you already did it, say: I am sorry and try to apply what you learnt in the future. The past is called past because it is not coming back, but it is very important because the past is our biggest teacher. I noticed that life tends to put me in similar situations all over again, but now I know that this happens until I am able to derive a life lesson from it.
I hadn’t seen him in years, but it was on that precise day when his familiar face showed up from the multitude of passersby. He asked me how I was doing, he was smiling and I recognized that kindness I knew so well. He shook my hand and I was getting very emotional, I told him I was happy because of the published poem. He kept smiling and said: I know you write very well. I asked him how he was doing, he said that nowadays he is painting less and has dedicated himself to music more. I noticed a few white hairs in his beard, time is both a tyrant and a healer. And I knew just by looking at him, at the same warmth irradiating from his being that I knew so well back then, but I didn’t know how to handle, that he forgave me and that the most generous thing to do is to free another being from guilt. And then he released my hand and left. Good luck, he said.
Laura Livia Grigore is a poet, painter and psychology enthusiast, with a background in space engineering. She likes to experiment with various mediums and types of writing. Her artwork is orientated on emotions, reflecting her opinion that most of the answers we need can be found inside ourselves, although the hardest thing to do is to be sincere with oneself. You can purchase her book here.