I’m 22 years old and I only recently moved here. I am used to being on my own. Well, no one really can get used to loneliness. But solitude, a word I’ve learned from Albert Camus, is a choice; it’s a space carved around everything that is. And everything that clutters that space and overpopulates the silence will eventually be carved away. I’ve got faith in this process.
The phone rings. I’m in the middle of cooking so I won’t bother answering it. There’s the answer machine in case someone wishes to leave a message. Whoever called, he or she didn’t.
After lunch, I place the lids over the respective pots containing the leftovers. I make myself a coffee and then I change my mind and decide to go out for a café latte in the place down the road.
A day off work and study. A day to walk around and just be – whatever that is. As I enter the café I am promptly greeted with a ‘hello!’ by the Portuguese woman behind the counter. I order a coffee which is served here in the French style, milky and yet strong, in a long glass. And I’ll have it with a custard tart – one of the many Portuguese staple deserts with the mandatory presence of rich and flavoursome egg custard.
Pictures of Portugal, significantly a bird’s eye view of Oporto, hang on every available wall. I stare at these photos depicting a place I do not know yet. But since I am writing from the future I can attest to the fact that Portugal is a place I will visit many times over and that I will fall in love with Oporto completely.
So there I was aged 22, in London, in a café named after a city I’m yet to visit located in the country where half my family tree was planted many generations ago.
Trees – I’ve always looked at them with wonder, although I remember as a child feeling both fascinated and uneasy about them. I used to wander how they ‘felt’ about all the birds hopping on and off their branches, standing still whilst being every so often blown by the wind. For the trees, you see, cannot go where the birds go or where the wind goes for that matter.
But over the years, as I grow older, walking up and down along Portobello Road on my way to work, back and forth across Memory Lane, I have these realizations. Trees are not mere prisoners suffering in their vital function and fruition.
I realize it is important to be on the ground, ‘grounded’, and rooted as much as it is to be blown by the wind. I believe that whatever rules over the orderly chaos of the Universe has given seeds to trees so that they have their own way of ‘walking’ around the grounds, turning them into fields, forests and saying, ‘Hello, I am here and I’ve got something to give you’.
So you see, some might live their lives like birds, and others, like the wind. Some might have the solemn stance of trees and still be able to reach almost as far as birds do, always with a little help from the wind, of course.
I am sipping coffee in a coffee shop in London, hailing from a South American country. I flew on the crest of the wind across the Atlantic, embarking on a journey without any hesitation. It is a true natural birth, being delivered from the insides of an aeroplane – the traveller’s womb and mid-wife.
I am, in fact, a plant of sorts. I carry this pot around and I am on the lookout for the ground that will receive my transplanted roots. Bloom, bloom, that’s what flowers do. Fly, that is what birds do. Blow, that is the wind coming through the branches. These are the imperatives which we might not be able to fully comprehend; all we can do is act upon them.
As I take a bite from my custard tart, I spot an older lady with a sketch book on her lap. Her attentive glances at the man sharing her table somehow contradict the composure of her demeanour and the command with which she executes her strokes.
I close my eyes and try to imagine what she sees and how she is portraying that man. There is a dialogue in their silence – trust is also a form of dialogue. These spaces carved around us, little by little, until all that is eventually takes over what isn’t. It takes time and it takes grace but I believe we are all capable of doing it.
By Luciana Francis
In her own words:
Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Moved to London in 1998 and never looked back (well, unless when needed as source for writing fiction). Graduated from Goldsmiths College in Anthropology and Media in 2008. Loves Art, Cinema, Photography, Nature, Music and the pleasure that is Language (written, spoken, unspoken).