In a snowed-in city, we got stuck in traffic. I was wearing sweatpants with a little hole at the hip. He was in his smartest suit, shirt, shoes and tie.
My sweatpants and our Great Greek Melancholics playlist briefly threw me back to our very first date years ago in my beloved Helsinki. I had been so worried my mum’s package with my missing boot wouldn’t arrive by Saturday. If it didn’t, I would have to meet him in sneakers!
The package arrived on Friday, but then I couldn’t find matching socks. So inside my newly reunited boots, there was one nervous foot clad in fireworks and another in plain, soothing black.
Fast-forward 15 years of countries, kids, songs and socks to a drawn-out Swiss traffic standstill. He’s in my car singing and tutting.
The Great Melancholics describe cloudy Sundays and departing trains in a landscape so different from this here. These songs were written for the kind of black nights that Cyprus drinks, sighs and sleeps in.
Suddenly I remember how sweet is it to drive an old, rough SUV with the skylight open while the birds in the trees above read each other their bedtime prayers.
That right there is Cyprus. His island, my memory.
There, the radio is always tuned in to football and the men on the radiowaves shout like there’s no tomorrow. My beau looks more tanned and definitely more cheerful there. I start when he, too, let’s out a shout every time anyone scores.
In tiled alleys, our steps echo so lightly it’s like we’re barely there at all. I know we are though, because his hand is holding mine. A long way out, a prayer call rises, vibrates and finally dies. Closer by, stray cats fight bitterly until one surrenders. The next morning, it’s Sunday again. The whole island smells of smoke. That is bliss, traditional Cyprus style.
Now in my little Seat, I hum happily alongside him. I wait for the lights to change and once we finally leave that wretched queue behind, I shed a tiny, secret tear into the sleeve of my thick winter coat. For what I’ve been and for what what I’ve become and will again change into.
I was that nervous girl in my mismatched socks and I was that exhilarated foreigner in the SUV. And I’ve been this clueless mum for years now. He’s been so much more constant, but now I’m starting to suspect that in me, too, all that still awaits. Somewhere in my memory, my heart, my backbone and in these songs I love – somewhere I still know how to live that life!
Cyprus will become that familiar to me again. Familiar and homey ans maddeningly mundane. The cats, the newsstands, the abandoned houses. The jasmine, the soldiers and the heat – and those traffic jams, too.
The birds, the dark nights and the car radios and the shouting broadcasters will wake something in me. The confident swell and the waning retreat of the waves on the scorching shores of his beloved Mediterranean – they certainly will.
I’ll find it and I’ll love it again, I will! It’s still there. That old me is still definitely in there somewhere. The one who knows how to live in Cyprus and the one who can be so happy there.
Now all I need to find out is how to bring that version of myself out again without breaking anything. Because there are years worth of other memories, songs and thoughts in me as well.
And they will probably not surrender without a fight, either!