Spirits Lounge: The Switch

Eyes were opened.

Is this the smell of Lavender? It must be, I’m in Lisbon after all. I’m in Lisbon? I’m in Lisbon! Silky strands of black hair resting on my shoulder. White curtains are half opened allowing rays of sunlight to introduce the place. Street noises made an extra addition to the scene.

 The house had many colors, styles, but not a single theme. In a corner, a classic vintage dark brown cabinet covered with all shades of blue mosaic that you feel it was made in the ocean. Right next to it rested a modern three seat green sofa. The kind of messiness that proves a human resides in the place.

I was hearing voices from the street like there were no walls. How could she write with all this noise? I went looking for her writing space, I supposed a best seller writer had a special setting after all. All I found was a laptop on her coffee table next to the TV.  No chair and no writing table, only a big green sofa and a laptop. I went for the opened window and drew the other half of the curtains aside allowing the whole family of golden rays in. Even in that life, I still had a thing for opening windows in the morning.

I could get accustomed to the view from there.

Shops around had started opening doors. A cafe, and another store I can’t really identify. Three kids are yelling as they are playing with what looks like a ball from afar. Morning chirps, far construction noises, kids yelling, couple of cars passing by, someone calling another at the end of the street to wait for him. One cup of coffee and I could stay still for hours watching those scenes merging into one short movie. Before I went to make me one I noticed one pigeon chilling on a close window next to mine watching me watch the street. As if it was seeing my soul with those tiny red eyes. Was there any chance it knew? 

A freshly brewed cup of heaven sips. How lucky I am she’s a coffee person. As I hugged my warm cup of love I passed by a large mirror on my way to the living room. It was too big I didn’t really need my caffeine intake first to see it, but I didn’t know what blinded me from seeing it earlier.

Running out of thoughts, I couldn’t identity myself in the mirror. A quick shiver passed through my bones. As if someone in the mirror was imitating my facial expressions. She was raising her eyebrows, winking, making a silly face, a jolly one now. What is it about mirrors that forces you do all sorts of peculiar facial expressions? I could do that all day long, but time was one thing I didn’t have plenty of.

I took a big sip of coffee then scanned the whole place in one glance.                          Who are you Ana?

I woke up knowing enough as told. Who I am in terms of name, age, job and nationality. Where everything I need is, and how to get what I want. I pretty much do know my way here. Where shall I start from now? Why am I still here? I need to be out and about! I ran to her wardrobe. Filled with classics, I grab what looks like a vintage brown leather jacket for the night chills, a plain white cotton shirt, a flowy white linen pants, and a white sneakers.

I grabbed the keys and made sure the door is locked, no need for Ana to come back to a robbed house.

The spacious 5th floor apartment is in a 200 year renovated old building. You can see time carvings on the stairs railing. A tale has survived 200 years by carving its main figures and events on a stairs railing from the 5th floor till you reach the ground. As I passed my fingers over the carves to feel them they felt my touch back and arose from the dead in a moving glowing figures telling a story. They walked in groups, fought for their land, lost, built their houses from ashes, went into a bigger war, lost again, peace came after, went back to building their land from the ground, and this building was marked the first house in the city to accept foreign guests in a gesture of welcoming new comers. As my foot touched the ground floor the story ended. I could’ve went down a 100 floor staircase with a longer story! It felt like finishing a great movie in the plane right before landing, where I usually wish they postpone the landing for me to digest what I just watched. A fresh breeze passed by when I went outdoor and kissed me a morning hello. Despite the chills, I didn’t need the jacket yet. The kids were still playing. The pigeon was still up there watching every move I make. The store I couldn’t identify earlier was a local colorful suits shop, not the usual black ones but colorful and flowery ones. Something else now has grabbed my attention.

The smell of fresh baking held my hand and pulled me in the cafe next door. I took a deep breath of the rich coffee aroma with a little bit of oxygen for the lungs. Brewing is all you need to enchant hearts, freshly baked bread and pastries comes next, or before, it depends. I looked like I’ve never entered a cafe with a bakery. It felt good to be able to try things you lived with your whole life for the first time again and be immersed in the experience. With my eyes closed, I wanted to mark this moment right there where I stood at the entrance of a regular cafe in Lisbon with a captivating fresh aroma that fed my soul with. It was one of those moment in your life you know you are having a blast, and wish for time to stop for a while for you to enjoy it longer. I opened my eyes to a lady calling Ana’s name with a happy and energetic tone.

  • Good morning Ana! The usual for today?
  • Good morning, I’d like a cappuccino for today please.
  • So the usual without sugar. Anything else? Lemon loaf, plain croissant, or fresh out of the oven special almond croissant?
  • I’ll go with the almond croissant.
  • No one says to that, I’ll grab mine too later. Here you go your coffee and piece of heaven. Enjoy dear.
  • Thanks!

Here is another treasured moment. The croissant was indeed a piece of heaven. It was savoured voraciously before even I walked out the cafe’s door.

A stroll in Lisbon’s downtown streets is a must now.

Everything looks familiar. I don’t know if this is my own perception or my body’s memories kicking in. The scent of history has been kept triumphantly safe far from the ruins of modernizations. I can imagine the 200 old story being held in those streets, peasants hiding from the unnameable violence raised out of the privileged greed and lust for power. Fabric sellers caught my attention and thankfully broke that chain of horrible events. Colorful rolls filled with all the prints you can imagine. Tiny red roses, sunflowers, tilework prints, and then the bright colors of their national flag. The liveness of the streets made me walk for hours yet felt like few minutes. No wonder why I was in love with the city before today. The authenticity of Lisbon it is indeed worthy of all the love this tiny heart of mine beholds. 

In my way back I wondered how Ana is doing being me. Something about her life here didn’t make sense. What was the reason behind her switch? Inspiration was what I thought she was after, but the whole city screamed inspirations, the buildings, the people, the streets and morning rays. Or that might be the mere effect of my first day brightening up everything I saw.

The peaceful silence after closing the apartment door behind forced me to close my eyes and breathe it in.

Allowing myself to read more into the life I’m living now I searched a little bit and came up with what I’ve expected. It was only one book Ana had written after she went through a traumatic event where she lost close people whose identity remains unknown as part of the switch restrictions. The success of one book adds up to someone’s life, but only time holds the ability to heal. What I just discovered somehow allowed me to open her most recent drafts, only to wish afterwords I didn’t. I hugged myself tightly leaving temporary marks on my shoulders hoping somehow for this warmth to reach Ana.

I opened a new draft and wrote the heaviest letter I’ve ever written nonstop.

From Me To You,

People usually tell you they feel you without actually going through what you went through, but not me. At first I thought they have finally accepted me to switch due to my persistence in trying month after another, 12 times a year for 5 years. But it was never about me. The only thing I was sure about before coming here was that I know nothing anymore. Bewilderment creeped into my life slowly until it held control of the main pillars. Who am I? What am I really good at? What are the values I’m living by? Am I doing good so far in what we call a living? Have I undermined my core from all the wandering I did? The constant reevaluation of everything has weakened my trust towards myself. I struggled to define myself. I looked everywhere with no luck. This is when I wanted the switch too badly that I lost everyone who care about me yet failed to see the importance of this experience to my sanity. Yet I was wrong. I was lost indeed, but I had the means of getting back. Not easy means to adopt, but nothing worthwhile is easily attainable. Funny how it ended up in me writing this to you. You are not alone. We both know life wasn’t created for an unblemished living, yet it’s hard to believe we were meant to go through all the troubles and ups and downs of life. There is no key to endure all the hardships except your sturdy faith and hope that tomorrow will be better, as nothing lasts, not the good nor the sad. I sincerely feel your pain deeply, for my heart aches right now as I’m writing without any preparation.

You have grieved for years now that you forgot what the first rays of sunlight feels like in the early morning. You forgot how to breathe in life when you open your window before the sun wakes up. You forgot how excitement can burn your tongue to take a sip of your favorite extra sugar cappuccino. You took tomorrows for granted. Do you think those whom you lost would like to see you immersed in grief and despair? You’ve spared sorrow years from your short life on earth. It’s time to shed off the misery you’ve been clinging to and wakeup. It’s time to start again. If there is one lesson life has taught me it would be to keep trying, for life stems from persistence. Do it first for those who love you, then grow from there to doing it for yourself. Laugh it all out. Laugh on your bad luck. Laugh on the stupidity of people. Laugh on the absurdity life beholds. Cry it all out. Cry over the cruelty of some people. Cry over the hunger of helpless children. Cry over the injustice some are suffering from. Then Laugh it all out again. You are human. You carry the feelings of the world in you, don’t fight it, don’t fight your feelings, encompass them, accept life through them. 

This is not a consolation letter, nor an advice for you to take and live by, but a mere gesture of understanding what you’ve been through and what you are feeling right now. Lucky that the switch makes no changes in time. We can reach each other when we are back, I can’t wait to call you, or even visit. I’ll buy you the special almond croissant from the cafe next door, tell you the stories the authenticity of the streets have showed me, and make you a breezy summer dress from one of the colorful fabric rolls that captivated me. Till then, I dare you to bring your senses back to life and live appreciating every moment. Wait for me, Ana.

What a horrible letter. I’m not even reading what just came out of this clumsy brain. The only wish I had was for those words to carry the magic of a spontaneous pep talk from a friend who hasn’t planned what to say, to discover later on the talk hit the right spot miraculously and patted the soul. 

I closed my eyes that day midday more than I do in my sleep. Thankfully I remembered not to sign the letter, no need to ruin Ana’s experience.

A night walk was calling for me, yet I decided to save the remaining energy on my pre-sleep routine to take in everything that happened so far, polish it and send it up there. I wished the pigeon a good night then slept like I didn’t in ages.

I couldn’t smell the lavender when I woke up. The bangs are gone too. Everything is in place except for a hand written letter on my bedside table.

From Me To You,

Thank you!


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