Thursday, October 26, 2023

Bitesize fiction. High tide

The sea water was cool around my feet, but the air was pleasantly warm. I waddled around a bit in the shallow water of a narrow stretch of beach, flanked off by concrete walls. It felt like a beach within a room, cosy and private.

An empty table by the wall caught my eye. What use could a table be here, with its legs dipped in the water? To store the bathers' things?

"Vodka tonic!" a voice chimed behind me cheerfully.

I turned around. A young man was beaming at me from a group of equally young, equally enthusiastic people.

"Hello." I replied politely. It barely occured to me that his greeting had been unusual. This was an unusual place after all.

"Are you here for a swim? May we intrude?"

"Go right ahead. I don't mind company."

"Thank you!" He smiled widely. Quite a friendly fellow. He turned towards the sea and stared into the distance for a while. "I advise you to get to higher ground though. The high tide will be coming soon."

"Yes, you're right. I'd almost forgotten about that." I started towards the stairs that led to the top of the cliff, but stopped midstep and remarked: "It's a shame you and your friends arrived here right before the high tide. It will cut your swimming short."

"No worries. We meant to come at this time."

In fact, they were doing something even more unusual than the greeting from before. They were laying papers down on the table. I enquired: "Wait... Won't your papers get swept away by the sea? I don't think you should put them there."

He smiled widely once more. "That is also deliberate. You see, that is our homework."


"We lost one of our teachers out at sea last year... He went swimming and was swept by the current and drowned." His smile softened and became sadder.

"I'm sorry to hear that..."

"Thank you. Well, he was such an amazing teacher, that our group has decided to pay homage to him every week by studying together and leaving our homework here to be taken by the sea..."

"Oh... Such a lovely tradition! I'm sure your teacher would have been proud of you. Erm, may I add to your offering? I have my notes from my language studies with me."

"Of course! Our teacher appreciated people who wanted to learn. Your notes are welcome."

So I put my papers on the table and we all went up the steps, out of the reach of the soaring waves.

And as we watched together our homework floating off the table, we all felt united by this small moment that we shared.


This story is an embrace between the sea and a dream at the edge of waking.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Broken pencil poetry. Van Gogh's ear

Am I going to cheat by digging out an old piece of writing from the past? Yes, yes I am. But it hasn't been published here, so it's just like new.

Almost 7 years ago, I wrote a little poem. I'm not sure what triggered it at that time. But, after dusting it off and reading it again, it certainly feels very fitting to my current situation in life. So, here it is:




Van Gogh's ear
21 nov 2016

I think the world is far too narrow
As I lay another brick -
I think the wall is far too tall
But I'm the one
Slathering the mortar.

I think the eyes are far too bright
Because they see me in my corner
And even if I bare my teeth
The world is still, still far too narrow.

My back is itchy and I'd really like to scratch
And the cards are still not good
For helping me out with my bluff...

I feel like Van Gogh's ear,
Cut off and given away,
But I can still hear, mind you,
I can still hear it!
The echo is still there
And I can hear it over and over,
Lost in the nooks and crannies
Of this discarded old ear...


As a little interpretation hint, it's still a poem about building one's own enclosing fence, not feeling quite right in the middle of this reality and still being haunted by the past. Well... Some things simply never change.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

A "why" on parenthood

There is a subject that has preoccupied me quite frequently, due to it being so pervasive in our society. Children. More importantly, the motivation behind procreating.

I have many friends who already have school age children or newborn babies. They often talk about their children, whether prompted to by me or not. It's obvious the children are a big part of their lives, to the extent that their lives are divided between work and parenting. And sleep.

It's interesting though that most of the things they say about their children are what problems they cause or how much of their time they take up. When I ask if they regret the decision of procreating, most of them are quick to say no, then give me some of the happier stories. Some do have regrets though.

We all agree though that children are a great responsibility and require not only money, but a proper education (no, not just the academic one) and attention and affection.

So I would ask them, men and women alike, what motivated them to have babies. The answers vary and are often a mixture of multiple reasons. I've also noticed some of the reasons nobody boasts about, but which are still very obvious. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Societal and familial norms and expectations. Even if we have more freedom to live our lives the way we want, society and our families still expect us to have one course in life: marry and have children.
  • The wishes of the spouse. Sometimes, the spouse wants a child and the person in question feels compelled to make that wish come true.
  • The idea that the achievements of the child will be considered as achievements of the parents. Some parents will also fulfil some of their own wishes through their children.
  • To have someone to leave their worldly possessions to after death. The "carry on the family legacy/name/business/genes" reason will also fit in here.
  • To have someone love them and also take care of them when they are ill and/or old.
  • As a toy or an excuse to go through childhood again with their child.
  • To have someone to own and control completely, at least for a while.
  • To have someone to love and care for, at least for a while.
  • For money. It happens in Romania at least, where some people have children just to get the child support money that the state gives to everyone monthly.
  • Because of no or bad contraception. It's not a motivation, but it is a cause of pregnancy.

There might well be more, but these are the ones I've seen most frequently. Some are a bit disturbing and often lead to unhappiness all around.

The core of the matter is that children are a huge responsibility and the decision shouldn't be taken lightly and definitely not for frivolous reasons.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Artificial intelligence

I have often jokingly said that my mind is smarter than I am. That most of my intelligence is artificial.

Let me explain my claim to artificial intelligence.

The mind gathers information all the time, processes it and stores it, most of it without us making a manual effort towards these goals. The conscious mind is left to think, our train of thought following a path we are aware of. But all that information we don't even feel being stored away is still there and can come up, seemingly out of the blue.

I noticed this phenomenon in school a lot but also a recent event reminded me of it. I have been learning a foreign language. A lot of that learning involved simply listening to that language being spoken by natives on their local radio. I also did more formal learning, but I was still just emerging from the layer of utter beginner.

I once wanted to form a phrase in that language. Without even getting a chance to find my words, the phrase just appeared in my mind. It was a more peculiar construction too, using an unfamiliar grammar structure and a tricky word. I verified my sentence with a native speaker and it seems it was completely correct. Of course I was baffled. And a little proud too, although I can't take full credit, my unconscious mind did all the work. It referenced the information stored in my memory and was able to build something new that worked.

I'm pretty sure I haven't said anything new and everyone has experienced that. But to me, it's still utterly fascinating when it happens.

Friday, September 1, 2023

Broken pencil poetry. A piece of madness

I've been exploring some dark artwork. I got inspired. This is a semi-poetry semi-prose piece. It's also a bit dark. I paint my dark artwork with words. And I just wrote whatever came. That is why it makes seemingly no sense and it seems broken.


A piece of madness

It's night time again and there's only a sliver of life coming in through the lowered blinds. My eyes hurt at how bright the darkness is and at how much I strain to see.
What am I looking at? What is that blackness painted over the far corner?
What is this silence, grated like cheese by the sound of the old fridge?
I blink.
It's dark under the staircase, the tendrils of darkness stretching like a spiderweb.
It's dark over the staircase, where I once stopped a... There is a dark memory looming over the staircase.
The darkness suddenly breaks like a murky mirror. Where is it? Who made that sound? Who broke the illusion?
I need to sleep. I need to sleep, so I can stop dreaming like this.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Broken pencil poetry. The wall

The wall

He was laying
Brick upon brick,
In smooth rows,
One on top of the other.
"What are you building?"
I asked him, intrigued.
"You'll see," he winked at me.
So I went away.

When I returned,
The bricks had formed
A wall.
Tall, wide,
And without doors or windows.
And on top,
There he was, still putting
Brick upon brick,
The sun shining behind him.
"Is it a wall?"
"But why?"
But he gave no response,
Just winked again,
So I went away.

The next time,
The wall was as wide as the horizon
And as tall as the sun at noon,
But he was nowhere to be seen.
I knocked on a brick.
"Yeees?" came the answer.
"Whom are you keeping out?"
He laughed, then said
"Perhaps you might ask instead,
Whom am I keeping inside?"
He laughed again.
I couldn't see it,
But I'm fairly sure
He just winked at me again.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Bitesize fiction. The girl in black



"Come back for me!" I heard her call as I was running away.

I didn't turn around. I knew she would be there, patiently waiting for me. But she could be my undoing. I had to get away!

The portal wasn't going to be open for much longer. I could see it in front of me, getting closer with each step I took, but still so far away. Would I make it in time? It was already starting to blur around the edges, rippling like the wavelets of a lake. Soon, it would close.

A quick, sharp jab and I was knocked off my feet and onto the ground. What?

"I said, come back for me!"

Her voice was shrill and inhuman. It couldn't be... Had she already been corrupted?

I lifted my eyes to look at her. She stood there, towering tall, taller than before and it seemed like she was elongating, up towards the sky. Oh no...

"Why did you run? Why did you leave me? Don't you know I need you?" she screamed like a banshee.

I got up quickly, glancing at the portal. It was already narrowing, like a pair of eyelids closing. My last chance was fading away. I had to run now, or else I'd miss it! My foot stepped towards it, but her yell cut across the air like a knife, halting me.

"Don't even think it! You belong here. With me!"

I breathed slowly and looked up at her. Into her eyes. The girl in black. With black, abyss eyes.

She looked back at me. No... She was looking through me. She was no longer capable of seeing anymore. She knew only rage and it was blinding her.

"Come here," I whispered to her softly.

She frowned.

"Come here and talk to me," I insisted. "Come into my arms."

I lifted both arms towards her. For a long moment, she didn't react in any way. Then I saw something break in her, a tension releasing. She crumpled to the ground.

I knelt beside her. She was small, smaller than before. She was shivering, but her black eyes now held a soul again. She looked at me through her tears.

"I'm sorry," she whispered. "The thought of losing you made me lose my mind... I'm so sorry."

"I know. Don't worry. We all break sometimes." I closed my eyes and held her in my arms as she wept quietly. Her body convulsed with tears. We sat like that for a while, until the trembling stopped and the tears flowed no more.

She looked up at me.

"Thank you," she said simply. Then she looked around. "Oh... but the portal. It's gone."


She turned towards me again. "Look into my eyes."

I did. Her black eyes, dark as midnight on a cloudy sky. Their darkness seemed to glow and grow, expanding out of their rims.

"What is this?"

But she didn't reply. Those eyes were no longer eyes, they were a rippling dark pool, overflowing over her entire being. Soon, there was nothing left. Nothing left of the girl in black. Instead, there was a portal.

I screamed.

There was no answer, just the portal's surface, rippling from the edges towards the centre. She was gone. She had given herself away so I could escape.

So I could move on.

I caressed the pitch black surface gently and then I stepped through.




PS: I have added the song that inspired this piece. I might do that again in the future, if it feels relevant.