I’d been reading Kafka on the way up in the car, scanning through ‘The Metamorphosis’ and other short stories, and deciding that I would have to speak to someone about him. I hadn’t read much of it before and felt a bit clueless about what he was trying to say most of the time. I believe he was quite a complex guy, neurotic and depressed, hypochondriac, insomniac, full of angst about life and death and goggas and things. ‘Distinctly not a jolly way to start the day’ I read somewhere.
I tend to agree.
Here’s one of them, entitled , A Window onto the Street.
Someone who lives alone, yet occasionally likes to follow the events in the outside world, and who, depending on the time of day, the weather, the demands of his or her job and so on, likes to find an arm to lean on – this person won’t survive for long unless they have a window that looks onto the street. Yet if it so happens that they aren’t looking for anything in particular and just go to the window, as a weary person sometimes does, and let their gaze stray back and forth between the crowds in the street and the sky above, but then lost interest and turn away, the sound of the horses and carriages outside will still carry them along in their wake and bring them into harmony with the rest of society.
I kind of get this. There are some others that are stranger.
But perhaps something of my Kafka reading stayed with me, cos somewhere between 3am and sunlight a day or two later, I had written these two little pieces.
The Wonder of One
So I get an SMS from a friend a week or so ago – let’s call him Satchmo, I like this name, – who tells me that my 50 balloons story really had a profound effect on him. ‘Moved him to tears’ he wrote and he updated me on his own version of life and events which have thrust him right into making his own brand of brilliant music and pursuing his passion, ‘never to walk in anyone’s shadow’.
We had chatted and coffeed for a morning a few months ago so I knew some of his story but not the recent one. His revelations in the long SMS made me smile for at least 10kms or so, oblivious to the rest of the chatter (and chaos) of the other 6 passengers on our drive up the coast.
But more than that, it made me think about the wonder the one. Just one little one. A little comment from one person who really made my day. One comment. It’s extraordinary, if you think about it, how powerful one of something can be when most often we think of success as a big number. Like for example if someone asks how many books you have sold or how many LIKES you have.
And yet most of the time, you only really need one. Just one. One person to mentor you in your youth, one boy to ask you to marry him, one boss to believe in you, one buyer when your house is on the market, one moment of madness to make a life changing decision, one sperm , one egg…
Of course, one can work in reverse too. One day one reader said she didn’t think there was a market for my book.
But I decided she was not the one.
So I suppose you can choose which one to wonder about. And then realize that sometimes it only takes one.
Thanks Satchmo. Today, you were that one.
What makes something special, special?
We were walking among the market stalls in the mid-morn, trampling on straw and bits of wood cuttings, my 18-year-old son and I. I had just tucked away in my bag, a little brown paper parcel of six of the most beautiful handcrafted glass coasters which I intended to use sometime. For a special occasion.
As we wandered off in search of coffee and a home-baked snack, I turned to him.
‘You know I remember I bought a stunning set of table mats here…(or was it a table runner?) when was it? ..ah..it must have been at least 5 years ago…’
He wasn’t listening. It didn’t matter.
‘Flip…I wonder where they are…? I must look when I get home. Have you seen them?’ Knowing he hadn’t.
He turned to me and smiled, his hands thrust deeply into the pockets of his upturned khaki pants, his long hair briefly covering the side of his face before he flicked it back with a slight turn of the head.
‘I’m funny like that, hey? I tend to want to keep things for a special occasion…I don’t want to use it cos then it won’t be that special anymore. But I kind of like knowing that it’s there.’
And in that instant I knew what was really most special to me.
I have yet to look for the table mats.
PS I am not neurotic and depressed ,a hypochondriac, insomniac or full of angst about life and death and goggas and things.