When I was twenty-one and living in Madrid, the forty-one-year-old dentist I was ‘dating’ (the details of which I will not describe here because they are all in The Book of Moods and it would be better if my mother read them along with the rest of the world), once tried to show me a movie.
I had just arrived at his apartment, and he was sitting on the couch scrolling through the channels on the television that hung across on the white stucco wall, above his black marbled floor, outside of which the hot Spanish sun tried to burst through. On the screen, a film appeared and his excitement caught mine. “Oh this is my favorite move. I want you to watch this with me. It’s beautiful.”
I sat down on the couch next to him and tried to watch. After two minutes, however, all I saw were two people aimlessly walking around some European city. From the quality of the footage I could tell it was at least twenty years old. Restless, I got up from the couch, disregarded the ‘beautiful movie’ he was trying to show me and said I wanted to go out. I had just turned twenty-one and wanted to go to a bar, to sit in the afternoon sun surrounded by people and cerveza.
We stopped ‘dating’ soon after. Not because of the movie, but because he was a forty-one-year-old player who liked to pick up twenty-one-year-old blonde Americans (and for other, more specific reasons which are too embarrassing to get into here). To this day, however, I’m forced to think of him whenever I watch my favorite movie. One I discovered two years later, alone in my apartment in New York, when I realized I had fallen in love with Before Sunrise – a movie about two people aimlessly walking around a European city.
My favorite movie, the one that has come to define my life, the one that made me want to become a writer, was the same one I’d rejected, scoffed at and ignored two years earlier.
And after it became my favorite movie, I tried to show it to my brother. I told him I’d rented it from the library and he should watch it. “Oh,” he said. “Is that what was in the DVD player?”
“Yes!” I answered, excitedly.
“I tried to watch it, but it was just two people talking. I turned it off.”
I hung my head. But I understood and didn’t try and persuade him.
A few years later, he told me he was on a flight back from Mallorca or London and watched those ‘Before Sunrise’ films. All three. He loved them.
It’s such a random memory, such a weird, tiny story in the long tale of my life, but today, I can’t stop thinking about the irony of it. About how we come across these things in our lives and don’t see them – at least don’t see them properly until we’re ready to see them. How even if someone puts something in front of our face and tells us to see it, if we’re not ready, if we’re not in the right place, we just can’t.
But I kind of love this idea. This idea that we can fall in love with things we once hated. That we can find something wonderful we once tripped over. We can grow to understand things we once couldn’t comprehend. And it’s how I’m starting to think about people and situations that I don’t like right now. When I don’t get along with someone, I now think it’s just because we can’t see each other correctly. We’re in two different places in our lives. If I’m not enjoying something that’s happening in my life, I wonder if I just can’t enjoy it now – and one day I’ll look back and realize it wasn’t a bad time at all.
When I think back to that twenty-one-year-old in Spain, I cringe. She was naïve, so preoccupied, so wrong about so many things. But I can’t go around hating who I’ve been. Who I’ve been has made me who I am and those experiences, those lessons, have molded me into the person I am today. God, I was so miserable in Spain. So unsure of myself. So homesick and confused. Yet today, I’m happy I was there. Happy and proud of me for sticking it out. Happy for learning about men and drinking too much because when I came back, I saved myself those lessons.
And maybe we can’t understand COVID either. The reason for it. What it’s doing for us, until two years later when life is normal again. Maybe in two years we’ll see it differently. Maybe we’ll understand why it happened, why it had to happen.
I want to start this week on the idea that life is always trying to show me something – about people, the world, myself. I want to go into it with the knowledge that whatever I don’t like now, whoever I may find hurtful or annoying or disregard today, may be a friend in the future. I want to think about life as this magnificent blanket that is continuously unfolding and spreading and if I can stop trying to resist everything, I may not have to wait so long to see the beauty of them.
For more like this, check out The Book of Moods