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The first dress you saw is the one you loved the most

New section from 2020 edition of Reflections – A guide for the sentimentally perplexed (en castellano más abajo)

Imagine going into a store and finding just the shade of paint you were looking for without apparently knowing it was there. But the thing is, perhaps you already knew, and didn’t find it as much as recognise it. Almost some kind of déjà vu. We tend not trust our intuition enough and then over-rationalise.

The first dress you saw prompted you to think about buying one but instead of deciding on the spot (the one you liked instantly) you waste time and effort comparing it to others, and can end up purchasing something that you don’t need nor even want, just because you had geared yourself up to it. Relationships established on the rebound from a lost love rarely work out.

I recently bought a new kitchen cooker. I didn’t really need to replace the old one but I fell in love. Five gas rings, a huge oven, all in lovely shiny stainless steel, but not cheap by any means. After much searching and I’ll admit, not a little hand-wringing, I found a store offering them at a more than acceptable discount. But I had Doubts and waited too long and when I went back to the website a few days later, after convincing myself that the purchase would be a fabulous long-term investment, they had sold out.

I made out I didn’t really care, that it was too much money, that I would find another I liked even better, that there were details I didn’t like anyhow and I would probably be disappointed if I had bought it. I looked around at others and one morning even went into an actual kitchen shop to touch the cookers on display, to turn the knobs, to run my fingers over them in a shy caress, but nothing I saw compared to the one I really cared for. That same afternoon on checking my email at home I saw I had a message from the online warehouse I had previously decided to buy from. The stoves were back in stock.

We’ve been together for months now, and despite a few forgiveable niggles, I’m still in love. What they tell us about fantasy being better than reality and that we’re never happy if we actually get what we think we want may well be true, but I would make a distinction between wanting to fulfil our desires and falling wordlessly in love. Some things just are, just because.

El primer vestido es él que más querías
Imagina que te vas a la tienda y encontras el tono de pintura que estabas buscando sin saber, aparentemente, que estaba ahí. Lo que pasa es que quizás ya lo sabías y no lo encontraste tanto como lo reconociste. Casi una especie de déjà vu. Tendemos a no confiar lo suficiente en nuestra intuición y luego racionalizamos demasiado.
El primer vestido que viste te motivó a pensar en comprar uno, pero en lugar de decidirte ya por el primero (él que te había gustado al instante) pierdes tiempo y esfuerzo comparándolo con otros, y puedes terminar con algo que no necesitas ni tampoco de veras quieres, solo porque te habías encandilado. Las relaciones de rebote de un amor perdido rara vez funcionan.
Hace poco compré una cocina nueva. No es que me urgía reemplazar la vieja pero me enamoré. Cinco fuegos gas, un enorme horno, todo en acero inoxidable reluciente, pero nada barata. Después de mucho buscar, y, confieso, no poco retorcerme las manos, encontré una tienda que las ofrecía con un descuento más que aceptable. Pero tuve Dudas y esperé demasiado y al volver al sitio web unos días después, después de convencerme que sería una estupenda inversión a largo plazo, se habían agotado.
Hice ver que no me importaba, que era demasiado dinero, que encontraría otra que me gustaba aún más, que de todos modos había detalles que no me convencían y que casi seguro me habría decepcionado. Empecé a mirar más, y una mañana incluso entré en una tienda de verdad para tocar las cocinas en exposición, a probar los mandos, pasar mis dedos sobre ellas con caricia tímida, pero no vi nada comparable con la que realmente me importaba. Aquella misma tarde, al revisar mi correo electrónico en casa, vi que desde el almacén en el cual había decidido comprarla me habían mandado un mensaje. Volvían a tenerla en existencias.
Llevamos meses juntos ya, y, a pesar de algunas imperfecciones perdonables, sigo enamorado. Nos divertimos y nos cuidamos. Lo que nos dicen -que la fantasía es mejor que la realidad y que nunca somos felices si realmente conseguimos lo que creemos que queremos- bien puede ser verdad, pero yo haría una distinción entre querer ver cumplidos nuestros deseos y el enamorarnos sin palabras. Algunas cosas simplemente son, porque sí.

Short stories

The Origins of Stonehenge

Stonehenge centenary

Chips had only just got to his work-hut and sat down on his stool when Shoman turned up walking backwards as usual, his feathered headdress dancing gaily in the bright sunlight, the scanty rabbit-skin loin-cloth above long, tanned legs and knee-high fur leggings, necklaces of polished stones and ex-predator teeth, wide white smile and laughing, wily eyes.

“Whassup Chips,” he greeted merrily. “How’s it going?”

“Fine till you showed up,” grinned Chips wryly.

“I was thinking maybe you might be able to help out with a recurrent dream I’ve been having.” Chips, having been caught up in some of Shoman’s other ideas is a bit wary. “What is it you’ve seen this time?”

“Well, I was thinking that Shortnight isn’t far off and for this year’s festivities we could get some stones, maybe different sizes, that would mark the position of the sun on that particular day more permanently than the sticks we have to source every year.”

Chips rubbed his chin before he replied. “…well, I did think it was a bit daft to have to find new sticks every year for the event and then burn them like we usually do. I’d thought about having some special, permanent, stronger poles but then we’d have to keep them apart from the other firewood, I dunno, keep them safe I mean, relics. So they didn’t get used because somebody needed them to fix up their hut or something.”

Chips looked off into the distance. “Maybe we could get ambitious, maybe use tree trunks even, but they would be well, you know, permanent, you know? We wouldn’t have an excuse to have all that build-up, the pre-rave if you know what I mean.”

“Yes, it would be a shame to miss out on the preparations,” continued Shoman, “and I know it would mean a lot more work, but we could turn that itself into an event of some sort and the stones wouldn’t get burnt even if we had a fire in the middle and if they’re too big to move easily nobody will touch them. And we can get a lot more people involved in the whole thing, maybe those mountain folk that turned up last year. I bet they know where we could get some decent stones.”

“They’d have to be the right sort of stones, special stones, big ones,” said Chips, “and to get them here would take some organising.”

Chips picked up a fresh flint from the pile to his left and reached for the antler chipping tool. Shoman squatted down on his haunches, hands cupping his chin. Chips tossed and caught the stone to feel its weight. He glanced sideways back at Shoman, whose lips were pursed, his nose wrinkled.

“Count me in.” said Chips. 

From “Monday Morning at the Pearly Gates” 2019

Photo credits: Shropshire Star Oct 26, 2018