A year ago, I arrived in Bogotá, Colombia knowing that it was notorious for organized crime. A week later, I found out that it should instead be famous for its organized districts. There was a neighborhood for everything: the pet shop district, the sinks and bathware district, the lighting fixtures district. The more specific the modifiers that defined the character of the district, the better; one could not possibly fathom light bulbs, electrical outlets, and cables coexisting harmoniously for sale within the same zip code. As such, each neighborhood – stretching from one block to twelve – boasted punishing uniformity in the shops it hosted within its boundaries. This had two implications on my daily life: I learned that you cannot live near the electrical cables neighborhood and go looking for a store that sells, oh, soap. And I discovered that for the rest of my life, I would miss the privilege that is waking up, stepping out your front door, and being blinded by a row of glistening toilets for sale.
The blinding toilets came back to me while I was sitting on a bench in Beer Shevah, Israel, where I am currently staying with my loved one in the “you can wear slippers out district.” He was the one to note the pervading unhappiness that lingers in this city and, particularly, on our block. While being here, I have developed a fondness for popsicles that taste like Coca Cola. A well-intentioned writer for the Well blog of the New York Times would probably tell me the treasured ice pops are horrible for my teeth/thighs/ability to pro-create, and I am sure someone else would proceed to worry that the 12-year-old Ethiopian boys who also live on our block are the only other demographic that seems to share my love for this treat. The other day, my loved one set out to procure one of those popsicles for me. Upon his return, he proclaimed: “I was the only person between here and the store who was not wearing slippers.”
The slippers are not – sorry, fellow optimists – a sign of a comfort revolution the residents of this neighborhood have staged. They are, as my loved one would have it, yet another indication that nobody cares. You can hear the dragging of the feet, the unwillingness to be here. This pocket of the world seems to be nobody’s dream pocket. I have tried to fight this hypothesis. I have gone dream-hunting. I have taken my pen and camera on an inspiration crusade and unearthed sadness, neglect, and abandonment instead.
It seeps into one’s veins, this dreamlessness. I woke up this morning to the news that my loved one was headed to Tel Aviv for the day, in an attempt to reconnect with friends and crowds and the background noise that reminds us that we live among others who are also creating and doing and being. I refused the offer of a cup of coffee, choosing instead to stare at the wall. I could not bring myself to get out of bed unless I was compelled – unless Beer Shevah could shake me by the shoulders and move me and inspire me in the ways I crave in life. It was selfish and Debbie Downer-like and, for all intents and purposes, an adult tantrum.
So he lined up my pink fuzzy slippers next to the bed. Lifted the covers, carried me up, lightly teased that it was too early in the morning for his back to be performing such ‘feats.’ Watched me brush up against the Declaration of Independence that, almost ironically, sits tucked onto on our white sliding door. “Hey, that’s the original copy you know, watch where you are going!”I noticed the people in slippers today. I tried to find joy in their gait. Twelve hours later, I am back in my own slippers, with a cold spot next to me in bed. At times, I have resented the dreamlessness of this place. I have been mad at myself, and at the city, for allowing me to make generalizations as to its character and I have been disappointed at my difficulty to uncover beauty. I have been stubbornly silent – because it is still terrifying to feel that I can no longer utter “I can live anywhere” with full confidence and even more terrifying to admit, publicly, to the falsity of a choice or the shortcomings of an ‘Eternal Sunshine’ disposition.
Until I can abundantly find the beauty and community and stimulation and triggers and conversation that will feed my soul, I will hold on to my own pile of dreamy: The dreamy of pink fuzzy slippers, and of a love that enables me to step into them when my own sunniness fails.