those simple honest pleasures

YESTERDAY WAS ONE of those days when I actually emerged from my cave or shell. Most days I am locked up tight within, but on some days, those precious few days, I stick my head out and explore the terrain around me. It was cool and it rained a few times during the day. The sun also came out. August in Estonia is like November in Italy. Wouldn’t you know, there were a few Italian tourists in town who came to escape the heat of the mezzogiorno, and from Puglia, the province of my mother’s people. I showed them the water and the Old Town. They were content. At the café, where I was supposed to be working, I was a real chatterbox. I found myself beside my friend, who is a rather correct or korralik type from Järvamaa, and with whom it is safe to flirt. She looked very cute with her ruddy cheeks and slanted eyes and I told her so, but with the usual legal disclaimers. “I’m so sorry for flirting with you again,” I said. “I know I flirt with all the girls.” “You’re not sorry though,” she said, over her dish. “You don’t need to lie to me and say you are.” “Very good,” I said. “Because I am not really sorry, but I do feel like giving you a big hug today.” What a warm and satisfying hug. Is there anything as satisfying as a hug from a real Estonian country woman? We have this kind of agreement between us. I like to imagine romantic stories with different women. My fantasy for her is that we are forced to go on some tasteless cruise, to Hawaii or some place, and at first are at each other’s throats but later learn to love one another. It seems like a good setup for a love story, but she knows I am only joking. I also know that I am not the kind of man who could make her happy. In her heart, she longs for some credible, sturdy, reliable Viking type, with even a beard perhaps, with some good muscle she can cry into. He brings in the firewood and she makes him some soup. Those simple, honest pleasures. In principle, she agrees with this diagnosis. “I am sure there are actually men like this out there for you,” I told her. It seems plausible to me. I have met many of these guys walking around with hammers. Some of them are renovating a house just down the street and listening to the radio. While I can figure out what could make her happy, I am at a loss when trying to dream up a different reality for myself. I’m just some café rascal, blowing kisses to all the girls and giving Italian tourists impromptu tours. Maybe I do need a strong woman who can put me in my place. The only question is for how long would I stay there? Recently, I swapped notes with some other men about our ideal women. It was nighttime and we were gathered around a fire, roasting things from the ends of sticks. One chose the wife of a famous writer, who was pretty, loyal, supportive, and kind. She was the kind who could make him happy, he said. The other chose some sarcastic and slim Hollywood actress, whom he claimed he had dibs on, meaning that none of us were allowed to approach her in any setting for she already belonged to him and him alone. We both agreed to this arrangement. My choice was an Inuit throat singer I once saw perform at the Pärimusmuusika Ait in Viljandi. Her songs were about blood, snowstorms, hypothermia, animal spirits, fire, and foxes. At least in her performances, she is quite robust and even frightening. I imagined her as a wave, a great wave that would take me down and through some crushing and aquatic struggle, I would be reborn. “What I want is a woman who will destroy me,” I told my friends. “I want to be shown no mercy.” My friends did not respond, but I could hear the sounds of concerned owls cooing in the dark. Of course, there is far more to it than just that. Her music is just an output, and in real life she is probably quite kind, and also desires a reliable man who stacks the ice for the igloo and brings in the seal meat. And from my side, of course after some kind emotional or sexual catharsis, one craves peace, warmth, and comfort. The comfort to live through your rebirth and start over. That is also wonderful and necessary. These are complicated thoughts to share over coffee with a Järvamaa woman, or some tourists from Italy, but they are true enough. So it’s inspiration that I seek, a rebirth, a renewal, a revival. Something to shift the shapes, cleanse the senses, an experience transformative to the soul. To wake up feeling both demolished and new. That would make me very happy.

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