On Being a Writer

by HelluvaGirl

I met her in the beauty salon. It appears we have been going to the same Hairstylist for years.

She sat in an adjacent chair and was having her roots done while reading her Kindle. I was skimming through glance magazines – the beauty salon is the place for me to catch up on the latest gossip free of charge as I don’t buy it anyway, and to look for acquaintances on the last pages.

The Hairstylist made some tea.

Have a candy.

The woman stretched out a small plate to me. Those were my favourite chocolate ones from the childhood, called Bear in the North.

Better take two.

She said it in a very assured tone as if it was medicine, and I took another one, smiling.

She looked a bit edgy from her manner of speaking and from the way she looked at the surfaces of things and into me. But she definitely seemed interested in making contact. After the seconds I scanned her I knew I could go to bed with her – figuratively speaking with no vulgar undertones: a strong person with substance whom I decided to trust. I also liked her sharp eyes and the spark of wit in them, not to mention her New Balance sneakers.

The theme of my magazine was Italy. I looked through the pictures of Rome and at some point spontaneously shared with the Hairstylist a deliciously humorous quote from the article.

Perhaps as a naturally curious person open for a round-the-corner discovery, the woman smoothly included herself into our conversation and the next thing I knew we were talking Italia experience. She’s been there and thought the province was worth exploring in its own way. I listened to her impressions of different places whilst caressing their names printed out on the pages of my magazine.

If you ever travel through Italy…

she began, reading my face with her eyes and collecting all my attention within a pause

take the modern trains. The other ones are never on time.

I like it when people look straight at me. I saw this documentary once where they said autistic people looked not into the eyes of a person speaking to them, but at their lips. I’d look at the lips my whole life – otherwise wouldn’t understand a great part of what was said. The words just tend to get lost in the noise or the eyes happen to be too distracting. It wasn’t before recently that I started taking the risk of travelling away from the lips.

We spoke of different countries and she asked if I’d lived in America (can’t beat the habit of English-Lithuanian lingo), and I said I’d lived in Thailand, and then a million of other things.

What did you find?

We looked at each other and I knew what she meant, but she added, smiling as if assured I’d have something to say:

What did you discover?

I smiled back and told her about that day in Koh Phangan where I was lying on a chez-longue, immersed in my non-stop contemplation which lead to knowing this: you must invest in your life, in your personality and self-education to really like yourself, to feel good about your own company as you are alone in the end, anywhere you are – to love yourself so that you wouldn’t need to travel the world looking for obscure things outside your own limits – so that you didn’t really have limitations and were the source of everything you needed instead.

She knew a good way of listening.

Which place disappointed you the most?

I’ve never thought about it. Everyone asks about your favourite places, right?

So I told her about an experience not so much disappointing as deeply saddening, which was in Cambodia. The bars flocked with under-aged prostitutes with a layer of makeup on the layer of sweat. The Western proletarians coming there to realise proclivities much stricter despised in their home countries. The intense and fearful postures of locals who had survived the Pol Pot genocide. The Tuol Sleng concentration-camp-turned-museum which was established in the premises of a secondary school. The giant Lexuses of wealthy and corrupt officials absorbing any help from the NGOs instead of directing it to the needy. The atmosphere of fresh tragedy and the society deeply wounded on psychic, political and economic levels.

At that point I couldn’t know who she was but I enjoyed our quite unexpected connection and secretly wished she didn’t get back to her Kindle.

And she didn’t. She told us, among other travel stories, about her Paris trauma which involved random people coming up to her on the street multiple times for something that would initially look like a friendly small-talk but in fact was a 15-minute foreplay before offering intimate pastime. I laughed about it and then tried to find an explanation, so we decided it was a complex of reasons, one of them being that the French were a bit more wanton than the rest of the humanity!

I believe somehow I would still find France amazing, I told them.

Love the fact I can meet people like her at my beauty salon. I mean my Hairstylist shares advice on alternative meds and nutrition and gives numerology readings! #attractionofqualities

The woman said goodbye and left while the foil was being removed from my hair above the sink. I almost regretted not having introduced myself or asked her name.

Who is she?

She is a writer.

At that moment I was just so grateful to the intuitive choice I’d made not to mention my own writing at some point… And I was in love.

Well, fascinated enough to read several of her online interviews while having my hair dried – before I went to the bookshop and got every single book she’d written.

As a matter of fact, I need a new hairdryer but this was money undoubtedly better spent.

In the evening, having read her first book from 2003, Strekaza, which was an acclaim, I wished I’d spoken less and listened more. When someone can write a book that makes you crack up on every page but also opens up a vast space of sadness between every line, it’s talent. It’s something I buy.

But then again – now I know why she was listening more than talking. That’s being a writer…