March 8, 2011

Lycia meets Ben at campus. He is traveling and life is easy, Peru in the spring is full of colours. He doesn’t dance the salsa, but makes her laugh. His paleness contrasts her coffee skin and their eyes match.

Six months later he goes back to Belgium to continue his studies, he is smart and numbers flow from his fingers. Computers obey him. His heart is full of love, and he is only 21. Her heart is full of love too, although she is only 19. She wants to study politics.

A few months of text messages and Skype calls later, Lycia smells smoke in the air as Cairo burns while her international internship dissolves through force majeure full of anger and the discontent of an ancient people hitting the future head on. Lycia’s roommate is out in the city as it burns, camera in his hands freezing the moment again and again, while only angles separate him from both bullets and the images that make it into the New York Times. Lycia stays in her apartment. Her company asks her to keep quiet, remain discreet, and her pictures remain unpublished.

Lycia’s family is in a panic – their baby is caught in the kind of life that happens to others. They try to get her a plane ticket, the first one, anywhere, just get out of there baby, be safe. Lycia moves fast, her passport flashes the scanner at Brussels airport as she arrives. To say that Ben is surprised is to say truth, or nothing. She stays with him the first week and then sets out on her own. It takes her two days to find a room, shared with a Janet, or Gemma, also a brunette, also with smiling eyes, also into politics.

Some time later, her new flatmate invites her to a party. She arrives, excitement shining in her eyes. She is unprepared – it’s a masquerade and a German Snow White wearing a red garter dances to Dizzee Rascal in a living room that has seen no war, while Princess Fiona extends a green hand in welcome.

When she meets me, I am wearing black, and my mask is venetian. She tells me her story while I lean against a door post. Lycia is twenty, and she is excited. Life is full of wonders. Ben is sick at home and here she is. She wonders about what I do and if I have a degree. She says that she will publish her pictures of Cairo on Facebook. Maybe. She catches me by surprise, a real traveller moving through life among people who chat for a living. Her smile is alive.

She hopes she will find an internship soon. She hopes Ben will feel better tomorrow. She hopes she can get a drink. She hopes.


11 Responses to “Lycia”

  1. Gay said

    Oh my Anton. Such a topical story. For a moment there, my heart leapt and I thought she was going to meet a cruel fate at the party, but you kept destruction at bay as the world of life, manners and politics swirl in your short story of our times. Always a joy to read your work, sir. Hope you’re well. Gay

  2. brian said

    smiles. so much captured in a few brief moments…and it is nice to find those that still embrace life and smell of its road….

  3. Excellent tale-telling.

  4. dustus said

    Would like to hear a little more about the dynamic between Ben/Lycia. When they reunite, “Ben is surprised is to say truth, or nothing. She stays with him the first week and then sets out on her own.” Perhaps too much is left for the reader to infer from their original campus meeting… I do like how the story moves swiftly through time, and you provide contextual clues, particularly through emphasis on ages. The part “anywhere, just get out of there baby, be safe” draws the reader in nicely b/c your narration at this point expresses a familial concern through a tone of panic.

  5. barbara said

    Great writing, you definitely read a mind of a 20 year world traveller, or should I say time traveller..that is the beauty of that age everything is new and everything is exciting….you made me remember 20 ….with a smile…thank you..bkm

  6. forpuck said

    Thank you everyone for your kind words. Gay, I never thought of the switch in that way before you pointed it out, it’s interesting to see how people read stuff.

    Adam, I get your point, but I actually don’t know anything about how they met or what happened between them when she arrived in Brussels, only that they were still together but that she only staid with him for a week. The names have been changed to protect the innocent, but the story is real.

  7. Claudia said

    wow – this sounds like quite the encounter and she seemed to have stirred your heart with her story. what i read in this is the enthusiasm of being real, being alive, moving – underlined by your words “She catches me by surprise, a real traveller moving through life among people who chat for a living” Good to meet people like Lycia.

  8. wkkortas said

    Sometimes, in the rush to paint pretty pictures with images, we forget that there should be a story, or all the imagery is simply a nice bow and pretty paper wrapped around an empty box. I would not want to imply that this piece is devoid of vivid imagery–it is not, the piece is wonderfully visual–but what makes you the writer you are is the fact that, at your core, you are one hell of a storyteller.

  9. this was a good read…. seriously held me to the end…and i kinda got excited by the adventure in her…cheers pete

  10. do say that there is a tbc with the masked man in black…together, perhaps, they can help set the world anew~ wonderful read.

  11. Hej Anton, Är det du som skriver allt det här fina. Är det bara på engelska? Alltså, jag förstår om det bara är det men undrar om skrivandet är något du gjort länge. Även på svenska.
    “Don´t shout” Jag har faktiskt tänkt på att du pratar ganska tyst, på ett bra sätt såklart.

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