This weekend, some friends and I went to a small, independent gallery to see an art installation and hear some area writers/poets/all-around creative people read works of fiction that in some way related to time-travel. (though not always in the traditional sci-fi sense, which I rather appreciated.) During the course of the night, one of the author’s made a point about discussing her favourite word, a word I don’t recall, but was quite interesting and obscure.

Every writer has their own favourite words, and since I started writing poetry before I really knew what poetry was, most of mine are poetically descriptive words; “diaphanous”, “illuminata”, “aphrodisia”, “vertiginous” (the last has been struck from my favourites list, considering the events of the recent year.). As a reviewer once put it, “Alayna is fond of the dark and beautiful imagery one might only expect to find on an LSD trip, before the pink elephants kick in.”

My favourite word, however, is a relatively simple and straightforward one: serendipitous. The actual definition is something that is fortuitous, or come upon by accident, but I tend to use it in that “magical sign from the universe” way. I generally believe there’s more to our Universe than sheer randommness, and it seems that things and people are often put in your life for a specific reason, at the right time. It may not *feel* like the right time to you, and the reasons may vary, but I generally think these serendipitous occurrences are part of life’s learning curve. This is also why I’m a huge believer in karma, and not ignoring what pops up in my life. Every time I decide to do so, or decide that the way I want my life to work is how it’s going to work and that’s that, I find that life seems to fight back. It’s rather like trying to move a brick wall. On top of it, life doesn’t always fight fair. It’s easier to pay attention.

A few weeks ago, I was explaining this aspect of “Alayna’s View On Life and The World” to a friend of mine, who asked me what the most serendipitous occurrence in my life was. As so often happens, I started telling this story, and got sidetracked on a tangent, and never finished it. However, it’s a good story, and definitely a reflection of what I consider serendipity, so I’ll share it with all of you.

When I was a teenager, I went to a place I jokingly dubbed “Genius Camp”. You didn’t have to be a genius to attend, but you did have to score the kind of SAT scores that would get you into any state school when you were 12. The real name of the program was Johns Hopkins Center For Talented Youth (CTY), and it was a three-week residential program where you’d take a college course for credit (these actually helped me get through a 5-year courseload in 4 years, when it came time to attend college for real), and also have the opportunity to interact with child prodigies and amazingly gifted people all across the country. If you had a problem with arrogance or self-importance, this was also the place to fix that. :P *laughs* I attended the program for 5 years, and it was one of the best memories of my teenage years, consistently. I loved being in a place where nobody treated you like a child, found your talents unique, or expected more of you than you were able to give.

There were some girls who attended the program who were like me: not exactly genius material, but well-rounded, popular, gifted at a number of different things, but had also discovered the fun parts about being a teenager, like boys, makeup, clothes, and drinking. We were the girls who, back home, were smarter than most of the people we knew, but nobody knew about it, because we were cheerleaders, drama geeks, pageant contestants, and student council presidents. We kind of quickly found one another, and made friends. Sometimes, as girls do, we made “frenemies”.

One of my best friends was a very pretty blonde cheerleader type (who has since gone on to become a lawyer active in politics.), and we were fairly inseparable for most of those summers. It didn’t really occur to me to mind that being friends with her meant I’d always be standing in the shadow of someone who was prettier, more charismatic, more self-assured..or if it did, it wasn’t anything I outwardly acknowledged. That is, until I was 14, and I met Avery.

Avery is one of the few people I know who would be angry at this journal entry if I *didn’t* use his real name. *laughs* He always rather liked being the centre of attention, and at 16, was already the brooding emo journalist type with a snarky sense of humour and completely crazy hair. I was secretly in love with him, but at 14, that’s a much bigger deal than it really is (back then, I wasn’t as aggressive in relationships as I tend to be now. I thought if he found out I liked him, I’d have to crawl under a rock and die.).

The problem, of course, was that my best friend was also very fond of him…and she was both confident and socially assertive about it. Looking back, I see that the two year age difference made a big difference, and he wasn’t romantically aware of either of us. He was simply flattered that two pretty, smart young girls wanted his attention.

Nevertheless, we were all friends, until the last summer, when Avery turned 16. 16 is the cutoff for the program; you’re meant to be preparing for or in college by 17, so it made sense we’d never see him again. There was always a huge shindig with lots of hugs and tears for the people who wouldn’t be back the next year. Unfortunately, Avery had to leave a day early for a commitment back home, and would miss the tearful goodbyes.

We almost missed saying goodbye to him, but I remember my friend and I running out of class, through rain and mud, to catch up with him before his ride arrived. It was a very emotional goodbye. We both thought the world revolved around this beautiful person we’d never see again, and Avery was attached to us in the way a big brother would look out for his younger siblings, especially ones he knew would be a handful. He was extraordinarily protective, a characteristic that’s still a huge part of his personality.

I remember my friend and I not going back to class for 45 minutes, because we were sobbing and being dramatic. This is what kept us from actually being “geniuses”, this lack of focus on anything productive. We’d probably be nuclear physicists if we hadn’t had social skills. *lol*

A sweet childhood unrequited love story, right?

The serendipitous part wouldn’t come until years later, when I was in New York, and sitting at a cafe in the East Village, close to where I lived at the time. I was reading a book and drinking hot chocolate, it was fall, and this tall, skinny, artsy-looking guy kept looking at me. Me being me, I thought he was just flirting, and he was also the prime example of “my type” at that point in my life, so I wasn’t shy about flirting back.

He handed me a piece of paper, what I expected to be his phone number. Instead, it had one word on it. “Passionfruit?”

Passionfruit was the name of a secret, invitation-only club that met Saturday mornings back at the good old days of Genius Camp. Nobody would know something that random unless they’d been there, which is when I realised why I was so attracted to the stranger flirting with me.

As it turned out, Avery was a grad student studying journalism at Columbia. Needless to say, we kept in touch, and it didn’t take long to realise I was still pretty besotted with him, and because I was no longer self-conscious and 14, his protectiveness toward me very quickly became a romantic attachment.

I won’t tell the rest of the story, because it’s not part of the serendipity of it all, and it doesn’t have the happy ending I’d have chosen for the story. I will say he’s the second man in my life to have given me an engagement ring, and helped me channel a lot of my excess emotion and anger and fear into healthier, more creative channels. I never loved myself the way he loved me, and he tried very hard to get me to that point. When he finally brings down the government of some struggling country with his gritty, realistic expose, there won’t be a prouder person on the planet than me…and maybe Avery’s mom. :)

I’d be lying if I didn’t sometimes wonder if serendipity might randomly bring us back together again. But I don’t think so. I think that part of the story is done…but it’s the kind of memory that’s still going to bring tears to my eyes when I’m 90, and don’t remember anyone’s name.

But that is why my favourite word is “serendipitous”, and why I believe everything does somehow happen for a reason..even if you have no clue what that might be.

You’d think those three things don’t go together, outside of an unreasonable enjoyment of calorie-filled food that keeps me from fitting into my favourite dress from 2007 (discovering this was a huge blow to the ego, also a theme for this week in my world.), but if you put them together, you have my week.

I haven’t blogged much, and it’s largely because we all have those weeks where, after a few weeks of significant drama, the storm has died down, and everything seems quiet. And, once everything seems quiet, you can’t tell whether relief or boredom is going to set it. That’s pretty much my week in a nutshell.

I’ve gotten used to the fact that my roommate is gone. Like so many other men in my life, our years of friendship and helping each other out counted for little, and he skipped out without paying me or The Guy I Am Currently Dating any of the money he owes us. He gave two months notice, but in reality, it was three days to get the lease signed over, and then he was gone..leaving piles of crap in his half-moved-out-of-room, not cleaning a bathroom that I’m disgusted by looking at, and leaving boxes too heavy for me to deal with sitting in my living room. He’s left no forwarding address, and no longer answers my texts. My intuition tells me that friendship ultimately is a disposable, useful thing for some people, and we’ll never see him again. Yet, I’m struggling financially because I had no notice that I was going to have to spend hundreds of dollars setting up utilities, and paying our rent without any help from him, even though he moved out mid-month. It still makes me really angry when I think about it, but mostly it makes me sad. The kind of betrayal and abandonment I received from him reminds me of betrayals and abandonment that has followed me my whole life. Little is real, meaningful, and nothing is forever. Throughout life, you’ll find most people don’t deserve your friendship, much less your trust. I know this, but every time I let my guard down and someone stabs me in the back, it tears me apart all over again.

As a result, I’ve been feeling particularly vulnerable and not liking people very much. My interactions with other human beings have largely been confined to people I know and love and have earned my trust over the years. On the other hand, my interactions with newer friends in my life have been full of sensitivities and misunderstandings and “Maybe we’re never going to be that close because you can’t give me what I want/don’t know how to be emotionally supportive enough to deal with me/ send out messages that confuse me.” There have been small things that have felt like rejections and criticisms and a general feeling of “Why am I not good enough for you to like me?” in dealing with old friends, new friends, The Guy I Am Currently Dating, and others. There have also been some reactions on my part relating to situations that feel like betrayal from someone I care about greatly…although there is no wrong, no betrayal, no negativity to speak of. It is simply me not adjusting well to change, being reminded that caring means being abandoned, being reminded that I am the sort of person who seeks the attention and affection of those least able to offer it, needing validation and emotional support, and instead of receiving it, hearing “constructive criticism”.

It has made me feel very estranged from the ideas of meaningful friendships, relationships, and allowing new people in my life, in general. It has made me realise that, on an emotional level, I don’t have anyone in my life who truly understands and is able to be emotionally supportive and connect with me on a level that I value greatly. I believe it’s because there’s virtually nobody in my life I love and trust who feels on the same level as I do and is affected by things as I am—the people in my life are largely a far more logical, and often times, emotionally removed, group of people. Rationally, I know it’s a personality difference. Emotionally, it feels like indifference or “It’s not my job to help you deal with your feelings.”

I’ve learned that, when it comes to close and meaningful relationships with others, it isn’t always what people say that truly reflects how they feel about you. It’s what they don’t say that carries the most weight, the absence of support and affection and, as a friend of mine might put it, “validation”. Some people do need that in their lives, because there are so many outside forces and people who “just don’t get you” trying to tear you down. Some of this is anger: people become angry because you will not live life by their rules, and have no interest in conforming to their image of who they’d like you to be, and once that sense of powerlessness kicks in, they have no choice but to lash out or passive-aggressively say mean, hurtful things about you. Some of this is also insecurity: if you’re seen as being too self-confident, too different, too happy being different, there’s an element of that which some mistake as not being approachable. For some reason, particularly in male-female dynamics, the reaction to this is to tear someone down just enough to reveal a level of insecurity and vulnerability, and then attempt to befriend that person.

I see this, I understand this, but when it seems the world is bent on not accepting you as you are and telling you how fucking awesome you happen to be….you want and need people in your life who are going to remind you. Unfortunately, this weekend, my people didn’t offer that, but instead offered a day of being together for 10 minutes and pointing out 7 ways in which my actions, words, or behaviours failed to meet with approval, of telling me I was wrong for wanting that support and validation, and indirectly pointing out “Well,maybe you’re not as great as you think you are.”

A girl can only be on her only real cheerleader for so long, before the input and perceptions of others start to have a dramatic influence. This weekend has changed the way I view some of the people in my life and closed a door that might have led to greater connection and feeling and possibility in life. It has replaced a sense of connection and being on the same page with a realisation that I’d spent time not seeing things clearly, and as every good idealist will tell you, that’s a tough but necessary thing to give up.

In the absence of bonding with people, I’ve spent more time lost in my own little creative world, a world that seems to experience and express emotion freely, and on the same deep experiential level that characterises my life. My whole life, it’s kind of been a world into which I retreat when I am feeling misunderstood. It’s a reminder to my idealistic side that what I seek from life and people does exist, even if it’s complicated, even if I haven’t met the right people to allow that to exist in my world *now*. It’s a reminder that although most people will hurt or disappoint you, life is still one giant possibility.

As a result, I managed to read the entire “The Hunger Games” trilogy in less than three days. I honestly didn’t expect to like it, but from the first book–a fast-moving story which sucked me in with its “reality show gone awry” premise and kept me interested with themes of rebellion and refusing to conform and the battle between love and survival and how some people are naturally wired to choose one over the other, whereas for others, they co-exist–it kept me wanting to read more. One of the most impressive things about the way the books were written, aside from a few particularly well-developed characters and a strong female protagonist, is that I didn’t always know where things were heading. Whenever I thought I’d figure out how the story was going to end, it twisted in another direction, and that always pleases me greatly. I dislike the predictable.

My inner ear issues still haven’t healed to the point where I can handle the movies yet, but I wish they had, as I’d love to see the first movie. I’ve heard they toned things down a bit, in terms of the violence (and none of the violence in the books is of a gratuitous nature; it is often shocking and brutal, but it makes a point. It hits on an emotional level. I’m not a great fan of violence in films, but when it’s necessary to paint the desperation and lack of humanity in a situation–say, in an epic war movie–it serves a purpose.) and they focused a little more on the romantic triangle aspect of the story. Of course, this is necessary to draw in the “Twilight”-loving teenagers, but I don’t think “The Hunger Games” is a young adult story. I think it is far deeper than what your average 14-year-old is going to take away from it.

In a political climate where our government is seeking to limit our rights more and more, and in particular, want to exert inappropriate influence over women and the choices they’re allowed to make about their bodies and reproductive rights, this is the perfect time for this movie to be released. I certainly don’t find that timing accidental.

Last night, after trivia, we also watched “Breakfast At Tiffany’s”. I’d actually never seen the film before, although almost everyone I know told me how much I’d love it. Many of my friends pointed out I’d like it because it’s an atypical romantic comedy–one that says life doesn’t always work out as expected, but still works out, and still has a certain amount of happiness to offer.” Others pointed out the extent to which I’d relate to Audrey Hepburn’s character—and, yes, I see a certain amount of resemblance—and would therefore love the movie. Still others, knowing my love of quirky fashion, pointed out I’d see Audrey Hepburn in this film as a style icon (I now understand why the owner of Dagwood’s said I reminded him of her, due to the fact I’d worn a black dress, my hair in a chignon, and black sunglasses. I just thought he was old and attempting to be complimentary, but, no…apparently he remembered this movie.) *laughs*

The answer is, yes, I did love “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” for all these reasons, and more. I know Truman Capote’s novella was a little less cohesive and a little more scandalous—even in the 1960′s, they had to make reference to important taboo plot points in a very subtle way, and other things had to be removed from the book entirely in order to get it past the censors. The movie’s Holly Go-Lightly is able to pass off her superficiality and life of sin and decadence and disorder as the mark of someone flighty and too innocent for the world in which she’s existing…yet leaves you wondering how much is an act, and how much is part of her true personality, one that has learned the art of scheming, manipulation, and pushing herself ahead in the world. Capote’s character is neither stupid nor naive, and the depiction of her character less endearing. I suspect I may like the book a little more, so I’ll put it on my to-read list. :)

The next time the mother of The Guy I Am Currently Dating calls me up to remind me I’m a trashy, gold-digging whore, someone should recommend she watch this movie. It illustrates that trashy, gold-digging whores can be some of the most charming characters in film history. ;P

As for the hipster bar food—well, that’s just an amusing anecdote. On Friday night, we went to an independent art gallery where some acquaintances of ours were putting on an event to take a look at an art installation and hear 10 local writers read pieces that may or may not relate to time travel. Some were very well-written, some were entertaining, some just lost me completely, but it was energising to spend time with that much creativity and free-spiritedness locked in one room.

Afterwards, a friend of mine suggested a bar called the Bookstore, which appeared to be the kind of hipster hangout where all the girls behind the bar were dressed more like Velma from Scooby-Doo than your typical Atlanta part-time-model-working-behind-the-bar employee, which is what you get virtually everywhere in this city. (People are NOT shy about showing off their $2,000 implants and $700 hair extensions.)

We sat at a giant table on the patio, which, even though there were five of us, 10 people could have easily fit. It was like having Thanksgiving dinner, where you have to yell to the other side of the table.

In addition, everything I ordered, they didn’t have. A friend of mine ordered some sort of disco fries, which I love—but they came with bacon. I asked the waiter if he could hold the bacon, and he mentioned it was in the gravy. I then asked if he could just make me cheese fries, to which he said “No.”. Apparently, the restaurant doesn’t have shredded cheese. They use cheese curd. Finally, I gave up an ordered cheesecake, which was a weird creamy texture custard type thing on top of the world’s hardest sugar cookie.

Ugh. Frustrated, I just wanted a martini. I asked if they could do a chocolate martini. Of course, the answer was “No.”. Despite the fact that the city’s biggest liquor store was right across the street, they didn’t have the stuff to make that. He offered to make a chocolate cake martini, which arrived in the form of clear “cake” flavoured vodka with a sugar rim and slice of lemon. Nothing about it tasted like either chocolate or cake. I don’t know what he was smoking, but they should rename it to “Slightly Less Bitter Lemon Drop”.

I then asked for my standby, an apple martini. In what I see as a theme for my evening, the response was “No”. They didn’t have stuff to make that either. I asked what kind of martini they could make that wasn’t just vodka in a glass with some olives, and he said, “Anything. Except the things you wanted.”

I settled on a raspberry martini, which was, again, a glass of raspberry-flavoured vodka with a sugar rim, and a lime.

Dear Hipster Bar Owners: A martini is not vodka poured in a martini glass with sugar around the rim.

That is all. I don’t think I care for hipster bar food. *laughs*