Portraits of women

Portraits of women (11)

Portraits of women

Today is a happy day by Teresa Chu

Today, is a happy day. It is a closure of a phase, but a beginning of another. She is getting engaged with her college sweetheart. They met at a student music club- all was so natural. She played violin and he played saxophone. What attracted her is how he seemed to be engrossed by the music, the concentration, the pure appreciation and awe of the music. They practiced together, often until late. He walked her home and little by little, they found the attraction of each other, in addition to their common love for music. She later found out he is the son of a high-ranking government official. She hesitated…. She was not sure if that was for her…. She comes from a modest family- both parents are elementary school teachers. She still had a lot of dreams, and she did not want to marry into an influential family. She fled. She went to New York to study music, trying to find herself. She buried herself in the studies, and the music. She was busy but unhappy… she missed him, missed the concerts they went together, and missed their walks home afterwards. It was five years ago. She is glad that she made the right decision five years ago. Today, they are getting engaged. She is happy with her decision…. It is a happy day!


She walks the earth by Nicolas Komninos

In the age of social distancing, she walks alone.But, in her case, this is by choice, not by some state order. She’s alone, but she’s not lonely. Her connection to others, to nature, is not the result of high technology. She has limited access to that anyway.
Her connection is deeper, spiritual even. She is part of this Earth and she will always be part of it. The atoms and molecules on her body have combined in a unique, magical way to give her a soul but they will never disappear, neither will she, they will always be part of this cosmos. Her time as a living being is limited, for sure she knows this, but she is part of an ecosystem that will always regenerate itself.
She believes in her God but her faith transcends religion. She knows that all this energy - her energy - exists for a reason. She does not understand the reason, nor does she try to, she just knows. She is connected to her environment in ways that cannot be explained by the laws of physics.
Today, she is tranquil, happy even, though you could not tell from the expression on her face, nor from the way she moved. During the past few weeks, humanity has lost so much, but every being on Earth has gained so much more. We reconnected to the environment in ways that seemed impossible just a few months ago. We changed our lifestyle to protect ourselves from the perils of a virus and, in doing so, our salvation has been so much more meaningful.
Our emerging respect for the planet may have been powered upon us by an unknown force, but the smog has nonetheless cleared, and we are now able to see all that we have been missing in our busy, polluting and overconsuming recent past. Those who, like her, are not directly affected by this terrible disease, the fortunate ones, should take a step back and suck this moment in. As this is what happiness feels like.


A moment of calm by Joseph Shaffery

A man in a suit walks past.
A man in a suit walks past as the tram rattles by.
A man in a suit walks past as the tram rattles by and the escalator speeds up. 
A man in a suit walks past as the tram rattles by and the escalator speeds up and the honk of a horn from a car in the street.
A man in a suit walks past as the tram rattles by and the escalator speeds up and the honk of a horn from a car in the street. A dog barks on the end of a lead, desperate to explore, against his owner’s will.
A man in a suit walks past as the tram rattles by and the escalator speeds up and the honk of a horn from a car in the street. A dog barks on the end of a lead, desperate to explore, against his owner’s will, then the shout of a lady as a bicycle swerves to miss her.
A man in a suit walks past as the tram rattles by and the escalator speeds up and the honk of a horn from a car in the street. A dog barks on the end of a lead, desperate to explore, against his owner’s will.
A man in a suit walks past as the tram rattles by and the escalator speeds up and the honk of a horn from a car in the street.
A man in a suit walks past as the tram rattles by and the escalator speeds up.
A man in a suit walks past as the tram rattles by.
A man in a suit walks past.
And then,

A moment of calm.

The sun breaks out of hiding and the sky looks a little more blue.
The petals from the blossom of the horse chestnut tree, pink and white, dance in the wind.
A waiter stands, arms folded, with a crisp white shirt and a black bow tie.
A hooded crow skips on the fresh grass, a reminder that the city is not only for people.
Uplifting, historical sounds float in on the breeze, that of Johann Strauss II’s Blue Danube.
With a deep breath in, a long breath out and a break of a smile, she is reminded of a busy world standing still.




What women can't say by Eli Brollo

I could still say no.
No, I do NOT.

Impossible. This is the best day of my life. The whole family is reunited. The sun is shining, after weeks of rain. Even the gods are happy to see me off. Not as happy as Ma and Pa. They have never been as excited as today, the day they are rid of the 20-something, still-unmarried problem. For once, because of me, they’ll have something good to say: How splendid the ceremony was, how delicious the food, how elegant the groom, how blessed they are for having him. She’s been lucky, they’ll say; so hard to find a good man these days. She had better know how lucky she is. What was she thinking, waiting this long? Who did she think she was, turning down No. 1 then no. 2? (Well, maybe he wasn’t much, but hey.) Oh well, all is good now — she was lucky. Yes, she managed to look quite pretty today (she should, considering all the money we spent for that dress). Indeed the tailor did a great job, the focus on the neckline hiding those stumps she has for legs. Ahhhh, our last daughter married off and we can finally relax, eh? Happy? Of course she was happy; how could she not be? Anyway, what does happy have to do with it? She had better know how lucky she is. I could still say, No I do not.

I do not care if the family is reunited. I do not care if it rains or shines. I do not care how much the dress cost. I’ll pay you back. I’ll work, OK? I’ll work in a factory. I’ll work, I’ll save. I’ll hitchhike my way to India, I’ll have one-night-stands, I’ll adopt a blind girl from China, I’ll grow plants on my balcony, I’ll dance under the stars, I’ll have a cat, and kittens. I’ll do the impossible: I’ll say no, I do not. I can’t, I won’t.

The impossible. There’s a reason why it’s called “impossible”.

“I do.” 



Feeling a little blue,... by Nicole Alesich

I look at my regular customer, Mrs Garcia, and I wonder how I am going to afford the books for my son, José, given the tight margins I am making selling groceries. I feel hot and sweaty in the close confines of my shop. My mouth is fixed in a smile but I feel sleepy and ready to close up shop for the afternoon siesta break. It is time to be with my family and to reckon the accounts. Perhaps things are not so bleak as I think. The shop floor under my feet is rough and through my slippers, I feel every bump of the uneven roughly-made floor. The fan overhead barely causes a ripple in the hot and heavy air inside the shop. Outside, I can hear the local children playing soccer on the side road and my son calling out a foul from further back. The sun shines hotly through the heavy material blinds. Mrs Garcia finally makes up her mind as to what groceries she will buy today and which she can postpone until next week. I add up her bill and put it on her tab. She says her husband will be paid on Friday and he will call passed and settle the account after then.

I smile and chat and farewell my last customers for the morning and close up shop. My son, José, runs up to me at the shop door and leans lovingly on me and takes my basket. “Mum, I just scored five goals for our team. Mr Rodriguez says I should join them for club training on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He said he thinks I have lots of potential with the right kind of training”. I smile lovingly at him, happy for his joy and infectious energy.


It is not a lack of love, by Satish Vasan

It is not a  lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”  Friedrich Nietzsche

I love puzzles. Love little word games. TVWPO – Sounded like a special qualification when I first read it. So many people wanted it or already had it. I wanted it too. “Lets start at the very beginning” as the song goes and the first letter T is very apt. Tea for teachers, tiffinboxes packed in the morning, for trishaws taking me to school. Seems very „traditional“? A way of communicating from ancestors to descendants? What could be eternal about my kind of childhood? Anyways – “Traditional” I earned by default. The letter V is actually a bit of a sneaky one, tightly linked to the first. Traditional schooling, family and up-bringing. All this sets a cozy setting for “Values”, which seem a bit too solid for my liking. Never did like these pesky nouns anyway. Verbs are more real to the moment, hard to grasp on to. Why can’t people say she has “traditional verbs” rather than “traditional values”? The joke is lost on most. W is not only, but also, Le Big Mac et Pommes Frites. “With”. Off I go into the wide world to get that something to go with. I couldn’t get me more of that tradition-stuff, that would have been too easy. Oh no, not me, I went out and became progressive. Very progressive university degrees, progressive jobs, progressive holidays, progressive points of view. All juxtaposed beautifully and now bold in mutual contrast. Progress? Change I say, which is guaranteed, progress maybe not.

The last letter, is now almost like a well known section in a musical etude. Outlook – another noun, nourishing my “Traditional Values” and my “progressive”ness. TVWPO – all the pieces laid out – Traditional Values with Progressive Outlook. A two headed Janus, a classic part of any matrimonial profile, having my cake and eating too.


Rather than friends by Miguel Botelho Monitz

The two acquaintances, rather than friends, met coincidentally on a rainy day, as they went about their daily shopping in the town centre. Considering their age, they’d basically known each other forever. But as they got older they had less and less occasion of being together. They sat on a nearby bench.

‘How nice to see you Gertrude. It’s been a long time!’ said Elsbeth. ‘How are you feeling?’

‘Oh dear, don’t get me started! If the knees don’t hurt, it’s my back. If it’s not my back, it’s my indigestion. But we live on,’ she said casually, ‘How about you?’ ‘Well, I don’t mean to complain, but I passed a kidney stone last month. Very painful, my dear.’ There was just a hint of triumph in her voice.
‘You don’t say!’ retorted Gertrude. She seemed flustered. After a short pause she blurted out ‘I had gout last year!’

The two women looked out over the square in from of them. Despite the rain, the town centre was crowded as people busily went from one place to another, each one going in a perfectly defined route, while the whole ensemble seemed perfectly chaotic to a casual observer.
Elsbeth found her strength and charged once more unto the breach.

‘My husband has terrible gout attacks, too.’ She said. After a pause and a knowing sympathetic smile, she delivered her coup de grace, ‘But of course, that’s on top of his arthritis. His hands are completely deformed.’

Acknowledging defeat, Gertrude got up and smiled. ‘It was lovely to see you Elsbeth! Please send my best to your husband.’ She said as she extended a hand to help Gertrude off the bench.

‘Thank you, Gertrude. See you soon.’ She almost reciprocated the pleasantry when she remembered Gertrude was a widow.



She knows 3 things by Patrick Bernhart

(a) that men are less treacherous than women; (b) that they never notice what a woman is wearing because they're always mentally undressing her, (c) that as long as you've got breasts,thighs,but-tocks and belly in good trim, you can conquer the world.
Paulo Coehlo, The Wnner Stands Alone, 2009 

Ah the buttock of the Cuban Lady in white. Or as buttocks are also known: the posterior, backside, bottom, bum, butt, caboose, badonkadonk, cheeks, moon, tush, booty and ass. In the picture, the man is holding the lady very tight whilst she is holding on to a lot of purses in her right hand. And in her left hand she seems to be holding one more. Are they all hers? And what’s her name? Is she Kathy Ferreiro, the woman known as the ‘Cuban Kim Kardashian’? It doesn’t matter because for ages Cuban women have captured our imagination. From the fiction of Warren Miller (‘Cuban women with their magnificent breasts and hips’) to that of Graham Greene (‘brown eyes, dark hair, Spanish and high yellow, beautiful buttocks lean against the bars, waiting for any life to come along’). The main issue of the picture is the glorification of the woman’s well rounded buttocks. In these times, it is important to recognize the true meaning of our buttocks: they allow us to sit upright without needing to rest our weight on our feet as four-legged animals do. And sit upright we will. We will perform our exercises, train our buttocks and sit through this crisis.

We will do so without any feelings of embarrassment that sometimes are connected with our backside. We will also not think of our posterior as a target of corporal punishment. So whilst the buttocks have been described in the Victorian school system in England as ‘the place provided by nature’ for such punishment, we will regard it otherwise. Instead, we will be positive of our buttocks. We will regard them as our main point of support that allows us to be fit physically as well as mentally. And we will be proud of them, just like the lady in white on the beautiful island of Cuba.



I miss our morning chats by David Anstee

She is my sister. We meet here every morning. Or we used to. She is older than me. She finished school early and got a job. Worked in a factory. I think they made washing machines, although we never had one – that I can remember. She gave me half her pay from the very first packet. That got me through university. She is retired now, moved into admin at the factory, but it closed down a while ago. Sign of the times I suppose. I think she quite enjoyed working there. It was social. They all ate lunch together, she had friends there. I started a little business after university. Nothing special or high technology or anything. We just helped people moving to the area get their kids into school, find a house, settle in. Started when I helped a friend, then he got me to help his friend, soon we were doing it full time. The problem with this disease is that you can’t see it. I think our biggest problems are the ones we can’t see. Where there is blood, bombers or barbarians, it galvanises us into shivering, indignant, frenzied action. We mobilise, we unite, we have a common and immediate enemy we can fight. This is a slippery, shadowy, intangible threat. It affects other people, not us. Like climate change. Like depression. Like loneliness. The things you can’t see can hurt you. Hurt you bad.

My little business kept growing. I got really busy. We had a whole team. It got so big, I was just working all the time. Then a client company made an offer. I did pretty well. I gave half to my sister. She is rich now.

I miss our morning chats.


I have never been to Cuba by Jozef Maudry

…from down in the street, below my balcony the morning crawls up to me. The morning and Criolo´s Convoque Seu Buda *‘Nin Jitsu, Oxalá, Capoeira, Jiu Jitsu
Shiva, Ganesha, Zé Pilin dai equilíbrio. Ao trabalhador que corre atrás do pão’.

Watching the market flow, feeling vibrations, the words of this song can´t be more pertinent. So much energy in such a petit form, so much hidden in such an unpretentious package. The whole city is soaked in it. In a weird state of hibernation, which when disrupted bursts into composition of tones, flavours and fragrances uncontrollably. Like Heisenberg´s uncertainty principle but reversed and whimsically peculiar.

**’Sonho em corrosão, migalhas são. Como assim bala perdida? O corpo caiu no chão!’. I wonder if people on the street understand Portuguese, trying to fill up my glass with thoughts about lady in white dress walking along, swaying to the rhythm of liberty, almost circadian... La libertad en albor. La libertad, I am very much familiar with. But here and now it has a distinctive odour of vintage rum and a bitter-sweet aftertaste. That feeling is somehow distinctive, as if I have experienced it already. But not in this place. Not with this woman…

In fact, I have never been to Cuba.

Criolo´s, Convoque seu Buda lyrics, English translation:
* ‘Ninjutsu, Oxalá, Capoeira, Jiu-Jitsu, Shiva, Ganesh and Zé Pilin, give balance to the worker who chases the bread’.
** ‘Dream in corrosion, it´s just scrap. What do you mean, stray bullet? The body fell on the ground’.

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