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Text and illustration: Girtrude Belle


It appeared I’d fallen hard for the brazen Franco-Russian pilot-pianist-polyglot. So hard that, to my great chagrin, my yoga, meditation practice, and three years of spiritual work all but dissipated into thin air when he informed me that he’d be “unavailable, dear” on our penultimate evening together. Suddenly I couldn’t breathe, eat, or think straight. It felt as though someone had put the merry-go-round on ‘turbo’ and forgot to flip back the switch. All I wanted was off the ride and for the butterflies and subtle nausea to abate but the horses, it seemed, kept spinning faster and I was losing my grip quickly and definitively.

Breathe! I went all drill-sergeant on my ass. Redirect your thoughts. Are you a soldier or aren’t you? If this were a stage and you were an actor you’d use this adrenaline to act. Act! Then I tried a softer approach. You are a star child, the universe is on your side, you’re not afraid of loss, you’ve had loss, there’s always a silver lining. Never hold on too tightly. If it fits, it sticks. You’re an explorer. Ponce de fucking Leon. The world is yours. You haven’t seen India! And then an ontological one. You are not you, you’re just a spirit, a spirit is not afraid. Om, goddamit. Om!  And it worked. At least sufficiently to allow me to do a bit of work and drag my ass home to put on some lipstick and head to the National Gallery.

I wore a nonchalant sweatshirt and expected to amble, undisturbed and unnoticed, surveying pretty silk scarves painted by Miro and his ilk, to recover my inner balance and to go home. Eating was still a remote concept but I figured I could stand to lose a kilo or two anyway. So I walked around, the waifish, slightly starving victim of what the French call a coup de foudre, all of which probably lent me a beatific air of latent suffering and defiance.

“Carrie Bradshaw taught us that we’re supposed to wait for Mr. Big (you do know why he was called that…but I digress). We learned that if we just waited long enough, dated Barishnikov, fell on our faces a few times, literally and figuratively, we’d live to see the day.”

The gallery was far more crowded than the last time I’d visited and it appeared that I’d stumbled upon the opening night of quite an event. All of Tbilisi’s Who’s Who seemed to be there. There’s the ambitious young manager of the hippest hotel in town…come up to him, you know him, stop being an idiot, you’re not trying to be anybody, it’s just people, you dont’ need anything from them… Hi. Hi. Come to the hotel, come for lunch, we have a fireplace and wifi, you can work from there, bring your laptop. Thanks! Bye! Bye!

There’s the best interior designer in town, with the charming smile. Stop being coy, go talk to him…Remember me? Yes of course, how are you? Fine. You? Fine, even though I smoke too much, he jokes. I love your work. Thanks, have you been to my latest – the tea house by the Opera? No, no I haven’t…

Pardon me, interrupts in a heavy French accent and a stately manner a handsome man wearing a dapper smoking jacket who turns out to be the curator… Yes? Enchanté. Am I an artist? Oh, well, aren’t we all, but no I’m not officially an artist, I manage in a French I hadn’t used in several decades (in bed with the pilot doesn’t count – we switched to Russian and English too often). Your French is excellent. No, no it really isn’t, but thanks. He escorts me around the gallery.

Have you seen the Chagal? I’m not a fan, but I love the Steinberg. He did the covers for the New Yorker, you know. Yes, of course I know, he was an architect before he became an artist. Yes, in France, agrees the gallerist. So, what does a young girl do in Tbilisi on the weekends, he flatters me. Oh whatever Facebook tells me to, I retort. You’re very obedient to Facebook, I see. I’m very obedient in general, I joke, and then semi-regret the implication and idiotically announce that I am joking. Of course, he graciously concedes with a smile. And how about you, I ask, what are you up to whilst here? We’re going to the countryside with some friends, he says. The countryside? Yes, would you like to join us? Ah..when? Sunday. Sunday? Sure. Sure? Great! Great. Well, thanks for showing me around. My pleasure, see you Sunday. Ciao!

The crowd dissipates and I walk out to find my charming friend, the interior designer, smoking of course, with his little dog just outside. We chat. I tell him how grateful I am to his son for having recommended a great camera to me this week. It turns out the men are all going out to dinner to talk shop and I figure I’d make myself scarce and go do something similar – shop, that is. I run off into the Tbilisi night…there are sweaters to be bought for the mountains!

As I pass by the opera I notice that I am singing along to Verdi’s ‘la Donna e Mobile‘ (I kid you not) blaring from the outside speakers, and as I turn the corner I realize that I’m accidentally standing directly in front of the very tea house designed by my friend who smokes too much. I go in. It looks like my vision of Tbilisi – down to the clotheslines. I want to tell him that he’s a genius, but I have no phone. Instead, I order a hot tea with wine. It comes in a teapot bearing the brand and logo my ex-boyfriend dreamed up in New York while we were living together years ago. 

When your life resembles a lost Sex And The City episode, you have to wonder whether to laugh or to cry. But you should always choose laughter.


Carrie Bradshaw taught us that we’re supposed to wait for Mr. Big (you do know why he was called that…but I digress). We learned that if we just waited long enough, dated Barishnikov, fell on our faces a few times, literally and figuratively, we’d live to see the day. The day, involving an archaic institution, various pomp and circumstance, and the re-branding of your beloved with a title evocative of cattle-keeping. As you might have guessed, however, that’s not necessarily my dream nor that of many of my sisters.

We have weaned ourselves off these spurious fantasies and raised ourselves on yoga, travel and alternative philosophies. We have taught ourselves, with the help of less network television and more helpful YouTube clips that, gasp, we deserve better than to twirl our thumbs and mope about until bad relationships turn good (and good relationships turn bad). That what you become attached to, and how you go about it, reflects who you are on the inside. That there is magic everywhere. And that knowing this changes everything.

We’ve learned–through our failures and despite them–to breathe deeply and find our bliss, and to define ourselves through our sense of beauty, serenity, and self-awareness. We aren’t lonely. We don’t push anyone away. But we embrace those who approach us with what we give the world – our infinite love and courage.

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