It was ten years ago that I met my wife. I was sitting in a small music bar in Camden, gradually warming a pint, and I noticed this woman sitting in the pew next to mine. Her brown eyes drew me in although I struggled not to stare. She was listening intently to the folk rock band that was playing that night. The sparkle in her eyes suggested that there was someone special to her in the group. Strangely emboldened with this belief, I struck up a conversation:
“It’s good music isn’t it?” I said.
She turned, smiled and paused. I was able to look into her eyes properly for the first time. Unfashionably, I almost swooned.
“Yeah. I see them all the time.”
She was about my age. Her accent was something Eastern European. She turned back to look at the band. I felt I had to find out:
“So, do you know someone on the band?”
“Yes. That’s my twin brother playing the flute.”
“He’s good!” I said. “Do you play, too?” feeling both relieved and excited that my initial suspicion was correct but in a way that now opened a door.
“I used to but now I am too busy with my studies. You?”
A question to me. Great! This could turn into a conversation, I thought.
“Nah. I am like Simon Cowell: good at spotting talent but devoid of it myself!”
She smiled and looked at me again. This time it was a more searching look. I felt I was being appraised. We spent the rest of the evening chatting: me finding out about her life and her about mine. It was easy. She was charming. And I got to look into her eyes: lots.
She was studying psychology at Birkbeck, with an aim to become a clinical psychologist. Her brother spent his time odd jobbing and playing music. Her Mum was an accountant, and her Father had died a few years previous. Some kind of industrial accident. They had all moved over to the UK a few months ago so that her Mum could build a new business, providing help and advice to other small businesses. They were Romanian.
We exchanged numbers at the end of the evening. I was debating how long I should leave it before calling her. I left it two days. Too long, as it turned out.
When I called, an older woman picked up the phone.
“Hallo? This is Peter. Is that Cosmina..?”
“No. This is her mother. Who are you?”
I swallowed a small lump of fear and explained. And then I heard what had happened. The night after we had met, Comina had been watching her brother playing in another bar and there had been a fight afterwards. Something about her brother making eyes at a young woman, all Romanians being rapists etc etc etc… Comina had rushed in to break up the fight.
She ended up losing one of her beautiful eyes.
I went to see her in hospital. It was our first date. I returned the next day, and the next, and the next.
And that was ten years ago. We now live in Bucharest, in a cosy flat in the suburbs. Comina works as a clinical psychologist helping people come through traumas. She says that her range of brightly coloured eye patches help people to open up. I manage a music bar in the city where her brother often plays. I have made it my personal aim, to make my bar the one with the most love, the most laughter and the best music in Bucharest. We have two twin girls aged 3 and half. They have their mother’s eyes.
I don’t go back to the UK very much these days. Ever since the referendum and the Tory/UKIP coalition: for me, there is just a little too much hate and spite lurking on street corners. Even though the result of the referendum was (just) a vote to stay in the EU, this hasn’t stopped the government finding ever more contrived ways to make life hard for people: especially migrants.
So I have chosen love and live a rich life in Romania. I know I am rich because I am happy with what I have: a good family, good friends and much laughter.
And my daughters’ smiling eyes.
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