Saturday, April 9, 2011


25. Two little boys, around six or seven years old, are wedged tightly in a 1.5 seat, the kind that seems to be on every bus here in Brussels and that never fails to puzzle me every time I see. (Why 1.5? Is it for lovey-dovey couples who can neither bear the thought of being separated into two seats, nor physically squeeze into one? For the Hulk? Or, perhaps, for the Iron Man and his chunky suit, when he is in town and needs to travel by bus?)

"Comment tu t'appelles?" sings one boy, an arm draped over his friend's shoulders, the other waving in the air, loosely to the music. "Je sais pas ton nom." continues the friend, giggling while drumming fingers on the other boy's leg. "Comment tu t'appelles?", the invisible microphone is passed back to the first boy, who, too, is now drumming, but on his friend's head. "Je sais pas ton nom.", sings the second boy, switching to tapping. "Comment tu t'appelles?"... Completely oblivious about the creepy Asian girl who watches them from afar, the boys merrily perform their little musical, two-line double act for the rest of the bus ride. 

26. The English Literature section at FNAC. Seen on a little green circle sticker on a book's cover (presumably to increase readership): an arrow piercing through a heart, and below that, 

I need to get one of these stickers for my papers. It might work. 

27. "It is purple, see?" said Mario to Luigi, while tilting his head towards a tram passenger, who was, indeed, wearing purple. "No, I am still not going to wear purple," replied Luigi. "What if Princess Peach is going to wear a pink dress?", I generously offered a bargaining chip. "I am never going to wear a pink dress," Princess Peach spoilt my deal. On the tram at almost midnight, the four of us, scientists by training, were trying to convince each other to dress up as our Super Mario Bros characters; to which end, Luigi would need to wear a green and purple suit, Princess Peach a pink dress, and Mario something red and blue. We did not, in the end, succeed in making each other look ridiculous, but we did have a very pleasant evening together.

Some four hours earlier, nine boys and girls had met up to have a leisurely dinner at the cozy Pizzeria La Bottega Della, where starter plates were mismatched and individual menus were unavailable, but the antipasti, the pizzas and the tiramisu, oh the tiramisu, were delicious. To quote Hugo, "Tonight, we are in Italy..." As we traded slices of pizzas and passed around the bottles of wine, conversations flowed easily, switching from one language to another. Between us, there were at least six nationalities, and even more languages. At one point, having graduated from the How-to-read-one-line-on-the-chalkboard-menu and the How-to-count-from-one-to-ten classes, I asked Mario for his mother tounge's version of "Whassup, maaan!"; the question later went around the table. The Italian version was, by far, the best ("Come butta, amico!"); the Portuguese version was probably as so-so as the French one (respectively, something like "Yeah-ee!" and "Zee-va!", the latter apparently supposed to be the reverse of "Vas-y!"); and the German version was... well, whatever it was, it was by unanimity the lamest. 

The good Italian wine at dinner and the Belgian beer outside a corner bar afterwards probably contributed to making the evening enjoyable, but whatever the factors were, the evening couldn't have been anything but enjoyable, after its lovely start. When Mario and I arrived at the restaurant, Gisele, Hugo and his former flatmate have already been there. After the typically European hello kisses, Mario and I took our seats, mine between Gisele's and Mario's. Wordlessly, Gisele slightly leaned over across me and showed Mario her right hand. Looking at the sparkling diamond ring on her middle finger, I wanted to say congratulations but no word immediately came. The last time I had congratulated Mario for his "engagement", it had turned out that engagement in his country did not mean the same thing as engagement in, well, the rest of the world. So now, I thought, maybe diamond rings in Belgium did not mean the same thing as diamond rings elsewhere. Maybe Gisele had bought herself an expensive ring and wanted to show Mario her great taste in jewelry. But, I knew that Hugo had planned to propose, and there was no mistaking the joyous expressions on the faces of Gisele's and Hugo's, so I congratulated the engaged couple. Later in the evening, Gisele would make fun of Hugo for his choice of vacations ("Why would you want to go on holiday to suffer, camping out in the cold and sleeping with guys?"), and Hugo would joke about to whom he wanted Gisele to pass on the engagement ring (his sister, not her mother), in the unlikely case that he would not survive the upcoming hiking trip. Listening to them bantering through the evening, I felt a sense of happiness and hope. May they have enough love, patience and kindness to be with each other for the rest of their lives.

Maybe we should campaign to get them have a Super Mario Bros-themed wedding, where Luigi will actually wear a green and purple suit. 

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