Robyn: The Narration of Life

for Robyn Wells, by Marta Guerreiro

It was being a mother that brought her the ability to adapt and adjust, Robyn told me. She does not remember always having this talent to accept whatever life brings, remembering that being a mother meant learning that not everything will always be perfect, that not everything will always be as desired. She carries in her voice the calm and lightness that time does not remember that time has forgotten – at least, these recent times. She brings in her voice the calm that is contrary to the pandemic; she brings the tranquillity that feels like a hug.

Although very patient, Robyn found the start of lockdown difficult. She recalls the lack of options for lunch and dinner, recalls the inability to cook a good meal.

Meals were made from leftovers, soups were made from what was left, lemon or orange peels, whatever it was, I had to reinvent, rebuild.

I didn’t mind going somewhere to buy food, but John didn’t want to.

John, the love of so many years, a love that stayed after a divorce, that remained for being light and for bringing with it a lot of knowledge. 

He is very brainy –

says Robyn, after a few moments of silence. John, who represents a contemporary relationship, but which comes from other times. Each one in their own houses, they decided, giving Robyn space to devote to herself, her art and her passion for dance, also giving space to John, to grow individually and then, in the relationship.

The pandemic did not treat him well and, consequently, the relationship made of space and dedication also seemed to be in a whole new state: pandemical.

He didn’t want me to buy anything, he went into this weird obsession, had a lot of anxiety attacks, he needed to make sure that everything was disinfected and that I didn’t put myself in danger.

For Robyn, the lockdown was another opportunity to learn to adapt. She did not live-in fright; however, with John’s anxiety, she was living in stress.

The lockdown reminds me of dark red roses, the smell of them and the afternoons of good weather, the sun. It also reminds me of hunger, I was very hungry.

Robyn’s hunger was different: it didn’t arise from the impossibility of buying – the lack of money – but from a loved one whose mental health was in decline.

I didn’t know John could go to such an extreme.  I knew he was anxious, but not like that. Now we are fine. He sought help. He fortunately realised that he needed to calm down.

Robyn is the epitome of calm. She can’t remember the last time she could walk in the middle of roads, without the cars occupying the space that people should occupy. Nature marks this as a period of abnormality: the sound of birds, the green of the parks and the bare streets. They mark the change in looking at life as a gift, accepting and absorbing whatever there is, as it is, regardless of restrictions.

The nature and the absence of stress in the streets recall times that were left behind.

That part was good, but I feel sorry for the young people now, without a job, without socializing.

Robyn is observant. Every sentence she says comes after a pause, consideration, reflection, as if she were sewing the words instead of dumping them. Measuring, cutting and studying, leading her to art: sentences full of intensity. She imagines the world for those who are young. Even though she enjoys this distance from the stress, she also knows that life needs movement.

I’ve lived a lot, but there are those who haven’t lived enough, I can’t imagine how life goes with a lockdown for them, and what comes after the lockdown.

In the midst of the madness of life in this very peculiar phase, there was enough time to get to know her partner, a side she wasn’t aware of, but there was also time for the healing process. Homeopathy. While speaking with Robyn we realised that we both share a taste for alternative medicine and the certainty of the importance of conventional medicine. We are from different generations, it is so beautiful that we have the opportunity to share the space and time we have, to talk about adventures and misfortunes of a pandemic, with links that unite us and others that do not, I tell her: You seem to be such an easy-going person. She agrees.

She says that she doesn’t waste time with fashion, that she wears practical clothes that allow her to walk and that at home, she organizes herself to present painting classes when asked, if the teacher can’t make it. She speaks of Zoom as if it were the only tool that takes her to the spaces that once were filled with bodies.

I miss socializing, art classes and music classes. We usually had lunch together and laughed heartily. Now John helps me with technology, and we share art on the computer.

There is a lot of routine in a lockdown and Robyn’s life was no exception. She would meet John for long walks together, have lunch, and in the afternoon they both looked after the garden or made art, and had dinner. Sometimes John stayed, sometimes he didn’t. Routines served to bring mental organization, even though there was time and space left to ramble, to travel mentally, time to ring friends or to enjoy the silence.

I enjoy silence.

Robyn told me in a tone that, surprisingly, also resembles silence. Few words, serene, thoughtful and from time to time accompanied by deep laughter.

I don’t like television. I prefer books and music.

I can’t imagine the expressions she made while talking to me about herself, her life and such an odd time for the world – I couldn’t read her expressions, now that we are all required to keep physical distance, now that we need to think twice before deciding to hug someone. As a writer I never thought I would be able to get to know someone in such a beautiful depth, like I did with Robyn. Our conversation happened over phone and while I was laying on my bed and taking notes with a messy handwriting, I would imagine what was Robyn doing while speaking with me. I couldn’t read her expressions, I could take, however, from our conversation, take the tranquillity with which I also like to sew life together. Robyn speaks as one who dances, and dance perceives her. Perhaps that is why the sentences were carefully choreographed, thought out and created in a rhythm of love and understanding. I don’t know her face, nor have I seen her hands, but I imagine she has a soul painted in all the colours, colours from the art she paints and a face of someone who lives like life is a ballet.

Every time a call was over, I would close my eyes for a second and think about Robyn. Robyn, the mother who learned patience, not necessarily from the major events that the future would bring but since the beginning, since the moment that as a human being she would have to accept that not everything would always be perfect as a mother and that is okay. Robyn, the lover in a relationship that was exhausting, but which is now serene, with soups that resemble hunger and roses that resemble luck. Me, growing with every phone call, for having heard about life as if it was poetry, even what is not good, even what is not perfect. Robyn, with the voice of someone who narrates what life means and with the conviction that life is to be lived and preserved.

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