Escaping Stress: A Sunny Afternoon of Reflection, Friendship, and New Adventures

“Can you remember the last time when you were not stressed at all?” my friend asked me sitting across from me at the river-side. It was a sunny afternoon in July. I squeezed my eyes shut, blinded by the light and threw my head back. Letting myself lie down and just breath.

“I don’t know, if I ever want to be not stressed. “ I reply thinking about long days in winter when I re-watched all of friends and ate banana bread for every meal. A lot of people are around us, also hoarding cheap Prosecco bottles and plastic cups. Celebrating the end of the semester, as if nothing has ever happened.

“Bullshit. Everyone needs and wants rest and relaxation at some point in their lives!” – she says, inspecting the sun protection on her new tattoo, carefully covering it with the sleeve of her flowy dress. It’s the reinterpretation of Dali’s melting watches. It looks like every line is giving birth to another one, time always reproducing itself until one can’t unscramble the scramble on her upper arm. She drew it out when she was drunk on a party last week. I have troubles focusing on her voice it’s loud, noise coming from everywhere like in a bee-stock. People came out to celebrate and enjoy the company of other human-beings, enjoying the sun. Life’s good, right? I will travel to Italy in two days with my friends. I still have to pack. We don’t really have a plan yet except for that we will live care-free for those two weeks. No one speaks Italian. We will start in Rome, then move on to Florence probably.

“I won’t let you stress me next week. That’s clear right?” She is smiling. Her sunglasses are just on top of the tip of her nose. She gives me THE look. I smile back. “I will stress you. You know that. That’s how I function, but I promise you therefore that we will catch every train we want”. I refill her plastic cup. We are out of Prosecco.

She pulls a paper bag out of her tote. There it was: thick, juicy, absolutely delicious and totally out of place in nature on a sunny day: banana bread. I stare at it in disbelief. “I had leftover bananas therefore I thought I would give it a try”. She shrugs and takes a bite, chewing slowly in joy, swallowing it, opening her mouth again, she takes another bite and another and it feels like I’m in trance. “Anna, what are doing? You froze?” she’s giggling now. I shake my head, blinking. “No, sorry, everything’s fine. I just remembered something” I answer.

“So, did you already pack? Because I just can’t get myself to start!” she isn’t looking at me, but giving THE look now to the cute guy sitting behind me. My girl’s back, tossing her long blond hair behind her shoulder and carefully not paying any attention to him. “No. Was too stressed last week and have been too lazy these past two days. I will start tomorrow!” I fished two cherries out of my box. They are sweet. I think about the time I saw an A-List celebrity knotting two cherry stalks in her mouth in under a minute on live TV. Who was that again? Really impressive party skill.

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“You know that in cherries are tiny white worms you can’t see” she says. I shrug. “I have tasted worse stuff, to be honest” I answer and she gives me a huge grin, the grin I remember from last summer. “Uff, yeah. Remember that. But who am I to judge?” Still, she reaches for the banana bread, not even giving the cherries a chance. Life’s normal again. Two years ago, I thought living without stress and being able to make my own time-table would be great. I was terribly wrong. I still mistake myself in the year, thinking 2020 just started, erasing a whole pandemic as if it was just the trailer for something big and beautiful. And it kind of was. After everyone got their vaccine shots, the trailer was over. The movie of 2021 could finally start: peaking in our Italy trip. “Shit, it’s already 4p.m. We gotta go!” she screams and I sit up straight again. Another tattoo appointment, but this time for me. I will get a tiny sunflower, just blossoming on my rips. Designed on a late and lonely evening somewhere in the lost space of doing nothing and getting comfortable with myself. “Believe me, choosing this spot for your first tattoo is such a mistake. It will hurt” my friends says packing up our stuff. “Never mind, sometimes I like to make a mistake or two”. She rolls her eyes annoyed, annoyed at my denial of a possible mistake even though she warned me. “Don’t be so serious all the time” I mock her and she sticks out her tongue, giving me the finger. “That’s not very lady-like of you” I reply grinning. The sun is far from going down, shining as if it wants to burn us all alive. I will worry about the climate crisis tomorrow, after packing, I tell myself. Gobbling down the last bits of the banana bread, she gives me a thumps-up to go. I grab her hand and we walk towards the tattoo parlor. I always grab someone’s hand now, taking every chance I get.  “That’s just weird, you know. You are not that needy” – my friends replied. I just shrugged and smiled, but didn’t let go of their hands and they didn’t pull away neither.

And at the end she was right.

The ribcage just fucking hurts, but I’m a sunflower now.