Entries in laughter (4)
I am sitting in the car and watching her talk to her sister. And my heart skips a beat - not because of the topic or because of the approaching train that I need to take. But because I get that feeling of familiarity, the feeling of knowing what's coming, the feeling of verbal recognition - the déjà-vu. Because I've been there before - in that car, with those people, and in that conversation - but not in reality (or at least not in the conscious reality).
I arrived late after train-station hopping with a suitcase and a camera in hand. Checking at the arrival schedule, I wonder how long it takes to get out of the gate with a suitcase that she can't carry (and I wonder - what if there is no one to help with it). Of course, the idea is ridiculous (although the guys at customs might be more helpful than they should with other motivations). And she is there and she sees me first - and I am a tad confused (seems to be the norm of late) and we walk through the airport to the train station in a daze - perhaps it is the image of the bandade and the scar below, or the image of the flying byke (and worse - the flying E.). In the train, I rest my shoulder on hers and I feel her strength - way beyond my own - but that's again the titanium bone-support.
We walk to the hotel - and it is charming - with stairs shaped like a heart, escalator with a carpet on the wall, and a welcoming receptionist like in a movie - he explains how to get around the city, and so we do, leaving behind our baggage (and the metaphorical) and enjoying our conversation (in the midst of the football game - how dare we?!). And who would have known that she has hatched a cunning plan - and I would be her partner in crime (then again, when one brings a smile and tears and a smile again, one feels no remorse).
Day 2 starts with rain - as it should always do - because rain keeps the streets envigorated - people rushing to get away from the rain, people opening colourful umbrellas hoping for protection, people cuddling closer together under the same umbrella. And then there are the people like us who couldn't care less for an umbrella. And we walk looking for old books, new fashion cuts, and discourses on life (we are such cliches!). But then comes our chance to hatch the plan - to surprise our hosts with an arrival - and surprise we do - as they have just relaxed on the massage table, we barge in to their amazement - and they don't know if the massage oil fumes have not messed up with their eyes.
And that's when I see the tears, mixed with joy, and smiles - when salt becomes elixir that heals wounds and scars.
Do you actually know what your best friends' parents do? I mean for a living? Have you ever asked them and do you keep asking (if you haven't met them yet)? Is it just not something that our generation really cares about?
I was just headed to brush my teeth and I saw in my cupboard two spare tooth-brushes. Now, I know one of them isn't mine (thankfully, I know whose it is and what it's doing there). The other one triggered a chain of associations of the strangest nature. I had acquired it as a spare one when I went to Cologne last winter to visit a very good friend who had just come back from the USA to spend Christmas with her family in Europe - Esther.
I was supposed to travel by train to Cologne, spent a couple of hours there with her and we were then supposed to travel by car back to Bremen. It was winter though - and this normally means "don't make precise plans if travelling" - even the German punctuality is not immune to train delays. And it took me about 2 hours more than planned to reach Cologne. No, wait - I didn't even reach Cologne. A part of the track (thankfully, along the final distance) was unreachable, so we were all unloaded at a local station near Cologne. So a couple of hours later and several attempts to really locate where I was and to communicate that to Esther if she could pick me up, we finally reunited: graciously, she came with the car, gave me the warmest hug, and we were on our way back to her parents' place.
It was already dark outside, cold, snowy, and icy. Travelling back for 4-5 hours to Bremen wasn't really the best of ideas no matter how big and safe the car or its Continental tyres were. So, we went to her parents' place and decided to stay there overnight and travel back the next morning. We knew each other back from the university years when we spent hours and hours playing the piano together, walking around campus, talking about guys and gals, but mostly about music. And in every conversation, we plotted the most ambitious plans for 4-hand-1-piano concerts, playing everything from Chopin's Etudes (transcribed in one shape or another), through Brahms' Hungarian Dances, to our own compositions and interpretations.
We park the car and we start walking towards a closed pharmacy. I wonder, is there some kind of a small side street for which I'd need to hold my breath (literally hold my breath)? But no - Esther pulls the keys from her pocket and gets in the pharmacy. I am delicate (I think) and didn't say "oh, I didn't know your parents ran a pharmacy", did I? I play along, I play cool. I find out, it is not something recent (i.e. I should have known about this).
Where does the tooth-brush come in? Well, it is a pharmacy they run, and I was not prepared to stay overnight because we planned to travel back. So, in the words of Esther "At least with having the pharmacy, a tooth-brush is like the easiest thing to fix you up with."
When we make new friends, our generation no longer judges the social class of the person we meet by their parents' education or working status. Back in the days, one couldn't talk to someone whose parents were not approved of by our parents. Has the complexity of the job market altered so much that it is by now difficult to describe what our parents do ("teacher" is easy but what does it mean to be "market analyst"?). When I thumb through the pictures of my friends, I am having a hard time remembering ever having a conversation with them about their parents' jobs - divorses, culture, real estate, troubles with other children, pride of their children's successes ... - sure. But their job? That's a mystery.
I am on my way - with a camera in hand, and a smile on my face. I am on my way to meet my friends. At the usual places that we always go to - the ones we are slaves to - the light of Viertel in Bremen, the small paves streets which look like nothing out of this century, the small houses with the roses growing next to the doors as if they were there from last century, and the music in my ears is that of Ella Fitzgerald (and that's even older than that other century):
... Sweet dreams 'till sunbeams find you,
Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you.
But in your dreams, whatever they be.
Dream a little dream of me.
The sun is shining through the ghostly morning air being reflected in the water droplets in everyone's hair (especially in that cat's). It is a Saturday for a brunch in the street although there are cars passing by (which is why we simply pull the construction sign at the entrance and we pretend we have no idea why it is there directing the cars to the adjacent street). The bread smells divine - like bread - saciating, smooth, thick, of memories from childhood, of motherly embrace, of baby skin, of butter (the French knew all about that), of fresh fruit and honey. The coffee bubbles in the French press, giving in to the warmth of the water, surrendering its color and flavor.
They turn to each other, oblivious of the group of people around, and they touch - not their hands (which they have to force themselves to hold back) or legs (which they remember are also a seductive tool) but their thoughts - and their eyes. They lock them on the other person as if the croissants with nougat cream on the table don't tempt at all.
And then he takes over - the conversationalist, pointing his finger around with the philosophical gusto of a trouble-maker. It is Saturday morning but a philosopher is always teaching and asking, always asking and teaching - forget about the smelly cheese brötschen he has to prepare for his girlfriend before she hops on to her busy work life (on a Saturday) - he can multitask. Until those three pretty girls show up down the street.
And then they all (they=men) turn their eyes on them, following their moves through the little street as if the tennis match was just about to start and that small green snitch-of-a-ball is about to get hit again. They admire the purity - they don't stare, they don't desire. They simply observe - because it is a Saturday morning - not a time for action.
And then someone new came along - someone who looked like the mysterious animal tamer - who has the secrets ready to be told - but he won't - he just puts up the paper for a show. He seduces the audience like a true story-teller, lowering his voice, making bigger pauses, widening his eyes, and asking questions: "Do you want to know what happened next?"
But he won't tell. We'll have to wait until next time - no matter how much we beg. Story doesn't end - it has organic growth. Day by day, Saturday by Saturday. Weather-dependent of course but only in terms of its location - a smile does not need the sun (the sun needs the smile). And the brothers embraced, "Until next time, bro!"
"Until next time!"