Writing interlude! This one, apparently is in the style of Kurt Vonnegut. I really haven’t got a clue, but I seriously doubt it. It was written, I think, in 1999, and I’ve not changed it – simply because I think it’s cute in all its naivité (hey, I was 17!). At the time, I had never been in Koblenz, so really had no idea of what the town looks like, what the temperature is actually likely to be in December, and so on. Today, I would’ve said “why on Earth would they pick a spot half-way across town to meet? They could’ve just said THE BLOODY SQUARE OUTSIDE THE TRAIN STATION”. But I digress.
The funny thing is, this got published in a Vietnamese students magazine, or something like that, back in the day. Had an email from someone about it and got into a hissy fit at first, but was happy about the unauthorised use when I found out that I was properly credited in the magazine, the emailer had not been paid for it and he even offered to send me a copy, which he did. I still have it somewhere. Fancy that, a Swedish teenager having a story translated into Vietnamese and published! With a little illustration and all! 😀 So yeah, that’s my claim to literary fame, I guess! *giggle*
AROUND NOON, OR, MORE LIKELY, AFTER
A FREEZING DECEMBER DAY
JUST A FEW DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS
Right. This I rather didn’t enjoy at all. I was in Germany for the holidays, and was going to spend Christmas with a friend who lived in Koblenz, which I really looked forward to, so that wasn’t what I didn’t enjoy. I was going to meet Petra at the Liebfrauen church, or Kirche, as they say in Germany, but I had a small problem. I was lost. Completely. And that was what I didn’t enjoy. It wasn’t unpleasant because of the cold temperature – I believe it was -8ºC – and the fact that it was outside, because I was dressed a warm winter coat, and both mittens and a scarf. Well, it wasn’t actually a coat, it was more of a cloak, to be honest, but it doesn’t really matter. No, what I objected to was the fact that I was lost in a strange city in a country where the native language was one I didn’t master. I guess I could ask someone to point me in the right direction, but how do you do that? “Excuse me, where can I find…” and get the reply “ich verstehe nicht”? I had this silly old pocket glossary that would help me to ask for the direction, but I wouldn’t be able to understand the answer.
This was driving me mad! I leaned on a lamp pole and sighed. Then I remembered something my mother once told me when we were at a big market. If I got lost, then ask a man or woman that looked nice if they could show me the way to the “market office”, where missing persons were gathered. I smiled, and decided to listen to my mother’s advice. I just had to find someone that looked nice and friendly, but where do I find one of those in a street where I’m the only person in sight? Fortunately, someone was approaching me before I had made up my mind. A man with a little dog. The man looked nice and friendly, and the dog was really cute, so I decided to ask him. I checked my glossary quickly to see what I should say, and when he got closer, I asked.
“Könnten Sie mir bitte helfen? Ich weiß nicht, wo ich bin. Sprechen Sie englisch?” I figured asking if he could help me, and stating that I was lost would make him stop and help me.
It worked. The dark-haired man stopped and looked at me with two lovely dark brown eyes.
“Ja. Yes, I speak English.”
“Thank goodness! I’m on my way to the Liebfrauenkirche, but I’m lost, and I have no idea of where to go, so if you could be so kind and show me the direction, sir?”
“Of course, Miss”, he said and smiled. “Actually, I’m heading in that direction as well, so I can show you where it is.”
“Thank you”, I replied with great relief.
“I take it you’re not from Germany”, he said as we started walking again.
“No, I’m not. I’m from England.”
“What brings you to these parts, then? If you don’t mind me asking?”
“Oh, not at all. I’m just here for the holidays, to spend Christmas with a friend who lives here in Koblenz.” I realised something. “Oh, but where are my manners? I’m C.C.”, I said and extended a hand.
“Thomas”, he said (surely, you could see this coming?! – Author’s remark) and shook my hand. Wise man, he had gloves on. “This is Quchiquichi”, he added and indicated the dog.
“Pardon?” I exclaimed. Did he really call the dog Quchiquichi?!
“That’s Polish, for Christine.”
“Oh, right, I see.” I squatted down and patted the dog, which happily put its paws on my knees and licked my face. It was cold and wet, but it made me laugh! I was wiping off my face as I stood back up.
“Sorry about that”, he said.
“No need!” I laughed. “I love animals! I’ve got three cats at home.” I looked down at the white little dog walking in front of us. “What race is she?”
“Maltese”, Thomas answered. “They’re really friendly, and great with children.”
“So you’re a father, then?”
“No, not yet”, he said, “but I have a friend in Hamburg who’s got three kids.”
“I know the feeling. I don’t have a friend in Hamburg, but I know what you mean.” We walked in silence for a while. “Is it always this cold here in Germany?”
“No. You should really come here in the summer, when it’s warm. Winter has its charms, but I find snow to be very cold. Claudia and I are going to Los Angeles on vacation soon.”
“No, the girlfriend.” He looked ahead. “Not far left now.”
That was comforting. Even though I enjoyed the company, I was beginning to feel the cold creeping inside the cloak.
“The Liebfrauenkirche is beautiful, by the way”, Thomas said.
“I’ve only seen it on pictures so far”, I replied, “but from what I saw, it was really nice.”
“Oh, it’s even nicer in reality. How come you’re going to church the first thing you do in a German city?”
“I’m going to the church to meet my friend there. I’m not religious, but we thought it would be easy for me to find a place like that. I guess we were wrong.”
“Yes. You really should take a look inside it, if you get the chance. It’s worth seeing.”
“Oh yes. Beautiful. I sing there occasionally.”
“The church choir?”
I could hardly detect the hesitation before he answered. “Sort of.”
“Sing something, then.”
“Yeah, why not? A Christmas carol, perhaps?”
He shrugged, and sang a bit of ‘Silent Night’. He had a wonderful voice, it was like velvet, soft and tender. I was impressed!
“Tell me honestly, have you never thought of doing something with a voice like that? I mean, like use it professionally or anything?” He gave me a puzzled look, although I don’t know why. “Oh, sorry. Forget I asked.” Nice work, C.C.! By all means, make a fool of yourself to the first person you talk to in this country!
A big church was up ahead now.
“The Liebfrauenkirche, Miss C.C. from England.” We stopped.
I turned to him and smiled. “Thanks a lot, Mr. Thomas from Germany.
“Oh, bitte sehr.“
“It was really nice of you to show me the way. I really enjoyed talking to you.” I leaned down and ruffled the Maltese’s fur. “Bye-bye, Christine.” She licked me in the face again, but I still didn’t get angry with her. I shook Thomas’ gloved hand again. “We probably won’t see each other again, so goodbye, and good luck with everything. Have a nice time in L.A., and a nice life and all that.”
“Same to you. Enjoy your stay in Koblenz, and of course merry Christmas and a happy New Year!”
“Right, I will. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to both of you, and the girlfriend.”
One last smile, and the man and his dog walked across the road, and on a street in between some tall office buildings. I started to walk towards the church, no longer lost.
I reached the Liebfrauenkirche, and since I had time left before I was supposed to meet Petra, I went inside to have a look. It was really big, and just as beautiful as Thomas had told me. I took a few photographs, and went outside in the cold again. There, I saw a grey car, and a familiar face looked out through the window on the side.
I hurried towards her car, and got in.
“It’s really cold out there, so I didn’t want to get out”, she said.
“Oh, it doesn’t matter”, I said. “Guten Tag, meine Freundin.“
“Guten Tag, Engländer!” Petra said with a wide smile. “Did you have any trouble finding your way here?”
“Yeah. I got lost, but a nice man came by and helped me find the right way.”
She nodded, and turned up the volume on the car stereo. I had up until then not realised that it was on! The voice that sang sounded somewhat familiar, so I asked what it was.
“Let’s Talk About Love – The 2nd Album”, Petra replied. “With Modern Talking, the pride of Germany! This one is from 1985, so it’s not new.”
The name didn’t ring a bell at all, so I just said that it was nice, and we drove off.
Petra’s apartment was perhaps not very big, but it was cosy, and warm. It was nice to finally be inside. I was told to sit down on a fluffy couch, while she made us some tea, so I obeyed. There was a CD cover lying on the table in front of me, so I picked it up and looked at it. Same CD as in the car, apparently. I turned it over to look at the track listing, and saw a picture of the band. Very 80:es… very German.
“Cute, weren’t they?” Petra said as she put the teapot on the table and sat down beside me.
“Very, umm… 80:es”, I said, because I didn’t know what else to say, really.
She laughed softly. “No kidding? Wait, I have a more recent photo around here somewhere.” She lifted a bunch of papers lying on the table, and picked up a photograph. “How about this? Modern Talking in the 90:es. Now they’re not cute, now they’re gorgeous! Amazing what ten years and a haircut can do!”
I looked at the photo, and found myself agreeing with my friend. I don’t know what I did, but suddenly Petra asked why I looked so thoughtful.
“I just… thought I recognised one of them”, I answered, and pointed at the dark-haired one.
“Oh, yeah. He lives here in Koblenz, but I’ve never met him.” She sighed. “That’s life, I guess.” She showed me another photo, or more rather a black and white printout of a picture. “This is him and his mother. And his dog.”
“There.” She pointed.
Suddenly I thought about something.
“What’s he called?”
“Bernd Weidung…” then it couldn’t be him, “…but now he calls himself Thomas Anders. Why?”
“And the dog?”
“You wouldn’t believe this, she’s called Quchiquichi, which is supposedly–“
“…Polish for Christine?”
“Yeah, how did you know?”
“Does he have a girlfriend called Claudia?”
“Yeah, but how did you…?”
“He said so.”
“That one!” I said, and pointed at the picture.
“Earlier today! I told you I was lost, and that I got someone to show me the way.” Petra just stared at me, unable to realise what I was saying. “He’s that someone!”
“Well, he looked like that, and he had a little Maltese with that strange Polish-for-Christine name. He was very nice.”
“The Thomas Anders? Of Modern Talking?”
“He just said his name was Thomas, and he had a very nice voice. Said he sings in the Liebfrauen church sometimes.”
“Mein Gott, you’re not joking, are you?”
“I’ve lived here for a few years now without having met him, and here you are, the first day you’re in Koblenz, and you meet him.”
“And you’re not even a fan.”
“That’s so unfair.”
Yes it was. Of course. But I don’t regret it! And I never will!
Completely out of season, but there you go. Things like this had my Swedish teacher at the time proclaim that I sort of glowed whenever I spoke of my favourite band. 🙂