Not everything

I went to a play earlier this evening. It was about two men and two women who get entangled in a kidnapping, and how, in the end, one of the men and women fall in love and choose to stay together. After the play was over, I walked out of the theater and stood on the square in front of the theater. People milled around me, getting into their cars and going their own way. I stood there, and savoured the fresh cold air of the night around me. I walked to the nearest cigarette shop and bought a can of Monster Energy. The streets were empty and a mist slowly descended, and there was a chill in the air. I had enjoyed the play, and although the local language is not very familiar to me, I could understand most of it. I missed the company of Yvette, she could translate what was being said, and I am sure that she would have enjoyed it as well.

The night continues descending into a swirling mist of silence and a cold breeze. I hear the sharp clicking of heels behind me. By now the mist is thick and blanketing everything. From the mist emerges the actress from the play and she halts for a second before walking past me to the cigarette shop and buys a pack of Rothman’s. I turn around and greet her a good evening. I compliment her acting and she seems pleased. She is surprised to see a foreigner here, and much more surprised at my attending the play. She asked me if I understood the dialogue. I humbly replied that I didn’t. I did, however, say that her acting compensated.

“I could understand what was going on”.

She smiles a little forlornly. She is the replacement actress. The locals wouldn’t know the difference. The leading lady was ill for the evening. In a moment of being chivalry I said that she was a good Leading Lady. Reassured, she asked me if I knew of a good restaurant nearby. I told her that I did and took her to Boris’ bistro, a quiet place with good music and very good food. A few minutes later, the two of us were sitting across each other and discussing my country and my life in general. She hadn’t ever seen a man of my heritage in person, and was intrigued. What did we eat back home? What did we do to enjoy ourselves? Most importantly, why was I here?

I decided to spare her the lengthy diatribe of my life’s philosophy and my own dilemma of being a foreigner everywhere I went. I spared her the details of my academic and moral failures back home, and I decided to spare her the details of the disgust I had for people in general and told her the most vanilla thing I could come up with.

“I enjoy travelling”

I don’t. I have a difficult time travelling. Packing up my bags is the most tiresome thing about travelling, and that is not to add the constant waiting at lines and the transits from one airport to another. I told her that I loved this country, and of my poor conversation this was the only saving grace. I do love this country and I do love this city and moreover, my life here has some meaning and consequence, small and insignificant though it may be in the wider context of things.

The food arrived in the hands of Boris himself, who beamed at me as he served me my Pizza. Poor man, he looked at my walking stick and felt a stab of pity. He was glad that I had graced his humble restaurant and brought with me “charming company”. The actress looked up to Boris and smiled widely. She loved this place and would come here more often.  Boris asked her name, and she said Petra.

I had spent the last half an hour with a woman whose name I didn’t know. Courtesy seems to be something I have lost somewhere in the romanticism of “being a gent”. I turned to Petra, just when she turned to me, and she asked me my name. I told her, and she wondered aloud as to why it hadn’t occurred to her to ask my name. The two of us pondered over the paradox of missed conversation at length. Where do we pass the point of being strangers and become so engrossed in conversation that the most basic questions of identity escape us. After dinner, she and I took a walk around the Center. She told me of her childhood in the capital (a city that I have yet to visit) and at the end of the night, we exchanged numbers and I took her leave.

I took a taxi home and I told the driver to drop me off at a street behind my apartment building. It is one of the inside streets of the city, winding through rows of houses and apartments and at night, it is quiet and deserted. I reached the front door of my apartment building and fumbled with my keys. As I stepped through the door, I was greeted by small scream. I screamed as well and stepped back, switching on the landing lights. In front of me were two kids, around thirteen or fourteen. They looked at me as if they saw a ghost.

“Mr Schuberg?”, the boy stammers. He is a small boy, with brown hair and a scar on the left side of his forehead. He has greenish eyes and in his hands is a cigarette. I ask him what is he doing here, at midnight. He looked at his feet sheepishly and fell silent. I turned to the girl and then it dawned on me that the two of them, enthralled in the throes of young love, were spending some time in the basement, where they would be left alone. And they were probably sneaking back home. The two of them were neighbours, they lived two floors above me. I don’t know their names, and you can imagine my surprise when the boy knew mine. I understood that I was intruding, wished them a quiet goodnight and hastily went up to my apartment and shut the door with determination.

Now that I was home, I couldn’t help but laugh. There was something both adorable and heartbreaking about seeing to children in love. To young teenagers, and the whole world was against them. I was mildly amused but I also felt as if I had intruded on something intimate. I walked to the balcony for some fresh air, and I could hear the whispering of two teenagers, young and in love.


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