Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day 4: For Cristina...

My friend, Cristina, lives in Munich, Germany. Before that she lived in Paris. Before that, Chicago. Before that, the Netherlands. Basically, she's lived everywhere. Originally she's from Romania. So, of course, I picture her as being terrific at gymnastics and jumping gracefully into a pit full of bouncy things like Nadia Comaneci, which is what I thought all Romanians were like when I was a little girl. Cristina is a physicist who recently got her PhD and wrote a very long and complicated thesis on the Higgs-Boson theory. (I think. I could be wrong, since all I understood was part of the title.) She has a husband named Michiel and a son named Pieter. Pieter is 3.

I have never met Cristina. I've seen one picture of her, over a year ago. For my creative writing exercise today, I'm going to write an imagined meeting with her. (I hope you get a kick out of this, Cristina...)

The red and yellow commuter train pulls into the Zurich hauptbahnhof with a slow, controlled hiss. The doors swing open, and I pull my well-worn blue suitcase down the train steps and out onto the platform. The sound of Swiss-German babbles around me, rising and falling in it's musical cadences. Taking a minute to get my bearings, I turn and head for the nearest escalator. I had just touched down in Zurich an hour before and caught a train to downtown. The whole time, my heart felt like it was too big for my chest. It has been over six years since I was here last, but everything is as familiar as my hometown. More so, for it has changed far less.

Stepping off the escalator, I see that it is farmer's market day on the north end of the train station. I had forgotten how vast this place is... and how clean. I pass a Kiosk and go to wait beneath the huge clock. My friend Cristina and I agreed that this was the best place to meet, in a place that both of us were familiar with, rather than in Muenchen where she lived. I look around, watching. I expected her to be wearing red and black, her favorite colors, but suddenly realize with a small laugh that this was Europe. Everyone was wearing red and black.

Even I had chosen a black t-shirt, jeans, and leather sandals. Trying to fit in. Trying not to look like a clueless American. I could see some from where I was sitting--college students backpacking around Europe with their hiking boots and their gigantic Northface packs. One is passed out on the floor with his head on a fleece hoodie, while a girl flips through a Europe on a Shoestring Budget guidebook. Even these have some dignity--there is still something to be said for doing the Grand Tour of Europe's youth hostels for a summer in college. No, the ones you dread are the kind that come with their loud voices on their "SEE ALL OF EUROPE IN 12 DAYS" tours. More accurately "TRY ALL OF EUROPE'S BEERS IN 12 DAYS." Two hours in Zurich, two days in Rome, half drunk the whole time, and they go home thinking they've "seen" it.

Checking my watch, I turn and walk a few feet so that I can glance at the Arrivals and Departures board--the little plates going "flip, flip, flip, flip," just like in a movie. Her train had arrived around the same time as mine, so she should be around here somewhere. Turning to walk back to the clock, I see her from behind. I smile--she's wearing black. I have the advantage of seeing her before she's seen me--she has a thin build, even being quite pregnant. Her brown hair is pulled back in a smooth ponytail, She turns her face, searching the crowds, and I see her profile. She has distinctive eyes and high cheekbones.

I stop for just a second and hold my breath. I'm nervous. I wonder, will she like me in person? Will we have as much to talk about as we always have in e-mails? I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and step forward, saying "Cristina?" She turns fully and looks at me, and--in one step--we greet each other like sisters separated by continents and seas. Like hearts come home to stay.

1 comment:

Christina said...

Ooohh... Becca, I love this. I had a shiver down my spine when you said, "even though she is quite pregnant."

You're doing such a good job with this blog--keep it coming.