How the love the two of you once knew had, slowly, dimmed out, translated…
You’d Found a Café in the Snow that’s Growing, Sat Down. You Saw, Out of the Corner of Your Eyes, a Woman in a Red Jacket, She Sat, Leisurely, Sipping on Her Coffee, Looking Confident, But Not Too Proud, Seems to Tell the Rest, that She Knew that the Man She was, Waiting for, is Hers, Although He’d, Not Yet Professed His Love to Her………
I’d gone to Berlin for a lecture in the spring, there’s, still that coldness in the air there. The first evening in Berlin, you were, working on the PowerPoint presentation for tomorrow, then, suddenly, shouts broke through the silence of the night, someone was, shouting out racial slurs, you’d tilted your head out the window, saw some stumbling figures. You’d wanted to turn back to R, tell him, “It’s no big deal, just some teenagers”. But you’d, forgotten, that you’re, on this trip, alone.
You’d turned on the radio, the DJ said something in German you couldn’t catch fast enough, then, the song started, quietly. But, in this night that’s, disturbed, music seemed to serve the purpose of repair, but, although the music had, grasp onto a nerve of yours, but, you’d, worked along, and, failed to pay enough attention to what he was singing, until the final few lines, the trumpet started, sounding off in the background, and the singer, “it’s all so quiet”, and, the trumpet’s tune rose with the notes climbing up higher, then, as the highest note that the trumpet played came to a halt, the singer, “in Berlin”, and ended the song. You’d, immediately, gone online to search for the song, and, listened to it more than twenty times. It’s all so quiet, It’s all so quiet, It’s all so quiet…in Berlin. This section of the lyric, sounded like, they were, made for you.
illustration from UDN.com…
Although this was the second time you’re here, Berlin was still a strange place to you, last time, there weren’t that many Muslim vendors or Turkish restaurants, and, it was, impossible, for you, to NOT feel discriminated here. But, why did you, gain that sense of unprotected vulnerability for the silent nights in Berlin now?
In Ginsberg’s poem “Returning Back to Time Square, Dreams in Time Square”, nobody saw that invisible trumpeter, only that poet who’d, stumbled down the streets, after the world changed, chasing that lost dream, accidentally, found the trumpeter again. You’d heard that trumpeter’s sorrowful music playing—or perhaps, it was, your hallucination too?
Or maybe, because it was, spring back then?
The repeated once chorus had:
I’d get lost anywhere
As long as I’m found
I could be anyone
in any town
Yes, so long as we got found, who would be afraid, of getting lost? Naturally, we’d not needed to worry of the various roles we’d played, so long as we get to, return to that very first, original role, assigned to us.
You’d gone to Athens for a meeting, the sun had, shone down everywhere. After the meeting, I’d gone to Mykonos. The bright sunlight reflected into the alleyways that twisted and turned like the walls of a labyrinth, you’d wandered aimlessly, and was, drawn to a table with an empty chair in front of a café, and, you took that very first photo of an empty seat. It was, very rare, that in the afternoons, the seats were, still vacant, and, you looked upon those empty chairs, like they were, alive, and waiting, patiently, for a customer to come and sit. But, you’d had, another, delusion, that all the customers from before never, actually left, that there were, the ghosts of, customers past sitting in the seats.
like this??? not my photograph…
You’d recalled how you’d traveled to many islands with R from before, once, she’d complained that you’d only, taken her to the islands, and, you were, dumbfounded, every time you’d, planned out the trips thoroughly, you’d made sure, to include an island in the itinerary, and she didn’t like that, and that, was when it’d, dawned on you, that she’d, favored the city living lifestyle. And so, you’d, thought, had you not scheduled these trips to these, islands………then, you’d found, that your thoughts, never actually, got off the islands you’d, gone to—you’d, kept pondering how to make the amends, should you, try satisfying her more the next time? As you were, about to, leave those, empty chairs behind, you couldn’t help, but look at them again, felt, that you’d not, gotten everything that you need, to take with you.
Those windmills in the distant hills, from a certain angle on the island, you could, get a complete view of, but, you seemed, to have, never caught them turning. Until the last day when you’re about to leave, you’d, walked to the ferry, and, you seemed, to have seen, the windmill, turned. You’d instinctively turned, to tell R, but, that huge cruise ship docked, broke your illusions—at which time, there was, a large group of younger eastern girls getting off, you couldn’t help, but look at them, and, so long as the ladies were thin and tall, you’d, sought them out, as if, trying, to find something that’s, familiar and lost……until the tourists all got onboard the ship, and, you’d, carried that nostalgia of unwillingness, alighted too.
You went to Yangzhou to lecture, the autumn light reflected onto the lakes. After supper, you’d gone with a group of younger scholars, to continue the meet in the city, they’d found a pub, “For Youth”, with a live band. And, as everybody went in, they’d, received a red bandana, turned out, it was, a day of nostalgia at the pub, other than the pop music from Hong Kong and Taiwan, the young musicians also performed the tunes from long ago. And everybody, in their Red Army bandana all, sang along too; in the help of alcohol, the revolution, seemed to have, begun all over again, and no matter how many products were, produced by the outside world. As you all left, everybody looked, and, there’s, that feeling of, vacancy. After exiting For Youth, the streets became, vacant too, and, Michael Buble’s “Home” came from the distance, there’s, that feeling of surrealness. You’d told everybody to stop walking, and the song was at:
Another sunny place
I’m lucky, I know
But I wanna go home
I’ve got to go home
You shook your head, “Come on, too overly expressive.” But, actually, you were, trying, to mask up the feelings that were, awakened in you; you’d become, another flighter; kept boarding the next plane, arriving at the next sunny place. But, you’d always, traveled, alone.
all alone, without the company of someone he loves…photo from online…
You’d arrived at Lithuania in the winter, but, the chills of the winter already got there ahead of you. Before the meeting was over, you’d, gone to the capital of Latvia, Riga. Your friend told you from before, that this country, is very tiny, but had, amazing architectures, especially, when nobody else was there. And so, you’d, gone out in the snow early in the morn, and trekked the streets. The winter morning, you’d, walked across, and in-between, those ancient buildings, like you’d, entered, into a dream of solitude: all the tourists, gone, only those, shy ghosts, still, lingered on. As you walked, there came, a beautiful woman from the turn of the corner, you couldn’t tell if she was, Latvian or Russian, but, there’s, that hint of sorrow, from either the northern weather, or some other reasons. The moment she’d, passed you by, you’d found, that a button was missing from her shirt. You’d wanted to turn back and share this with R, but if this time, she’d called you “boring”, you would’ve, had a valid reason; because this reminded you of Rilke’s book, mentioning how the young maiden the man bumped into, and he’d found that a button was unbuttoned from the back of her shirt, and, guessed at how she must’ve, felt angered by something before she went out…………and, you’d, mentioned it to R: the time she’d, rushed out the door, and, you’d, chased after her, to button up that missed button on her back………
In the storm that grew, you’d, found a café to sit. The snow fell harder outside, and, you’d, worried about the woman you’d, just encountered, that she might freeze from the cold, then, you saw, another woman, in a red jacket, sipping on her coffee in the corner, looking self-confident, but without the ego, like telling those around her, she knew that the man she was waiting for was hers already, although he’d, not professed his love to her yet……at this very moment, a memory of winter came clear to you. R too, once wore her read coat and waited for you in a café. That day, you were running, seriously late, and, as you’d arrived, you’d, apologized profusely, but she’d, spoken aloud, “I’m not, waiting, for you!”
It was, Christmas Eve, you’d recalled, in the U.S. everybody was, spending the evening with someone who’s closest and mattered most, same for the international students. But R arrived Maryland, and, passed through that final Christmas Eve you’d had in the States, but why? She’d, corrected herself: that she was there, for something else, but, there wasn’t anything planned on Christmas Eve, so, she’d, come find you. But, you’d not done anything special, just strolled around South Seaport, and, carried on, in disconnected conversations. It was, really cold that evening, and, the two of you, started, breathing out white air, but, neither one of you was, in a hurry, to find a warm place to sit. Did you feel, that it wasn’t, needed, to have other people around? Or, simply because, you can’t, find a place to sit down? You can no longer, recall. But, the only thing you’d recalled was, as the two of you, leaned in against the railing, and, gazed toward the distant lighthouse, blinking, she’d suddenly inquired, “Do you like, traveling alone?”, without a second of hesitation, you’d, replied, “I used to, from before.”
And so, that, was your experience of love, and, the two of you had, shared so many memories, but, for some reasons, you two didn’t, work out, and, you’re left, with these, memories of the love you’d owned and lost, feeling, nostalgic…