In the years to come, we will walk the line between idealism and practicality without trepidation.
Calloused feet never bleed balanced on the edge of razorblades. Neither will ours, when we’ve finally forgotten to put our shoes on one morning and stepped out to live in the world without rubber soles or safety nets.
The wonder of the leaves in autumn and the messengers of spring will sometimes rewind the clock to this exact moment, when I sit in my uncomfortable office chair in a studio apartment, as you while away the hours at your piano coaxing words out of the tips of my fingers.
Sometimes we will have no notion of beauty at all. Life will seep through our steps hurriedly then, in anticipation of some greater event than a falling leaf.
Forgetting the pettiness of crowds, you will put on your old overcoat without noticing its creases and its wear. I’ll wait for you by the clock tower, there where we had our first sober rendezvous, and straighten the fabric in two quick swoops.
The best wine cellar only a couple of minutes away, the cold of the changing seasons will go unnoticed. Frost will not touch us, the wind won’t tangle your locks or mess up my fringe.
„How have you been, friend?“
Over tall glasses of good wine named after some faraway island we both visited at different times, the evening will go easy on our years.
„Do you remember when…“
Of course. One does not forget these little shards of eternity, the ashes of which remain caught in our lashes. When I look at you, I will see you as if it were today: your silly haircut, half the head dyed badly in some awkward purple you cried for hours about.
„The color will grow out,“ I told you.
I neglected to mention, so will we. Grow out of our youth and up to a point when we won’t change hairstyles quite as easily, or scoff at our elders when they say that roads serve to return as often as they do to leave. We don’t believe them now, but in the years to come, we might.
You asked me, not long ago, whether time will really change us so, whether we’d able to recognize our future selves if we met them on the street. You also claimed that you would never allow for such a change to happen.
As for me, I kept my silence, because I had no real wisdom to share with you then, only a vain adolescent hope that our experiences might mirror one another’s – whatever they were. I imagined us walking under streetlights along different cobblestone alleys in cities far apart, but I also added a wish into this fantasy, that we might share the same spark while doing so, that you would find a place of your own to be happy in, and that I would find the same.
When I mentioned to you once, friend, that refugees have not the privilege of home, you laughed.
„Don’t flatter yourself. You’re not a refugee, you’re a wanderer. Never mind the world and the labels it’s stuck to your back. This is who you were always gonna be, despite politics and history.“
Right as you always were, that was in deed the me who climbed the Eiffel tower on foot with you, pushing my fear of heights down into the high heels of my shoes to propel my body upwards; that was the me who got lost in some sketchy part of Berlin at three a.m. and phoned you to come pick me up in a taxi. We laughed our way driving through Kreuzberg, ended up drinking into the small hours of the morning at some random bar on the street where we lived.
This was when we could talk for days about piano recitals, works of art, or random chairs at our favorite cafe.
This was our youth, who we knew ourselves to be.
The road from here on out gets tricky.
Never have we had to make as much time as we do now for practicing the simple art of conversation. I get lost in books, you in numbers. I call, you text, we miss each other in passing through our living room.
The world you advised me to disregard has lost its patience, it won’t be ignored. The world isn’t as kind as you used to be, or as foolish – it denies me the title of „wanderer“.
Stranger – this is how I will live from now – the side of the edge I’ve leaned toward. You’ll lean a different way, but our feet still in the middle, we’re bound to meet someday in the country of our childhood, tourists again.
„What a happy coincidence,“ you’ll say. „I’ve been looking for you all over the world, and now here you are, in the place where I never would’ve imagined you’d be found.“
This story is only a hook I’ve cast into the future, to pull it closer, as you would a Moon in some fairy tale, closer into these nights when we talk in circles about how our lives will turn out. I wanted to shine some secondhand light on these questions, pit art against statistical probabilities.
Perhaps, in the years to come, we’ll laugh at my attempt. Perhaps we’ll be somewhat astonished by my prophetic skills.
Whatever the outcome, I hope that at least one thing will prove to be true. I hope there will be a me and a you, arranging our umpteenth random rendezvous at the familiar clock tower.
I hope we spend hours over wine recounting stories old and new; that even when we are not in the same place, our feet march along the razor-blade’s edge to the beat of the same distant drum. That we come to our own conclusions about life, using the method of trial and error, not the criterion of authority. That we are brave in equal measure as free.
And when we finally meet, I wish you would wear your old coat – the one which creases easily – to give me an opportunity to sort you out, as you did me when yesterday you said,
„Stop fussing over the future. Just wait and see.“