The first weekend begins Friday, August 9, 2013, in the German capital city of Berlin.
To the unmistakable sounds of low rumble hustle of traffic and the happy chirps and tweets of birds. That’s strange, because I’m asleep; aren’t I? It’s much better if I’m not, a warm and gentle possibility in the spotlight of my mind.
My eyes struggle to open, brilliant morning light streaming through the open balcony windows and past the billowing room-high drapes. I pad slowly to the source of the light, and part the drapes to see what’s outside. I’m on the 5th-floor apartment of an “Alt Bau” in the city’s Westend. The apartment’s windows face north which means plenty of summer morning light.
I open the bedroom door. She smiles at me, her gaze warm and alive as a summer breeze. “Good morning.”
From that August weekend, I’ve kept a single promise to let her know I’m thinking about her. I’ve sent a text-message every single weekend without fail. Except for one weekend about a year ago when I missed my schedule, and she promptly sent an e-mail asking – no, demanding to know – if things were all right, if I was all right. There’s busy and there’s her kind of busy, and I understand all of it. Her urgent message strikes something solid, commencing the melt for the first time in a very long time.
On December 9, 2015, she asks me to stop.
Over dinner, I ask if she’s still receiving my texts this entire time. She smiles, then laughs nervously. She can’t look at me in the eyes. She says she feels “guilty,” and that is, as they say, that. A 5000-mile candle I’ve kept alive is extinguished. Naturally, I fill in the rest of the blanks with ease: for not answering, for not writing enough, for not feeling the same way I do.
She doesn’t need to say any of it. She braves a glance once again in my direction, and the answer is as clear as the beautiful sparkle I saw in her crystal blue eyes one summer weekend.
“Are you going to miss them, my texts?”
She shrugs. “I will.” Her uncertain body language tells a slightly different version of what’s coming out of her mouth.
I take a deep breath. “Okay, I’ll stop. I’ll continue texting you to the new year. But from that point on, I promise I’ll stop.”
Everything begins and ends. A span of 875 days; 2 years, 4 months, and 23 days. 21,000 hours, 1.26 million minutes, 75.6 million seconds. 125 weekends.
“Schöne Hauptstadt, Die lieb’ ich …” I took off those rose-covered glasses a long time ago. And now I’m tied to another loss and wound to go on top of the scar tissue. Bittersweet as a synonym with understatement, my name spat as a cheap one-line joke.
There’s delicious irony, too. As much as I favour the written letter over the SMS- or texted-message, I am accustomed to slow passages I put down on pieces of lined paper, as well as the rapidity of electronic access and contact.
And on the first Friday of the year, the 1st of January, I send a final text message, wishing her a good weekend, all the best in the new year, and that I love her. Should it mean anything of worth or value.
And like the wisp of a thought evaporating in the aether, a pulse of ones and zeros marches across the Atlantic, bringing to a quiet end a string of 125 consecutive weekends.
Stubborn mule, hopeless romantic, a goddamn fool: no defense against what counts as a universal human experience. I’m bone tired, faced with another conclusion that’s been staring at me for a long time: every day there’s a little less remaining, until there’s no one left.
Someone says: “Pick yourself back up, be a man, and try again, for fuck’s sake.” In a blind rage, I swipe at it and revel in the gurgling and choking, until the voice is shut down for good. That’s when I realize my crimson puddle is staring at me in the mirror.
A noise rouses me from hazy slumber. I open my eyes to see her watching me. She’s in my arms, her head tucked into my shoulder, as easy and natural as two people can fit. It’s 7 in the morning, but the skies won’t be light for another hour.
“I have to go,” I tell her.
She makes a sound of irritation. “Do you have to?”
Promises are made, goodbyes are said, and there’s 8000 kilometers to cover. Stepping out of her building, I stare up into the formless grey to the light tickle of melting flakes. The calm of a winter snowfall begins, as I slip beneath the blanket of silence into a long journey home, sustained by the memory of her gentle voice.
And here, it’s best left to you to decide whether the unspoken layers of truth are more painful or stranger than the alternative, or whether all of this is in actuality a fanciful piece of fiction.
The top (featured) image of Berlin in low light with the silhouettes of the Oberbaumbrücke Bridge and the TV Tower in the distance is by Sylla on Pixabay with a CC0 license. The second image of a Berlin subway station is from Life of Pix and Pexels with a CC0 license. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-7wo.