After our day trip in Potsdam, my host family and I sat around the dinner table, having finished our meal. Astrid was going through a pamphlet to show me what exactly the gourd from Spreewald looked like, while Bernd heartily puffed away at his cigarette. The smoke swirled around us, lingering momentarily and then dissipating into the air, gone as soon as it had come.
“I only have six days left,” I suddenly blurted out. This wasn’t necessary a conversation starter as much as it was a spontaneous realization of how little time I had left in Berlin. Astrid looked up from her search and stared at me, while Bernd’s eyes grew slightly larger as he put down his cigarette on his ashtray. He looked up, puffed out another cloud of smoke, and looked at me. His face turned into one of his signature smiles, and he said in English, “Yes, and we’ll miss you very much, Hans.” Astrid confirmed his statement with a reaffirming smile of her own.
“Ich auch,” I replied.
* * *
It’s funny how quickly we humans form bonds with each other and non-living entities. Time, frankly, isn’t always necessarily an important factor in determining how swiftly we fall in love with a person, a book, an author, an activity, a place, and so on. But there are two sides to every coin, and the ripping, tearing nature of time is also as rampant and powerful as its counterpart. In the two and a half months I’ve been in Berlin, I’ve fallen head over heels for this beautiful city, a city I’ve personally vowed to return to and live in after finishing college. In the three weeks I’ve spent with my host family, my liking for them has been reciprocated with an equal affection, with them telling me that I must return to Berlin so that we can go on many more trips together. Both feelings are touching, emotional, and meaningful, yet, I understand that it’s likely that I might never come back to Berlin. It could be that whatever happens down the road fetters me from leaving the States and I never make it out to Berlin, much less Germany, again. It could be a significant other; it could be money; it could be family; it could be death. My summer here, for whatever meaning it has had on me, could very well be a magical summer, whose doors to its enchanted garden are forever closed once I exit and shut the door behind me. This could really be it. The aftermath of that aforementioned tearing nature of time is a puddle of void, of sadness.
Yet strangely enough, there’s also beauty in that. There’s beauty in that, within the limited amount of time each of us are given, we are able to connect with people and whatever else we come across. The feelings that arise from this connection; the experience that comes with forming these bonds; within them we find the essence of our pursuit of life. Within the ephemeral we navigate, knowing that temporality simply magnifies the emotional meaning we attribute to the different aspects of life.
It sounds cheesy, doesn’t it? But when it all boils down, the connections I’ve formed and I yearn to make within the variously fleeting moments of my life– these are the reasons that actually make me want to get up and go outside and see things and drink everything and eat too much and talk to random people and creep people out and hit on girls at bars and get rejected and do it all over again, day in and day out. “Carpe diem” only makes sense because we all understand that a day is not forever and that living is transient, as well as improbable.
My summer in Berlin is almost gone as soon as it had come. It lingered for a while, but soon, it will dissipate, leaving me only with its fond memories and various impressions. Later I will smile nostalgically about them, whether it was the memorable days or the forgettable evenings, because in this short span of two and a half months, the relationships and the connections that were formed will leave a lasting impression on me. In those moments, in the ephemeral, maybe I brushed up against life’s sublimity.