Transience

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“Linus”, Bernd and Astrid’s cat

It was Sunday night in Berlin, the hot, humid evening air casually toeing its way into my host family’s house through its windows. After our day trip to Potsdam, my host family and I were sitting around the dinner table, having finished our meal of Kartoffeln and Würste— potatoes and sausages. A laughably stereotypical German dinner, to be sure, but home cooking is home cooking, and there’s something about sitting down together that’s as heartwarming as it is comforting.

I ate one serving too many, but in my defense, it was quite literally impossible to say no to my host mother Astrid when she asked if I wanted another heap of potatoes and sausages. I capitulated against the onslaught of food Astrid piled again and again onto my plate, and my white napkin of surrender was stained with the aftermath of a messy, hopeless battle against German cuisine.

As I sat there contentedly defeated, my stomach completely full and itself waging a futile war of digestion against an innumerable foe, my host dad Bernd pulled out his pack of Marlboros and began heartily puffing away at a cigarette.

The smoke swirled around us three, 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.

It wasn’t necessarily a conversation starter as much as it was a spontaneous realization of how little time I had left in Berlin. In the two and a half months I had been living in Berlin, I fell head over heels for the beautiful city, a city I personally vowed to return to and to live in after finishing college. In the four weeks I had spent with my host family, my liking for them had been reciprocated with an equal affection, them telling me that I must return to Berlin so that we could go on many more trips together.

Their gesture was certainly touching and meaningful, yet I understood that it’s possible that I might never come back to Berlin. 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. The ripping, tearing nature of time is also as rampant and powerful as its counterpart, and 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, whereby the entrance to its enchanted garden are forever closed once I exit and shut the door behind me.

My outburst slightly startled my host parents. Astrid looked up to stare at me from her pamphlet on the gourds of Spreewald, while Bernd’s eyes grew large and his gaze focused on me.

Bernd puffed out another cloud of smoke, put down his cigarette on his ashtray, and turned his body to me. His face broke into one of his signature smiles, and he said in his soft, accented English, “Yes, and we’ll miss you very much, Hans.” Astrid confirmed his statement with a reaffirming nod and a smile of her own and went back to her pamphlet.

It’s been over a month since then. My summer in Berlin is gone as soon as it had come. It lingered for a while, and then dissipated into thin air, leaving me only with its memories and various impressions.

Yet, as I write about this particular memory and outside my window night stands like a black column, I can’t but help to grin, and nostalgia wraps me in its fond and humid embrace of evenings past.

*this is a revised version of a former post, “End.”*

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