Over the years I have gotten wary of befriending English speaking people. It was always the same: an attachment developed and then they took off on me to distant places, leaving me behind. Nlyart was no different. Way back when, she was my neighbor and we saw each other every day. Now, a year can easily go by without a single phone call, and when one does happen, we find we have very little to say. But, to be honest, I am not sad about that fact.
It doesn’t often happen that one can pinpoint the exact place and moment a friendship began, but with Nlyart and me it’s absolutely clear. An hour beforehand we were still Mrs. Walking Someones Dog and Miss Current Golf Pros Current Girlfriend. An hour later we were both Ms. This is a Person I Can Talk To.
I still remember the table we were sitting at in the Theatercafé – a rectangular one along the back wall, with that wall to my left, me facing the stage and Nlyart to my right, facing the wall. I remember that our talk covered a huge number of topics past and present. In terms of upbringing, we had very little in common: religious versus non-religious, strong father versus absent father, rural versus urban ( well, okay, suburban), garden versus asphalt, homesteader versus wanderer . . . It took a while to find something important that we shared: we were both readers.
Sitting there talking in that café, we also discovered that two tiny incidents in our past had set off a chain of events leading us to that moment: ten years earlier, after some deliberation, I had checked a box next to the name of her country on an exchange program application and a month or two earlier, her future boyfriend had used a wrong preposition and ended up on the wrong train her train. Life was strange and who knew where it would take us next?
Little did we know then that our future would include me watching her write an exam in English for three hours without a single cigarette break. Or us playing our thousandth game of Scrabble (with quite a few cigarette breaks) while the boys cooked dinner. Or us wearing Dirndls, taking shots of whiskey in a kilt-filled pub in Scotland (no breaks necessary). Or us taking silly pictures at Checkpoint Charlie just after the Berlin Wall fell.
Or that we would be there for one another when Nostalgia reared its ugly head and tried to muck around with the good things we had going.
Or, now, each of us reading up on the other’s thoughts almost daily, encouraging her to go on writing.
We don’t talk on the phone anymore. What is the point? No matter what we say, the other one replies, “Yeah, I know. You wrote about that.” So our friendship has gone silent. But not wordless.
In the 25 years since that day in the Theatercafé, I have learned that dogs and English speakers come and go. So do golf pros, for that matter. But people you can really talk to - people who know you – they find a way of sticking around even after they leave.