August 21st, 2012
I landed yesterday. I’d tell you what Germany’s like but I’m jet-lagged to hell and haven’t done much yet. Jens picked me up at the airport. It was great to see him again—he even hugged me. We drove over to Waltrop and I fell asleep on the ride over but I learned a few things since Waltrop is a few hours away from Berlin. Did you know that on the autobahn (that’s either a fancy German word for highway or maybe just the actual name of the highway, I haven’t figured that out yet) there’s a lane where there’s no speed limit? Sounds like your dream come true. All the cars just speed through, one after the other, like raindrops falling from the sky. I think it’s terrifying.
When we finally got to Jens’ place we ordered some Turkish food. Jens tells me it’s kind of their version of Chinese food and there’s take-out places in every city. His English has gotten a lot worse since he visited us, sometimes it’s hard to understand him. He looks at me worried a lot. We watched TV for a while before Jens eventually remembered that I don’t actually speak German. I think next the time I travel to another country I’m going to take a real shot at learning the language.
I’d write more but I’m just beat.
I wish you were here.
August 24th, 2012
Me and Jens went out last night. I didn’t really want to and I don’t think he really even wanted to but I think he felt obligated for us to go. He kept talking up all these different places, all the way over in Dortmund which is a city that’s pretty close but still pretty far and we had to take all sorts of trains to get over to it. I get that he’s trying to show me a nice time but I don’t think he realizes that even back over in the States I’m usually just staying in on Fridays anyway.
I didn’t really have fun last night. I was still a little jet-lagged and being full of beer and getting hungover definitely didn’t help anything. Writing this letter is hurting my head even more. I’ve decided to write the rest of it in list-form so I can sleep.
1. German beer is really, really, good.
2. I don’t like trains. You spend so much time waiting for them to take you someplace else. Why didn’t you just use the time you spent waiting for the train just going to the place you wanted to be anyway?
3. Trains are even more boring when you can’t understand anything and you’re staring stressfully at the stop-listings and you’re trying to figure out if hauptbahnhof is where you’re trying to go or where you are. Note to self: figure out what hauptbahnhof means.
4. Sometimes in Germany they bottle tequila and beer together and they don’t tell you until they’ve already given you the bottle.
5. These beers are also four euros and you don’t question it because you don’t know the price for anything yet.
6. German music is cool.
7. I am definitely, definitely, definitely not in the position to hit on or be hit on by girls.
…I miss you.
August 30th, 2012
I try to squeeze these letters in whenever I can. I know there’s only been two so far but it gets difficult. There’s just so much going on and I don’t know how to process it all.
Today we decided to head over to Jens’ parents for a barbeque. Jens invited some of his friends so we went to pick them up. One of them, Tim, got into the passenger seat with a full bottle of beer that he’d been drinking and I told him he had to finish it before we drove anywhere. He didn’t understand and I explained that it was because of the laws, that it was dangerous to drink and drive. Tim was confused. He asked what was dangerous about it if he wasn’t driving. I said I didn’t know and that’s just how the law worked.
Everyone except for Jens laughed at me for a while after that. Apparently in Germany you can drink beer in the car as long as you’re not driving. I tried to explain to them that it wasn’t safe, that there was no way to tell if the driver hadn’t been drinking, too, that there was no way to enforce it and then there’d be drunk people on the road and there’s no speed limits, there’s no speed limits and they just let people drink in their car and it’s not safe and people die. They didn’t listen. They just laughed and drank their beers and you know what? at some point I had one, too. In a car. Drinking.
I’m pretty sure they think I’m crazy or some prude or something.
I learned a new word today: prōst. It means cheers.
I have to go. I’ll write soon.
September 7th, 2012
Today I was looking at a picture of when we were on the beach down in Georgia back when I was helping you move. I really like that one. You’re wearing this blue bikini and this big, stupid sun-hat that’s wider than most dinner trays. I have on my red swim trunks. We’re standing in the sand, not like the sand down in Florida, not that white, pretty sand, but the crappy stuff, the sand made out of seashells and rocks and dead fish bones. We’re arm-in-arm. Yours barely fits around me and I have you pulled close. You’re giving me this big kiss on my cheek. The ocean is behind us and I think I remember that day the surf was just massive, always trying to throw us back to the shore. It wound up stealing your hat.
Question: do you think if a seagull found the hat, he would wear it? I think he would.
Next question: if the surf in Georgia was pulling us back to shore was it telling us to stay home?
I asked Jens about the autobahn. He says that’s the name for that particular stretch of highway but it’s also just the word used to describe highways. I still think you’d like it. I hate it. It reminds me of you.
September 11th, 2012
I’ve been here for about three weeks now. I’m getting comfortable and my routine is pretty consistent.
In the morning I wake up and wander down to the bakery beneath our apartment. They have all sorts of pastries and bagels and breads but I have no idea what any of their names are so I just point at them. After me and Jens eat we do something with our day. Most days this involves going to his parents’, where we sit in the backyard and swim in the pool and eat barbeque. After that we go out at night with his friends (and I guess at this point they’re becoming my friends too). Jens usually turns in pretty early, around two or so. He always looks at me sadly when he does this. I like to stay out late, until four or five, usually with Julia and Tim.
Last night we were talking about the autobahn. I was trying to explain why it was dangerous, that having no speed limit just means that there are all these flying metal death-traps speeding down the highway putting all sorts of people in danger, that people would just try to go as fast as they can for the thrill of it, that they’ll race and try to beat each other to where they’re going. Julia told me that the statistics say the autobahn is actually safer than ordinary highways. I don’t think I believe her.
Tim and Julia started talking about their families. I went home after that.
Oh. New phrase for the day: ich vermisse dich. It means “I miss you.” I’ve actually known that one since I landed; I’ve just been thinking it a lot.
September 13th, 2012
I met a girl last night. Her name is Charlotte.
We were at Tim’s partying. His place is pretty big and there were tons of people. I was quiet, just trying to stay out of the way. This girl caught my eye. She has this big, bushy, blonde hair, sort of like Hermione’s. I really like her cheeks. They remind me of pillows.
Tim introduced us, I think he saw me looking at her and tried his hardest to get us together. Her English was crazy good. She studied abroad in India for a year and had been taking English since grade three.
We didn’t really hit it off at first. Like I said, I wasn’t feeling very sociable. She said some pretty funny stuff and I just didn’t really say much back. She ended up walking away.
I saw Jens talking to a girl. She was leaning in close to him, but he kept leaning away. When he saw me looking he turned away from her.
Later, the party was getting big. It was about three in the morning. I was having another conversation with Julia and Tim, this time we were talking about gun laws. They really couldn’t believe that we could just own guns. I tried explaining it to them but they weren’t having any of it. Life tip: when you’re talking to German people, don’t bring up Hitler. They hate that guy.
Anyway, I was going to the kitchen and I saw Charlotte. She was sitting on a chair, holding her foot—it was bleeding. I asked her if she was okay and she told me she just cut her foot on a broken beer bottle. I wound up carrying her to the bathroom. I don’t know much medically, but I’m still first aid certified back from when I was a lifeguard, that summer down in Georgia. I couldn’t find any hydrogen peroxide to disinfect the cut—it went pretty deep—so I found some vodka in the kitchen. Her hand squeezed into my shoulder and left marks as I cleaned out her wound.
I couldn’t find any gauze, either. I cut a towel into a few strips and tied it tight against the cut to stop the bleeding. I let her know that the wound would probably scar unless we could properly disinfect it. While I worked she told me about India, about how people there walk in the streets, that you can hardly drive anywhere without hitting anybody, that everyone packs into the streets like it was where they were supposed to live. I told her that in America people typically stay out of the streets unless they were driving or just walking across. I also told her sometimes there’s big, terrible accidents and sometimes people get hurt. I asked her how she felt about the autobahn and she told me that when she goes as fast as she can she feels like she’s flying, like she’s finally free and she can go anywhere she needs to and nobody can chase or catch her.
After the towel was tied and her foot was at least kind of clean I washed my hands. Charlotte asked if I would go home with her to make sure the bandages were okay and take care of her.
When we got back to her place I properly washed and disinfected her foot and re-bandaged it. Then we talked and kissed until the sky turned purple and then eventually orange.
I leave for the States in two weeks. This morning I made her pancakes for breakfast. She loved them. I’m confused. This is the part where you’re supposed to show up and tell me what to do. You were always good at that.
September 18th, 2012
Today Charlotte and I drove on the autobahn. I almost feel guilty for ditching Jens for a few days but I suspect he’s relieved to have me out of his hair for a while. I think I’ve been making him feel worse. I told Charlotte I didn’t want to go. She asked why. I couldn’t tell her.
I’m going to say this: I get it. I get why you like it and I get why Charlotte likes it. I get it. The trees blur past your window and you can’t see anything and the wind blows into the car and you hear everything, you hear the birds and the other cars and the sounds of construction on the other side of the road and the music, it all mixes into one big song, I get it. I get the swirls. I get them, I get the tree trunks and the asphalt and the other cars and the road signs, all pooling into this big painting, like the artist was trying to paint sixteen different scenes at once and wound up inventing a new color—I get it.
Eventually we stopped at a gas station and I got out of the car and wouldn’t get back in. Charlotte asked me what was wrong. I told her nothing. She asked me if I was upset with her. I said no.
That night we spent together, the first one, we talked about everything. Charlotte told me she has two sisters and a brother, all younger than her. Their names are Jasmin, Lisa, and Max. She told me Lisa is really smart and likes to read books, that Max loves airplanes, that Jasmin loves France and wants to live there when she’s grown up. Charlotte asked if I had any siblings. I told her no, I don’t.
What I should have said is: yes, I have a sister. Her name is Lorelei. Sometimes I call her Ror. She is twenty years old. She is a biology major and has a weird fascination with plants. She likes bad country music and loves to swim in the morning before she goes to class. I should have said that she lives in Georgia and she loves peaches. I should have told the story about how when we were kids we would fight over whether we watched Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon in the mornings and usually wound up watching both. I should have said that one night she drove home from a party and maybe she was drunk or maybe she wasn’t but that night she didn’t get home. I should have said that I wasn’t supposed to go on this trip alone. I should have said that I write her letters and they just sit in my suitcase because I don’t know where to send them. I should have said all of this and more and talked about her all night, but instead I am standing at the gas station saying: I have no siblings. I have no siblings. I am an only child.
September 27th, 2012
Jens, Charlotte, Tim, and Julia saw me off today.
Jens gave me something for you. It’s a necklace. Silver, I think. The pendant is a pomegranate tree. I’m going to put it in this letter; I hope you get it.
Tim and Julia gave me a quick hug. I spent basically the past month with them and Jens so I think they felt more obligated to see me off than anything. They told me if they ever came to America they’d visit. I actually believe them.
Charlotte cried. I didn’t think she would but she did. Her cheeks look like marshmallow when she cries. We only had two weeks together. How do you know how you feel about someone after two weeks? You and Jens had months and you guys never figured it out. We only had two weeks. She said she’ll try to visit me in the States if she can.
Eventually I told her about you. She says she wishes she could meet you and that she wonders how you’d like her. I think you two would have been friends.
Jens and I never talked, but I could tell with his hug he misses you.
I enclosed a photo of Jens for you. Also one of me and Charlotte.
I don’t know what I’m going to do with these letters. I don’t know why I wrote them. It just felt right. You were supposed to be here with me, you know? I hope wherever you are, they somehow get to you.
I hope you know that we miss you.