I arrive in Hamburg and I feel like a bird let out of a cage. My night was severely uncomfortable and restless. I think I slept maybe a total of two hours. I woke up at one point with my facedown in my own lap. I’m a little surprised nobody thought I was dead.
The plane to Frankfurt had been delayed and my next flight to Hamburg was supposedly in a half an hour. Run. I made it through customs and I got to the gate and studied my surroundings. There wasn’t any flight crew at the gate though a small line was forming. After 15 minutes I asked the english speaking couple in front of me if they too were also heading to Hamburg. They shook they’re heads and said they were headed elsewhere. Everyone at this gate was. Shit.
I see another empty gate and stop part of the flight crew to ask if they knew which gate my flight had been switched too. A woman wrote on my ticket, 30A. 29 gates away from where I thought I was to be with 15 minutes to spare.
Shit shit shit.
My already sweaty, blistered feet started running with a desperateness I can only relate to when in the tenth grade I had to challenge my phs Ed class by running 10 laps around an oval without stopping. I see police with rifles and I freeze. If I’m running am I a target? I walk quickly past the police and once out of sight continue running. I get to 30A and I might actually pass out. The jet leg and lack of sleep has me dizzy and my heart doesn’t even feel like it belongs in my own body anymore it beats recklessly so. I ask some staff here if this is the flight to Hamburg. It is not. It’s been switched again to 34A. Mother.
I take off running again and for a second I feel like I could be on the amazing race and then in the next second I doubt that heavily as I am so out of shape and I hate games.
I get to gate 34A and ask the woman at the counter if this is the flight to Hamburg. She glares at me and points to a sign. “Can’t you read?” She asks in a heavy german accent. I look where she’s pointing and it is my flight. And it too is delayed. Phew. I find an empty seat with the flight attendants and try to steady my breathing. What am I doing here. What. Am. I. Doing. A tall handsome man in front of me is speaking English and his voice is comforting. I calm down and my breathing evens.
The flight crew starts boarding the plane and my seat is so spacious and comfortable I am beyond relieved. The man with the comforting voice sits next to me. We hit it off really well and chat lightly and take pictures throughout the hour-long flight. He’s American and he’s here doing an art tour. He has an art blog. I tell him I’m here to see a friend and I too have a blog – hey hey.
We land in Hamburg and my heart is beating so hard I feel as though it is visible. I remind myself that even if something terrifies you and makes you throw up your so afraid that it’s good. It’s good to get thousands of miles outside your comfort zone. It’s good to push yourself hard so that you can grow.
I see a small sign that says at which trolley I am to pick up my luggage. I get there and it’s not moving. I see a terminal where so many faces are waiting to greet their loved ones. My heart lurches and I want to run to the terminal. Fuck my bag I don’t want it. Oh wait, yes I do everything I own is in it. I stand with everyone else and listen to everyone’s german. I understand nothing. I keep glancing at the terminal and back at the trolley. It starts moving. Everyone starts cheering and clapping. I think we all anxiously expect all our bags to come pouring out, about 20 of them do. And then nothing. There’s about a hundred of us left waiting.. watching the empty carousal. We trade looks and try to be patient. A few storm off to try to track their bags. One lonely bag pops out. I march off towards baggage claims with them and walk by the terminal again. This is so frustrating. I walk by a smoking booth and deeply inhale the second-hand smoke. I just want to be done with airports and strangers. I stand in line and listen to languages I cannot understand. People swarm around me and try to get in front of me. The line grows longer and something in me says to go back to the carousal. I leave the line up.. And walk by the crowd of eager faces again. I try to ignore them and make my way back. There is maybe 10 hopeful people still watching for their bags. There is nothing. A purple bag comes out. Wait a second I have a purple bag. That is my purple bag!! THAT’S MY BAG! This had to be one of the most luckiest moments of my life. I cherish the rare moment and triumphantly make my way to the exit terminal, towards the eager waiting faces.
Suddenly I have a wave of fear, what if I took too long and he’s left. What if I look up to the faces and I don’t see his. I can’t bear to look at anyone with this sudden fear and fake confidence. I throw my shoulders back and pick my chin up. I walk without making eye contact and look past the people. I’m just going to keep walking like this until..
I’m sideswiped by Luca and I drop my purple bag and am met with one of his great big, warm hugs. I cannot describe the relief of seeing him. Pieces of his soft, grey sweater are in my mouth and I nervously try to brush them away. “How was the flight?” He asks. I almost don’t answer I’m taken aback by how different he looks. “You look different.” I dumbly respond. We walk outside the airport, to the street and towards a big parking lot.. and up to an army green Volkswagen van. “This isn’t yours is it?” I ask. “It is! This is my car.” We get it in and I can’t believe I’m sitting in a Volkswagen van again. It feels good and smells just like the two I used to own.
We take off and I’m taken aback at Luca’s driving. The roads and traffic seemed hectic and unknown to me. Brick buildings quickly pass us by on either side and he calmly drove through it as if it were nothing. A small part of me waits for the strike of being in another accident. I think a small part of me always will. I chat nervously and find myself going on and on with questions for him and nervous, random comments. I put on some music and the speakers sound so much better than the ones I had in my vans.
“How do I look different?” Luca asks, dark eyes meeting mine. “You look like you lost weight.. and your hair is different.” I point out the obvious. “I did lose weight when I came back from Canada,” he replies. I’m pretty sure I gained whatever it was he lost, so I jokingly tell him so. We drive from Hamburg to Lübeck and I can’t stop nervously talking. We pass through neighbourhoods of beautiful brick buildings and houses. Finally we pull into a tiny driveway to the most quaint little brick house I’ve ever seen.
We walk inside and the air is cool and fresh. I take off my shoes and quickly ask where the bathroom is. I go inside and wash my severely blistered feet. I come out and we go out to the garden where Luca’s mother is working. On arriving I was so nervous to meet her and on meeting her all my nervousness washed away. She was so sweet, kind and happy, I felt so warmly welcomed by them both. Luca showed me the house which was absolutely ephemeral, like something from a dream. It was so much bigger on the inside then it looked on the outside. I took a shower, which was absolutely glorious after thirty some hours of travelling. I felt tired but didn’t want to give in to sleep yet. We made dinner together and we ate by candlelight. I nursed a beer and felt my eyes glaze over with exhaustion. Luca kept asking if I wanted to go to bed because I looked so tired. Finally I agreed. We went up a creaky, wooden spiral staircase. It felt like we had so much to catch up on and at the same time our energy together was akin to the feeling of drinking 20 cups of coffee. Finally in the wee hours of the next morning I drifted off.
For two hours.
I awoke at four in the morning feeling wide awake. I came downstairs into the early morning light and sat on the couch. After a bit I felt ridiculous and decided to go try to sleep again. Birds starting singing around five in the morning and the smell of lilacs and new leaves came through the open window. All of the sudden I was a kid again, the birds and smell were the same, the feeling was the same. I drifted off heavily into the afternoon.