This excerpt was originally written and posted on my previous blog March 2, 2012
It was a rainy night in Dusseldorf. Strangers sloshed past the café , anonymous black umbrellas shielding them from the icy drops. Occasionally, a splash of color would run by, a red, yellow, maybe orange umbrella adding a bit of sunshine to a night that insisted on gloom.
Gratitude and happiness showered me within the protected confines of the café. Logic insisted I should not be happy to be away from my family when walls were tumbling down little by little every day. With each labored breath and guttural cough, Grandfather was closer to death, spending more time sleeping in what use to be mine and David’s bedroom. Nurses came more frequently while Shirley spent more time keeping vigil so that I could work, the girls could have their childhood and David could do whatever David was doing these days. A different logic, the one that I accepted frequently because it suited my selfish needs, was that we were already a family separated by circumstances. A couple days away would not make a difference. Besides this was my job.
The restaurant blog I began contributing to, months before Grandfather got sick, sent me. The distance could be farther. I could be in Germany. Instead, I am in an imposter Dusseldorf, miles from civilization tucked away in central Missouri. Bought and paid to sit in the Skandalös Café doing nothing more but judging the Potato Pancakes and Weiner Schnitzel.
“That coffee isn’t going to keep you warm if you don’t drink it.” Yves’ voice resuscitated my wandering thoughts bringing me back to the moment.
I picked up the napkin lying in front of me, precisely folding, purposely hiding the restaurant‘s moniker. English translation? Scandalous. “I like iced coffee, especially the cheap version they sell at the QuikTrip.”
Yves held out his hand motioning for me to pass him my napkin triangle. He studied it intently.
“Napkin hockey?” He playfully flicked the triangle back to me. It sailed over my shoulder and landed at the feet of an unappreciative patron. The man shook his head, “Uncivilized.”
We giggled. A carefree, girlish sentiment hugged me. Our eyes meeting, I tried to hold onto that feeling, but little by little I felt it dissolving like the sugar in my coffee. What was I doing? Was I pretending? Substituting? True to my vice, I couldn’t let it go. I couldn’t let this moment be.
“What are we doing?” I asked.
Quick with the wit, always finding the humor, he sighed heavily, tipping his chair backwards, his hands firmly on the table in front of him. I expected an obvious answer. He replied differently. “I don’t know.”
Uncertainty is treacherous, creating fragility out of otherwise obvious moments. Obviously, I should have taken his uncertainty as a clue to neutralize the situation. A less dysfunctional person would have walked away. But at that moment when uncertainty presented me with choices I knew I was going to choose the wrong one. That was certain.