The moment I stepped off the plane in Berlin, I knew I was overdressed. Maybe it was the pink cupcake hat that my sister knitted for me, or maybe it was the trousers and t-shirt, but if it was so hot at 7 PM, then midday was going to be a disaster. I walked slowly from the gate to the luggage carousel, praying that my friends hadn’t decided to surprise me at the gate with their presences, or a big hooplah. “Please let them not meet me at the gate” I chanted mentally, hoping that no one would be there to see me in my traveler’s state, unslept the night before and having traveled all day. I was sweaty, tired, and disheveled–not in good shape to face people I hadn’t seen in years, and specifically not the boy who broke my heart.
And there at the gate, was Philip. He threw me a peace sign, and I sighed as I waited at the carousel for my luggage, thankful that I had some time to gather my wits before being confronted with Joris and Jona. (Philip, I could handle. Philip has pulled me out of several scrapes in the past, and I would follow him into hell. But Jona takes lots of mental energy and Joris… Well, suffice to say he’s always been heart-achingly beautiful, and now full of emotional baggage.)
So I gathered my bags and met them outside the gate, where we exchanged somewhat awkward hugs and even more awkward small talk. I momentarily registered (or possibly imagined) a flicker of shock across their faces, a momentary lack of recognition, a “Who are you and what have you done with the girl we saw four years ago?” (No, it totally wasn’t the 30+ pounds I’d gained since 2006. It was totally the cupcake hat). I quickly convinced myself that if I didn’t imagine it, it didn’t matter anyway because there wasn’t anything I could do about it. And so we pressed on through the airport. I carried my own bags.
We sat together on the bus, still making awkward small talk about weather and travel. My friends, as handsome as they have always been, spoke sometimes German and sometimes English, and I answered them in English (my German, as yet, too rusty from time and travel to be functional. Throughout the bus ride, listening to them, I could practically hear my mind screaming with effort, trying to shift back into the long-disused second tongue.) Jona talked about a cake he was planning to make, something that required no baking and included mango, and before long we parted ways, Philip and I continuing on the subway and Joris and Jona on the bus.
Philip departed a short way into our subway trip, and I was left alone on the subway.
It was time to reaquaint myself with the city of my heart.