Wiesbaden in July and the park across my hotel — the one near the Hauptbahnoff — is filled with topless sunbathers drowsing. Languid, unabashed, content.
I’m walking to the city center to meet a friend, a former student, for dinner and a beer. I pass by another park, this one with a pond, geese and swans, and enormous oak trees that appear ancient, wizened even.
People know how to enjoy their open spaces here. An old couple sat on a bench. They’re dressed for church, only it’s a Tuesday. They’re a movie poster of sentimenatlity, of melancholy. A little boy runs into a gaggle of geese, dispersing them into a noisy mass of honking complaints. Only they converge again and this time the boy produces a chunk of crusty bread and has to be rescued by his mother as the geese attempt to overrun him.
I meet my friend at a place in the stadtmitte called Scotch ‘n Soda. It’s popular with expats and the military folks stationed at the nearby Kasernes. We grab a table outside, and quickly order local beers.
It’s been years since I’d seen him. He’s one of those rare continually affable people you only read about. That, combined with his all American boy handsomeness, made him quite popular with his fellow students.
He tells me that he’s married now and living a little further north of Wiesbaden. He and his wife are having a baby. She has German family. When he speaks of her he smiles involuntarilly, his eyes light up — even more so when he mentions the baby.
I know that feeling, I think. Knew that feeling.
We order food. Me, stroganoff, him a burger or something. He’s looking for work, and I offer up some ineffectual suggestions.
We’re interrupted by the table next to us — a boisterous gang of Americans are drinking their dinner from great liter-sized mugs. They’re from Alabama. They’re here to work on Blackhawk helicopters for the U.S. Army. One of them, a tall, thick redhead, laughs and I instantly forget how alone in life I feel in that moment.
Just to know that there are people like that in the world, where their presentness, their laugh could chase shadows away.
My friend catches my attention. He wants to talk more about his job prospects, his wife, and his baby to come and I listen as best I can. He’s the kind of guy that deserves good things in his life.
I glance at the redhead and give her names in my head. I hear her laugh, her Alabama drawl and I wonder if one of the burly guys at her table is her boyfriend or husband.
My friend and I finish dinner and drink scotches after. The redhead is gone and the table next to us is silent until and older couple — maybe even the couple from the bench — sit there and quietly discuss their orders in German. I wonder if I, too, was the kind of guy that deserves good things lin life.