I wrote this short story for my Comparative Central European Literature class. It was not for a grade. I wanted to share it in the form of a blog, because some short stories grow when they're written down, and things that grow must be shared. This is a great, small tapestry of my true encounters with Europeans. My friend from home refers to each person's story on Earth as a contribution to the great "tapestry" of life. Adopting that analogy, I am certain that this little story is a gleaming corner or strip or tassel of that tapestry. It is possible because other pieces of thread got intertwined with mine– often more than once.
I am wearing your grandfather’s weathered coat, the one he wears in the winter, when your family goes to the middle of country to visit him, the one he keeps on even inside. It’s been snowing for close to a week now, you’ve been told. It feels like the first snow of the year to you, though, and you are so pleased to be inside. I am sitting in your grandfather’s chair, too. My feet are propped up low on the worn leather ottoman whose claws dig into the rug. I am not entirely casual in posture; I’m just settling in for a long night. I also have your grandfather’s wooden pipe popping out the corner of my mouth. My eyes are tenderly pointed at you.
It becomes apparent that a story is about to unfurl, as the fire between us cracks higher. You’d better settle in and take a seat in that floral upholstered chair opposite me:
There is a girl sitting on the bench that waits for the 46 Straßenbahn this morning. I am about to be so late to German class. She is probably about 27, maybe 30, but I’ll call her a “girl,” because the color of her hair reminds me of a cinnamon roll. I left my tram ticket at home. Her hair emits the same glazed sheen that tops one of those rolls, too. I am new here, but I know that if I am caught without my ticket, I could be charged 100 Euro. This girl also carries that sweetness in her throughout the next 15 minutes that I know her. I greet her in jumpy German, and we hop on the tram together. When I ask her if I can purchase a ticket on the tram, I realize that I have forgotten my wallet at home. In the midst of the eager crowd, on the tram, in the sun, with my anxiety surrounding, she sifts through her purse to grab coins and purchase me a ticket for the ride. I calm to a stop when she hands me the ticket. Anxiety rode me that morning. We converse about where we’re from, and I thank her for her kindness. We part ways, in the sun, near the Museums Quartier, in Vienna, with my gratitude surrounding. Her cinnamon ponytail is absorbed by a crowd of business in the city, and I go to school late.
Close to two weeks later, my roommate and I venture through our new city home. We take all side streets and avenues, uncovering parks and food and people. When we reach Dr. Karl Renner Ring, we see a man in a wheelchair with a beard and beanie. He wears a moon smile. It’s enchanting how glad he is to see us when we say hello. My roommate tells me that he is always there sitting, and I wonder where I have been for the past three weeks.
Nearing the end of the next week, I have just boarded the shuttle bus from Santa Maria Novella Train Station in Florence to the airport. This bus only comes every half hour, at the half hour, on the dot. The bus driver is about to rev the engine back up and have us on our way, and a woman knocks on the glass paned door. His quick hand yanks the door open to let her in. It is apparent she is running incredibly late: her mouth is reaching for air, and her suitcase is weeping behind her. She offers her credit card to the driver to pay him for her pass, but he cannot accept credit at his tiny station behind the wheel. She needs cash. Of course I want to help her and offer her the 7 Euro needed for this ticket, but I might need that cash for dinner. I have spent far too much money on prosciutto and mozzarella sandwiches this trip. It’s absurd. I heavily consider keeping my money to myself. This would have been the most viable option, had that girl just kept her coins to herself on that tram ride weeks ago. The woman is about to leave the bus to get cash and probably miss her flight, and so I say, “Wait! I’ve got this for you.” She runs to the back to put her huge suitcase on the rack, and then she trudges back to me on the swerving bus. She thanks me in the lightest way; such grace. We offer each other tidbits of our adventure stories. I take notes to remember where she stayed, so I can bring my mother back. When our conversing slows, she asks for my notebook. And later, when I took a look at it, I find her information written down for me next to a 60% off discount for UGG. She has told me that she is a top manager for the company in London. She tells me how kind I have been, and I cannot take it. I have only shared a sweetness bestowed upon me on a tram in Vienna. We part ways with the sun in our faces at the check-in in the airport in Florence.
This last week, I am panting somewhere between the 16th and 18th districts to find the 10A bus. It should be right off the 46, but children are passing in flurries, and I know a storm of businessmen is crowding in the distance. I need to get to my internship at the Gymnasium, and I’m going to be late. Two girls with wispy young hair are closely chatting on the corner. They direct to me to the bus, and when they send me the wrong way, they are sure to search me out again to get me pointed in the right direction. I am sure they’ve made themselves late to ensure my timeliness. I arrive at the school 30 minutes late, but I arrive. That night, I am floating on post-class warm air. Everyone in the first district is roaming home. We are awaiting the promise of Wednesday morning, because that means Thursday, then Friday, follows. I am approaching Dr. Karl Renner Ring with fervor. I see that lunar smile shining, and I high-five the man in the wheelchair. I ask him how he’s doing, and he fiddles with his stuffed animal to show me that he’s glad. I feel people’s gazes closing in on me. It doesn’t seem that people talk to my friend in the chair on Tuesdays. I look up to gaze at the troop around me, who waits to march home. There is one girl who is staring at me so intently, I have to look away. I engage with my friend again, and now we’re both laughing and so glad. The girl continues to sear me with a blue flame. She will not drop her eyes from my face. I look up again, and she says, “So you made it?” It is one of the girls who helped me find my way that morning. She smiles at me, and I come closer to rejoice with her. We both made it to school that morning, and now we’re going home. We part ways as she hops on the train, as the sun dims, and I hear the moon laugh in the distance.
My bus home stops in front of me and I hop on. I am raging with contentment that I am not alone in this city. I accidentally whack the man next to me with my backpack and he groans in a knowing way, American students…my city…go home. The bus slows to a stop. Cinnamon hair drawn up into a steady flow sweeps in front of me. The girl turns around, says “Hallo,” and steps off with a smile pointed at me. We part ways in the dimming light of the city. I wait for the bus to carry me home.
Here we are, in your family home in the country. It’s snowing outside. A flurry knocks at the glass paned window. We have so much. I look at you drowsily, and you nod. “Sleep,” you say. We’re home.
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<p>Hello, hello! I'm Lauren Franklin, and I'm a junior at the University of San Diego. I'm an English major with a minor in psychology, and I'm trying to squeeze in as many theology and art classes as I possibly can. I would love to be the sort of student who's constantly found in the library studying away, but that's not always the case here: What bring me the most joy are grand stories, fresh produce, the green rolling outdoors, and creating and learning with friends who want to venture out together.</p>