September; Austria:

Berlin tried its best to kill me and although I resemble humans I’m not of this earth; I’m from a planet long ago destroyed by the name of Krypton. My resistance to alcohol, nightlife and women are far greater than that of mere mortals; well…let me think about that last one a while longer.

 

When the bus shuttled across the tarmac to meet the humming jet for my next flight on this trip, longingly I wanted to remain in Berlin. Let’s stay another day? We can push the itinerary out! No! Dude if we stay longer we’ll have less time in Salzburg – and Austria’s a large component of this trip. Besides those German women are smart; if I’m exposed to them for another 24 hours I’m sure a shard of kryptonite will miraculously appear and then I’ll have to worry about applying for a work visa, future residency, a shotgun wedding and learning a new language. That escalated swiftly now didn’t it?

 

We’re approaching the landing strip and there’s a 360 degree panoramic view of glorious mountains, luxurious green spaces and clouds both thick and thin. How is this an airport? I admire how the city engineers drew this up when they were mapping Salzburg. I feel as if I’m going to a camping retreat of some sort.

 

I clap and whisper a prayer to God as I always do when I land safely on solid ground and power up my phone. A cool text from Sprint greets me, welcoming me to Austria and I check my messages to see if there are any new replies from Nina. The flight from Berlin was delayed and she and I were messaging up until I had to power off the phone. Her message explains that she’ll run home to charge her phone battery and drive back to pick me up.

 

As the staff lead us off the aircraft I take in the view and feel my lungs expand. That’s no exaggeration. My chest inflated, as if my lungs got an upgrade and went to higher level, similar to a video game achievement. The sinus pressure in my head and ears were released like the air from a tire and I truly thought I was on the verge of levitation. At least that’s what I was hoping to do. I still think I’m going to wake up one morning and fly; I want to be Superman. Don’t judge me, please; like you wouldn’t want superpowers.

 

I check my mobile: She’s waiting.

 

As I stop in my tracks and smile at the buffet my eyes are feasting on, an older couple smiles and I wave in response. I snap a few photos. This is how you greet visitors or locals to Salzburg? I like this.

 

We’ve all seen movies, television shows or other people have someone waiting for them at the airport, right? Isn’t that cool? I’ve always thought it was. Specifically, as in a person there as you enter the airport waiting for…you. Neat. I breeze through baggage claim as I’m reasonable enough to travel with one carry-on (with a backpack that collapses into it if needed) even though I’m on a month-long voyage. I don’t have time for extra weight. With my personality, if I felt my bag was too heavy I would either throw the extra clothing away or wash them and find a local church for a quick donation. I actually feel this bag could be lighter. I’m into my third week in Europe and I have shirts I have yet to wear.

 

As the automatic doors slide open I see a familiar face. “Seaaaan! Heyyyyy, you’re here!” We laugh, we hug. I thank her for coming to collect me from the airport to which she tells me to “shut up.” Yeah, that sounds like the drummer girl I met four years ago when we were both figuring out what the hell we were going to do in Los Angeles. Her, a talented musician looking to follow her career path away from her home; myself, a writer and actor chasing a purpose, happily, with New York City in my rearview mirror. Los Angeles is definitely a city that brings dreamers together. That should be the official slogan of the city tourism board.

 

She expresses herself in the most straightforward way; blunt and unapologetic. Intelligent, funny, kind and her accented English is a treat to the ears. Make no mistake she’s fluent although she’ll ask me if she’s expressing herself correctly. Like I created the English language; keep on talking Nina. Ha!

 

“It’s been four years since we were in the same place,” and she nods before laughing. Her maniacal driving forces me to tell her about it and she says she’s not “that bad” as if she’s aiming to convince herself. Ugh! I haven’t had to drive in over two weeks and I’m getting flashes of the assholes on the 405. I’m sorry Los Angeles; traffic on that slab of concrete bullshit will hasten my move back to NYC before anything else does.

 

We mention how glad we both are that we stayed present with one another. It wasn’t always consistent communication but we hovered around one another through our fb inbox. She’d send a message, I’d send a Motorhead song and we’d remain active, I would say, in each other’s lives. Months ago she sent a picture of the Hohensalzburg Castle with a caption that read, “Get your ass over here!” She should teach English. I remember getting the message and spitting my drink all over my laptop. It was worth it.

 

In the car she’s going from topic to topic, all over the place but under control at the same time and I just nod my head. Her hair’s dark again, letting go of her blonde look of years prior. She still has that weird smile and her eyes are as expressive as I remember. Bright. She laughs with her whole head and neck as I recall. This is familiar again, it’s like we left off at the hostel or when we were roaming Hollywood after leaving Denny’s on Sunset Boulevard because she just had to eat pancakes…again.

 

She doesn’t put up with bullshit and I think that’s the characteristic that resonated with me. I think I have to keep her in my life – or make the attempt to keep a line open to her. That was the most potent thought in my head once I left the hostel in LA. I’m not the type to stay present with people – a characteristic related to my upbringing – and it’s not that I pull away from those that matter, it’s just…I’m comfortable living my life without updating every one on every thing…for large chunks of time. As crass as it may sound, it doesn’t bother me if people I care about are upset over that. If they truly know me, they know me. They know that. We stayed in touch and it wasn’t the least bit weird when we were in the car, talking, after all these years.

 

We dropped my things off, went to pick up groceries, eat and then stroll around her neighborhood. This is crazy! We walk about five minutes from her apartment and the views are powerful, breathtaking. 

 

I haven’t been in town two hours and I want to live here. Or over there where the horses are eating…five minutes from Nina’s apartment. Oh, wait there are cows over there. We talk about deep, life, subjects and we’re blowing past all the superficial friendly talk and real substance is on the menu now. It’s seamless, it’s raw, it’s heavy, it’s funny…it is real.

 

As we walk along another path a kind stranger waves at me, specifically, obviously, as if he wants me to know he’s welcoming me to his country. Nina and I look to one another, I shrug my shoulders and then we both laugh. Without missing a beat, “Yeah, he thinks you’re a refugee.”

 

We both laugh, loud. “I’m American; I’m not here for your jobs!” This becomes a running joke for the remainder of my trip with Nina coming close to taping my mouth closed at every inappropriate public place that I utter it. With the way things are in the United States, I might have to seek refuge soon. I might be back in a few months for everyone’s jobs. Did everyone on the flight think I was a refugee? That charming couple on the runway that smiled at me?

 

Her skills as a tour guide are without peer. “Fortress, fortress, fortress, green, green, green…take pictures here or do whatever. You already paid me so let’s get on with this.” I’m so glad she’s a musician because she’d be an abysmal person to lead tourists. They’d get lost while she’d be drumming somewhere or eating noodles.

 

We’ve got a week to renew our friendship. I’m glad we didn’t lose touch. I’m glad we didn’t lose touch. She’s unique.

 

 

(This piece can also be viewed here.)

 

 

 

Published by Sthe writer