It rained my first day in Bonn. I was stuck at the train station. My phone cards didn’t work. Or I was too dumb to figure them out. Bulked down by a giant suitcase I had to tip and roll, I went in and out of the station’s stores, soliciting assistance. Tellers contracted politely away. Ich spreche kein Deutsch.
Back at the platform a woman loaned me her cell and friends soon scooped me in their compact VW. An apartment. Babies. Bright lights. Stories of hard day at the office. Toddlers crashing into knees requesting beads, dollies, cheese and apple juice. I sat on the floor. They crawled over their friend from Canada and laughed at my French accent.
Finalement, l’heure de la sieste.
With directions folded into my wallet I left the house. I didn’t have far to go. Past the castle. Past the flawlessly aligned corridor of trees and cordoned greens. Past the pond, where even the ducks nested bucolically beneath a footbridge, and there—. A statue of Beethoven in a square. A toy store where Pinocchio’s elephantine nose peaked over the cobbled street. A downtrodden pastry shop where old people hunched over their hands to maw almond croissants, sandwiching brown paper bags under their armpits, exhaling against the glass. A cumbersome series of grabs. The bags, the windows, their collective respirations fogging before their faces. They wore calf-length trench coats and lumpy hats. A staggered reiteration of costumes, replicas of morose retirees out of a Kafka bureaucracy.
Rain reappeared. It was not the pitter patter kind of rain, but that smearing against the windows kind. Like the cluster at the windows, I ate my almond croissant. Despite its dense sweetness, I ate it. I had said I would eat it. I sat on a plastic seat attached to a plastic table. I didn’t want to give up my spot to one of the old folks who shifted uncomfortably from one stout heel to the next.
Wait. I was eating an apple something. Strudel. The almond croissant was another day. The next day. And I watched the people in the pane and the rain falling over Beethoven’s statue and chewed and swallowed and felt like an idiot. You know when you are got. When you see that you’ve been childish and for a while you just feel shitty about not knowing that you were so stupid—you don’t want to think of yourself capable of being so stupid. I don’t want to throw around a word like shame. It’s too biblically punishing. Regret is too nostalgic, etched in old-lady handwriting, too fine. I sat there thinking neither of those words, just—I am such an asshole. When the rain stopped I vacated my seat and was immediately replaced. I followed the directions from my wallet in reverse back to the apartment.