A Moment in Time at the Hauptbahnhof

Main Train Station, Frankfurt, Germany ~ August 21, 2008                     

     German train stations are the pure essence of Teutonic order. We can almost hear some Frankfurt train stationFrau Kapitän shouting orders. In our choppy and disrespectful German-ese we joke: “Achten! Ze train vill be here at 9:42. You vill be here at 9:42. Ze train vill be gone at 9:43. Dis is ze vay, ze only vay.” We actually appreciate this sense of order, it becomes something on which we can rely when all else seems foreign. The stations are clearly laid out, ticket counters are obvious, platforms are systematic, even the people are orderly as they wait for the train that will arrive and depart exactly as expected – on time, every time.

Train travel is not like traveling by air. We might miss our train, let’s say we arrive at 9:45 and well, the train would definitely be gone. We discover there is really little to worry about as there will be another train headed in the same direction in 20 to 30 minutes. And if, per chance, we get on a train going the wrong direction, then we just get off at the next stop and start over in a new place. One cannot do that on a plane. We learn early in our travels that we will occasionally make these mistakes and decide not to let them fluster us.

OK, I have to admit, I really like being in train stations. There is a sense of excitement amidst the ordinary; one can be anyone going anywhere. The train engines echo in the cavernous stations, voices are muffled. Sights, sounds, smells – these sensations intermingle to create vignettes that transform from the known that is ‘here’ to the possibility of ‘there’.

We arrive early as we prepare to leave Frankfurt for our trip to Kassel. More than enough time for a leisurely cup of coffee and to enjoy being at the station, so I pull out the “Creativity” envelopes and have Richard go through the selection process, which he does begrudgingly. I created the ‘Inner Child’s Creativity’ game because I was afraid we would take this trip and miss moments if we didn’t do something that made us think and do activities out of the ordinary.

“Ah, good! You chose one you will probably like: ‘Café Sitting’.” I say. Richard rolls his eyes totally unconvinced as he chooses one of the cards held out to him.  I read, “Café Sitting – Make up a story about someone around us.”

We look around, sip our coffee, observe, and then create our stories. In what seems a very short while Richard begins, “OK, I’m done. The man at the bar…”

The man appears young, somewhere in his twenties. He is neatly dressed in a suit and tie, but obviously not married as his collar is not pressed and his tie doesn’t match his suit. A good wife would catch that.

He waits for something…not someone…something. Maybe he is just killing time, maybe killing is central to what he does, who he is. Although young in appearance, he could be older and could be one of the German Secret Service Agents. He does have the features one would expect of a James Bond 007 Germanic-type, but handsome, in a Teutonic way; blonde, square jawed, solid.

It is obvious that he leads a life of crisis, he doesn’t know if he wants to stay with the Service or become a hat maker.

“A hat maker!” I exclaim in baffled amusement.

“Shh, you’re interrupting my story”.

He doesn’t know if wants to stay with the Service or become a hat maker. It is all those failed relationships in his life, a life of turmoil; maybe it would be easier to just make hats.

He waits, it seems endless; sometimes life can be so tedious. He yearns to be his own man. Secretly he wishes Germany would regain its Nazi glory, then there would be a real need for the Secret Service.

The man leaves now.

Ah, as I look at him again…yes, I see it now, no, perhaps I am mistaken. Yes, I am sure, without a doubt; he is just an ordinary man.”

“Wow. Honey. For someone who dislikes these little ‘Creativity Cards’ you put together a really good story.” In honest admiration “Such a gift,” then guilt and perfection creeps in, “I have to worker harder on my stories.”

“OK, now give me yours.”

“I can’t, I’m not done writing it, give me a couple more minutes.”

“Get busy; you know we can’t be late for our train.”

“No pressure; it stifles the creative juices! Would you mind getting me another cup of coffee please, maybe that would help?”

By the time he comes back I’m deep in to my story, a sip of the coffee and a mumbled “thank you” and then I am with my story again until Richard gives me the ’two minute’ warning. So I finish my story. He sits back as I start …

Frankfurt - train station man in loungeGood God, what am I doing here? At least it is warm and the busyness of noise drowns out my thoughts so that it just might be possible to capture a few moments of sleep on this hard plastic chair and dirty Formica table. I really messed it up this time. Klaudia…I thought we were so happy together. (Sigh.)

We had had this discussion a thousand times before but this time it turned ugly. We both said hateful, hurtful words that now are seared on my mind and leaden in heart. What did she call it…my ‘dangerously disappointing and exasperating dreamer’s approach to life’? I shouted at her, “What the hell does that even mean? Can’t you just be happy with who I am and stop trying to make me into someone else?”

She recoiled, “you are going nowhere with your life, you work part-time in a coffee shop, we’re living in a Soviet era rabbit box apartment, AND “ she was on a roll now “you seem to be content with all of this!”

I just looked at her, who was this stranger? What happened to my once carefree Klaudia? I wondered who this person before me was. My only response sounded feeble and pitiful even to me, “I’m sorry; I thought we were happy.”

She shook her head, “Wolfgang, happiness is a fickle façade for people who refuse to accept that life is not meant to be easy.” She hesitated “I don’t know how…I can’t do this…I can’t take on raising you in your fairy tale world.”

“So, that’s it?” I said as she slammed the front door on her way out.

Nothing else to be said, I went to work. When I returned home, she was gone. All that was left was a note: ‘Happily ever after’ is a lie we tell children, isn’t it? Maybe time to grow up is needed.’

The note fluttered lifeless to the floor. I left, with Klaudia gone there was nothing there for which to stay. That was days ago. I don’t even know where I am going, mostly wandered…nowhere, and now here I am at another train station. I’m just so tired, tired of it all. Maybe I’d think better if I had a decent meal, a decent night’s sleep, a decent shower, a decent home, friend, lover…life.

How can I love someone so much who pisses me off so much at the same time? For God sakes, is it so bad to believe that life might still have some of the magic of a fairy tale, that there is value in innocence, that there is such a thing as child-like hope, and, for Christ’s sake, that even today people can live ‘happily ever after’?

On second thought, thinking of our own Brothers Grimm; fairy tales aren’t all goodness and light. There’s a lot of darkness, meanness, the boy doesn’t always get the girl and sometimes the girl is definitely not what the boy really needs. But even though the Grimm fairly tales are well…grim, there was always something more, some lesson, some hope, some direction…

Wolfgang lifted his head and said out loud, “I’m living a freaking fairy tale.” And he laughed.

Later Richard and I will board our train, and I will imagine the disheveled young man waiting on Platform number three, a smile on his face as he looked towards the dawning day.

      Richard looks at me. “That’s it?”

“Um hmm.”

“But is he going to go back to Klaudia? Where’s he going?”

“I don’t know; it doesn’t really matter. What would you have him do? Where do you want him to go?”

Richard sighed as we headed to our train. I looked back at the sleeping young man and whisper “Now is the time…go live happily ever after.”

The End

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About richardandlisa

Richard is the photographer, typically. Lisa is the writer, typically. We've both been know to cross-genre...is that allowed?
This entry was posted in Sabbatical 2008. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Moment in Time at the Hauptbahnhof

  1. Terry Ostermiller says:

    What a fun thing to do while waiting around, wondering what you can do to fill the time! Sounds like two books waiting to happen! Terry You must use your inch of time in your yard of space. (Robert Shaw)

    On 3/10/14 6:18 PM, “picturethiswritethat” wrote:

    > richardandlisa posted: “Main Train Station, Frankfurt, Germany ~ August 21, > 2008 German train stations are the pure essence of > Teutonic order. We can almost hear some Frau Kapitn shouting orders. In our > choppy and disrespectful German-ese we joke: A” >

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