A ray of sun touches my closed eyes. I let it caress my eyelids for some moments before opening my eyes directly on the bluish timetable ahead of me. My train to Stuttgart is scheduled as it should. No need to worry. I will arrive in Bucharest as planned. My voyage to Alsace has come to an end. I’m leaving France behind me. It’s been an extraordinary experience, but I want to return to my homeland…
I’m sitting on a bench inside the Strasbourg main railway station. It’s warm and cozy. Then, out of the blue, the reality flickers around me and, in the empty seat next to me, I perceive the presence of someone I know for a long time. My friend is there.
“It’s a nice day to go back, isn’t it?”
“Yep, I have high hopes for Romania. It’s been difficult here, quite a lot of work and no time for love or real enjoyment of life. But things are about to change, as I’m returning back to the country where I feel like a landlord, not like a tolerated auslander. My mind is bursting with new ideas and great future plans. I shall see my friends in Cluj, I shall find love and lay the foundation of a family, I shall develop professionally and, who knows, perhaps I shall pursue an university career – you know how much I like to teach the others… Future looks bright!”
My friend smiles at me. But something from his smile isn’t right. It’s a smile full of compassion rather than genuine joy.
“I’m happy for you and that you finally managed to know what you want in your life. However… your time is limited. We made an understanding long time ago, can you remember?”
I blink several times… I can’t remember. I look puzzled at him.
“You’re not on your own in this life. I would compare your path with a large road; you can take the right side or the left side, you can walk on the highest part or you can bump into many holes; you can go astray or you can find shortcuts – and this depends entirely on your skill. But there are certain check-points along your path, at certain moments in time. You have to be there, at that particular moment. This is part of our agreement.”
“What exactly are you trying to tell me?”
“Well, even if you think you’re returning home, this is true only for a period of time. I am granting you 992 days from this very moment. You are free to experiment what you want, you are free to do whatever you want, meet whoever you want, but 992 days from now on we shall meet at this very same place. You have an appointment!”
“Don’t do that, please!”
“It’s part of our deal, unfortunately. You will be needed somewhere else 992 days from now on. You will find out what’s all about at that respective time, when we meet again.”
My soul is full of sadness. Another departure, another returning… It takes me a couple of moments to digest the sudden turning point of my plans.
“Are there other appointments during this time?”
“Yes. You have to meet a couple of people. They already had their appointments booked with you and, unknowingly, you’ve already booked yours. They have to be there for you and you have to be there for them. You also have appointments with a couple of great authors; don’t worry if some of them are dead, you will have your rendezvous with the books they wrote before their death. Then, you also have some meetings with parts of yourself: at the beginning of this period you will meet love, intimacy, pleasure and so on, and to the end of your period you will meet sickness, despair and death. You kept postponing meeting your emotional side and your bodily side, so your encounters with them will be devastating for you. Pretty much the entire period you will fight both the outside world and your inner mind. To the end of your time, you will not be able to make sense of anything, so you’ll arrive at our meeting utterly bewildered.”
I look closely to my friend. He says everything in a detached manner, just like a child’s play. Now he’s silent and his eyes focus on the timetable. The train arrives. I have to go.
“Thank you for talking to me! This is devastating news. I thought that my life will go in a different direction, but a promise I made long time ago is still a promise… However, I still have one last wish before my departure… It is not much and I would be grateful if you would grant it…
Since there is such a struggle ahead of me, I ask you to make me forget our discussion during the remaining time until our next meeting. I want to live life as if it would last forever; I want to love without knowing I’m only a couple of days left. I want this illusion to last as much as possible.”
“What you ask is so typical for all human beings… they all like to indulge in the fantasy that they will live forever… I will however grant you oblivion, but only to a certain extent. During the last moments prior to our next meeting, you will remember everything: our discussion, the purpose of your mission and you will have time to say your goodbyes.”
The train has arrived. The seat next to me where my friend sat is empty. It’s time to go home.
I say farewell to Strasbourg. I’m sure I will never return here, as I have a bright future ahead of me and a flourishing life in Romania. Nothing can stop me now.