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A friend of mine once told me that someone once told her (there was a lot of telling, once) that, when you are abroad, you should find a café or a restaurant and go there enough that people start to recognize you, because it will make the foreign feel a little more like home. And today I realized that, without meaning to, I’ve done that here in Marburg.
Café Jornal is not far from the building in which we take German class. I went there before the rest of my program got here, that weekend day that I was by myself in the city, because I didn’t have Internet access in my room yet. They told me that I could use theirs and, when I couldn’t type the password on my computer (it involved an accent aigu, which apparently one cannot make on my computer when typing in a password), they changed the password for me (I looked that desper-‘net).
I’ve since been back several times to Café Jornal, both with kids from my program and by myself. And almost every time I go there I see an older couple, sitting by the window, each with a glass of Rosé.
I went to Café Jornal for lunch today. I went by myself so that I could read the new Junot Díaz book (and also so that I could eat Jägerschnitzel and drink a glass of red wine without being judged, because apparently I’m a twice engaged never married thirty seven year old who owns too many books and also a cat). And the couple with the Rosé was there, because of course they were. And I was looking at myself in the mirror (they have one of those very rectangular mirrors that runs around the walls, probably to make the bistro look bigger than it is), because of course I was, and I noticed that they were talking about me.
“We have seen you here before,” said the woman (auf Deutsch, natürlich).
“Yes. You come here very often.”
“Not very often. But often.”
“Very often. Where are you from?”
“From New York.”
“And what are you doing here?”
“I’m only here for two more weeks. Here I’m studying German. Then I go to Bremen.”
“To Bremen! And you study German?”
Pause. “You look like Lily Brett.”
“Yes, you do,” interjected the pretty blonde at the table behind the Rosé couple’s (a fellow lone diner, to whom I had felt a sense of kinship that was quickly eroding).
“You see! Lily Brett.”
She smiled and went back to her husband (or lover—I don’t know her life) and her Rosé. I smiled and went back to my book (after looking up Lily Brett, who, it turns out, is an Australian novelist, essayist, and poet who was born in Germany, in a displaced person’s camp, to Polish Jews, and now writes about her feelings on the Holocaust)(Lily Brett is now the second semi-famous person to whom I’ve ever been likened; the first was Lauren Bacall, but I think that was in reference to my voice).
They got up to leave a short while thereafter.
“I’ll see you soon,” I said, and smiled. The old woman beamed.
And that, Reader, is how, with two weeks to go, I realized that I have made Marburg, if not un-foreign, then something not entirely unlike it. Even if that something is “a place in which you’re recognized at a slightly stuffy but decidedly unpretentious bistro with good food and drink by a woman by a window, drinking Rosé.”