The quarantine stories, part 1: Love in the time of corona
All happy relationships are alike; each unhappy relationship is unhappy in its own way. – Leo Tolstoy
Tolstoy actually talks about families, but this is irrelevant now. For what I am about to tell you, the quote would serve me better if it said “relationships” instead of “families”. My literary ingeniousness thinks I have the right to alter quotes from Tolstoy, so please do not disagree.
Here is why I need this quote. I consider my relationship with Felix a happy one. Of course, we have our challenges; I sometimes shout hysterically at him to get the f*ck away from me, and he sometimes tells me I am a crazy bi*ch, but we are happy. Truly ordinary. Really.
Now, if we were to believe Tolstoy, then – since we have a happy relationship and all happy relationships are alike – then I assume, each and every happy relationship started with a train, broken electricity plugs, a book, psychiatric patients running away from a hospital, a religious cult, a porn star, a long-haired guy who still writes letters in the 21st century, and a girl who travels half a country to visit her sister. And apples. Maybe some shaking hands. And maybe even some faster-beating hearts.
If not, then you are not in a happy relationship. Or, Tolstoy is wrong. We know the latter one cannot be true, so yeah… there you go.
So, without further due, here is the story of how Felix and I met. The story is so beautiful it will make you forget of the coronavirus or your quarantine challenges. Or, it will make you roll your eyes. It is the same for me, I just need clicks and reads on my blog.
The quarantine stories, first edition: Meeting Felix
It was April, 2017. My year started off in the most terrible possible way and I desperately needed something beautiful to happen. I was still in a deep sorrow from loosing my beloved granddad and I did everything possible to take my mind off the sadness.
For me, there are always five activities that effectively alleviate my pain: talking with my sister, running, traveling, reading, and writing. Thus, back in April, 2017 – I did all of them simultaneously.
I resigned my job as a night newspaper deliverer (a job I took because I needed the money and because I anyways could not sleep much from all the sadness that pressed my chest) and took a train from Freiburg to Rostock where my sister lived and worked at the time. I mostly spend my time talking to her and running around the windy town. When I was alone and wanted to calm down, I would read and write. So, my healing was starting.
After Easter, I was in the train and on my way back to Freiburg. Reality was calling me back. I had to figure out when I will start my Physics master thesis and find a way to work once again. As I was sitting in the super-fast, super-modern German train, I wanted to use a plug to charge my phone. Somehow, though, the plug was not working. So, I decided to change my seat and move to a space where two seats are facing two other seats and there is a table between them.
I hoped that the plugs would be working there. I was, luckily, mistaken, because if they did – I might have kept on scrolling my facebook and twitter and missed the chance to now be stressed by all of Felix’s hoarding at home. That stress-free life would have been a true disaster!
Now, since I had no battery on my phone, I started to read. I have always known that books will change my life, but up to that point I was not aware how much. The train was approaching Frankfurt and new passengers were coming in. One of them was Felix and he asked me if the seat opposite me is free. I answered that it is, but also thought that even if it wasn’t, I would have made it free for him.
He had messy long hair, thorn-apart jeans, backpack open on three places, and a stained shirt. He gave me the general impression that he knew that he is in a train, but that it was all the same to him in which train it is. Naturally, since I am always stressed everything to be perfect, I found this easiness – almost carelessness – immediately attractive.
I thought I could talk to him, but I was shy. Plus, there was the fact I did not know German, so I just decided to continue reading and not embarrass myself with saying something like “I like the fact that you look like you have lived on the street for five to ten days”.
From time to time, I would lift my sight off my book just for a fraction of a second and would see that he is totally carried away into writing a letter. I found that so odd, yet so charming. The idea to still be dedicated to writing to those you care about, to leave more than just a text message on their phone. To create a memory, that they can touch, and see, and smell, and keep for as long as they want.
I was reading Taggers by Brandt Miles – one of the rare books I have rated with five stars on GoodReads. Looking back now, I am not sure if I rated the book, or the way the book helped me give my number to Felix, but it is all the same to me now.
The book features a group of patients who run away from a psychiatric facility. Abandoned and without proper medication, they become violent and form a religious cult of a sort. The culminating part is though when one of them falls in love with a porn star. Their relationship is rather odd and during one discussion about love, she shares that she has never been in love. After that, she adds:
You know, I never told you my bidding. And I know what is is now. Want to know what it is?
Okay – the man says.
I want you to make me fall in love.
Make you fall in love?
With you – she adds.
I’m serious – she says.
He says: with me!? How the heck am I supposed to do that?
You’ll have to figure it out if you want the prize.
He answers: why couldn’t it have been something really easy, you know, like discovering dark matter for instance!
Reading this sentence made me laugh so much, because as some of you know – dark matter is actually one of the biggest mysteries in modern physics nowadays. This will not continue as a Physics post, but in case you are interested why dark matter is actually important and mysterious, stay on my blog a little bit longer and read that here.
Now, back to my unprecedented behavior in the German train. Laughing when you are sad in general is a great idea, but not when you are among Germans. I mean, how dare I laugh loudly in a train, and disturb everyone!? I lifted my head off my book and mumbled a quiet “sorry everyone” and everyone went back to their business. All of them, except Felix, rolled their eyes judgmentally as they were going back to their “quiet mode”.
He asked me what was so funny and what I was reading. I knew the title would not mean much to him, but how do you tell a guy you have never seen before and who does not know how ordinary you are, that you are reading a book about lunatics, and mental disease, and religious cults, and a porn star, without sounding like a lunatic yourself? Well, there is no way. You tell the story and wait to see if he can handle it. If he can, he is the one.
Obviously, he handled it. Or, he pretended he did. He said “oh, okay…” when I described the book and quickly changed the topic, which must mean, my hair has been washed at the time and I must have shared a begging smile that said “bare with me, I read other books too. Normal ones. Like for example, on quantum mechanics and people talking to cats”.
We soon were talking more and more, and I was slowly relaxing. One of the last things we did before we said bye and exchanged numbers, was to eat some apples. He got out of nowhere some apples and asked me if I wanted some. I wanted to say no because I had this hypothesis that he has not washed them (which has proven correct, I still had to remind him always to wash the apples before eating), but he asked so nicely, that I decided to risk my life and take a bite.
Since I am obviously not Snow White, I am still alive. Also, Felix is no prince, but he is just perfect for me. We are like ying and yang, so terribly different, yet complementary to one another. In this difficult times, we find strength and support in one another and when times get especially hard, we like to remind ourselves of our happiest moments.
Until today, meeting Felix remains the biggest serendipity in my life. I am everlastingly grateful to the German Railway Service (guys, if you read this – I want discounts or free rides until I live because of this ad I am making for you), to my mother and grandmother for teaching me to love books, to investng in a kindle and for reading weird books. And for realizing how some of the saddest moments in our lives – like loosing a loved one – can sometimes lead to something truly honest and heart-warming.
In site of these troubling challenging times, I hope this principle will soon come into action in our lives. Until then, I will keep on updating my “The quarantine stories” category. By creating this category, I will try to share some happy and beautiful events from my life in order to take away your attention from the terrible news that engulf us at the moment. I hope that, by using my words, I will bring some color for you in these dark days, and remind you – as J.K. Rowling says – that “happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”.
And if this post made you cheerful in any way – feel free to spread the word. Felix and I would be happy knowing that our story warmed your soul. Who knows – maybe if people share it often enough – we will end up being surprised like on the picture below once again. Until our next write-and-read: stay healthy!