Déjà vu

May 02, 2011

I collect memories.

This is the story of one of my favorite ones. It’s the best kind of story: the one that doesn’t have an ending yet. It’s about character, and it involves two cities, two airports, and two friends.

The first city is Tampere, Finland. The time is 2006 and it is the last night of my Erasmus year. It’s 4 a.m. after a terrific Brazilian dinner, and it’s time to leave. Everyone else has left already and when I stand up, I immediately feel the wine in my head. There have been too many glasses, and everything around me seems to move in slow motion. Still, it’s time and I need to keep moving. I pick up my luggage, adjust my tie, and I mentally prepare to leave the flat for the last time. I’m exhausted and drunk, but it’s time.

Then I feel an easy hand on my shoulder. When I turn around, Daniel is still there. He has been there since the beginning. He’s just as tired and drunk as I am, but he’s still there. He’s holding my tennis racket for me, and smiles widely as he walks me out of the flat. We close the door and go out on the street together, where a taxi is waiting to take me to the airport. Behind we leave a place that we have filled with many great memories over the last year.

Daniel doesn’t live there anymore. He moved to the city center about four months earlier, but he wanted to keep me company on my last night, and he decided that it should be something special. He cooked dinner, a Brazilian traditional recipe, and he made sure that we would have enough red wine to last the entire night. We ate, drank and talked, and now it was time to say goodbye. This is a tough moment for me, the end of the Erasmus and going back to my life as I knew it, but somehow having Daniel besides me makes it right. He was the first person I met in Finland. It was only fitting that he would also be the last.

He will still spend a couple more months in Finland before flying back to Brazil, and we have agreed to meet in Spain before he leaves, so we both know that it’s not really a goodbye. Not yet anyway. It is with that small comfort that we hug each other and shake hands for the last time, just before I get into the taxi and head to the Tampere Airport.

The second city is Berlin, Germany, and the time is now. As I type these lines I’m in a Lufthansa flight, heading back to Madrid after spending a weekend there with Daniel. I hadn’t seen him since August 2006, when I got to show him a little bit of Spain, including Madrid and my home town, Plasencia. When he emailed me a few months ago because he was planning a trip to Europe and asked if we could meet, it was a no-brainer. It took us a while to work out our schedules, but there was never any doubt that we would meet somewhere in the Old Continent.

I arrived in Berlin on Friday afternoon. He had been there for a couple days already so he offered to pick me up at my hotel. Right away it felt like it was two weeks ago that we were having beers in Tampere, instead of five years. It felt great to recognize his smile, his calm demeanor and his slow, careful and precise movements. To prove that, even after not seeing each other for so long, we remain simply two very good friends that get along pretty damn well. I also got to meet his good friend Henrieke, a charming, lovely girl that was his host in the city, and that was nice enough to take great care of me as well and show us around.

It’s been a fantastic weekend, filled with good laughs, great beer, and even a quiet, relaxing morning in one of the nicest parks of the city, drinking mate) under a bright, yellow sun. Unfortunately, time flies when you’re having fun, and soon it was already Sunday and we were at the Berlin-Tegel airport again, getting ready to leave. He’s going on to Finland to continue his month-long trip around Europe, and I’m going back home. Henrieke was so nice that she even came to the airport with us, and I leave Germany knowing that I have made a new friend, and written a new chapter with an old one. When I hugged him goodbye, I had a strangely familiar feeling, but this time around I’m confident that it was not really a goodbye, but rather a “see you next time”.

Daniel is an authentic person. He remains the most clear example I know of someone who values and treasures his personal relationships more than anything. To him, time and attention are two precious things that must not be taken for granted. Until just a while ago, he didn’t even have a cell phone, but in my experience living with him this was never a problem. Whenever we wanted to meet or do anything, we would always find a way to make it work. He’s proof that we don’t really need to bury ourselves in technology and social networks just for the sake of it, or because it’s the norm. He taught me that there can be another way to connect with people, a way that starts by looking the other person in the eyes.

This time, Daniel and I have agreed that our next meeting will be in Brazil. It looks like December might be a good time. I honestly cannot imagine how a New Year’s Eve in the Brazilian Summer must be like, but I do know one thing: I really want to find out.

Only time will tell if it’s meant to happen. Until then, our memories will have to do. And now, we have a great new one to hold onto.

Cheers, my friend. Take care, and see you next time.

Mate in Berlin