Foggy View

Sabinde Brandl
 
Foggy View
“There are 30 cents missing.”
“Excuse me?”
A silent sigh, a quick eye-rolling. “You are missing 30 cents. The cappuccino costs three Euros, you only gave me 2,70 Euros”. “Crap. I thought I had it exactly. I must have mistaken a coin.” I nervously rummage in my wallet, but there is nothing left inside. Immediately I fall into my old, submissive apology pattern. “I’m really sorry...” Already annoyed about my stammering I growl “Nevermind.”
As I turn around, I hear a woman’s voice behind me. “Hold on, I can help you out.”
I look and see a tall, slender lady in a light grey costume, wearing discrete make-up and thick brown curls. She is pretty – great outfit – great aura, her clothes and make-up show that she certainly does not have to worry about running out of coins. The elegant stranger hands the sales lady an Euro. “The rest is for you”, then she turns towards me. “If it’s alright with you?”
I am so perplexed I can barely manage to nod. The sales lady thanks her and hands me the cup. I too say “thank you”, but only towards my donator. She smiles charmingly. “You’re welcome.”
With the cappuccino in my hand I go outside and look out for a free table. It is a Friday afternoon, sunny may weather, no wonder that all of the seats are taken. Wait – an older couple is just getting up, there in the back... I make my way towards the targeted table, wait, until the two have left and sit down. Then I take a deep breath and try to relax (my hands are trembling; the sales lady’s derogatory behaviour has upset me after all). Suddenly I see my donator step out of the door – carrying a tray that holds a cup and a glass of water. She looks around – and of course realizes that all tables are occupied.
Without even thinking I raise my hand. She smiles and approaches me. I watch her, mesmerized, enormously surprised at myself. Never before have I offered a stranger a seat at my table. Sometimes I have been asked, and well, you cannot really get out of it then, but voluntarily raising my hand?
“Thank you very much”, she says, puts down the tray and takes a seat. A whiff of her fine perfume wafts towards me. She is sitting directly in front of me, only half a meter away, and her light blue eyes looking at me.
“No problem. You are a visitor, right?” I am no master of small-talk. I prefer to converse straightforwardly.
She shakes her head. “No, I had an appointment today. And you?”
An appointment. I see. Probably a job interview as doctor. Or she was here for a medical consultation – or some other white-coat stuff. She looks too noble to be a nurse. Very well. This doctor should get an authentic insight right away...
“I am one of the deranged. If I’ve been diagnosed with a dysfunction, I am considered deranged, right?”
My opponent looks at me solemnly. “I don’t like this expression. Machinery can have a dysfunction, but not people.”
“True, but how else should we call it, when a person can’t function normally? You see, I for example went nuts at my step father’s funeral. Everybody else was grieving – as you should – only I was yelling and laughing.”
“There must have been a reason. For your freak-out, I mean.”
I shrug my shoulders, think briefly about the funeral service and quickly repress the painful images. “Sure. Thousands of reasons. Nevertheless my behaviour was not normal.”
“I think your behaviour was a normal reaction to an abnormal situation”.
Okay, she’s definitely a doctor. I have heard such lines.
“Either way. I had a nervous breakdown. And if that isn’t enough for you, I’m also depressive. Have been, for a long time.”
She smiles gently. “Do you know what Freud said? Before diagnosing yourself with depression or an inferiority complex, make sure that you are not just simply surrounded by assholes.”
This makes me think of my family again. “But that would mean... oh that thought is really cheeky.”
“No, it is legitimate. You know... I don’t mean to offend you... but maybe you should check your self-image sometime?”
I blink with disconcertion. “My self-image? Why? I’ve really been thinking about myself a lot. I think the image I have of myself is quite clear and realistic.”
Her eyes are warm and friendly. “Let me tell you a story. As children my brother and I spent a lot of time in our cellar, we had a kind of a recreation room there. There was a large photograph hanging on the wall. Of a hostel on a mountain, with a view of the woods. There was fog everywhere, it was dawning, and the contours were blurred. Recently, my brother and I were talking about this image. I found this dark path on it dreadful. It seemed so awfully depressing to me, how it just leads into nowhere. My brother couldn’t remember a path. He had always thought of the path as a creek. And to him this creek was a very beautiful element, he liked it. What I am trying to say is: Even when looking at the same thing, the outcome can be different. It depends on the perspective. And sometimes there is fog that blocks the view.”
I quietly think about her story.
“I think it’s great that you are facing your issues. But I do not think that you yourself are an issue.”
As irritating and direct as they may be, her words appeal to me. Quite unconventional, this doctor. If they will hire her?
“You mentioned you had a job interview today? What department will you work at?”
She laughs. It is a soft, sweet laugh, more of a giggle. “Huh? Me? Work here? No!”
“But... you said...”
Her pale face turns serious again. What a shame.
“Yes, I did have an appointment. But not for a job or so... It was a preliminary talk for my therapy.”
“But the way you talk ...”
“I like to read.”
She pulls up her sleeve. Two not quite yet healed scars run across her wrist. “It’ll start off in a week. Maybe we will see each other around again? My name is Nele, by the way.”
I shake Nele’s hand. “Michael” I reply. My pulse quickens as our palms touch.
So, this is Nele. I wonder about the warmth in my chest, about the positive, sparkling energy. A thought goes through my head that I have not had in a very long time regarding a new acquaintance: To meet again would indeed be really nice.

Translation by Shan Wardell
 
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