She saw him three times in as many days and though they never engaged in any sort of longer conversation, by the end she felt she knew him in a way that was unexplainable to her. Years later, she would think back to these early days and smile, but at that time she couldn’t help but wonder how it could be possible? How she could feel close to a person whose name she didn’t even know?
“Vienna”, she had heard him mumble. The boy with the jeans jacket, a massive rucksack strapped tightly to his back, had been standing in front of the departure display at Paris Charles-de-Gaulles. Interested she had glanced sideways at him, as he had repeated the city’s name with a satisfied nod: “That could actually work”, he had concluded, navigating his way to the long row of Austrian Airlines counters, leaving her standing alone and wondering. For a long second, she had watched his blond head of unruly curls disappear in the crowd of travellers before she had picked up her own suitcase and followed. Like her, he had obviously decided to visit the Austrian capital, even if she had the feeling that he had only just made his choice as to the destination of his trip.
“Pardon”, even though she had already spent the better part of a week in the city she had spent part of her childhood in, her mind had still insisted on providing her with the French version of an excuse. She had found that after almost two decades she could still navigate her way effortlessly through the city she had played in as a child, but had trouble actually using the German she theoretically spoke fluently.
“No worries”, weirdly, she had recognized his voice even before looking up to find a smiling face and the blond curls. The backpack was gone, but the jeans jacket had remained, marking him instantly as the boy she had seen in Paris. If he had noticed her back then, he didn’t betray any sign of recognition. Instead, he smiled at her once more before yet again disappearing into the crowd navigating their way around Vienna’s Naschmarkt, where she had clumsily bumped into him. It had always been one of her favourite places, had been the scene of many games of hide and seek, as her father had worked in his booth, selling his delicacies to those inhabitants of Vienna, who could truly cherish them. She had been filled with a sudden feeling of nostalgia, as the memories had flooded her brain and yet, she had forced herself to set one step in front of the other, taking deep breaths and allowed the scented air to fill her lunges. She had come here to pay a last homage to her father, had decided to take one last stroll through the very ally ways he had breathed so much life into. Before moving on, to other countries, to Paris. Before, ultimately, leaving behind not only the Austrian and French capitals, but the entire world.
The air felt thick with the sent of coffee lingering in the small space of the Viennese Kaffeehaus she had finally settled in after having spent the majority of her visit safely confined to the spaces she had previously known. This place – in stark contrast – was completely new to her. Part of her even wondered if it could still be called a Kaffeehaus, for it didn’t fit in with the old prestige one would usually connect with the name. Here, she sat in an almost industrial looking room, copper lamps hanging low from a ceiling where pipes had been left exposed, giving the whole space a sense of a new, a more modern Vienna. Every now and again, a waiter would walk by carrying everything from traditional Austrian pastries to lemonades mixed out of new and surprising ingredients and superfood salads. Slow jazz music was barely audible over the excited chatter of little groups sitting here and there on chairs screaming of modern simplicity and couches as colourful and extravagant as some of the cakes she had seen, walking through the city and looking at its many mouth-watering shop displays. In this place she had decided to remain for a while, watching the people walking by and stepping in, until she finally lowered her gaze into a book she had brought and sank deeply into the world of words her father had left her.
What felt like hours later – a sudden downpour of rain had replaced the sunlight – the door made her look up again, as it swung open, bringing with it a breath of fresh air and a boy with wet curls. The blond looked darker through the rain, but yet again it only took her a second to recognize the young man she had first seen in Paris and, whom she had almost run over at Naschmarkt, a mere twenty-four hours ago. Now – miraculously – he was here, closing his eyes against the dimmed light of the café for a second, breathing in the coffee-scented air, before finding a place on one of the smaller tables. Her eyes followed, taking in his movements, all the while wondering how circumstance had brought them to the same place three times in less than a full week.
“Are the Eggs Benedict still available?”, she heard him ask from the other side of the room, allowing herself to smile – not only down at her own half-finished plate of the same dish – but also at him. This guy that had come to Vienna and had asked for Eggs Benedict.