Emily wasn’t Emily. At least in my mind. I had this portrait of emily as this girl with two piggy ribbons (the blue of forget-me-nots of course) and a pinafore, knee-high white socks, and with a trunk in both hands, all ready to head to boarding school. This is why British children stories ruin me. Oh, yes, and also because of the other Emily I know. She is the most feminine girl ever. Pink, fairy lights, angel wings, a halo. Everything a girl should be, everything a mother, a father, a grandparent, wants their girl or grandchild to be like. Harmless, delicate and very pretty. I wonder how the other sweet Emily is doing.
Well this Emily burst into the living room with a massive backpack, a gleaming nose piercing and layers of winterwear. Her hair was short, punk haircut, obviously, with side undercuts. Very unlike the storybooks indeed (makes me wonder at what age, and how, do parents explain punks to children. Or gays. It must be more difficult than explaining ‘where do babies come from?’, because at least there, there’s a scientific explanation. And you can make up stories. But how do you explain a nose ring? “Oh darling, it’s a jewelery. Some people like to express themselves this way.” “Can I have one mummy?” “You most certainly cannot, my love.” “Why?” “You’re too young, darling. You have to think it over till you’re 16, and then, when you’re sure that that’s what you want, you go for it. But god throws people with nose rings into hell, darling. And tattoos, and fishnet stockings.”)
So, first thing I noticed. Emily speaks very softly. With the voice of a lark. Very pleasant, soothing, kind. Behind those glasses, the gaze was soft. Gentle. Vulnerable, even. That of waves. Emily’s vegan, but she’s been struggling with that ever since she’s arrived in Germany. Oh yes, she’s English. And she had been living in India for a year, at a charity. She spent the 12 hours of bus from Frankfurt to Munich on Duolingo trying to increase her level of proficiency in german, only to see it decrease from 4% to 3%. I didn’t see her pick up the app during the three days we were together in Munich.
We went to one of the more famous lakes near to Munich. A gorgeous place where we watched the sunset from a dock and ate hand-made cookies that one of Laury’s cousins had baked. They were delicious. And we had the company of a group of german boys who asked us for a joint. We didn’t have any.
Emily wanted to stay in germany for as long as it took to brush up her german and hopefully get a job there. She was my guide for the time that I was in Munich, and for the most part, I usually looked helplessly to her whenever the cashier or receptionist muttered something in german. She was my live google voice translate. I was very grateful. And she taught me to count from 0 to 5 in german.
She had broken up with her partner of 8 years (ouch) and was learning to find her own footsteps again. And she liked walking. We walked a lot. Munich was kind to walkers. We made hummus for dinner on Sunday evening; during the day we had gone to a café (in the middle of the abandoned city centre; apparently no germans go out on Sundays. It was mildly depressing to realise that we were amongst the handful of tourists who were wandering aimlessly around the streets) and I had seen hummus on the menu. Nika had quipped that she had everything we needed to make delicious hummus back at her place, so we didn’t order that, and decided to head home for home-made hummus, stopping for bread along the way. She was dying to get rid of expiring mozarella in her fridge (there were boxes of them) so making hummus just seemed like a natural thing to do).
Emily is the hummus master. I sliced bread and presented them with care on the plate. They were my finest work of art. I shed a tear as I sliced the final piece lovingly and arranged it with a 14 degree angle behind the slice before it. The household looked at the bread platter and declared that it was beautiful. I agreed.
Emily would laugh every time I tried to pronounce a german word, because she said I pronounced everything with a french accent. Maybe I did; I was trying to emulate the ‘r’ the french way, and ended up speaking german really softly. I needed more ompf. So I would stamp my foot every time I took a breath to say a german word, and it would come out better.
Whenever I saw a word more than 3 syllables long, I would give up. Fucking compounding flings all my pathetic attempts to sound german out the window. Emily knitted as well; she knitted her own hat, which had a really long kink in the end. She assured us that it was deliberate. We told her that it was beautiful and that she needed to patent it. She agreed.
She liked soft music as well, the kind of singer-songwriter, soulful songss with personal lyrics. She really threw me off. And yes, we had a bratwurst together. She also helped me pick out my winter blue scarf, so that I wouldn’t freeze to death. She chose a pair of gloves for herself; clever ones that had a removable flap so that she could use her mobile without removing her gloves. I should’ve bought those, but mine were good as well. Fleece lined; hard-core. She laughed at her ‘stubby fingers’, which were, accordingly to her, too short to fit into any respectable glove sizes. I suggested the children’s section as a future reference. She agreed. We left in a hurry, her, rushing off to catch a train to a tiny german village in which she was going to be based for the next couple of months working for another charity, me, for Stuttgart, where I was down to the wire for my bus.