April 5, 2012 by Manny Wordsmith
She smoked her cigarette like a girl from an old James Bond film, rigid and unimpressed. Her free hand twirled around her long brown hair until she looked like a Marie Laforêt album cover. She spelled disaster. Girl’s like her walked into rooms to Henry Mancini tunes and ordered drinks without ever opening their mouths. She was ravishing and exotic, young and bright-eyed and sorrowfully out of my league.
I was enamored when we first met, smitten by her endless blue gaze, but barely sober enough to speak with any sense. I introduced myself, but I could tell that my name and smile alone wouldn’t be enough to impress her…
Her name was Ellie, and my colleague Jay and I had left a company barbecue to meet up with her and her friend Angie. We sat in some lofty cafe in downtown Darmstadt, Germany where all the seats were plum leather and the waitresses wore vests and bow ties. I ordered an Amaretto Sour because I didn’t know any better, and she got a vodka whatever, the drink of choice for most of the girls I knew at the time. We talked about music and movies, life and family and found common ground in our views of society. I was cynical and a bit lost with my standing on the social climate of our generation, but she had the voice of a young Gudrun Esslin (before the violence and anarchy of course) and was confident that things needed to change.
I could sense a little bit of Erykah Badu, Lauren Hill and Tupac brewing within her sultry accent. She didn’t say anything she wasn’t sure about, but I’m pretty sure she thought otherwise. I followed closely, realizing that it was the first time I had met a German girl during the day. Most of the women I had first encounters with were faceless and voiceless, muddled behind rapid neon lights and extra loud Akon songs. Her words felt seamless in comparison, separated from the charades that the all alluring nightlife set up and sustained.
Ellie was free and untamed. She ate matches and breathed fire, stayed up late, slept little and used any cash she got to go out or buy her next scarf. She told me stories of exuberant, wild behavior, wine picnics and drinks before breakfast. Her soul was unlatched. But I was just a soldier bee, following orders on a day-to-day. It was hard to see things from her perspective, but I wanted to.
Jay and I were both leaving town for business, but we wanted something to hold on to there, in Darmstadt. I thought like Hemingway, already looking forward to letter writing under candlelight, scribbling things like, “Writing and travel broaden your ass, if not your mind, and I like to write standing up.” And “You’re beautiful, like a May fly.” But Ellie, it seemed, just wanted some one to volley with that wasn’t a half-wit. Most of our conversation felt open, but a sense of apprehension lingered, which was normal for me. My job sent we away often.
I pleaded to her sense of humor, moving her unsure grimaces to full-blown giggling. Jay attempted to keep the conversations in group form, but I continually pulled Ellie away, hoping to get her to understand that I was playing for keeps. I bobbed and weaved passed her generalizations and kept out the corner as much as I could. In respect, I didn’t get the knockout, but being able to go toe-to-toe with this intelligent girl gave me points in areas I wasn’t aware of till years later.
We finished our drinks and made or way back outside, vowing to meet up again. Her soft, full lips landed on both of my cheeks, saying good-bye. The exchange felt like an eternity and I was hooked, latched and in love.
I wasn’t aware of the crush, the rise, downfall and recouping of our friendship. We had yet to misinterpret each other or yearn for each other’s presence. We weren’t a whole ocean away yet and everything at that summer’s end still looked venerable. Walls were smaller in 05′, much smaller and serendipity was a common thing.
To Be Continued…