Random Encounters

At 6 p.m. it was still glowing hot outside, which did not make the idea of sitting in an overfilled bus any less pleasant. For a few seconds, something like a cool breeze welcomed me as I stepped out into the street or maybe that was just an illusion at the thought of blueberry filled ice cubes swimming in my home- made non alcoholic cocktail that was awaiting me in the kitchen.

Sweaty and tired I walked down the street for the last meters until the front door of my apartment building. Jeans were a bad choice for this kind of weather and the complexity of counting things in Arabic, something we just finished discussing this class, was still occupying my head.

Not paying much attention to my surroundings (this place is nearly deserted so what is there to pay attention to?), I carried myself forward when suddenly someone’s voice got me back into reality.

“Hello! Excuse me”, a man with tanned skin and a pair of glasses approached me. Assuming that he just wanted to ask what time it was or where to find something, as it usually happens when anyone talks to me in the street, I smiled and waited for what he wanted to ask.  Looking at me for a second or two, he tilted his head and said: “I have a feeling we have met before, can that be?”

Oh dear, not that again, I thought to myself. Has anyone of you ever heard of that idea that there are about seven individuals in this world who look almost exactly like you? I must have a bunch of twins I never met because people constantly think to have seen me in places I have never even been close to. “I saw you at the airport in Bern”, a classmate wrote to me as I was spending Christmas in Pristina. “Were you at CrunchFit this afternoon?”, asked my Moroccan childhood friend.

“No, sorry I don’t think so”, I replied. “You must be mistaking me for someone else. That happens quite often.” I was just about to continue going where I was going, but the stranger didn’t want to give in just yet.

“No, I am sure we have met before. I am Ibrahim by the way”. He stretched out is hand as if he wanted to give me a hand shake. The moment I took it, he brought it to his lips and placed a quick kiss on the back of my hand. Something that is (or at least was) a common greeting etiquette in Russia but is very confusing anywhere where people did not read Leo Tolstoy and Nikolai Gogol day in, day out, hence very creepy in this very moment.

Keeping up the polite smile, covering my uneasiness and wondering what the hell was going on, I let him know that he was definitely confusing me with someone else. I have never met anyone whose name is Ibrahim.

“Well, do you think we can remember if we go out somewhere?” he kept asking.

Ah you think you’ve made a smart move here now? Well, that was creative. Fifty points for Gryffindor on account of creative solutions. Where’s the religious police when you need it? Oh wait…this is Germany. 

“I am busy today, I am sorry. I still hope you have a nice day though.” I started to feel stupid, still with that smile on my face. It felt almost like back in the day when Francesco kissed me good-bye on the cheek in the middle of Al Hayat Mall in Riyadh, confused and terrified. What’s happening here?

“What about tomorrow?”

“Sorry, no. I am traveling.” Quick, make something up or you will die of thirst and awkwardness in the middle of nowhere in Berlin. I am very thirsty…maybe I am hallucinating?  

“Are you married or something?”

Oh thank you for the hint!

“Yes I am”, I lied. “You know, I don’t think my husband would appreciate it if he knew I am talking to strangers. It’s a small world though. You’ll probably see me in the neighborhood”  I am too young for you, don’t you see?! Why should I go out with you? I have no idea who you are!!!

“Oh well, have a nice day then”, he said and continued his way.

Letting out a sigh of relief, I went home and put on the plain silver ring I once bought on a bazaar in Riyadh.

Feeling lonely? Come to Berlin! As you can see, many people here are very outgoing.

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