A still from ‘Stealing Beauty’. Liv Tyler.
On 5 December 2004, I was walking down the street in Krakow, certain of my destiny. It was a feeling. Uncommon. Like a flush, a knowing. Like being guided by an internal GPS system. You know you’re headed in the right direction. Even now, as I write this, I get a chill.
Three and a half weeks before, I had a most pivotal encounter. I received sixty-eight calls, each of which I failed to answer over the course of two weeks. My mobile rang whenever I was teaching. Its insistent trill annoying the other teachers in the staff lounge. Each time it rang, I’d turn the phone off. Why? I didn’t recognise the number. After several weeks of ignoring it, out of curiosity, one of the teachers decided to google the country code. ‘Who the hell do you know in Hong Kong?’ he asked.
I knew one person on Hong Kong. Actually, I scarcely knew him, had only met him once in a darkened bar over a drink. I had been characteristically distracted that night, and there was something off-puttingly aloof about him, something a bit too cosmopolitan for my general social group which consisted of bohemian English teachers who skipped about the world to escape the pressures of their expected American lives which pushed for ‘good’ salaries and paying off ridiculously large student loans.
By contrast, the man before me was such an anomoly, I was distant. But by the end of the evening, during which we made small talk about the lacerating and often bitter essays of Oriana Fallaci and Liv Tyler’s horsey nymphet debut years earlier in Bernardo Bertolucci’s ‘Stealing Beauty’, he dropped me off at my flat and took my hand, then watched as I suspiciously cut my eyes at him as he kissed it. A moment later, I ascended the steps to my tiny flat. I closed the door. I promptly forgot about him.
Then one afternoon in the teachers lounge, the sixty-ninth call came from Hong Kong. I decided to pick up. I heard the voice. I fell in love. Why did it occur then, on the phone, as opposed to the moment he kissed my hand? Life is illogical. I’ve given up ever knowing why.
Three weeks later, I was walking down a wintery boulevard, still enraptured by the stranger’s voice. That day, on that snowy walk, I heard two voices inside my head. The first was his. He was asking me to come away with him. The second was my own. Which to my great surprise, answered ‘yes’.
Ancient worlds are full of oracles, those with higher knowledge who purport to ‘see’ into the future. That day my inner oracle, one I’d not previously known existed, spoke to me and told me she saw a good portion of my life with this stranger.
I’m seated on a concrete bench which overlooks Lake Zurich. The air is wet with cold. My gloveless hand is close to frozen. The sky is grey. I’m preparing to leave Switzerland, this terribly expensive country. Soon I’ll be in the States for the Christmas Season. By mid-January it’s back to Berlin and, if all goes well, my final destination will be Hamburg. In the meantime, I’m reflecting upon the oracle moments, the signals sent.