American-German friendship in the Hamburg sunset

If you have been wondering where I’ve been (and why I have not been reporting on my friend Magda’s amazing mansion with the intricate library setup) – one of my best friends, Emily, and her parents are here to visit me. So we are spending our days* “participating and seeing people” which is the direct translation of 参观者, which means tourists in Chinese. Emily’s parents are Chinese (but when Emily was asked by a – brace yourself – random Düsseldorfer at the dinner restaurant, she replied curtly, “I am American!”) Still, she and her parents speak Cantonese, so I am navigating between a language I do not understand at all, German and English.

Even though Emily lives on the other side of the Altantic Ocean, she has now visited me twice in Hamburg in less than a year. Just trust us that lots of so-called blog material happened but we’ve been too busy to blog. But I will be back with a photo of the very unique gifts that could only come from Emily. Key word: Siamese twins.

And of course: Ingrid.  In the center.

And of course: Ingrid. In the center.

*Actually, I spent a substantial amount of time trying to prepare my move while I send the tourists to do the things a local has done all too often anyway.

My everyday friend

The current period will most certainly not enter into my autobiography as the happiest one. But at least I have her around, my everyday friend.

Very often, when I am somewhere out of my apartment, I find myself thinking that I might have left the keys at home. But the panic can never fully unfurl because I instantly remember: she has got the keys to my home and I could call her. When I can’t reach her, she always calls back within minutes.

She has the spare keys and when I have been away, I often find flowers and beautifully written notes on my blue table upon return. Even the banal messages are carefully calligraphed, delighting the heart of the detail lover that I am.

I also notice her presence by the way she switches off a light that I forgot or deliberately left on. By the mess she unwittingly produces. By the packages that for once make it to my house because she runs to the delivery man that is already on his way to his car again because I was not home this time either.

Or when I come home to the sweet sound of my key just turning once instead of thrice because she is already there and has put the tea kettle on.

At times, she stops at the local bakery and arranges the raspberry tartes and cheesecakes beautifully on my tableware, decorated with a balloon or a lilac twig that she picked up somewhere.

Every single time I return from a trip by plane, she picks me up at the airport. Sometimes with balloons, a newly bought rubber tentacle, sometimes after waiting for an hour and making friends with a barista in the meantime.

Before she posts something on her blog, she asks me to pre-read it. And censor it.

When we talk, we regularly come up with new material for her comedy. Actually, maybe our lives might be just a big joke. (“This date may be monitored by my friend on the table next to you for evaluation and training purposes.”)

We both do not have a TV because we spent the nights in my living room discussing almost every matter at length. We can talk about our mutual acquaintances from ages ago when we both lived in Stockholm. She understands all things Swedish. And sometimes, she just sits on the green couch and I sit on the white couch and we both stare into our computers, cursing the slow internet connection. While feeling perfectly comfortable with each other.

When my friends and relatives come to visit, meeting her is usually one of the items of the agenda. Consequently, when I attend family gatherings, sometimes people ask me how she is doing. It makes me wonder if I must clarify that we are not a couple, something many, also non-relatives, have started to assume. We regularly confound shop assistants that cannot classify our relationship.

Before spending a significant amount of time with her, I used to wear pants, you would see me in jeans. She only wears dresses. Completely subconsciously, this has rubbed off on me. I have not worn pants since November. (Because dresses are so much more convenient.)

I have a guest bed that I never put back in the basement. Because sometimes, late at night, she decides to head home and then opens my balcony door to check the temperature. Like my cat, she sticks out her head, and like my cat, if it is cold, she’ll back into the warm room, informing me she’d rather sleep over than facing the night’s cold.

She shops groceries for me when I give her text-message-orders. She almost never makes me travel to her place and walk up the 350 stairs to her maisonette. Upon request, she draws personalized birthday cards for my loved ones. She uses my apartment as her office on some days and thus motivates me to tackle my paperwork. On Sundays, we sync our schedules for the week. When I go to choir or church, she asks me to report on what is happening. Her mother sends postcards with recipes for me. She loves my cat. She carries my heavy stuff now that I am not allowed to. And on my bad days when I feel fragile and scatter minded, she calls after me from the apartment’s doorstep into the stairwell: “Don’t forget you have to change trains at Barmbek!”