In the aisle a toddler is running back and forth. His face combines an excited smile and a bored frustration (a familiar combination). His blond hair jumps at each step like bed linen being aired out. Behind him his mother walks, fruitlessly trying to hinder him from crashing into the people sitting on each side.
Being one of these people, I am cramped in one of the smallest aircrafts I have ever been in, on my way back to Germany from a visit in Tallinn. Professionally – completely unproductive, socially – rather accomplished, as I took the time to visit a long-time-no-see friend – (Mr.) Posh Spice.
It was a couple of days hiking around in Tallinn old town, park visits, having coffee breaks and talking of old and new. The one highlight was to see how happy he was. Living the sweet life with his Ms. Debate, who, like an angel, managed to work around his persistent “being-right”-ness when I myself felt my own patience running out. Our relationship being more that of love/hate than anything else, worked its magic by bringing back our favorite pass-time from old times: a battle of clever insults – rarely so, but here – we play on equal footing. A softer side was exposed on the top of St. Olaf’s, where his fear of heights was exposed in the sharp corners around the church tower – a secret I never knew.
My ridiculing amusement at this revelation of course backfired. In the early morning I had to shout from the bathroom: “Posh Spice! How do I turn on the shower?!” Not to mention five minutes later when I soaking wet wrapped in a towel, had to shout: “Posh Spice! How do I turn off the shower?!” A similar procedure repeated the following day… The last day I decided that being a bit dirty never hurt anyone…
Partly demonstrated to me and partly sneaking a peek in Posh Spice’s Phd-thesis, I read the acknowledgments. A few months prior I found myself mentioned in another friend’s work, without having any expectation thereof. Now greedy for self-importance, I found my name tucked in between the names of mutual friends and strangers. What met me was, to me, stronger words than I would have expected. To Posh Spice it might have meant little, to me it made me feel important and implied I made a bigger impact than I previously thought.
It is so easy to feel like you make no difference to other people, like a tree you are one of many in the forest people cross in life. (Today’s tip: the movie “It’s a wonderful life” which perfectly pictures this. Sneak-peek: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seBInAPI32A). All of us are busy with our own, forgetting the people around. Rare are the moments we are truly honest and open with the impact (for better or worse) others provide in our lives. Showing appreciation to others to the extent that they deserve is something I guess is reserved to the people we love the most. I do not think that this is intentional. Most of the time I think we are oblivious ourselves to the importance other people actually play in our lives.
The last evening I spend with a bunch of friends to Posh Spice and Ms. Debate, meeting a woman that would I have been remotely gay, I would have fallen madly in love with: Grand, feminine and strong, well traveled, with a sharp mind and tongue and a contagious laughter. I often wonder what kind of impression I give, and I hope that at least some are as enchanted as I immediately was by her, by me. The party ended in Estonian fashion in a sauna where the hot air burned our skin to an almost unbearable point. As the sauna cooled a bit the sensation was wonderful, like a ritual cleansing for the body the way the soul should be.
This morning at breakfast we talked warmly and contently between waffles, saffron meat-pie and coffee. “There is nothing I want from you” he tells me in a context forgotten and with more love than I think he would admit, and I find myself strangely pleased.