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Learning to Live


Lizzie Keadan

Windows link us on the inside with those on the outside. For me, one such window graced my apartment on 2300 Bachgasse, Regensburg , Germany. I was new in town, arriving two weeks earlier from the town of Munster. Moving to Germany had been a difficult decision and I would always regret missing my family. It definitely had its high points. I received an excellent education in a new language, became affluent in a new culture, and learned to truly live on my own. At 19 I felt myself assuredly a man in all respects. Since my move I had the pleasure of enjoying my new balcony and window. I often lounged outside, drinking my morning coffee and listening to the rush of the newly awakening city. Although Regensburg was no Berlin , it harbored old world charm and traditions. The Romans had occupied the town before the fall of the Roman Empire and left remains throughout, mixed with the Italian Villas of style and color, leaving Regensburg a beautiful southern German town. The particular view from my window was nothing that couldn’t be seen from a number of windows within Regensburg . A large platz, complete with a fountain surrounded by purple violets and numerous cafes, set a lovely picturesque scene. I had learned early on in my stay in Germany that the Germans are particularly fond of the outdoor café, when weather permits, and I grew accustomed to it. I enjoyed frequenting these cafes and partaking in the unique delicacies that each one offered. From my window, though, I could more adequately observe human nature in all its elements, and being quite lonely, chose to stay inside those first few weeks and reflect on my experiences thus far.

On this particular day, I awoke from a restless sleep, filled with dreams of my family. I frequently had dreams of my mother’s face, the curves of her cheekbones and her dark smiling eyes. She always seemed to be longing to see me, striking a pain through my heart. I dragged myself up off the bed, rubbing my swollen eyes and headed to the bathroom for my morning routine. As I finished, I noticed the sun peaking through the stain glass windows, creating a mural of colors against the wall. It was barely five o’clock and I remember thinking that even the sun was not ready to appear.

It was October then. The platz, filled with leaves of golden and red swirling in the morning breeze, seemed hurried as waiters fled to unload chairs from outdoor tables in preparation for the day ahead. In just one short hour, they would be opening to strangers who came in droves, chowing down on pastries and slurping coffee in the same morning rush to work. I can still smell the sweet freshness of it all. As I observed their movements, my eye caught on a pigeon. It was hastily pecking on crumbs, fighting the other pigeons for its share of the treasure. Pigeons could be a pesky problem when eating outdoors and today was no exception. A woman, sitting alone upon the edge of the fountain, soaking up the sun, tore up her half eaten crescent and threw it to the birds. I cringed as I thought about what was coming. The pigeons surrounded her, some even pecking her legs as they fought for a bite. This stranger, though, was quite calm. She acted as if she enjoyed it. I watched her smile grow bigger as she uttered a soft giggle. With no crescent left, the pigeons fled to the next giver. I continued to stare at the woman, her reaction quite enthralling. She turned her face towards mine, returned my stare, and smiled the most gentle and healing smile. I will not say she was an angel, but she made my inside feel so full. Hope and joy overwhelmed me. I could barely release my eyes from her.

I jutted through the stained glass windows and leaped on the bed. My heart raced as her smile was emblazoned on my mind. A stranger, someone whose name I would never know, whose hand I could never hold, released me from my prison of sorrow and guilt. Such emotional healing I would never know again, and I scarcely can explain how it happened. I promised myself to find her, to thank her for her kindness at the opportune time. She might think me crazy, or accuse me of harassment. I knew I would never see her again, but then again, that was not the point. She had already given me what I needed from her, an assuring smile that had pushed all my fears and guilt aside. The pain of leaving my family remained, but now covered over in a blanket of self-assuredness. I smiled to think that I could see my family again and knew that someday soon I would be able to.

Over the next couple of weeks I went out every morning, becoming a stranger like those I had observed. Secretly I hoped to see the woman. Would I talk to her? What would I say? I never found her, but I did meet someone similar with a same sweet smile. I share my life with her now. From my window we sat together, watching the strangers. The window reconnected me with life.

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