Unsure of my immediate future, worn out and ready to collapse onto anything resembling a bed, I stepped off the plane at Frankfurt Flughafen on February 16th, 2017. This time around I wasn’t brimming with elation for anyone waiting to meet me outside of the luggage carousel. I didn’t even have the energy to be excited about being here again. This time, with a rather downcast outlook I felt the stiffness in my legs from the 11 hour journey as I slowly shuffled my way toward the baggage claim area.
I collected my heavy pink suitcase from the belt, and along with my carry on rolled them over to the main area of the terminal. I texted Joachim to let him know I was there, hoping just a little bit that he had decided to surprise me and pick me up. Just seeing a friendly face at that moment was something I direly needed.
But no, he didn’t. Of course not. One more thing I’ll just have to deal with on my own.
Why am I here?
I want to go home.
That involves more flying.
After about an hour of exchanging currency, dodging unscrupulous cab drivers, taking a nasty, embarrassing fall down the escalator and wandering around the airport in worn exasperation that I couldn’t find the train out of there, I was finally climbing aboard the ICE to Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof. I dumped my suitcases at the baggage area next to the Bistro car, plopped down next to two Brazilian men and ordered whatever best resembled food. I couldn’t even remember what I had ordered. Exhausted beyond comprehension, all I cared about was that a food-like substance was coming soon. I hadn’t had a decent meal since my stopover at Boston Logan the previous day, and hadn’t slept a wink since then either.
Back in my 20’s, I had a friend we had all nicknamed Drunk Jeremy. Drunk Jeremy was usually drunk (imagine that) at any given time of the day. Sometimes, after the club let out, we would be sobering up for the ride home at the local greasy spoon. He would typically be so drunk that we would have to periodically shake him in order for him to not pass out and do a faceplant right into his omelette.
“Jeremy!” I would exclaim. “THE COPS ARE HERE!”
That usually worked.
Today, the server brought whatever I had ordered, and I did my best to be polite in response to the small talk the two Brazillians were making with me. I smiled, nodded and attempted to form sentences while all I could think about was pulling a Drunk Jeremy and faceplanting right into my food, not waking up until I was somehow magically at my apartment.
Magically, however, was not at all how I got to my apartment.
After using whatever emergency energy source my body reserved for necessary movement to carry my luggage off of the train and onto the platform at Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof, I somehow managed to use The Force and will myself down to the subterranean level and catch the U75. This was, in my haggard state, what I thought was the train to my apartment. But when I asked the ticket agent in the car, I was reminded that I’d have to get off at Heinrich-Heine Allee and catch the Straßenbahn to Ratigen.
Fuck. I had completely forgotten that from last time.
Can I just sleep here then?
Shortly we arrived at the bustling Heinrich-Heine Allee, which is the main station at the Altstadt. In my weakened state I struggled to get my suitcases off the train as people just piled in around me. But no matter how many polite “Entschuldigung“s I would muster as I moved toward the door, everyone ignored me and kept piling in until the doors were closing. Frantic, I stuck my arm in between the doors and in weary frustration just wailed, “I’M JUST TRYING TO GET OFF THE FUCKING TRAIN.”.
The guards on the platform came to my rescue. They held the doors open and told the mass of people to back the hell off. I thanked them profusely and asked for directions to my Straßenbahn.
Somehow, I managed to keep it together for the seemingly eternal ride to my final destination. Nicole, a blonde German woman about my age with a kind face and in much nicer clothes than what I was wearing answered the door to my disheveled, jet-lagged mess. She greeted me with a genuine smile and led me down the stairs to my little basement apartment, which was downright adorable in its perfectly color-coordinated 60’s mod decor. As nice as this all was, my eyes zeroed in on the bed.
A real bed.
She proceeded to show me around as I smiled politely and fought my heavy eyelids open. Delirious at this point, I only caught maybe a third of what she was telling me in her thick German accent, and by the time it reached my brain it was all a jumble of nonsense phrases.
“And over here we have the laundry, in case you want to cook something or wash your head.”
“And here we have a stove for your bike. Just make sure you open the windows for the gnome so you can catch the streetcar outside.”
I nodded along to the conversation as if I understood, or because holding up my own head was becoming work. Eventually, she gave me the keys and the wifi password and wished me a goodnight.
Still wearing my trench coat and my shoes, I disintegrated onto the glorious single bed that had been seducing me and was out cold until around noon the next day.