(common man …continued)
That evening the sun took a while to set or atleast Stella felt it did because she was excited about the dinner date with Raphael. Pacing the streets clicking magnificent photographs of the walls, town square, choirs alongside, the green cosmic pathways; Stella knew her time wasn’t going to pass easily. She had lunch at the authentic German restaurant La Soupe Populaire where she had appetizing soups and toasted garlic breads with Wurst (sausages). Relishing everything on her plate, Stella took photographs of the restaurant with the cooks and the waiters marking a memory she could look back to anytime.
She didn’t fuss much about her attire because she believed beauty is in the soul. So unlike other women or even her friends, Stella wore this simple yellow tank top, pink shrug and black jeans. Leaving her brown hair open, she grabbed her purse, put on her shoes and headed to the lounge. It was 10 minutes past 7.Yes! She was late but walked in serenity pretending to overlook it. Her eyes screened the lounge for Raphael. Light blue shirt covered his brawny body while his hair lashed on his forehead. Personable and handsome were the first two adjectives to cross Stella’s mind and she just let it be in her mind alone. He had a bunch of wild orchids and a box of assorted German sweets in his hands. Raphael gazed at Stella from her eyes to her lips and her body. She could tell his thoughts were raging while he tried hard to curb them. Pleasant smile took over his lips as he greeted Stella with the flowers and insisted he held the sweets himself. “I’ve got you orchids. I feel roses are too mainstream. I hope you like them.” Raphael quizzed. “In sync with you. Thank you. They’re pretty” Stella answered.
“You look alluring” he said. “Thank you. You make the blue look nice too.” “Well, I’m glad you noticed”; his response made her blush and this time she couldn’t stop it. “So where are we heading to?” Stella asked. “Have you been to the country side yet?” “No. It’s been a day I’ve arrived.” “Right. So this is a surprise then that you will be awe of. Brace yourself.” Raphael unlocked the car door for Stella to take her seat. He drove through the highway when Stella came across a board that read SCHWERIN – take right. And they did. “Are we going to Schwerin? Isn’t that about 2 hours away from Berlin?” she inquired. “Yes it is.” “It’ll be late for us to return back. Do you think it’s a good idea to go away considering the weather condition? There is a snow storm predicted. Are you aware of it?” “Breathe Stella. Breathe. Take it easy. You’re my responsibility and I will take care of you. Make yourself comfortable and trust me.” Raphael’s words, specially the last two had immense power in it. She felt his inner self convincing her to trust him wholly. And somewhere on the highway to Schwerin, Stella began to trust him. “By the way ma’am, you came 10 minutes late. I remember you mentioning you’re dislike for late comers”. His voice had mischief hidden in it. “Yes I do remember. But maybe you didn’t realize that I didn’t say I would be on time”. Her voice was equally mischievous then. They burst out into laughter as he nudged her on the shoulder. Admiring the skies they drove beneath, every mile had a different mosaic of clouds. It was like this mighty quilt God had spread over the skies in colours complementing the greenery. The roads appeared dense and with every photograph that Stella took, she felt inner peace; like she was driving through the doors of heaven. Raphael observed her from the corner of his eyes and sometimes he’d gaze at her with a flare he didn’t want to control.
As they drew closer to Schwerin, Stella marked the entrance in her photographs. There was this mighty tree on either side of the road with colourful flowers and a board that read ‘Schwerin welcomes you’. It had the feel of a big kingdom with humungous gates opening to a drive through and these wonderful castles in all sizes with meadows. Stella reached ancient ages from her present and liked every bit of it. “Here we are” Raphael broke the silence and pulled over near the lake. He opened the door for Stella and she stepped out in awe. Just like he had cautioned her before they left; she was in complete awe. A small boat docked a few steps away had her name inscribed on it in small light bulbs. He took her hand and led her inside it. “Is this really for me? I mean us?” she questioned. “Yes ma’am. The best is yet to be.” The boat was a small house boat with chiffon printed curtains on either side tied in a sailor knot and table with two chairs carrying a ‘reserved’ board. Raphael waved to a man who sailed it and he took them to a floating restaurant that not many know of, back in the city. The lake was lit up with these magical lights reflecting from different boats around. It was romantic and Stella loved it. The boats were tied to one another, avoiding drifts and adding to easy movement of people to and fro the kitchen. The welcome drink was Germany’s best red wine Pinot Noir. Raphael taught Stella to swirl the glass, sniff in the aroma and then drink it. He told her that it’s a traditional way of drinking wine and enjoying it at the countryside. It also meant appreciation to the fellow companions.
Their dinner platter had soups, garlic breads, cheese, beef roulade, pork goulash, German potato salad and creamy bratwurst stew. A candle light ambience completed their evening.
“Do you like it here?” Raphael asked. “I loved it. Thank you. This is gracious. You’ve made my stay worthwhile. Thank you” Stella replied. She lost words along the mesmerised roads. “So what do you do Stella?” “Well, I’ve just answered my final semester.” “Oh! And what brings you to Germany?” “The aura, the distinct places and landscapes, museums, and greenery, is what brings me here. You know, I am originally from India and not having this glory there or atleast where I live, this place is surely heaven for me. Away from the noisy roads and busy city-line; Germany was one place on my bucket list for its mountain ranges and lakes. I didn’t expect to experience this part so soon, but as they say ‘surprises are always welcomed in small packages…’.” Stella went on and on. Raphael let her speak. He enjoyed her expressions when she described India and then the swift change when she spoke of Berlin.
Raphael introduced himself in detail to Stella. He told her about his not so great studious years, his incomplete graduation yet his milestone of achievements at his workplace. He sounded like a party. Raphael engulfed her into his thoughts; secretly because she continuously admired him and openly because they exchanged eye contact, brushing of fingers and smiles. “How many days are you staying in Berlin?” Raphael inquired. “Around 10 and maybe more if I fall in love with the place” Stella answered. An outright hint she aimed at him which he surely did catch. It reflected in his smile. They felt the same feeling from the first glimpse they had of each other, but they allowed it to grow within naturally without excess efforts that could benefit as well as disrupt their melancholy.
It felt more like an unknown magnet they wanted to explore every minute.
His first impression was that of a strict person with high values like Hitler until he seized her into his sphere where she felt comfortable. Raphael was impressed by her grit and humbleness, the day he first saw her. It’s when he decided, he needed to know her better. He connected to her without conversation. And that is what led to this date.
“Raphael I’m pleased you didn’t take me to a fancy pub or bar for a date. These things don’t engage me. I feel it’s a waste of time, energy and money.” Trying to convince him she continued, “C’mon first dates or any dates for that matter create memories you and I would like to keep; and a bar or a pub doesn’t compliment it. Tell me, what would you like to remember it as? A pub we went to, where we had a couple of drinks, ate some good food, recollect some guys checking me out while some girls checked you out and then we left. You drop me to my hotel, kiss me in the car because it’s supposed to be and then voila! The date is done; and few years late forgotten.” Stella spoke in one breath! Raphael only smiled and agreed to her saying, “Yes. Isn’t it why I brought you here? I have no interest in being forgotten by you. So I’ll do what it takes to fix ‘Raphael – the milestone’ in your memory forever. I’d like you to remember this date just the way it is right now with a kiss that follows but definitely not in the car and definitely not because it’s supposed to be but because I want it to be…”
Strong words again slammed Stella in the face, and she looked away with a quiet smile.
“I’m a common man Stella, with simple ideologies and easy life style. Pansy people and high class parties are quite an entertainer but not for me. I enjoy sceneries, sunrises, sunsets, open oceans, waterfalls, and kids playing in the park, beaches, and music. Yes I drink, but it is because I feel at peace. I go to the clubs accompanying my friends. I am a regular video game person because it’s a complete entertainment. And this is the first time I’ve brought a girl out on a date here. So you know how common a man I am.
I looked at him to reach ends because I felt this marvel about him. I believe a superior man thinks of virtue while a common man thinks of comfort. And he was comforting. We belonged to a generation that was not concerned about the passage of our time but the essence we contributed to make it meaningful.