I’ve taken setinmelbourne to Germany (temporarily). Aroma Cafe is a hip little eating spot in Munich. Click to read the story by set in Melbourne…
Sara walked out of her parent’s apartment in Falkenstraße. She jumped onto her old bike and headed down Humboldstraße towards Aroma Café. It was cooler today, a temperate 27°, and clouds covered the skies that had yesterday appeared Matisse blue. The familiar yellow, white, and lavender buildings passed her quickly, along with recollections of a former time. She rode alongside the old cemetery, smiling as the sun momentarily broke through the barrier. A man on the street shouted at her, “Hey, du Arschloch. Pass doch auf, wo du hinfährst!” She turned around and gave him the finger, knowing that her road manoeuvres in no way warranted a “hey asshole.”
There were things she did not miss.
She parked her bike outside Aroma, and wrapped the heavy chain around the frame and back tire. She saw that the outside benches were all taken, bar a chair in front of a container filled with water with a marked sign saying “Fussbad – Free. ” She thought about it for a moment, thinking a footbath would cool her blistered feet, but it was 1pm; how many other feet have been in that water?
She walked inside and sat at the tables towards the right of the front counter. Days of studying, with triple espressos and scattered textbooks, gently tugged at her conscious. Memories that she had not recalled in years, except for the annual nightmare of sitting in an exam room and not knowing the answers. She plonked herself down on one of the little wooden chairs. The seat was almost level with the table. She wondered how on earth her 17-year-old body hadn’t ached of back pain with months craned over chemistry books. Ever armed with a highlighter and notepad.
Sara tried to remember the last time she had been here. 3 years, 4? The décor was still similar, although the little knick-knacks they sold had changed.
Metal shopping baskets hung from the ceiling on pieces of string. Some were filled with crisp packets, while others hung empty. Had they always been there?
An American couple was sitting at the table next to her, under the mural of what can at best be described as a female Bob Marley, with Harry Potter glasses and a yellow Rolling Stones tongue. In English, they discussed moving plans. They mentioned fitting a bed in a car and talked about the furniture they would need to give up. A waitress brought over two coffees and some dark German bread with spreads. She spoke to them in heavily accented English, and surprisingly pleasant mannerisms.
Lea would definitely be late; she was the only one of her school friends who still lived in Munich. The rest were scattered across the UK, Berlin, and one in South America. Lea was always to inherit her family’s Pharmacy, so she had stayed put and studied at LMU. She worked there as a full-time pharmacist now and earned enough for a two bedroom apartment in Schwabing, and yearly summer holidays to the Italian or Spanish coast. Lea was leaving day after tomorrow for said holiday, this time to the Cinque Terre. The last time Sara had seen her was when Lea had visited her the previous year. Lea had attended a conference in London and had taken a few extra days to visit her in Nottingham.
Sara noticed she was gripping her thighs. She uncrossed her legs and jiggled her left leg to loosen the muscles. Lea would ask her what she is doing, what the plans are. It would be the same story she’d heard from her mother, over the phone, before she arrived in Munich several days earlier. Her father had been understanding; he was just happy to have her home for a while. But her mother had grilled her, firing question after question and Sara’s answers had been less than satisfactory. Too present focussed. Too ambiguous. Too different from her mother’s friend’s daughters, for so-and-so’s daughter is now a lawyer or banker or businesswoman.
Lea arrived. She wore black slacks, a white cotton shirt and a simple gold chain around her neck. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail. The two girls hugged and Lea told Sara she was “so happy” to see her. It was funny that they always spoke English together, habits from the International School they attended, now almost 8 years ago.
Lea pulled out something from her bag, “I’ve been dying to show you this.”
She placed a book covered in a collage of photos in front of Sara, “do you remember?”
Sara pulled the book towards her, “LEA” was written over the photos in a glittery gel.
“You guys made it for me when you all left Munich,” said Lea, “I must have complained so much that you were leaving me on my own.”
“Oh my god, I can’t believe you still have this!”
“I found it the other day when I was cleaning out my desk. Check out what you wrote,” said Lea flicking the book open and turning the pages.
Don’t fret, you will end up better than all of us. While it will seem like we’re living the glam life, know that our apartments will only have hot water for half the time, that friendly mice will share the kitchen space, and that a weird smell that can’t be identified or located will always hang around.
We will be back to visit every holiday and because we will all be friendless, you will get daily phone calls on a rotating roster. Munich’s not all bad, I hear Rafael is also staying 😉 If you marry and have kids I’ll be jealous forever and I won’t come to your wedding.
I love you Lea, and wish you weren’t so smart, as then you’d have to go to a shittier uni and also need to move. I’m going to miss you so much, can you please just come in my suitcase???
Love you, love Sara-bear
Sara looked up once she’d finished, “I swear to god most of that actually happened,” she laughed.
“Do you remember the weird smell in the flat on Leslie Road? Like I still have no idea what that was!”
“I know, I hated visiting you there” said Lea sheepishly.
“The place in Arboretum was much nicer.”
“That’s true, but I only got to stay there once.”
“Have you ordered?” asked Lea getting up.
Sara shook her head. She also got up and walked over to the food cabinet next to the front counter. She wanted some bread; proper bread is what she did miss. She chose a vegetarian bread roll covered and bursting with seeds. Lea asked for the couscous salad. They also bought two cappuccinos; the odd feeling that the waiter did not know this was her usual order only dawned on her once she sat down.
“I actually haven’t been here in such a long time,” said Lea as she moved around on the small chair trying to find a comfortable position.
“I think the fact that it was an old porno shop really appealed to us as teenagers,” said Sara.
“Was it? I didn’t know.”
“Really?” asked Sara.
“No, I probably wouldn’t have come with you guys if I’d have known.”
Lea continued talking. She told Sara about the pharmacy, about her fiancé Paul, about the dog they wanted to get and how their usual apartment in the Cinque Terre was already rented out for the summer and they had to find an AirBnb.
Sara noticed her thighs gripping again. When was Lea going to ask her about her plans? She would have the same reaction as her mum. Lea’s voice wouldn’t turn into a screech like her mother’s, she would remain poised but practically ask her about how she saw the next few years working out. After spending a plane trip crying, dealing with a now silent mother and the constant worries that occupied her usually carefree mind, Sara didn’t know if she could handle concerned conversation. Lea would tell her to find a job in Munich, she’d probably even offer a casual role at the Pharmacy, a position most of her friends had already had at some point throughout high school. She might encourage Sara to finish her Masters degree in Munich, tell her she had options. Maybe she could do something with better job prospects? Lea would remind her of how great she had been in school, how she could have aimed higher. She’d say that setbacks happen to everyone, although she’d have no personal experience to draw upon. She’d mean well, she always meant so well.
Sara would have to tell her she didn’t know, for it wasn’t supposed to turn out this way. She wasn’t supposed to move back to Munich, to only have Lea for support. She was supposed to have it all figured out, or at least be figuring it out. She had been figuring it out, even last month she was figuring it out. She was gripping her thighs again.
“Do you want to get anything sweet to share?” asked Lea, snapping Sara out of the parallel conversation occurring inside her head.
“They have some yummy looking cakes.”
Sara looked over at the wooden counter; it was almost difficult to see the desserts. The towers and shelves of bric-a-brac made for better competition. Sara wondered if tourists bought this stuff or if novelties became common in abundance.
Lea got up to have a closer look at the cakes. Her phone rang before she reached the counter.
“Hi Paul, ja ich bin noch mit der Sara im Aroma café…”
Sara didn’t bother eavesdropping; it would be about packing. Last minute details they’d already thought of months before; the rushed demeanour for performance only.
Sara waited idly; allowing her mind to once again hook to the same thoughts she’d had a moment ago, the same thoughts she had last night, on the flight over, leaving her apartment and while packing her things. They entered and fled her conscious. Her efforts to constrain as inept as catching water with a sieve.
Lea put a hand on her shoulder, “Sara, I’m leaving on Sunday but I’ll be back in 2 weeks. There’s an extra room in the apartment Paul and I are renting so if you want a break you’re obviously welcome to join. I have to head as I still have some paperwork to do for work before I go. It was so nice to see you, let me know about Italy, come whenever.”
Sara smiled and nodded.
Lea stood up, “And Sara, you talk when you’re ready okay?”
“Okay,” said Sara, only allowing a tear to roll down her face once Lea had left the café.
– The End –