Sunday, September 9, 2012

Olivier and Instinct

Somehow I dragged myself back from the metro and into the incredibly warm bed of the hotel. The next day, it was snowing. Heavy feathers floated from the sky and dissolved onto the black pavements. I crossed the Charles bridge over the Danube on the way to the train station. Sick as I was, I still toyed with the idea of going to Poland, even though the weather was well below freezing. Then my better senses took over and then I headed to the platform for Munich. Then I turned towards the train destined for Krakow. If there is one thing I have learned, it is better to make a decision, any decision, even if it is the wrong decision, than to remain in the throes of indecision. I scurried back and forth between an ideal and the needs of my ailing bones, like a chicken that lost its head. Well, I lost my hat. In the last minute dash between platforms, I lost my well-insulating, furry hat that covered my ears. Great.

I arrived in Munich, back at the eventful Euro Youth Hostel where I got sick in the first place. I longed to take a nap, but I wound up sharing a room with a young Arabic man who seemed polite enough. I had never seen anyone so closely resemble a pirate, from that dark swarthiness to the brusque mannerisms in which he handled his bags. Somehow, he seemed sinister and a horrible feeling spread from the pit of my stomache. Too uncomfortable to stay in the room (we two were the only occuppants that night), I went to the lobby.

I was still there 3 hours later. As backpackers went back and forth going about their business, I wrestled with the ideals of being safe and being mean. Rationally, my Arab roommate had done nothing to offend me, he hadn't even proven himself inconsiderate. It would be unfair, premature, and judgmental to assume that something would happen to me after the lights went out. But I was scared despite rhyme or reason, and could not bear the thought of going back into that room.

To distract myself, I struck up a conversation with a long-haired PHD physics candidate from Holland named Olivier. He was from a small town outside Amsterdam called utrecht. He had kind, gentle eyes and his pale visage was of the fine European facial construction seen in portraits of Jesus. He had the calmest demeanor when speaking. He was here for a conference, to present or gather information for his dissertation, and leaving for the Netherlands the following day. We spoke of many things, travel, Europe, life and circuitously arrived at where we were at that very moment. Yes, it was an existential conversation. I also confessed the reason I was hiding out in the lobby.

"So switch rooms," he suggested.

"I can't do that," I protested. "It would be rude."

"There is a reason for your instincts, even if you dont know what it is."

I must have looked unconvinced as he sought to persuade me to listen to myself.

"The worst that can happen if you change rooms is that you feel rude. But if you don't and something does happen, you will regret it because you knew."

He was right. Somehow, his reassurance was exactly what I needed to trust myself. There were plenty of vacancies and not at all an issue for the hostel. Perhaps nothing would have happened if I stayed in that room. Perhaps I avoided a catastrophe. I will never know. But there is a peace, a transcendence from worry, when you listen to that innermost voice.

Needless to say, I slept soundly that night.

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