An evening full of encounters
I sat with my eyes shut as the underground train I was on rattled through the dark. I couldn’t fall asleep, as it was simply impossible to switch off the background noise. The regular sound of the doors opening and closing; the clatter of high-heeled shoes on the floor; the chatter of lots of people on their way home. Normally, I got home from school earlier. But today there was much more to do than I was able to manage in my usual time. My watch bleeped. It was already 7 o’clock. A glimpse down the carriage revealed that the ticket inspector had come on board. A young guy, I guessed around 20, with Middle-Eastern features. He walked slowly through the train but still had to stop himself from tripping a few times, as the train often braked abruptly. The inspector had almost reached me when the train, with a great jerk, came to a final halt. All the lights went out. The bright train was suddenly plunged into darkness. Beside this stretch of track, cars were roaring past on the high street.
I was just wishing that I, too, could drive home by car, when the driver announced over the loudspeaker: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, unfortunately there has been a power cut. The train therefore cannot proceed. I ask you to remain calm and I apologise for the inconvenience.’ And we cannot even get off, I thought. I heard the conductor mutter to himself: ‘My job is done, so.’
‘It is really annoying, isn’t it?’ I said, trying to start a conversation with the ticket inspector. ‘Yes, rather,’ answered the young man. Now, close up, I noticed, for the first time, the scar running across his face, from his right ear to the corner of his mouth. ‘How did you do that?’ I asked, curious. In answer, he said: ‘Oh, two years ago I fled from Syria to Germany. In Turkey, a grenade exploded not far from me. A piece of shrapnel caught me in the face.’ ‘How awful,’ I said. ‘But I get the impression that you already speak fluent German. How did you manage that?’ ‘Well, it was not easy to adjust to this culture. Particularly if you don’t speak the language. But I attended many language courses and eventually I managed it. Since then, I have been getting better and better.’ I was very impressed. At the very moment that I said: ‘Hopefully, the train will get going again,’ the train moved off. I was glad that I would soon be home, as was the ticket inspector. You could see it in his face…
It was not far from the station to where I live. I live near a library. Usually, I go there every day after school. I wondered if I should go today, too. Then I heard my neighbour say: ‘Good evening. You’re running a bit late today, aren’t you?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘I had lots to do, and then there was the power cut and the train had to stay put!’ ‘Yes, I noticed the power cut. I was watching television when suddenly it shut down. That was really annoying,’ my neighbour answered. I said goodbye and went to my flat. I emptied my bag on my big yellow armchair. Then I remembered that I wanted to borrow the first volume of the Kangaroo trilogy. A friend had recommended this book to me. I wondered if the library was still open. Unfortunately, I could not remember the opening hours. I grabbed my key and went out. It was ice cold. I could see my breath fogging in the air. Insects buzzed around the street lights, which gave off a yellowish glow. It took only a few steps to reach the library. It was housed in a three-storey building, only two of which were in use.
Inside, I felt warmer immediately. An older woman, sitting at the library desk, greeted me. ‘How can I help you?’ she asked. ‘I am looking for volume one of the Kangaroo Chronicles.’ ‘You will find it upstairs,’ she advised. ‘Many thanks,’ I replied.
It was deadly quiet on the upper floor. A black man came towards me: ‘Are you looking for something?’ he asked me in an unusually deep voice. ‘Yes, the Kangaroo Chronicles,’ I answered. ‘The woman at the desk below told me that I would find it here.’ ‘And she was absolutely right! Follow me. What’s more, I have also read the Kangaroo series. They are great books.’ ‘That is what my friend told me as well,’ I said. I took the book from the shelf and politely said thank you. I returned home happily.
Lying in bed at home, I thought about the book I had started and dreamed about it: ‘There’s a knock at the door. I open up and find myself standing face to face with a kangaroo. I look down the stairs, and then up the stairs...’