The Young Man

 

It was a warm and beautiful summer afternoon. I remember it so well. I was wandering along the narrow streets in Lübeck, a northern German city.

 

The glow of the sunset fell lightly on the colourful high windows of St. Mary’s Church.  The small round iron tables outside a vintage café looked familiar. Weren’t they of the same style of those portrayed in Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night?

With his eyes fixed on a city map spread open on the table, the elderly man put a spoonful of chocolate cake in his mouth. The woman sitting opposite him had short grey hair. She was feeding some greyish doves with tiny pieces of bread cut off from her ham sandwich, which lay delicately on the flowery porcelain plate. 

 

I walked past them, overhearing a foreign accent. French? This was my first day in Lübeck.

Turning to a street that led me to the main entrance of St. Mary’s Church, I noticed him instantly. A very young man was sitting on the ground in the centre of the town square with his head slightly bent forward. A worn paper cup was placed in front of him, waiting silently. A few lines of words appeared on an old shoebox beside him. The colour of the script had faded somewhat after exposure to the sun. I could not read German. 

Over the years, I have encountered the underprivileged in different corners of the world. The hardship of life left unmistakable signs on their faces. There must be countless stories behind these emotionless faces, but who bothered to listen? 

The outline of his face suggested that he was in his early twenties. I walked very slowly towards him. In the pocket of my cotton dress were a twenty-euro note and some coins. 

I bent down and leaned over to him. He lifted his head tentatively and faced my eyes. His green-blueish eyes looked blank.


I smiled to him and said “hi” with a reduced voice, attempting to sneak the euro note into his hand. 

The blankness of his expression disappeared. He looked at me with such softness and vulnerability in his eyes. “Oh no”, he said quickly and then murmured something I could not hear. He was reluctant to take the note, pushing it slightly back to me. 

“I’m leaving Lübeck tomorrow. You know I have no use of euros in my country. So, please take it. The sun is warm and the weather glorious. Go home and have a cup of tea”. I said quietly, smiling to him. 

 

A thought crossed my mind. He might not have a home where he could enjoy a cup of tea. My heart sank. 

“Thank you”. His voice was low and deep, his smile as warm as the summer sunset. 

“See you.” I said, waving gently to him. “See you”, he said, waving back to me. His smile faded as I walked away. 

Of course, we knew that. We knew we would never see one another again.

 

Lübeck, 10 July 2018

Author: Isabelle

Content writer / editor & Language advisor

46 thoughts on “The Young Man”

  1. What a sad story. By coincidence I’m going to Lübeck in a few days, and I’ll be staying in a small hotel called “Hotel by Saint Mary’s Church”.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Reminds me of 2 ships passing in the night. You have an incredible way of telling a story of something seemingly ordinary into something that seems legendary.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I was there with you, Isabelle. Your words pulled me right into that German city. I am quite sure, like you, he would never forget this quiet, summer encounter with a gorgeous stranger, who had floated by him, like the wind, that brought the scents of heart and love.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Vera, for being with me in this piece of text. It was an event happened almost 1 1/2 years ago. Perhaps it’s wrong to call it an event, considering the length of it. That moment has turned into a recurring image in my mind. It was good to put it on paper, eventually. There’s a kind of strangeness about my mind. I tend to remember/appreciate certain moments rather than large events. Sending you much love. Take care. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I believe it is these little special moments that accumulate into what we call our life, or, at least the parts of our life that are precious to us. Sending back hugs and love. ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. Anything can happen in our life. I hope we would be able to recognise each other if we have the chance to meet again. Thanks Val, for taking time to read and sending me your thoughtful words. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. ❤️❤️❤️Isabelle. This is so full of warmth and sweetness. Having lived in a very large city for many years, as You know, I’ve collected many of the same sort of stories. That connection is everything. When where we come from and whatever’s going on in our lives blurs and two heart speak. It’s beautiful that You reached out so lovingly. That You sought connection is as great a gift as the money You gave him. And You know, I do believe on some plane in some time in eternity You probably will cross paths again. Sending You so much Love and Great Big Hugs!!! Thank You, Beautiful Soul, for starting my day so sweetly!!! 🤗❤️🦋🌼😊

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks Katy, for your beautiful comment. It warms the heart, as your words always do. These are the moments that keep returning in my mind. Sadly, many people are struggling in our society, and they tend to be the neglected group. They may be considered inferior to the more “normal” population. Showing compassion and giving them a warm smile may brighten their day, even just for a short while.
      Take care. Sending huge hugs…❤️✨❤️

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh Lord! My pleasure, completely!!! And I absolutely agree with You, Isabelle. You bring to mind a very sweet memory. I raised my beautiful son in Los Angeles and areas in proximity. There are MANY homeless people all over Los Angeles and adjoining areas; so he grew up seeing it. We would take food to them at times, etc. Just buy groceries and walk around passing them out. There are many people in LA who do things like that. We walked a lot here and there and always said hello to everyone, including the homeless. Lord. There were even regular neighborhood homeless people we came to know. So anyway, he had an open heart about it. One day when he was about 5 we were at a stop light. At a bus bench next to the intersection there sat a man who was dressed in very ragged clothing. He was unkept and dirty; looked homeless. My son leaned out the window and said, “Hello!” The man started crying. He smiled the most beautiful smile and said, “Why, hello! Oh, thank You. Thank You.” My son just smiled at him and waved. I smiled and waved as well. It was crazy raw and so telling. We all truly just want connection and being in certain situations can rob us of that. That wonderful moment will follow me to the grave in the most beautiful of ways. When I read Your story that memory immediately came to mind. Thank You for all the wonderful sweetness You gifted with this post. It’s a brilliant reminder. 🤗❤️😊

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Isabelle, despite the bookmark, I’m afraid I don’t come by often enough, as I am quite late. This is the type of writing I enjoy limitlessly, this magnified beauty we bring to the smallest of events, those that do not remove us from our own smallness, but inflames it, makes us safer in our own emotional apertures, our stable palisades of growing, inch-by-inch, look-by-look. You remind me of my favoured authors of the mindful eye, of Sebald, of Milosz, of whose who’ve given their lives to the beauty of being, however sad it may sometimes figure itself, instead of the beauty of thinking, which despite having its own worth and space, will never fail to feel somewhat impersonal, at least to me.

    I adore reading you, you’re one of the best. Thank you so much.

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    1. I’m touched and flattered by your comment. Thank you, João- Maria. We live in our digital world with larger events and smaller things passing in such a speed that we cannot always absorb them properly. I’m making an attempt to record those moments that put me to deep thoughts and shape my life.
      You write brilliant texts and poems, always inspiring and thought-provoking.
      Have just checked out the profiles of Sebald and Milosz. Great authors. I’ll make sure to read some of their works.
      Thanks again for your kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. These moments make special memories. So many of us are out there doing the best that we can, whether we live on the streets or in a house. I hope your kindness helped ease his burden. I noticed Lubeck and stopped by to read this. It is a beautiful city.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for leaving me your thoughtful comment. Moments like these will stick to my mind for a very very long time. Many people are now in an extraordinarily difficult situation as a consequence of the virus. Showing kindness and support is even more important in this difficult time.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s lovely to hear from you, Andrew. Thank you. The country is on lockdown, and we’re doing our best to cope with the virus. A slightly unusual learning process.
      I hope you and your family are well.
      Be well and care.
      Sending love and hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

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