What Europe teaches

Chirping stirs me in morning rays. It is not a song bird. It is a raven, and it calls at the 4 a.m. sun. I wonder about the birds the first few days: why they wake so early, and what compels them to sound?

I drudge to a cafe. The coffee is hot. Croissant shavings flake onto my shorts and onto the floor below me while V60 brewers swing from braided cables. I talk shop with Gergo the barista on coffee origins. He tells me it’s from Colombia, and the steam wand churns the milk into a swirling scream. I am one shop more oriented with the city.

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I am hurtling through the sky at a million miles an hour. It is absolute Chaos. It is an absolute masterpiece — how they have put me in the air. The air. It whips the wings in a hollow howl. I come to terms with my own death, because who wouldn’t think those things while flying to Rome?

A man lies on the pavement. Struck by a car in the Italian streets, he lies and waits for the pain to subside or to not, and for the goodness of man to save him. The ambulance wails. It lunges between cars and sends chills down my spine (this is because of the Doppler effect).

An arrangement sits on a checkered table in the Hungarian countryside. Cradled by a leaf, and dying by the second (it dies because it isn’t where it is supposed to be) an ant is born out of the petals. It scuttles along its trajectory, which must make sense to it. Disappearing on one side, appearing on the other — the ant might as well have stopped existing, because what do we know that we do not see?

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Vienna is composed. A composition, she is a city so clean and impossible to relate to. But maybe you have to look hard for her human characteristics (they are the ones that let us feel okay about living). Maybe at night she lifts her skirt and bares all. And then you can go on living yourself because at night when the woman in the skirt bares all you know that there has never been such a thing as perfection and all it takes is the setting of the sun or the pull of the bottle and the lifting of the skirt for you to see it.

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The couple is in love on a bridge in Budapest. She marvels at Norwegian education (I know the swoon of Scandinavia, and I feel like I know her). They kiss like it is their first time: it is a dry kiss, yet hurried. Hurried because they know they are running out of time. Because the sun has just set, and they better get home fast.

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These stories are true and accurate as much as your story is accurate. They are all of our stories. That of passion and love (which are not the same). And you know it is good. I see it from the same bridge in Budapest as the couple, and everyone there is me and you. And it is true because it happened now. Nothing is truer. Or rather, everything is equally true because everything is happening now. The raven calls. The steam wand screams. The wind howls the airplane wings while the fallen rider waits for the wail. The ant scuttles on the petal. Vienna finally seems human. The young lovers spritz their kisses across the bridge. Everything is true because it happened now, or once happened in someone’s now.

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