There were two choices TV-wise: German porn and coverage of the unfolding Hurricane Katrina catastrophe. Neither really suited my mood, which could be best described as jet-lag-meets-existential-angst. But I had just ordered a room service pizza and was all alone in an industrial city in central Germany, so naturally I went with the German porn. You know, to soak in the culture and to avoid the horrifying scene of impoverished people perishing at the Super Dome.
It seemed rude to the “performers” to eat German pizza (if you are picturing a giant hard biscuit with some brownish gravy splashed over it, then you are picturing German pizza) while they were doing whatever it was they were doing, so I turned it off. Even my constant woe-is-me monologue seemed preferable to the confusing sexual images involving nautilus machines.
With nothing but the sound of my teeth ripping through the “pizza,” I heard the ambient noises of the hotel and the unmistakable sounds of happy hour: clinking glasses and convivial laughter. My room must be above the bar, I thought, believing this was a cosmic turn towards happiness and light, because even though I didn’t drink, I liked the sounds of other people enjoying themselves.
I drew back the curtains and saw the hotel pool illuminated from below. The water shimmered under the dusky sky, and I felt happy to see myself recognize beauty, even as I ate alone a continent away from comfort and edible food. My eyes focused on the people whose muffled conversations drew me to the window. Like the pool, they were all illuminated from the soft lighting surrounded the bar area, which was strong enough for me to see that they had no clothes on. Apparently, happy hour at the SchwabenQuellen was sans clothing. My unobstructed view of those naked German people sipping amber liquid in their birthday suits neither excited nor disgusted me. It simply added to the strangeness of the day that marked the beginning of a new work assignment that was expected to last up to 6 months.
Having choked down my dinner, I waited for sleep to overtake me– to take this day and the terror I felt about the new chapter I was facing. Through my terror, I could see that my new assignment looked glamorous on paper. Other associates at my firm coveted the opportunity to work on the Big Case over in Germany. Initially, I thought it was the perfect cure for my recently broken-to-bits heart. International work– look at me
ex-boyfriend world, I am A-OK. . . better than EVER!
Except I wasn’t. I sent my friends funny emails about the naked pool party and the scary German airport officials. Ha ha, I got stopped three times and they lost my luggage. Ain’t life funny? But, I wasn’t really laughing and I couldn’t keep it up for 6 weeks, much less 6 months. Maybe one day I would be ready for an assignment that would take me out of the country for weeks at a time and keep me jet lagged 100% of the time.
But not now.
“I can’t do this right now,” I told the partner. I prepared myself to be fired on the spot.
Within 3 days I was reassigned to a case in Des Moines, where the days were sometimes long and lonely, but at night I sank into the queen-sized bed at my Residence Inn and took comfort in Seinfeld or Friends.
And when I looked out the window at the paved parking lot and the wheat fields stretched to the horizon I thought I had never seen anything so beautiful.