Pen Pals

Frau am Strand schaut raus aufs Meer

I love my friend from Vienna who always sends me long letters. Her name is Katka.

I met her in Barcelona last August. The heat clung firmly to the city, even at night, just like a Hubba Bubba does to the sole of my left purple flat. Both of us had more or less just arrived in the city. Katka was still living in the hostel and I had moved into the apartment with the Spanish/Chilenean couple at Plaza de Sants a couple of days earlier.

I barely knew my way around.

Do I ever?

We were introduced by a common friend, Alessandra from Rome. She had friend requested me on Facebook months before.

“Hey, I’m Alessandra from Rome and soon i’ll be moving to Barcelona, too. Do you have an apartment yet? Or do you maybe want to go apartment hunting together? I hope it won’t be too difficult to find a place to live… If you want to, we can meet for a beer once the two of us get there”, she wrote in italianized Spanish.

Somewhat dehydrated from walking around all day in the violent heat that had me by the throat, I sure did want to go for a beer.

“Let’s meet at Jaume I. around nine, right next to the metro exit”, I texted her.

On time as usual, I surfaced from the metro station on the escalator a couple of minutes before nine. Alessandra and her boyfriend Mario were already waiting and waving. They must have recognized me.

“Let’s wait for the two other girls I’ve invited, then we can go and get something to eat and drink. You hungry?”, Alessandra from Rome said.

“I love your dread locks!”, I answered.

What followed wasn’t the usual small talk you have with strangers on first encounters. It was a Facebook blind date and apparently we had inspected each other’s facebook accounts well enough to make small talking less awkward than it generally is.

Mario tried to get my lighter to work when Katka showed up. She was one of the girls we had been waiting for. Emma from Birmingham, the other girl, was also just hurrying towards us.

And then we walked through the barrio gótico to find an affordable place to eat. And we talked and got to know each other. In the end we settled for an irish pub at plaza Jaume I., I think.

As things turned out, Katka also was an exchange student at Pompeu Fabra. We exchanged phone numbers, and yes, we inevitably also became Facebook friends. Unlike the one with Alessandra and Mario, my non-virtual friendship with Katka didn’t end there (and neither did the one with Emma, but that’s another story).

We shared many firsts. Like the first time at Ciutadella campus (even though I think that this was only one of my firsts). Or the day we spent in the hospital. Or the evening we went to the chocolate museum and then to the beach with that Mexican guy who liked Rachel. Or the morning we got up early to get the N.I.E. at the police station in Barceloneta and were sent away after an hour of waiting in line because the policemen didn’t get the computers to work. Or the night with Jan and Emma at the Festa Major in Sants when we still didn’t know who Love of Lesbian were but saw them play their last two songs in the gardens of Can Mantega. And the hours after the concert, with the four of us singing along to this band that played a cover of “Simply the best” in one of the streets. Or the day of Katka’s birthday, when the two of us were out on the terrace of her apartment in Eixample while it rained, under the big sunshade and making mulled wine on the charcoal grill. That was a fun night indeed. It ended in my kitchen in Sants, where I defrosted and microwaved some leftover potatoe soup for us at half past five in the morning.

Never had I thought that I would make friends with someone like Katka while being in Barcelona. She was one of the first people I really got to know and one of the last I said goodbye to. In between we had hummus, laughed a lot, talked about growing up, „How I met your mother“, parents, boys and all the other important and unimportant stuff life tends to throw in your way.

It’s only been two months but it seems like forever that we’ve returned to our real lives in the real world in our respective countries. And even though we don’t regularly hear from each other, I still feel like i know what’s up with her. The conversations we had while ordering “dos cañas más por favor” are now put down in writing. We take the time to write each other, and by writing I mean writing more than five sentences.

We’re different but the same, I figure.

I love my friend from Vienna who always sends me long letters. They are so worth the wait. It feels good to have a friend like Katka.