“Did you already stand in line to get tickets for the Berlinale?” Angus sits across from me, his eyes resting on mine with a casual smile.
I shake my head and sip on a fruity cocktail, waiting for the ice to freeze my brain. I’ve been thirsty coming to this place. The bagel shop on the second floor. The store next door is being renovated once again. Something always changes in Berlin and yet it strangely remains the same.
“Me either.” Angus glares at me with a look that leaves me guessing. He pauses, then sighs. The way his spikes an olive from our appetizer plate almost seems volatile. “Too many years have passed since I last won a Bear. No accreditation for me this year.”
I watch how he picks the olive from his toothpick, his lips glistening from the oily dressing. “I don’t know what it is with this film festival. Last year I was too ill to attend, the year before I was struggling to keep my job. Must be the season. I don’t feel I’m missing out on anything.”
“Berlin is gray in winter. They say the festival brings color to a dreadful season.” Angus picks another olive and chews on it.“No shopping for investors at the EFM this year?”
Off to Paris tomorrow. 20+ years since I’ve last been. So much has changed, it feels weird. And yet I’m thrilled. Thrilled to see the city, meet new people, speak French again and pay my respects to someone who’s taught me more in recent months than I was able to teach myself. It’s wonderful really how others can open our hearts like that. Like the last time I went to Paris. I was an exchange student who was sent to a suburb to stay with a Persian family with five kids. They were the kindest host family I ever had: warmhearted, welcoming and hospitable like no one else – and I have plenty of wonderful experiences staying with families in so many different countries. That family still stands out and it breaks my heart that we lost touch as I grew up. Returning to Paris now reminds me of the weeks I spent with them. It was another January, icy cold. The streets sprinkled with snow like powdered sugar, the trees naked, traffic tough. I still remember riding on a tow truck after our car broke down one too many times in the middle of a busy tunnel. We never made it to Versailles that day, our desired destination, but I didn’t mind. Instead I saw a city I would otherwise never have seen. Side streets filled with people working in shops far away from tourist mainstream. That was the Paris I fell in love with, the sightseeing before and after only bored me. So what will I find now that I won’t have enough time to roam the streets I’d like to revisit? Now that the Europe I came to love as a child has changed so much? I don’t know and that’s the beauty of it. Last year has taught me to keep my eyes open and accept what’s coming. So whatever you have up your sleeve for me this time, Paris, please be kind to me like you were the last time we met. You’re a fond memory, even though I didn’t always admit it.