April 25th, 2012
The crowds in the restaurant roared for the soccer teams. Surrounded by a foreign language, I didn’t picture my last night in Germany to be so boisterous. I’d imagined a peaceful night on the town, soaking up the last rays of moonlit culture. I pictured a small group of friends, whose relationships transcended a language barrier, sharing a few last laughs before our plane left early the next afternoon.
So infatuated with the image of what I’d hoped my night to be, the crowd’s cheers fell to the background. I asked Lena if I could graciously make an exit, and to much of her own displeasure, she agreed. I pushed my seat back, nearly colliding with the table next to me, and stood up. I walked out of Louisiana’s quickly and deftly. I didn’t care if my presence went unnoticed, I just cared about being in the out-of-doors, breathing in the breaths of fresh solitude. As it so happened, my quick getaway hadn’t gone unnoticed, and my friend accompanied me.
We started walking around the city streets, so unlike anything we’d experienced before. The cobblestones felt smooth and jagged at the same time beneath the soles of my Converse, and I was thankful I hadn’t been conned into wearing high heels by Lena. We walked wherever the wind took us, feeling weightless and stress-free. As it so happened, we wound up at the pink palace, known to us by no other name, and a great symbol of our time in Trier. The night we had arrived in the city last week, Lena told the two of us in broken English, “Welcome to the most beautiful place in Germany. I come here. Sit, think, think more.”
And so, that final night, that’s exactly what I did. I began to string together my thoughts about the trip so far (in combination with what I’d learned from a tour guide earlier) into an allegory, what I called “The Allegory of the Palace.” I said, “You know, that palace is a lot like me. Not because it’s pink or anything. But because it’s lopsided.” One wing of the palace was cut short, and the other stretched far beyond our sight. We continued to pace the gravel that lined the palace gardens. “It’s beautiful. It’s beautiful just the way it is. And some idiots thought it wasn’t. Those same idiots thought it was better to hire a groundskeeper to plant a tree in front of the longer wing, to make it look symmetrical. Hey, why can’t palaces be asymmetrical? And look! The tree isn’t even blossoming! Now it just looks like a dumb bare tree planted in front of something that was beautiful the way it was. That palace is a lot like me. I’m asymmetrical, man. And when I’m not perfect, someone’s always there to mask my imperfections. I wish people just stopped planting trees and stopped making excuses for why I’m not perfect. Maybe we wouldn’t have to bend our vision so much if we spread around more acceptance.”
I was quite proud of the story by the time I had finished, and our conversation caused me to trail off, and stare into the dark distance. I thought about everything I’d experienced that had ever caused me to hurt. Some of it I vocalized, and some of it I didn’t. Either way, my hurt and pain dissolved into tears and a brief period of sobbing. Silently he sat there, staring at the palace, and occasionally making attempts to console me.
After I’d had enough of being being sad, angry, and frustrated, he said to me “Don’t you want to break the rules every once in a while?”
I replied, “Yes, I suppose so.”
With that, he stood up from where he’d been sitting next to me, and walked towards the gardens before the palace. He said,
“Betroten verboten. What does that mean?”
“Treading forbidden. It means don’t walk on the
grass.” He inched closer towards the grass, and the sign that was pegged in the
soil. “Don’t wreck something beautiful!” I yelled at him, as it was in contradiction to our Allegory.
“I won’t, but don’t you ever want to take a leap, Amanda? Be courageous, stand up, and let go.” As much of a cliche as it was, he was right. My allegory had said exactly that. I stood up, walked next to him, and stood in awe, staring at the palace. With a quick movement, he grabbed my forearm, and pulled me onto the grass and over the sign, careful to avoid any flowers that could have been damaged in the process.