Previously on Nayrotica… 
Day 2

Morning came too soon for me, but my host was awake and soon thereafter out the door before I could really manage a coherent thought. He wished me a good day through the shades of jet lag, and told me I could stay in his flat for as long as I wanted, he did not have another booking until the following week– with that, he headed off to work. I fell back asleep, and after not much time had passed, I felt him crawl back into bed with me.

He decided to take the day off and spend it with me! I thought to myself. How sweet! (but also secretly dreading it. I LOVE MY ALONE TIME!) I opened my eyes to greet him and the man who crawled into bed with was DEFINITELY not my host.

It was the Nice guest…

And without as much as a word, my story went from Danielle Steel to Harlequeer Romance novel in no time at all. A rather unexpected turn. The Nice guest was naked. He was naked. In my bed. That I shared with my host at a VRBO. In Paris.

I did not have time to warn him about the possible trouble I was having in the plumbing department before wham bam, and then he too was leaving for work. I reflected thoughtfully, Oh Gay Paris, you trollop. I stared out the window over the picturesque city. With the Nice-ities of the guest marking the start of my day, I rallied and began my journey into the city center. Knowing that it would be hours before I could partake in the revelry of a free clinic for my special circumstances, I pounced on the open window of time to explore Paris and try her on for size.

However, I am a bad tourist. There was nothing in Paris that I was dying to see, so I did what I do in every city I visit: I walked around, stopping for a beverage or bite to eat when needed, wrote when I felt like it, and just lived as a native Parisian (with a horrible language deficit). I window shopped; I drank espresso; I devoured pastries; I ordered sandwiches… In French! Even then, the restaurant employees thought it was sweet when I tried speaking their language; my pronunciation and placement are awful. Even so, I decided to stay in Paris for a few days, having never communicated this information to my gracious host, much less the indiscretions of the morning, but instead seized the moment and accepted his generous hospitality. I just did it. (Killing it with amazing manners!) But he was okay with it, it seemed. Even though I was (and am) a terrible tourist, I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower and the Seine… and find every Starbucks I could. After a layer of my exposed skin fully burned and I was finished posing for selfies with statues, monuments and other random objects on the street, it was time for me to make my way to the free clinic.

Once at the clinic, which I found by showing the sheet of paper, the one I was provided at the hospital the day before that had the address on it, to random people on the street, I breathed a sigh of relief. Getting there was half the battle… Or so I thought. Like a sheep away from the flock, the Parisians gently guided me to my destination, each giving me a knowing look because of the other words that appeared alongside the address, in French, and gave away my reason for seeking out the clinic. I arrived 3o minutes early; there was no way I was going to miss out on the free antibiotics. There were others there, waiting in the rotunda with me. And as the hour drew nearer, it was teeming with men seeking the same, or similar, treatment that I was. Many knew each other, chatting about their needs, their days, their familiarities– or from what I could discern, that is what it seemed. Eventually, a woman in a white lab coat emerged and gave an overview of the process in French. People asked questions and she answered them accordingly. She then asked questions of the group and people raised their hands from time to time with responses (or clarifications?)– she was polling us for some sort of result. Eventually, she looked directly at me. Up to this point, I understood a word here and there, but her stare was perfectly clear. It said, What the hell are you doing here and why have you not answered any of my questions? Now, how was I supposed to answer that stare… except with a smile and, “Je ne sais pas. Je suis désolé.” I don not know. I am sorry. (I remembered the second phrase from Madonna’s track entitled Sorry off of her album, Confessions on a Dance Floor. Thanks, Madge.)

The doctor looked at me and then to the rest of those gathered for the magic medicine, “A un moment, s’il vous plait,” at which time another white lab coat came over to me and started asking me questions, again in French, but this time a bit slower so I was able to get more words than not. So there I was, navigating my health issues with my extremely limited grasp of a language and my amazing ability to enact all my symptoms with a rousing game of charades. AGAIN! The clinic staff looked about as amused as those women on Rodeo Drive who don’t allow Julia Roberts to shop in Pretty Woman. (Yes, I just positioned myself as the modern, afflicted Julia Roberts). The staff at the clinic didn’t speak a lick of English, and why should they? I was in their country, after all. With each new step of the process, I was met by another human with whom I got to attempt to communicate in the international languages of pointing, dancing, gesturing, and facial expressions. The staff just stared at me, occasionally furrowing a brow, while the other patients giggled uncomfortably. Finally, a nurse took pity on me– she said, “Sit. Wait. Understand.” I followed her directions and after about 2 hours of waiting and an examination for good measure, I was given two pills, an injection, and a lollipop then was on my way to Récupération, a swank new restaurant to meet my host for dinner. (That wasn’t actually the name of the restaurant, but it should have been as I was now on the mend.)

At dinner, we attempted conversation, but there was still that glaring and obnoxious language barrier, so instead we ate mostly in silence, saying everything we needed to with our eyes and laughter. Later that night after arriving home, he invited me to sleep in his bed. I accepted his invitation and chose not to tell him what had happened when his friend from Nice jumped into my bed that morning. I did not know or understand their relationship and was certainly not about to try to explain, in Franglish (with a strong emphasis on the ‘Glish), what had occurred earlier that day. Nor was I about to go into the details of Pandemic Nayrotica where I served as Patient X. That night was much like the one before and when morning came, there was another kiss on my forehead and he was out the door. I was genuinely fond of my host who turned out to be a real sweetheart, offering me food and lodging. I stuck around for a few more days to see more of the actual city, and not just the inside of multiple hospitals. Paris awakened in me a life I forgot I could live, one of pure joy and anonymity. Preparing to leave Paris was bittersweet; I was excited to discover more adventure but was sad to bid adieu to my lovely host. However, I had stayed in Paris as long as I could and I needed to be in Poland two days later And so, it was time to try out my German language skills (of which I had none)! Berlin was next, and I had to board a bus that would take me on a journey across borders in Europe.

For the challenges I met in Paris, I was about to be rewarded in Berlin… but I was not yet aware of his name, nor did I even know he existed. The man who would change my life forever was 650 miles away and I was about to begin my journey toward reducing that distance to zero. I boarded the bus and blew Paris a kiss as I gazed at the cityscape.

No… really! I found my seat and literally blew a kiss to the city and let out a sigh.

The man sitting across me glared, repulsed by my visage, with the face of someone who had just smelled New York for the first time on garbage day in August. I beamed at him, “Bonjour! Je suis Américain…” And so, the journey began.


Being stirred to consciousness by a gradual reduction in speed and having no idea how long I had been asleep, I regained my wits. I expected the bus ride would be much longer, having not calculated the time and distance before booking the ticket. When the bus came to an eventual halt, I exclaimed (to myself since no one was listening),

“We are here!”

I looked around to garner the support and excitement of those seated near me, but instead, I was greeted with quite the contrary. The zombies who were flanking  me came to life and lumbered toward the bus door. The driver said something in German, guttural and phlegmy, and then stepped off the bus. Others followed. So I did too.

Outside, I stepped onto a gravel parking lot, I saw a few sleepy cafés and restaurants  and a TK Maxx (Yes, TK. For some reason TJ doesn’t translate, however, I would imagine that Maxxinista does). Berlin was quieter and less… cosmopolitan than I expected. First order of German business? Get a German SIM card. I meandered up the German street to a German shop that said SIM hier verkauft in the German window. I could discern what 3 of those letters meant in that combination, so I walked in to make my purchase. Having demonstrated my worldly knowledge that SIM in German is the same as SIM in English (that was a happy accident; I did not actually know this beforehand), I was the owner of a German SIM card with a data plan, minutes, and texts, but no clue how many of each I had purchased.

On the street corner, adjacent to the gravel parking lot and the TK MAXX, I installed the SIM card and dialed my mom. It had been a while since I checked in, and I thought it would be nice to touch base. I called, entering the country code properly, and I heard a woman begin speaking German to me,

“Das Telefon auflegen. Sie müssen Ihren Plan zu aktivieren. Sie dumm Scheiße.” 

My mother already knew I was in Germany. Of course! I responded,

“MOM! Hi! How are you?!”

“Das Telefon auflegen. Sie müssen Ihren Plan zu aktivieren. Sie dumm Scheiße.”

“M-m-mom? Is that you?”

“Das Telefon auflegen. Sie müssen Ihren Plan zu aktivieren. Sie dumm Scheiße.”

I hung up the phone after deducing that I was talking to a recording. I dialed again but was greeted with the same voice pretending to be my mom. I could not figure out why, with each attempt, I was yelled at by a German woman on a recording. It was aggressive and made me feel inadequate. I have no clue what the voice on the recorder was saying, but because of her tone, I knew that I had done something terribly wrong… and that I wanted to be punished for being soooo bad. Huh. Weird.

Luckily, I also purchased data (daten) with my new SIM and the internet was working, so I was able to find my location on Google Maps. Bless their hearts. The blue dot hovered over me. I hit refresh because it seemed to be skewing a bit off. I refreshed the map several times but the blue dot remained stationary. It was then that I realized…

I was definitely not in Berlin.

To be continued.