In August 2008, I was visiting friends in New York. It was a very hot summer. I remember that clearly, because due to the heat, I couldn’t go running before midnight. My friends lived in Harlem, and everybody, except for me, found it dangerous to go running at midnight, all the way down to Central Park, once around the park, and back north on Malcolm X Boulevard. I don’t know what people were worried about, because there is much less traffic at night.
On the last day, I arranged to meet with another friend. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
I was early, because I was excited to see her again.
She was late, and I don’t know if that meant anything.
Always clever and always trying to look clever, I had brought a book. “Twelve Angry Men” by Reginald Rose. I don’t know how long I was waiting, sitting on the steps in front of the museum, but I finished the whole book before she turned up. I should have been angry like twelve men myself, but as soon as I saw her, all anger was blown away, as if a fierce autumn storm had swept down 5th Avenue.
We enjoyed the museum.
The Benin masks, which back then, we didn’t yet think of as looted art. Paintings. Calligraphy. Arms and armor. A hippopotamus. The patio from the castle of Vélez-Blanco, not knowing that ten years later, I would step into that very castle in Andalusia, connecting continents, stories and memories.
We enjoyed the museum – and each other – so much, that I felt in no rush to get to the airport. My flight back to Germany was in the afternoon.
Eventually, hours later, I managed to part ways with the lovely lady, take the wrong subway, lose another half hour, and arrive at JFK airport 45 minutes before departure.
That should suffice, I thought, being used to small airports like Nuremberg or Malta.
“No way you gonna make it,” said the lady at the check-in counter, without the typical American optimism.
“I can run really fast,” I said, thankful for the nightly exercise.
“You are not the problem, the luggage is. We can’t get it to the gate in time,” she explained the complicated inner workings of an airport.
And thus, I missed my flight to Europe.
I texted my friend, thinking that this was a sign from God and that we should spend more time together, happily ever after. She never replied.