- Vol. 05
- Chapter 09
Ich liebe dich
I fall in love the spring before my 17th birthday.
Ich liebe dich. The words are much harsher than the sentiment. I taste their corners, sip on the beer from the plastic cup you’ve handed me. I am new to all this. Green. You are older. My teacher. We’re in the old airport hangar in Munich. No planes here now though. Just you and me. At least that’s how it feels. I taste the kiss. It lingers in the hot air and I close my eyes, trying to remember its scent, your scent. Sweat glides down my back.
Just you and me. And The Beautiful South. They’re from 'oop nawth, don’t you know?' You mimic my accent but I’d rather you teased me with your twang that tickles my tummy, takes me back to that moment when I first saw you on the banks of the Ammersee.
We’re both a long way from home.
‘Apparently, it’s something to do with what you Brits say about it being grim up north,’ you whisper. 'But I don’t believe that for an instant. You’re beautiful and I’d say your city is too’. Davidoff, Cool Water. I inhale memories that will draw me to the counters of every airport Duty Free for a decade, scanning the departures board wishing that Leeds was closer to Los Angeles.
This is their 'best of' album.
I know that because you taught me the lyrics as we lay on a blanket on the edge of the lake. There you stroked my belly with blades of green grass and handed me your Walkman. You’d brought me down here on your afternoon off. I was the exchange student, you the student teacher. Rules fluid like the water of the lake that lapped beneath the Walkman’s words.
Ich liebe dich
You’d pulled out two cans of Weissbier and touched my face with your lips, as we lay languorous in the April heat.
Kisses and beer and Ingrid Bergman. Words and feelings as yet unknown, now to never lose their meaning.
Later, it’s just you and me again, even though the concert hall is full.
“Guten Abend Deutschland. Ich liebe dich,” the lead singer lifts his beer and we raise ours in return. I don’t see the hundreds of others with the same plastic beakers and the same fixed smiles.
When I fly home, you’ll send me a mix tape with the lyrics of our favourite song. I’ll play it every day until the words gather their own memories of lakes and Weissbier and kisses and water and sun-drenched windswept days.
Later still you’ll tell me you’ve got a girlfriend. I’ll keep on playing our music until the ribbon of the tape snaps. One day, when I’m tidying away other memories, I’ll find the photo you took of me that day on a blanket of green grass. Next to it the tape, as wasted as the ribbon of words you wrote across it, “Ich liebe dich”.