“In traveling, a companion, in life, compassion,'” she repeats, making sure of it. If she had paper and pencil, it wouldn’t surprise me if she wrote it down. “So what does that really mean? In simple terms”
I think it over. It takes me a while to gather my thoughts, but she waits patiently.
“I think it means,” I say, “that chance encounters are what keep us going. In simple terms” (Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami)
Maybe it is the color of the leaves turning these last days into a warm orange, leaving little by little the light yellow tone of the last weeks.
Maybe it is the view of some pumpkins arranged with some beautiful seasonal flowers in front of the same flower shop where I pass by every day on my way to work.
Maybe it is the smell of the huge pot of pumpkin soup in the canteen of my school, prepared by the same old lady working there since years and who only communicates with me in her dialect, which is difficult for me to fully understand but the sound of it is very familiar to me by now.
Maybe it is the combination of all these things. It brings me back to the memory of the last time I had tasted a pumpkin soup.
I had never been travelling somewhere without first having booked a hotel or a place where to sleep, or having known the address of where I was supposed to spend the night. I had accepted to come visit him, whom I had never met before. Not because I was particularly a curious or adventurous person. I had accepted the invitation because I had never been to his country, which is so close to mine and which is also famous for its beautiful landscape. Because his mails were warmhearted and his invitation sounded very genuine. I felt like I could trust him even though we had never met. I had made the trip knowing only that I was invited to stay for one night at his sister’s place. That was the only thing I had known at the time.
A few years before, in his country, there was an ugly sad story of a man who had abused his daughter and kidnapped her for years in the cellar of their house. The story was a shock and had thundered all over the world. When I told my best friend about my trip to this same country, without knowing the man with whom I had communicated through mails, my friend told me to leave him at least the name of this man. He said that with a smile. He did not particularly worry about me because deep down there was nothing to worry about. I laughed back and I told him that I would text him beyond arrival to tell him that everything was fine. He answered me: “Do you think that you would still have a phone connection in the cellar?” We both laughed and I was more than confident that I would be fine. The tone in the mails of my “pen pal” was a strong hint of his kindness. I could be wrong because we never really know a person until we really know, but I was still confident.
When we arrived at his sister’s home, she was preparing a pumpkin soup. His sister was his twin. She was beautiful and shy. Her boyfriend was there too and it was a nice coincidence: he came from where I come from. We started to joke around our own dialect. I felt at ease. I remember the smell of the pumpkin, mixed with ginger and cinnamon and some other spices. I remember she put quite a lot of spices. Then she prepared the table for us and went out for dinner with her boyfriend. It was a nice gesture to have prepared dinner. I was in the middle of the countryside, somewhere in a new country for me, in an apartment of a nice young lady who did not speak my language but who did prepare me a soup and who only smiled to me as an answer to all of my questions. The smell of the pumpkin soup started to embalm the kitchen and slowly the whole apartment. My “pen pal” opened a bottle of red wine. We spent our first evening with pumpkin soup, wine and music. Later in the evening, I told him the story of the “cellar-psychopath” and my best friend’s joke, he gave me the address of his sister. I did not text my best friend to tell him that I was fine. I did not need to know where I was. We probably finished the pumpkin soup by then. I drank one glass and a half, at most. He had to finish up the bottle instead. Then later in the night, his sister called him to ask if we were alright and to tell him that they would be back in half an hour, so that we could get dressed in case we were already undressed and might be in the middle of something. She was funny for having thought of that. It was a spontaneous thought though. Then they came back later on, she and her boyfriend. We opened another bottle of wine. We had chocolate and pistachio. She lit candles everywhere in the apart. We chatted for a while. Nice country, nice people and nice pumpkin soup.
The next day, as planned, we left her place. I was supposed to stay one day in his country. I stayed four days.
The pumpkin soup or anything related to pumpkin, even the color, always remind me of them. The twin sister-brother, she was sweet and he was spicy. She was shy. She stayed in silence but was easier to understand. He communicated but his words were enigmatic. Their country was beautiful, as beautiful as mine. Trusting his mails was a good thing. Not booking a hotel in advance was also an awesome idea, after all.