A lost chance

I was travelling on the train from Amsterdam to Brussels, a city where I lived at that time. I was sitting in a coupe, a separate small room, reserved for those who wanted some quietness and I remember that I was preparing for one of my exams related to English. I was studying at the Institute of Translators and Interpreters and the studies were intense. I had spent a weekend at my mum near the Hague (she lived there), and was returning home – to my beloved Brussels, a city I truly loved.

The train progressed in a good, soothing pace. I was struggling to focus on my syllabus because usually while on a train I just liked thinking: staring outside the window and at the passing landscapes and just reflect. I was also young then, twenty-one or twenty-two, and my head was always in some dream state of mind. I liked thinking about life, about love, and the future as in a fairytale. I was a dreamer.

A boy of approximately my age entered the coupe and installed himself right in front of me. I had noticed him briefly looking inside the coupe before opening the doors with his daring attitude. The train was almost empty. I always travelled between 11 and 14 to avoid crowds of people. I liked the train for myself, and I enjoyed the stillness of the coupe.

‘’My name is Menthe,’’ the guy was already talking and reluctantly I dragged my eyes away from my syllabus. I did notice that he was cute and had incredible blue eyes.

‘’My name is Ekaterina,’’ I answered, not sure whether to stop at that and put my book up in front of my face, or give him a chance. At that age I was shy, terribly shy.

‘’You study languages?” The boy commented pointing towards my book, ‘’I study medicine. My stop is in Antwerp.’’

His stop would be in twenty minutes. And thus, I decided to talk. We chatted about our studies, about languages and our countries. Menthe was Dutch, I was Russian, and it was amazing that we had both ended up doing our studies in Belgium. Menthe wanted to be a good doctor, while I told him that I wanted to be a writer one day but that I wasn’t yet ready. Suddenly, five minutes before his stop Menthe said, leaning towards me and almost touching his face with mine.

‘’I think you are the most incredible girl I’ve ever met, can I see you again?’’

I blushed and leaned backwards. It was unexpected but nice. He was extremely attractive and I liked his directness in declaring his affection for me. Which woman doesn’t like it, may I ask?

We quickly made the arrangements. None of us had a mobile phone then, and so we agreed to meet a week later, on Saturday in Brussels. I would meet him at the train arriving at four o’clock.

Next Saturday he was there, emerging from the train, the most beautiful boy on the platform. We approached each other and we kissed, first on the cheek and then on the lips, and it was long and delicious.

We walked around Brussels and then we came to my flat, which was overlooking the cemetery. I was living in the most incredible place! We cooked together a simple meal, opened wine and made love all night long. In the morning he had to go and I was feeling anxious. Would I see him again? But because I was so anxious, instead of asking him that question, I withdrew into myself and my behavior became cold towards him, and I could feel that he was puzzled.

It was only when we were next to his train ready to depart for Antwerp that he asked me:

‘’But will I see you again?’’

And instead of answering with a question ‘’when’’? I shrugged my shoulders, because I was uncertain when love was screaming into my face.

The mobile phones didn’t exist then, and thus, my hesitation was interpreted as a no. He looked at me from the train until it disappeared and I didn’t see him again.

A lost chance, as they say.

Dima, ou es tu?

I was sixteen, and still studying at school. On the day when I encountered Dima I was taking the Moscow’s underground to deliver myself for a photo session at a modelling competition. It was the time, which lasted for a year at most, when I was dreaming of becoming a model. In other words, I was completely, totally insecure in both my body and my head.

When I entered the wagon at one remote station in our beautiful underground, I immediately spotted Dima. The guy was charming, had dark hair and was laughing in a very sure way with two girls sitting next to him.

A cute guy and a student, I sighed. No way a person like him will ever notice my presence. I was wearing a terrible fur cap (to safeguard my hair for the photo session), while the only piece of style in my wardrobe was limited to the boots, which half of Moscow was wearing at that time. It was the period when limited pieces of fashion were attacking Moscow shops in masses. I might have skipped the rainbow coat (worn by the other half of the city’s population) but I had the boots. I sat next to the guy, however, as there was a vacant place. Taking out of my suitcase a book, I tried to loose myself in studying French grammar – the subject I was supposed to know perfectly, while attending a privileged linguistic college in my native town.           

“You speak French?” I heard a second later, and to my greatest amazement, this comment was coming from the cute dark-haired guy. He turned away from his fellow blonde student girlfriends and was looking intensely at me.           

“Yes, professionally,” I gave the most stupid answer, while removing my fur cap with my right hand and hiding a pimple on my check with my left.           

“Interesting,” the guy moved closer to me to look at my book. “Where?”           

“At the University,” I said in a confident way, while trying to adjust the position of my face in such a way that he wouldn’t notice my pimple.           

“Which university?”Despite the fact that I was only sixteen (and still at school), and blessed with pimples I knew which were the best universities, at that time, to learn French in Moscow.          

“The Institute for Foreign Languages,” I said proudly, forecasting my future at that moment, as it’s exactly where I landed for a year before moving to Brussels, let me think … two years later?   

 “Oh …” I could see that the guy’s interest in me was growing. Which was fine by me, as never in my life had a guy like him talked to me for such a long time, and yes, he was the cutest guy I had met so far.           

“Well …” he continued, “I also study French, at the University for Foreign Relations.”

Not only was he cute, he was also smart. At that time the institution he was attending was renowned as the ‘hottest’ place to get your degree.           

“Really?” I said. “I love French. It’s the love of my life,” I lied, since the biggest love of my life at that period was George Michael and Wham!           

“My name is Dima”, said the guy, while trying to hold my gaze for more than two seconds. It was exactly what I was trying to avoid, as my biggest problem at that time, apart from pimples, was that I was blushing on every possible and impossible occasion.

“My name is Ekaterina,” I answered, while wondering what on earth Dima saw in me, as the look on the faces of his two fellow girlfriends was suggesting that they were asking exactly the same question, and not in a very pleasant way.

“Voudriez-vous diner avec moi ce soir?” the eyes of Dima were really too close to mine this time.

I blushed. The thing was … I didn’t understand a word of what Dima had said. In perfect French. I was so blown away by his intense stare that it didn’t occur to me that I should also use my brain and my ears.           

“Fuck!!!!” was my answer in perfect Russian, when I noticed the name of the underground stop. “I missed my station!”And without giving it an additional, mature, balanced thought I literally jumped from the train.

And only on the platform seeing the departing train and Dima in the train looking (sadly?) at me did the meaning of his sentence entered my teenage brain. “Would you like to have a dinner with me tonight?” This was what he had asked me in French.