Why I wrote that letter:
* It was revision week, just before the language centre's B1 test. I got weary of the mindless learning of grammar rules, and felt that if I did indeed learn something from the past 24 weeks, I should have been able to express myself. On paper, at least.
* During class, we were given out a sheet on Der Besuch der alten Dame (The Visit, in English). The story of this play I didn't get, and still don't. Not sure if I ever get tragic comedies... Anyway, upon hearing the words 'die alte Dame', it unlocked a memory from a very forgotten past.
* Like a final showdown, I posed myself a challenge: use all the grammar tricks from the hat to scribe a text about my encounter with an 'alte Dame', then have it corrected by the teacher, disguised as extra letter-writing homework.
* I was also hoping that it would return to me with no red markings. Wishful thinking.
Background of the Story:
* Jasmin of 'Liebe Jasmin' addressed in my letter is not fictional. She is a friend.
* The year was 1999. Autumn.
* Location: Göteborg (Gothenburg), Sweden. I was on a student exchange programme, and so was Jasmin. But she was in Lund, Malmö (Malmo).
The True Story:
My memory is fuzzy now -- it was at the end of a 'school' day like any other, except it was sunny, and all my classmates seemed to have plans that afternoon. Could have been a Friday, or I just didn't want to return to my room to face homework.
I heard about this second-hand CD shop from a fellow school-housing-mate that lived in the adjacent building. I was getting bored with the usual MP3 music circulating in my laptop, so I decided to take a bus and head for this CD shop. It would have been my first experience buying second-hand CDs.
The store was dark and cramped with vinyls and CDs, and I sought nothing in particular. What caught my eye was the Dean Martin CD, for some reason I don't remember now. Or maybe I just did not want to leave empty-handed. Knowing me, I might have spent hours choosing a CD when it only felt like minutes to me.
When I finally left the CD shop and headed for the bus-stop, there was an old lady seated on the bench. With only one bench, I reluctantly sat down beside her. I do not remember what she wore, or how she looked now. Too much time was spent on fussing with the earphones, batteries and discman... But there was a lot of dark colour on her -- a large brown jacket, probably a hat or beret. I would like to think it was a fur coat, but it probably wasn't.
With the earphones and discman all ready to be loaded with a CD, I took out the Dean Martin album from my backpack and admired my new-old purchase. The first track was put on play, and then I heard a little humming. I tried to ignore it, but it was too obvious, so I had to force the angsty 20-year-old self to fake a smile her way. You never know; could have been a loony I always seem to attract.
'Good singer', she said.
Knowing there was no way of escaping it, I popped the earphone out from my left ear. How did she figure I could understand English? And then the small-talk ensued -- I was asked where I came from, I asked how she spoke such good English, and that led to her telling me she enjoyed learning languages as a hobby. There was English, French, and maybe Portuguese was in the works. She wanted to learn as many languages as possible!
That was so grand, I thought. And then her bus arrived.
She got up from the bench, flagged it down, turned around and threw me a tight hug. 'Good luck for the rest of your life', she said, and hurried up the bus. I looked up at bus full of passengers, and they all seemed to be smiling.
I gladly went back to listening to the music. Although, that CD never looked the same to me again.