4. Sabrina, Conrad and Elizabeth (Pflegeleicht)

Good going – made it to Munich by (late) lunchtime, 4 hitches. Last night was spent dozing at a table in a service station, which made it pretty easy to make an early start. I then got a lift all the way to Nuremberg with Sabrina and her children Conrad (8) and Elizabeth (10). The kids were as she described, ‘pflegeleicht’ (‘easy care’, as in synthetic fabrics), i.e. nice.

She told me about her daughter who she was visiting in Nurenberg, who met her boyfriend a few weeks before she went on high school exchange to the states for a year. I wondered if that relationship had been cemented through this physical absence which forced a period of solely written and oral communication, and if I could learn something from this. Perhaps this would provide my first ‘lesson in love’ from someone who picks me up.

Sabrina, like her daughter now, had married her high-school sweet heart, and they’d spent 23 years together until he walked out one day, leaving her emotionally distraught, with four- and six- year old children to look after. It was really touching. I wanted to talk to people about their relationships en route, but I didn’t think I would encounter this intimacy.

She explained how because he had left without saying anything, just one day to the next, and it was as if the person she loved had died, in two respects. Firstly, she was shocked at the sudden loss of her companion. It reminded me of the times when more and better communication in itself would have eased situations. She said would have loved some time to talk to him, she had so many questions to ask. It wouldn’t have changed anything with her husband, she didn’t need to work things out with him and he still would have gone; but maybe he wouldn’t have died, had there been a few more words. Like when you spend time with someone in the airport before they leave: they still leave, but you have a moment to get used to the idea. Secondly, she was saddened that the person she knew and loved could do this – walk out on his kids, and this is how the person she had known, had effectively died.

When we got out of the car, I awkwardly said that the main reason I was hitching and not flying was because I wanted to talk to people on the way there, to make the whole journey about something more than just me and my story (and record these accounts). She said that she enjoyed talking, and that was fine (to record her), and as the batteries on my audio recorder had run out, I used the video function on my iPod. She knew I was recording, but as I was only interested in the audio, I didn’t point the camera in her direction. Maybe it would be easier if I made art that didn’t involve me doing things like this I thought. I felt like I wanted to get something out of the (kind) woman; a story, an experience; and that this wasn’t very nice. This is what had made it so difficult to turn the recorded on whilst we were still driving, it had felt like an imbalanced exchange: sure she wants to talk, but who knows if she wants to provide content for an (or ‘my’) art piece?

On saying goodbye, I may be mistaken, but I think she welled up a little. She hugged me. I didn’t expect her to, but I like hugs. It was a bit awkward because I had sunglasses hanging in the neck of my t-shirt, so when we hugged, the sunglasses stuck uncomfortably into our chests. I was thinking about pulling back and removing the sunglasses from my t-shirt, and trying again, but it seemed a bit much.

It was sad, and true, and tragic, and dramatic, and everyday, and as I knew things would, it put my tiny story into perspective. I was living a theatre monologue, yet it was true, all more dramatic than theatre. I was touched, and felt nourished by my journey and the honesty of the world.

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