There she sat, only a few tables away. Alone. Reading a book and cradling a mug of steaming hot chocolate. I could only see her from the side, but she was bewitching.
Sicilians call it "the thunderbolt" - a powerful, almost dangerous longing in a man for a woman. Michael Corleone experiences one in The Godfather when he lays eyes on Apollonia Vitelli. And I had mine at a train station in Germany.
It was about 6pm on December 29, 1981. A uni mate and I - fuelled by adventure and testosterone - were coming to the last week of a backpacking holiday through Europe. We had visited Amsterdam, Paris, Florence and Rome, and skied for 10 days in Austria. London would be our last stop, but first we'd go our own ways for a few days as I'd promised the benefactors of my trip - my grandparents in the Netherlands - that I'd spend New Year's Eve with them. My mate and I would then reunite for the British finale of our trip.
I was killing time in a bar at Munich Hauptbahnhof. I would have gone to see the famous Glockenspiel, or something else worthy, but it was a nasty, cold night. Snow was falling heavily and the wind chill turned cheeks instantly into glaciers.
I'd already bought my ticket to Amsterdam and so ordered yet another beer and bratwurst. And then I saw her.
There she sat, only a few tables away. Alone. Reading a book and cradling a mug of steaming hot chocolate. I could only see her from the side, but she was bewitching. Blonde hair cascaded down her back and over her breasts; a petite nose and a perfectly formed mouth.
I watched her until she happened to look up with her big, blue eyes. I flashed a smile, then walked over to introduce myself.
Ella was perfect. And right there and then I knew I wanted to spend my whole, entire life with her. I had been struck by a thunderbolt.
She was on her way home to Copenhagen after backpacking with a friend, and would be spending most of the next day in Hamburg before crossing the Fehmarn strait.
Well, what do you know, I fibbed, that's exactly where I'm going. On the pretence of going to the toilet, I sprinted to the ticket office, spent a small fortune on a ticket to Hamburg and stuffed my last German coins into a pay phone to tell my grandparents I'd be a few days late.
It was just the two of us in a compartment and the scene was set for a night of passion and romance. Ella was curvaceous, sexy, funny, intelligent; a doctor in the making, with kind eyes and a beautiful accent to her English. I was entranced. And, dare I say it, she also seemed keen on me.
I was excelling at multi-tasking, mixing casual, engaging conversation while simultaneously racking my brain on how to unclasp a bra in the dark - right over left, or left over right?
But before I could even fumble or flourish, Ella - exhausted from two months of travels - fell asleep only minutes into the journey. Sadly, her gorgeous bosom remained clad and untouched all night.
The next day we spent a brilliant six hours in Hamburg. It had stopped snowing, so we went on one of those double-decker bus tours. And lunch. And a walk through some park. All while I held her hand, stroked her hair gently, and put warm arms around her shoulders.
Yet, all too soon, we were back at the station. It was now or never. The love of my life was about to depart. Strike now . . . or pine forever.
I pleaded with her to stay a few more days in Hamburg, or to invite me to Copenhagen, to give us a chance. I further obliterated my already obliterated budget by splashing out on flowers. Yet all attempts to woo her seemed in vain, none more so when she said, "Eric, we have to go our separate ways." It had a ring of finality to it.
A broken man, I turned around to slink forlorn to the exit. And then, suddenly, unexpectedly, she called out. "Eric, come back . . ."
My heart leapt with joy. My prayers had been answered. She had reconsidered and was about to make me the happiest man in the world. She'd already jumped off the train and was skipping towards me. I spread my arms for the most gorgeous hug of my life . . .
"Eric," she said almost breathlessly. "I can't go to Copenhagen . . . without my satchel." She whisked it off my shoulder and was back on the train in seconds.
I cried as I sat in the bar awaiting my train to Amsterdam. I'd never forget this thunderbolt, and an empty, loveless life no doubt awaited as I'd never, ever, EVER get over Ella.
And then I looked up and saw perfection. Sally was her name, I think . . .
- The Dominion Post
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