Friday, November 23, 2007

The Ghost

This afternoon, near the end of a bad day which was about to get worse, I saw a ghost waiting for the bus.
He was standing with a crowd of my patients, and he comes from the same part of the world, so at first I couldn't figure out why he looked familiar but somehow torn out of some past chapter of my life.
Then I remembered him. He was in a German class with me last year. Turkish guy, quiet, a keen student. He had been an Islamic teacher in Istanbul, and he'd moved here to Vienna with his family hoping to somehow make a better life for himself. He made Baklava for the class.
I shook his hand and for a few moments he looked like he was also trying to remember who the hell I was. Then he remembered me, too. Sort of.
Within about forty-five seconds, he told me that he was unemployed, seeing a doctor for depression, and had recently split up with his wife. Then, since we seemed to be going the same way, the ghost and I stood together for a tortured fifteen minutes, on the bus and then on the U-bahn, speaking mangled German and trying to make conversation, any conversation.
What do you say when someone you don't know very well tells you his life is falling apart?
I felt so bad for him. Vienna blows for lots of natural born Austrians, but it's got to be a very strange sort of hell for a immigrant who teaches the Koran. I'm sorry, I said. But I couldn't think of anything else to say that didn't sound false or patronizing or stupid or trivial.
So when we got to my subway stop, I just shook his hand and said,"Good Luck."
I should have taken it for an omen. A few minutes later, my day went all to hell.


Anonymous said...

man, stay away from depressive koran teachers, they bring nothing but bad luck. ;)
happy thanksgiving!

hexe said...

The beginning of another post?

pat said...

Thanks for reading, peoples! And no, Hexe, it's not something I can blog about. Suffice to say, me and the family are all fine, and as for my other problems, as George Clinton would say, it'll all be better by Tuesday. Or Wednesday.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Pat,this is truly sad, for the ghost who hasn't the resources to adapt or is not being allowed to adapt, and for you, who is clearly sympathetic, but also working through the American in Euro thing yourself.

A big hug!