Exa pulls up in the drive way, prompt, armed with three cameras, a coat with humongous pockets, and that signature smile. Her hair is shorter than I remember, and we hug for a long time, two years going through the window- everything seems like it never ended.
Exa and my aunt talk and then we are dropped off at the train station. Buying tickets and waiting, we both discuss the surreal quality of the situation: We are together again. That itself is a jewel of a thing. Boarding the train, we sit and begin talking like nothing has interrupted our effortless friendship. The train zips along and in no time we are in Grand Central. We wait in the middle for Kate- and here she comes, all strawberry blonde hair and wonderful smiles. We hug and again exclaim about the ridiculousness of the situation, in the most marvelous sense.
We get to the Met, check our coats, and begin to wander. Exa is hell bent on seeing Madame X, but we go into the Old Masters wing. Everybody agrees that our future lovers/husbands/what have you must build us wedding chests in the Italian fashion- big, heavy gilded things covered in paint, gorgeously constructed.
Fat Renaissance babies, Baroque frames, and Byzantine Italianate paintings line the walls. We walk past millions of dollars and talk about everything and anything- life has been moving on, and we’ve all changed, but our common international past threads everything. Memories laced with strawberry wine, bad decisions, and the Swiss country we resided in are shared. I think I laughed more than I have in a long time- too long!
Soon, Kate announces she’s hungry. Thank God, I think, because my stomach has been growling like an unsatisfied forest creature for some time. After desperately trying to find my favorite Judith beheading Holofernes portrait by Lucas Cranach the Elder (UNDER CONSTRUCTION IN A CLOSED WING) we depart.
We take the subway and enter Union Square. Literally not a single cloud tarnishes the optimistic blue that permeates the skyline. A farmer’s market bustles, and we make our way to Republic. Seated among two other groups of people, we order mimosas and enormous bowls of curried vegetables, wontons, and glass noodles. Kate attempts to teach Exa how to handle chopsticks- the lesson was somewhat successful, though in reality this should just give Exa an excuse to eat much more meals that require them.
We discuss Buddhist monk TA’s, life in college, current life dilemmas, and what our summers hold. Kate is spending the summer in Bucharest, Romania, on a dig- she’s found her passion, and I slightly envy her Eastern European summer. Exa, currently a resident of Boston, bemoans Boston’s horrible public transportation and how her landlord is in the process of “sweating them out”- apparently the heat has been 75+ for days now. We eat until full- so many noodles! – and head out into the Farmer’s Market.
Upon finding out I’ve never had a whoopie pie, Exa and Kate decide I must have one. We buy a plate with 3 of them and sit in a park on the ground, surrounded by good weather and spring-feverish New Yorkers. The whoopie pie was a marvel. Memories of living in horrible dorms, roommates, Chat Roulette and travelling are shared once again.
Kate finds a Victorian bar on her smartphone, and we walk there- but not before running into Journelle, a lingerie boutique that has the best website ever. I enter and buy Wolford stockings, gorgeous but expensive. We look at basques, bustiers, garter belts, and the most beautiful underthings. Mint, red, black, nude- colors galore! We bemoan our lack of funds for these gorgeous things, and enter Lillie’s.
Red velvet booths, a marble bar, and a giant tarnished mirror finished off the Victorian vibe. Exa and Kate both had whiskey drinks, while I stuck with my vodka. We sit for a while, slowly drinking and murmuring more stories. I can’t believe I’m in a huge city with two people I thought I’d never get to see again. We’re seamlessly laughing, the thread of conversation continuous.
Exa leads us to Eataly, the most amazing store in New York. A store, cafe, bar, and restaurant that imports Italian goods galore, a sensor delight in every way! Enormous bricks of Italian cheeses stare at me. My life in Switaly comes back, and I see Genovese pesto, imported pasta, genuine imported proscuitto. The sauces we would by in Migros, in Lugano, line the shelves! I’m back in Switzerland for a moment. Exa puts our name down to go to the 14th floor to the biergarten.
45 minutes later we enter. We each have a pint of something different- Exa’s brew had pomegranate it in, and definitely won. We sipped, people watched, and enjoyed the coming evening. A little buzzed, a little hungry, we walk out and find a Shake Shack. I balk at the line, but Exa insists it’s worth the wait. I am dubious at best- in Montana, a line is of 5 people, not 75, but East Coast efficiency soon makes itself obvious. The line moves forward, Exa photographs us too much. My camera batteries fall out somewhere.
We sit under a table with a heat lamp, feeling like reptiles, and enjoy burgers, fries, and shakes. We look up train times. Kate finds her way to the right street and departs to Penn Station- we part with hugs, and I almost wanted to cry. Exa and I hopped into a taxi, and whisked away into the night.
A glorious day with some marvelous people. I needed to have a good day, I haven’t had one in a long time, and it was like every element lined up to make it so.
I already miss them.