- The bench creaked a little as she sat down.
- Roughly one thousand kilometers away from her, somebody took a bite of his cheese and ham sandwich.
- Slowly, she took a long breath, trying to shake off the weight that was pressing down on her. The girl shuddered as she felt the cold autumn air fill her lungs and buttoned up her red jacket. She tried distracting herself by focusing on the small waves that the river in front of her created as it flowed downwards into the ocean, far, far away. Taking up the smell of the river, its sound, its movement, in a vain attempt to flow away alongside it.
- Eventually, the environment around her became an empty capsule of repetition – repetitive processes, the same birds chirping, the same people passing her by, the same wind softly blowing through her hair, blowing up the withered leaves, the ice cream vendor continuously selling off his last scoop to the little girl with the red balloon, the old couple sitting on a bench on the opposite side of the river, almost invisible to her, a dangerously old looking ferry struggling to reach the shore to pick up passengers to carry to the other shore.
- And amidst of all this was a tiny, small ball of self-pity. Self-pity for all the time that she'd already lost, all the time she was losing right now, and all the time that she was going to lose. The girl, reduced to this existence, was crumbling under the weight of something invisible that she could neither change nor accept.
- They said autumn was the season of decay.
- The MS Rhinegold had already seen its best days. Now, it was but a shadow of its former self, and barely able to carry even the passengers anymore. Captain Kranz acknowledged this. He acknowledged that he would lose not only his job, not only his past time, not only his passion, but – worst of all – his old companion who had occupied him for all these years, his old companion, who he had eventually managed to live with, day by day, getting accustomed to him, even liking him.
- Every day at work, this boat had steadily stayed by his side, always ready to drift from one shore to another, 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. Never had it complained, never had it given up, and had it had a consciousness, it would surely have been the bravest marine alive.
- But in the end, it might have been better off without a consciousness.
- Dead things don't know that they're about to die.
- Maybe that was one of the inescapable tragedies of human life. Maybe that was, in the end, why so many people today live their lives faster and faster – because, in the end, they know they're going to die.
- Might as well have some fun while you can.
- And while the Captain could understand these thoughts, he couldn't agree with them.
- He had no reasons, and least of all arguments. After all, he was just a captain, and not even a very known or skilled one at that. All he had to do was drive between two towns on two different sides of a river, day by day, hour by hour. And yet, somehow, it didn't feel repetitive to him anymore.
- Maybe he had just shut off that particular part of his brain. He wasn't bored by the daily routine, and yet he felt relieved whenever one of the regular passengers stopped by his cabin to pay him a visit.
- They were short visits, but they were nice. They reminded him that there were people out there who cared for him. After all, he was important! How would they cross the river, if it weren't for his ferry?
- Maybe, he thought, that was why he couldn't agree with the people living their lives as fast as possible. Those people, he thought, they wanted to experience as much as possible in their short little time on this planet. Why? Because they were selfish. Maybe not intentionally, but subconsciously. They wanted to see things for themselves, not for others. They wanted to have experiences themselves, not for others.
- What he did, on the contrary, was ferry people around. Every day, every week. He was doing work for other people, but he enjoyed it, and they were grateful for it.
- He helped people with their lives. Maybe that was what he, the Captain, was living for. The others could do whatever the heck they wanted.
- Upon thinking this, the captain became wistful. He continued watching his boat, his companion, being heaved out of the water, onto another, bigger boat.
- „Irony“, he whispered with a hurt smile. „Maybe our lives are just a big fuckload of irony.“
- The wasted years didn't matter, in the end.
- In fact, she didn't even consider them wasted.
- It had been a boring time, yes, a strenuous time, a time when she had wanted to give up more than once, when she had wanted to just let it all go, but she had stayed through it, and it had been worth all of the pain, in the end.
- No, those years hadn't been „wasted“. They had simply been a period of waiting. Horrible, painful waiting, but necessary waiting.
- Slowly coming back to reality, she realized that she was sitting on that same bench she had sat on three years ago.
- Three years.
- Back when she'd been a child, that must've sounded like an eternity for her.
- Now, she was 21, a young, promising woman, far away from the naivité of her childhood.
- She knew there was no eternity. And the more that knowledge manifested itself into her brain cells, the quicker time seemed to pass for her.
- But then again, what did time matter for her anymore? She had already reached everything she had hoped to reach.
- She took another deep breath, and a smile started forming on her face.
- Next to her, someone took a bite of his cheese and ham sandwich.
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