How I met Josef and what he lost.

Each of us can count or recall at least one or two if not many encounters we had with someone who left us totally blown away, touched or fulfilled. It didn’t matter that you didn’t know the persons before and you probably have never met them again.

We truly are taught by every person we meet.

I’m convinced that there is that person you will meet and they will leave a mark on you. It could manifest itself on you in the simplest way or in a million little powerful ways.

I’m totally exhausted after a 11 hour shift at work and in less than 2 hours I have to grab a night train from Vienna Austria to Düsseldorf Germany. I will be in the train for roughly 13 hours. I realise I have forgotten my earphones at home and I very much need them for this long trip, since I downloaded a few movies from Netflix on my tablet. I rush home, and due to the great relationship I have with food, I quickly fix myself dinner, pick what I came for and head out to the station.  I have a clear laid out plan in my mind of how my night will be. I’m super excited to catch up on my favorite series’ Scandal plus a movie or two.

It is freezing.The cold has my fingers in utter pain. Almost numb. My gloves are not thick enough. I finally board my train, hoping to be alone through the night where I can stretch and pass gas if need be. I find my seat and sadly there is a second person in the same train compartment. Well, one is better than four others, I console myself. I put my luggage in place at the same time stealing glances at this guy who just ignored my greeting gesture. Probably he didn’t hear me.

I sit down and rub my ice-cold Fingers together. He notices my uneasiness and suddenly asks me if I’m cold.  I say yes. He stands up and turns up the heater. I still can’t stop rubbing my hands. He says the unexpected.  You can have my Jacket and if it’s not enough my pullover too. Which he is wearing. He is almost removing it to hand it over and I’m like  (Who are you?) in my mind. I decline since I have my Maasai blanket and anyway it is a matter of time till my body warms up.

I just met you a minute ago and you want to dress me? Hell no. Now my mind starts scrutinizing this young man. He is quit attractive and has a long full clean beard. I can imagine it means a lot to him from how he once in while runs his fingers through it. I watch him closely but secretly and I seem to notice some deep-seated sorrow on his face.  He might be going through something shitty.

It takes a few minutes after I have made myself cosy and taken out my Tablet that we seem to start a harmless conversation. This is what I dreaded. I do not know how to ignore people so I play along slightly irritated. I notice that he is quit talkative. We talk about our names and start finding meaning and origin of our names. He has quit a lot of stories to his names. He is very impressed that I pronounce his name correctly. He says no one ever seems to do it and he has been contemplating on changing his second name for that reason. He compliments me.

He has that low voice and sometimes I don’t catch some words. His German has an unfamiliar accent but he tries to speak Standard German for me to understand. I’m anyway partly listening. He is coming from Vienna to give up his apartment because he will in a few days move to Hamburg where he got a new job and a promotion.  Right now he is headed to his moms place.

He talks about how hard he partied the weekend that was. He wanted to forget his problems. He is talking about someone dying and shows me a photo from his phone of a beautiful girl. I tell him I’m sorry for his loss. I was not fully attentive to everything he was saying, then I decide to ask him if his girlfriend will later join him in Hamburg.

He stares at me somehow confused at my question. He tells me she is the one he has been telling me about. She is the one who died. I silently curse at myself for being insensitive and not attentive. He grabs all my attention. I feel sorry for him and I apologize.

I become inquisitive and that’s when he tells me the whole story. He came to Vienna a few days ago and his girlfriend of 8 years who lived in another town was supposed to come meet him. She was compelled to wheelchair since a few years ago. A different complication. She was being driven by some one else when this truck came from nowhere and hit them. She and the driver landed in hospital. She underwent a successful operation. The driver still in a coma. Josef was by her side when she came to. They talked not knowing it was their last talk. Hours later she succumbs to death due to inner bleeding.

As if that was not enough loss, a few days later fate decides he will be the one to find his girlfriends sister dead in the bathroom. A teenager. She took her own life. She could not deal well with her elder sisters loss. He becomes traumatized. He is arrested in trauma. I’m the only person in this train he needs right now. I’m sitting there in silence as he narrates and I can’t start to imagine the trauma, sadness and pain he is going through. What of the victim’s family? What can I tell him that could possibly make him feel a tiny bit better?

I utter words that are often said to people going through loss. I don’t know if they will have any impact on him. I do more of listening than talking. He is now crying uncontrollably. He apologizes for putting me in this situation. I offer him pocket tissues. I move to him and hug him so tightly. We adjust all the sits in a way we can all lie down. Our faces are now glued to the train ceiling. I take few glances at him and I can see tears running to the back of his ears. I tell him I have a slight idea of how he might be feeling. (You can never exactly tell how another person is feeling) He looks at me waiting to hear more. I tell him I have lost a handful of close people to death and the biggest blow being my mom. I tell him in the beginning it feels like the world crushed and most recently I learned to cope and I accepted the loss.

I suggest to him that in his case he needs professional help. He needs a therapist to help  him through the process. He needs to talk to anyone be it his friends or mum who will listen and walk with him without opting out. He has been talking to a psychologist friend and his supportive mum who have been very helpful and that gives me peace.

After talking till almost 2am we decide to sleep a bit. We are woken up by police for control check. (They are searching for refugees, always.) They think we are a couple. We laugh it off. We sleep again and I wake up in time for him to almost alight. Koblenz is where his next connection is. I’m curious about why he opened up to me. In the midst of him thanking me and saying how grateful he is to have met me he answers my unasked question.

He tells me when he laid his eyes on me he thought I was special, kind and interesting. He just felt I was a good person. I gave him, a stranger a shoulder to cry on and this rarely happens. I feel like I did absolutely nothing but I take it that I listened when he needed to let out his pain. Silence and giving him that space to mourn was all he needed at that moment. I will never stop thinking of this encounter and I sometimes wonder how he is faring. We are not in contact.

Listening is so many times the only thing you need to do when you don’t know what to do.

To everyone who is going through any kind of loss I pray and hope you will find that person who will listen and offer you a shoulder to let out your pain. It will become easier with time even though it will never be the same again.

Every one perceives pain in different ways and they should be free to mourn in their own way.


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