Eating Breakfast in Switzerland

22 Feb

I wanted to dip my feet in the cool, clear water. I sat on ancient steps where the water lapped at the last one, leaving the concrete wet, dark. But we were leaving a few hours later, for Paris. Swans surrounded me, gobbling down bits of bread that I threw at them. They stretched their long, slender necks toward me, as if inquiring whether I’d toss more. I did, and they swam closer and closer until I could have reached out and stroked their snowy feathers. I pulled out my camera and took a video of the swans, then panning out and capturing the whole scene, the old buildings lining the waterfront, the wooden bride that burned down and then was rebuilt, the stone walk-way, the blue water and mist-covered mountains in the distance.

That day I woke as usual to a gourmet breakfast spread of croissants, jams, meats and cheeses. Breakfast here wasn’t skimpy. I brought my plate the small, linen-covered tables outside. They overlooked the water, and a soft breeze blew through. A server arrived, bringing with her a pot of hot, fresh coffee she left on the table. The flavor is smooth, full. We sit with a woman who speaks English, telling us how she moved to Spain in college, got married and somehow ended in Switzerland. She hasn’t left, she said. I imagine staying, never returning even once to the states. I imagine marrying here, building a life here in the clouds and mountains and alpine trees. She nibbles her croissant, telling us then about her grown son who she never sees, who goes to college in the states. I can tell she misses him terribly, but she’d never say that to us, strangers.

If only life could be lived without the horrid practicalities, like money. If not for money I could stay here, I think. I could learn the harsh sounds of German, blend into the mountains and crystalline waters. I would never have to leave for dirty Paris, as I would in only a short while. I peel apart my croissant and savor its buttery flavor, savor the coffee, the swans, the dear wooden bridge. How did people merge normal life with this? This is a fairy tale, complete with swans and cobblestones and chocolate. I concentrate on my surroundings so that I may conjure them later, after they’ve faded far into the recesses of memory, when I remember that one time, long ago, I sat eating breakfast in Switzerland, and never wanted to leave.

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