Lindsay, Chris, and I all studied together in Salzburg, and saw each other frequently after we moved on from there; Lindsay and I both stuck around in Germany for a while even after our time in Salzburg was over (she was au-pairing for a German family in the little town of Rosenheim during my Fulbright years), and Chris moved to Barcelona after Salzburg, but then came back to Germany to spend my 24th birthday with me at Oktoberfest! What’s great is that while none of us have lived in Europe in a few years, we still keep in touch pretty regularly. I’m part of a group text with Lindsay and I feel like we talk pretty much every day. And both Lindsay and Chris came to my wedding this past May – Lindsay was even a bridesmaid. I guess this shouldn’t surprise me, because when you share the kind of unique experiences that we have shared, you feel like those friends just get you in a way that no one else does. Joe and I talk a lot about shared experiences and how that can lay the foundation for a friendship that would not otherwise have formed – or one that may have formed but would not have otherwise stood the test of time but for those shared experiences.
One such shared experience – shared among Chris, Lindsay, myself, and others – was hosting a recurring visitor in Salzburg: my friend (who is now our friend) (I’m not being selfless, I just don’t really want to claim him as my own) JC. JC and I met in the US during undergrad, and then he studied in Valencia when I was living in Salzburg. I went to visit him in Spain, and then he came to visit me in Salzburg (he even celebrated Halloween there).... and then he just sort of kept popping back up in Salzburg. If memory serves me, there was a fairly cheap Ryan Air flight from Barcelona to Salzburg at the time and JC had no problem booking it on a whim, and then letting me know after the fact (“Hey, I’m on my way to Salzburg, pick me up from the airport!”).
In reality, I think this happened only once, but you will soon understand why it left the impact of a thousand visits.
During his second visit, we assigned him to Chris’s room (Chris lived alone on the second floor of the building; Caroline and I shared a room on the third) and thought all would be well until the first night, when we were awoken by a knock on our door around 2 AM. He told us that Chris had sat up in bed, pointing and yelling across the room at him (in his sleep), and that he was “scared.” For the life of me, I cannot remember where or how we obtained a mattress – for all I know, we could have dragged it up the stairs from Chris’ room and maybe I’ve just repressed that delirious memory – but we dragged this mattress into the floor of our room and told him to sleep there until the morning when ‘the Chris situation’ could be resolved. Cut to 10 minutes later and JC had fallen sound asleep, snoring so loudly that Caroline and I were about to pull our hair out. So, we dragged the twin mattress (with JC atop it) into the foyer of our room, the only problem being that the length of the mattress exceeded the length of the foyer when both foyer doors were closed. And we couldn’t leave the doors open because the snoring was so loud that it would have kept us awake. Thus, we shut JC into the foyer, with his mattress balanced between the two foyer doors in the shape of a banana. All was well until 5 hours later when Caroline and I awoke to JC standing over our beds speaking in a decibel much too loud for the early hours of the morning. “Hey, girls – I’m hungry and we’re all out of Choco Balls. Can you go to the store to get me some more Choco Balls?” Choco Balls were a Euro cereal that JC had bought upon his arrival in Salzburg (and had somehow already consumed in their entirety). Only after Caroline sat up in her bed and shouted, “Can you be quiet for once in your life?” did I send JC waaaaaay down the street to Hofer to get some Choco Balls. I failed to mention to him that Merkur – the grocery store directly across from our dorm – also sold them. I figured he could use the fresh air, and Caroline could enjoy a few extra minutes to herself.
A few days later, JC was supposed to take his return flight back to Valencia. He had decided to just continue sleeping in the foyer of our room and Caroline was at her wit’s end with him. Part of the problem was that we had to more or less crawl over his mattress to get into our bathroom, and completely move the mattress out of the foyer to get into our closet. Anyhow, I promised Caroline he would be gone by the time we returned from our Mozart class. So, off we went to class – Caroline already feeling relief that we’d soon have our room back to ourselves – after saying goodbye to JC and giving him specific instructions as to how to catch the bus to the airport. Two hours later, when we were walking back from class, we turned the corner to our building and saw several of our friends at a pool party – not uncommon, as we had the most amazing pool at our dorm – and who should we see in the center of the group but JC himself, life of the party, with a Stiegl beer in hand. I think Caroline’s response was something to the effect of “No, no, no, no, no, no – tell me I’m not seeing what I think I’m seeing.” JC’s reaction when he saw us was priceless: “Hey, guys! My aunt bought me a later flight back so I could stay an extra few days, isn’t that great?” I can’t be sure, but I want to say we moved his mattress out into the actual hallway for the rest of his visit. But ever so reluctantly, he became somewhat of a fixture of our group in Salzburg, so much so that when we were all reunited at my wedding, Caroline, Lindsay, and Kayla were genuinely thrilled to see him.
But this is what I’m talking about – these are the kinds of shared experiences that lay the foundation for a lifelong friendship; once you survive the whirlwind that is the never-ending visit from JC, you can survive pretty much anything. So it was par for the course when Lindsay, Chris, and myself were sitting at Mess Hall with Joe on our first night in New York, and in walks JC – a Philadelphian resident who had taken the train up for the night. We didn’t have any Choco Balls to serve him, but he did enjoy a bowl of the cheese puffs. And all was right with the world.
P.S. In the above photo, you may notice that JC is proudly holding a plastic Star Wars cup. When Kaitlyn and I lived on Gray Street, we had a plastic Star Wars juice cup that JC declared his “token party cup.” He would drink out of it any time he came over, and I brought it with me when I moved to Salzburg, knowing I would visit him and vice versa. Sure enough, he drank out of the ‘token party cup’ during each of his visits and by the end, it was so badly stained with red wine and sangria that I ended up leaving it behind in Salzburg when I moved out. I’ve never heard the end of it, either – he really misses that cup – so before Joe and I left for our trip, I found a similar cup at Target and bought it (for a total of 80 cents). I figured we would see him in New York so I packed it in my purse and when I told him I had a surprise for him, he somehow instinctively knew it was a replacement Star Wars cup. Maybe when Joe and I make it to Salzburg later this summer, I’ll find a box of Choco Balls to ship back home for him.... but I am anticipating spending all of my money on Happy Hippos, Ritter Sports, and Milka Bars, so I make ZERO promises.