You live in a city and build a bond with it. You become friends. It is your first cut of a city in this country. You have experiences and build memories together. You know the distinct smell of many of its neighbourhoods.
You discover its corners of fun, its secrets, its dark spots, its light pods. You go into its subways and figure the transport channels. You develop mental notes of train, Ubahn and bus schedules.
You forget about Google Maps because navigating the city becomes as easy as eating avocado. But you don’t lose your Google Translate. You need that one to understand this language you’re learning.
You praise Beethoven for his musical genius because Beethoven is Bonn and Bonn is Beethoven. You live on the third floor of a flat that has a living room with leather seats and whose TV showed a channel selling sex toys for women the first day you pressed the power button.
You become a Bonner, a dweller of this city of music.
Three months later, it’ll be time to move to a new city. You’ll pack your suitcase, call up a cab, drive to the bus and three hours later, you’ll check into a hotel in your new city.
You are no longer a Bonner. But Bonn stays in your heart like a lover never forgotten. You receive an invitation for a birthday celebration over one weekend.
You say yes.
The IC train whizzes past Mehlem – a place you got lost at. It speeds past Bad Godesberg – the neighbourhood you lived in for three months, shoots past the UN Campus – an area that gave you episodes of the excitement.
You missed a bus at Mehlem in your first week in this city because you stood at the wrong stop. One foreigner like you who probably was from Spain or somewhere you don’t know ran after that bus shouting, “Hey, stop. Stop.” The bus didn’t give a fart about him. He walked to the next bus stop.
You were left behind by a couple of trains and U-Bahns at Bad Godesberg because, like at Mehlem, you stood at the wrong platform. You once got on a train that was heading to another city. You thought it was still within Bonn. You figured it was going somewhere else when it crossed the bridge and you saw the vast Rhine River telling you you’d taken the wrong route. You were late to your training that day. You paid a fine of one Euro.
The UN Campus reminds you of home each time you saw the black-yellow-red of the Ugandan flag flying amongst the other flags.
Your train halts at the Hauptbahnhof. You step out with your UgaBus branded backpack. The air smells of nostalgia. The metallic ladders are firm to the floor, the red and white tape demarcate the space under renovation. There is still construction going on at the station. Same as you left last year.
You walk through the tunnel and emerge at the steps into open space. The land above glows. The sky is clean, pigeons are flying. There is a new building opposite Primark. It has the shine of marble. There is a new Döner, Mangal, on the same lane as McDonalds. You know it’s new because it has balloons at the entrance. It has Lukas Podolski’s name on it. It must be Podolski’s.There is a long queue of people waiting to get a taste of whatever this Döner makes. There is no tail to this queue. No one is paying attention to social distancing. You are.
You head to Münsterplatz, to Beethoven’s Monument, a tourist site whose pictures you took the first day you toured this city. You see a guy with his right hand on a chics’ ass. He’s squeezing her backside as though he’s pressing lemon juice out of them. And they are doing a slow dance of lips on this busy lane not giving two farts who’s watching.
The trees have full leaves. You get to the Beethoven Monument and take a picture. Oh, the mighty face of Bonn. The flowers at his monument have blossomed. You were here last October the day they were planted. People are seated on the concrete slab surrounding the monument, smoking Lucky Strike, eating Brötchen mit Wurst, drinking Bit Bürger, meditating. Tourists are taking pictures.
You walk across Münsterplatz to Die Currywurst truck. It was at this truck that you bought Currywurst that got you nearly addicted. You would have done yourself a disservice had you not gone back. Of course you buy one.
“Currywurst mit Pommes,” you tell the chef.
“Ketchup oder mayo?”
You stand outside a shop eating your street food, dipping the Pommes in mayo. Your body agrees with that decision.
The electric scooters that covered every lane in Bonn have disappeared. That tree under which you and friends gathered outside Universität last August to share a drink has a big shade now. Its leaves are lush. There is a loneliness to it though. No bicycles parked under it. There are no seats there. No one sitting under it. You stare at it for second and think what a lonely shade it had become.
Some things don’t change though. Like the man selling Nutella outside the Universität/Markt train stop. He’s still running his business on a movebale platform with wheels.
You walk to the Rhine River and stroll along its bank. The John F Kennedy Bridge is still as stoic as you left it. The DHL Tower is still the highest rise in the city.
You sit on a public bench overlooking the river. Cargo ships are sailing carrying Maersk containers. A guy in his speed boat is splashing water behind him. You close your eyes and breathe the air from this river you learned about in O-Level Geography classes. This moment feels right to think about love and the romance of walking with a partner along these banks.
There hasn’t been a day you haven’t had candy in your house since August last year. You want to keep that record intact. You ease your way to your favorite chocolate shop, Lindt, and buy two bars of white chocolate.
Dedicated chocolate lovers will say white isn’t chocolate. But you don’t care. You buy them anyway. The lady behind the counter gives you one extra round chocolate that’s like a lollipop. That adds to the collection currently in your kitchen cabinet.
You meet new Ugandans who switch from Luganda to English and German without a pain of thought. They are fluent in this foreign language you wonder what you did wrong to fail at getting to their level of proficiency. One tells you you’re doing fine. “These things take time and practice,” he says.
The party ends, the weekend says goodbye and it’s time to leave. You buy a ticket from the DB machine. You wait for your train and salute Bonn adios until next time.