Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Soap bubbles

"Are you here for the match?"

A voice behind me caused me to throw a glance over my shoulder. A friendly face with a compelling smile met my stare. Our eyes locked. Uncertain if this handsome stranger had been speaking to me, asking him if he was there with the same intentions as us - watching the bronze final in the soccer championship -  was the first silence breaker I could think of.

Previously that day, my friend B. and I had left our other friends behind at Hvar Island, and gone to Split for the last three nights of our holiday. Now we were firmly placed in comfy chairs in front of the flat screen at an open air café along the city's Marmontova parade street, our regular small beers in hand, ready to enjoy the game.

It didn't take long to establish that the stranger wasn't there for the match. He, along with his friends, had come from the same island as us that very same day and were only staying in Split that night as a layover before catching their flight back home from holiday the next morning. He had just gone out for a beer on his own as he didn't like the crappy hotel they had chosen for the night, he told me. So, are you a hotel snob then, I asked him. Yes, he said. I couldn't help laughing. My unhappiness with slumming it on the islands we had visited, staying in cheap accomodation with few facilites, was the main reason B. and I had parted with the others and ended up in Split for as long as three nights. Who would have thought I'd meet my hotel snob soulmate by chance just by picking that particular one of the huge number of bars and cafés that were showing the match?

He lived in a European city, but came from another continent. As it happened, he was from a country I had visited and knew quite well, and our conversation revolved around that. Half an hour later, having finished his beer, he left, saying he had to go back to his friends at the hotel. We said our goodbyes. Somehow, however, my intuition told me I hadn't seen the last of him.

Sometime during the first half, he was back. I wasn't surprised at all.  He now took a seat at our table. As B. had caught a bit of a holiday cold she was kind of tired and very quiet, and I was more than happy with finding someone to talk to. We really hit it off. When the match finally ended my newfound friend and I had long since lost track of the score. B. wanted to call it a night and left us on our own. So did eventually all the other guests at the café. A little past midnight, the two of us were the last ones left, alone in the dark with the candle at our table as the only light.

By that time, our conversation had reached a very personal and intimate level. He knew I was struggling with cancer for the second time. And I had come to find out that his seemingly placid exterior was disguising a soul in complete turmoil, torn between his ambitions and the desire to continue the great career he had built up during his years in Europe, and the feeling of duty to and love of his family, who had called on him to come back to his home country. The dice was already cast, and he was leaving Europe in a few short weeks. Tears welled up in his eyes as he told me. Clearly he was hurting inside, having to leave a city he loved, all his friends and a position he was very proud of having achieved through education and hard work.

The last waitress at work came over to us, telling us she was closing for the night. She had changed out of her uniform, and was dressed in a sexy little black dress and heels. We commented on her goodlooking appearance, and she told us she was going out, clubbing. Clubbing? None of us had given that a single thought. However, not wanting to part ways just yet, it suddenly seemed like a great idea. So we headed for the taxi rank, and told the driver we wanted to be taken to a nightclub. He measured us up, then said he knew just the right place for us to go.

Driving along in the middle of the night in a strange city, we had no idea where we were going. Eventually we ended up outside a very posh looking entrance, with doormen clad in black suits and a line of beautifully dressed locals and tourists alike. When we entered, we went through an indoor bar, only to come out on a huge outdoor terrace with several seating groups and bars. Crystal chandeliers were hanging from their ceilings, and soap bubble machines blew beautiful bubbles that came floating down from over their roofs. The place was called Hemingway.

Spending the warm, tropical night with this man who now no longer felt like a stranger, feeling the breeze from the Adriatic sea, sipping pink Champagne and eagerly chasing the soap bubbles that came across the dance floor, I had this feeling that I was just dreaming. What had started out as an ordinary day had turned into something almost surreal. Like being inside a gigantic soap bubble ourselves. And in some ways, maybe we were...

As night turned to day, we caught a taxi back to our respective hotels - saying goodbye again. This time for good. I was so tired I didn't think much of it when I saw his car drive away. I only hoped he would still have time to catch his flight.

It was only later the next night I came to realize how much I missed his company. B. and I had sided with Spain and watched them go on to win the championship. We followed all the Spanish supporters from the café which we had chosen to see the match to a quayside disco where the music was all Spanish pop hits. It was lively and great fun to be part of their celebration. We also ended up finding some other tourists to talk to. When the disco closed and it would be time to go on to a club, however, I decided I would follow B., still struggling with her cold, back to the hotel. I could have gone on with the others. I knew for certain though, it would never be the same as the magical night I had experienced the previous evening.

Even if I had wanted to hold on to it for just a little longer, the soap bubble was well and truly burst.

(Photos by photographer Richard Heeks, via blog DamnCoolPics)


  1. What an amazing encounter! You never know what could happen huh?

  2. Thank you for sharing. What a fascinating memory.

    Life is beautiful and unexpected!


  3. Hello, a very engaging read - I kinda hoped that at the end you would say you had agreed to see each other again or stay in touch at least?! I am a hopeless romantic. I hope that you are well my sweet. Take care and I loved the story. Lou x

  4. wow, that pics!!!! I have got some memories too about soap bubbles!!! Xoxo

  5. Oh, I really, really got sucked in to your amazing/romantic/beautiful story. Why is it that these things always happen when someone is just about to leave? (Well, you won't be surprised I have a theory: It's because we are more open for experiences because we know we have to say good-bye). Maybe it wouldn't have been as magical if he didn't have to catch a plane the next morning...
    But aren't these the moments which make life special?

  6. Those photos are amazing.
    What a story!! How did you not exchange contact info?? Well, just wait to see what the universe has in store. Maybe, just maybe, it wasn't goodbye for good.

  7. What a lovely encounter. I too was hoping you would say he would meet you in Norway..I'm glad you enjoyed Hemingway, it's a fun club. Do tell me about Korcula. I have lived in Split for a year and haven't yet visited the island!

    Next time you are in Croatia, You must visit the Plitvice Lakes National Park (will take your breath away)


  8. So romantic, loved hearing about your intimate encounter in a faraway place. It is strange how in such a short time strangers are no longer strangers. Thanks for leaving that lovely mess age on my blog. Sounds like you have had real things to deal with. Have a great summer. Carla

  9. What a beautiful story! Did you exchange info?? Maybe you'll see each other again! Stranger things have happened. I met my husband in Mexico on spring break when I was in college and then lost touch and ran into him again 5 years later! Now we're married. Thinking of you during your struggles.


  10. This post took my breath away. Thank you for sharing something so personal.
    I don't think it's the end of this story either...

  11. Oh that was mesmerizing..a moment in time.

    xx Dj
    ps I agree with your comment, it stood out to me too :)

  12. Wow what a story and PLEASE tell me you have each other's contact details!!! xoxo

  13. Wow, this could be a short story! You had me captivated the entire time. This story is so touching. And may I add that I LOVE that last photo!

    xo Marcie

  14. When one door closes another opens and sometimes a door is left a little bit ajar... here's hoping that that will happen for you. Loved this post. x

  15. Wow I have goosebumps! What a beautiful and amazing story, sweetie. Thanks so much for sharing with us :)


  16. This enchanting and bitter-sweet story had me glued to the screen.
    It's better than reading a novel by a famous author. You'll remember this time for years to come. Sometimes the memory is better than living out the dream. Hope you are OK?
    Big X

  17. You wrote this so beautifully.
    Coincidentally, it reminded me a lot of a DVD I watched last night - "Before Sunrise". You might enjoy that if you're feeling a little blue...

  18. Wow what an amazingly well written piece - I was drawn in from the word go! So romantic - I love happy endings and am hoping that somehow you'll meet again! xxx

  19. Wow - blown away !
    Like a scene from a novel :-)


  20. Dying of anticipation.... for what happened next?

  21. Heeello, I'm back... Hope you are doing well. I left you a little award in my post today. xoxo

  22. Hope you exchanged info. :)

  23. Thank you ladies, for all your amazing, inspiring and thoughtful comments and compliments! I really appreciated reading them all.

    As it were, yes, we did exchange info. I used it to make certain he caught his flight back home, which he did, luckily. I've asked him to stay in touch when he gets to his destination and things gets sorted out, as I really hope he'll be able to find a job that's gonna further the career that meant so much to him. I hope he does.

    Otherwise, albeit being in completely different situations, we both have issues to deal with in our lives and I believe none of us need any more complications right now. So I've treated this just as what it was at the time, a fantastic holiday experience. One of a kind that doesn't come around very often.

    It's certainly one I'll remember for a very long time to come.

  24. the beauty of the moment.... every time new, and again....................love floating in the air!!! <3