The Christmas markets of Cologne were so magical they did not feel real. They resembled the lightheartedness of downtown Disney– decked out with German carolers, lights, Christmas trees, and booths than probably plopped right out of a Dickens movie. We drank hot wine and ate assorted fried treats. I ate the best meat I’ve ever had in my entire life. I wish my family could have been there to experience it with me. Overall though, it was a pretty magical day.
The moment was fairly bittersweet for another reason besides homesickness. On almost every block, a man or woman crouched, sometimes almost curling into a ball on the cold and wet cement, often with a cup in hand begging for change. As people walked by merrily enjoying their artificial wonderland, these human beings sat dying on the pavement.
As we were wandering about I couldn’t help but think of the plane ride to Germany where I found a magazine with a short story contest. The prompt: travel to a place for two days and write a creative piece inspired by the city. If I were to write about Cologne, I would write about the people who live on the streets. I wonder what it is like to beg here just outside a traveler’s dreamland. A place that people have paid thousands of dollars to visit when all you want is a 10 dollar hostel and to not be so goddamn cold. What’s it like to have people only look at you if you own a dog. Not even human barely alive, shivering outside the cathedral — that infamous one people travel all over the world for. Or how angry, how much rage courses through your veins when some rich fucker insists that you only buy certain things with their “generous” donation when all you want is to just be warm. Is it really so bad to have a drink when your face is raw from wind burn. What does it feel like to lay dying on the streets? Listening to merry holiday music and watching as men dressed as Santa wander around you. What does it feel like when a stranger gives you their coat? I have a feeling it is kindness that would make you cry sooner than cruelty.
I think I would call it, “If only your skin turned white with the touch of snow.”