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Is this the most perfect love story?

[2018年6月3日] 来源:BBC双语阅读 作者:比尔·哈比(Bill Harby)   字号 [] [] []  

By the medieval Old Town of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, I sat in the sun, sipping a beer on a cafe’s terrace. Behind me, a young woman sat at a small, round, white-marble table, the kind you see in European cafes, except this one was inlaid with a brown marble chessboard. She pushed around a few left-behind pieces, and then looked up. She had extraordinary blue eyes like polished gems, long jet-black hair falling in waves. I started silently figuring out how to say in French, “Would you like to play a game of chess?”

The time was June 1975, and I was hitchhiking around Switzerland and France the summer before grad school in Chicago. I had ended up in Neuchâtel that day by chance; the ride I caught was going there. The youth hostel was somewhere up the hill, but I was hot and thirsty, so I plopped down on the terrace of Café Pam-Pam.

Finally I spoke to her, asking as best I could in French if she’d like to play, pointing at the chessboard. She responded in French, “Pardon?” I tried to carefully repeat my question. She responded in English, “Perhaps we should speak English.”

Maïf, short for Marie-France, was 19 and had lived in Neuchâtel all her life. She was at the cafe, her regular after-school hangout, for a coffee, cigarette and game of pinball. She’d just finished a day of Baccalaureate exams to graduate from high school.

Over the next two days, Maïf showed me her town. We walked along cobblestone streets up to the 12th-Century castle where she’d played as a young girl with her German shepherd, Kathy. We sprawled on the grass by the lake, the white Alps in the distance. We stayed out until dawn at a low-key club where she gave me a coin for the jukebox and asked me to punch in G5 for her favourite song by George Benson. We were joined for a while by a suave older guy she knew. He clearly disliked that she was with me.

During those two days together, we never even kissed. I was smitten, but she had a boyfriend in Canada, and would soon be joining him at university to study English. I was too shy to tell her how I felt.

So I left. I stuck out my thumb again and caught rides to… somewhere that I’ve completely forgotten. Then, after a few days, I gave in and went back to Neuchâtel, back to Café Pam-Pam. Before long, here came Maïf on her little black scooter, putt-putting up the hill. After a coffee, she took me to her house around the corner, where her grandmother made us an omelette for lunch. I’d never had an omelette for lunch. We ate in the kitchen at a table that’s still there.

I stayed one more night in Neuchâtel. I still had more exploring to do before flying back to the US, and it was too painful to stay longer. We said goodbye in front of her house, and there we finally kissed, but just on each cheek as Europeans do with friends. As I turned and walked away, Maïf let out a low groaning sound. Any idiot would have turned around and gone back to her forever.

By September, I was living in Chicago, going to grad school, and Maïf was in Ontario at university. We wrote each other once. Her boyfriend had gotten otherwise involved. I called her and she said maybe she could come to Chicago soon. But when I called again a couple of weeks later, she told me she’d met someone. We lost contact. For 32 years.

After grad school, I bounced around New Zealand and Australia for a year and a half, and then moved back to Hawaii where my family had lived for three years in the ’60s.

Sometimes I would think of Maïf.

Enter the Internet and the first of a few small miracles. We found each other again only because, at about the same time, she in Geneva and I in Hawaii had both given in to persistent colleagues and reluctantly signed up for LinkedIn. When I googled her in 2007, only her LinkedIn address showed up. I sent her a message through my LinkedIn account and voilà, there we were, suddenly in touch again.

Maïf wrote me that several weeks earlier, she’d had a dream: A mysterious hooded woman was walking down a road away from her. Maïf asked where she was going. “I’m going back to Akron,” said the woman. Maïf asked, “What’s in Akron?” The woman didn’t answer.

In real life, I’d been living in Akron, Ohio, when Maïf and I met in 1975.

We learned that we were both long since divorced; that we both loved Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and Vic Chesnutt; that we must see each other again

We began emailing daily, and soon Skyping. We learned that we were both long since divorced; that she had three grown children – I none; that she was in the end-stage of an eight-year relationship; that we both loved Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and Vic Chesnutt; that we both liked to be teased; that we must see each other again.

She came to Hawaii for a couple of weeks. The next year I went to Geneva for three months, living with Maïf and her grown son Daniel. By then, she and I were astonished to find that not only had we found each other again after 32 years, but that we still really liked each other, liked who we had become and liked falling in love now. We agreed we’d probably have screwed it up if we’d got together when we were young. But we worried whether we might be partly falling in love with our story, and that we might be swept away by it, only to end in grey regret.

Eventually we forced ourselves to confront the truth.

We’ve been married for seven years. About six years ago, at our cottage in farmland above Neuchâtel, we received a parcel in the mail from some dear old friends of mine in Ohio. Inside was a postcard framed in glass so you could see both sides – a touristy photo of Montreux on the front and my note to them on the back.

I’d sent the card to Larry and Sandy after Neuchâtel, so maybe Montreux was where I had gone right after leaving Maïf. Thirty-four years later, Sandy had spied the card when she’d been throwing out old papers. She saw my scribbled note about my travels so far. It included this:

If I hadn’t left when I did, there would have been very difficult problems of love to solve

Marie-France, a 19 yr. old beauty with whom I spent three easy wonderful days in Neuchâtel – she’s lived in that town all her life, speaks very good English – and if I hadn’t left when I did, there would have been very difficult problems of love to solve. I know I could have fallen in love with her for a long, long time.

Of course, Maïf and I have been back to Café Pam-Pam. The first time, we saw a marble table inlaid with a chessboard. The owner said it’s the only one that’s been there. The table now sits on our terrace outside Neuchâtel, as do we, in utter amazement.


Bill 和 Marie-France 在瑞士的中世纪老城纳沙泰尔邂逅(图片来源:Prisma by Dukas Presseagentur GmbH/Alamy)

那是 1975 年 6 月的初夏,我在芝加哥上研究生前,选择在瑞士和法国旅行。那天我无意间走到了纳沙泰尔,因为我所搭乘的便车正驶向那里。青年旅社位于山上,但是我又热又渴,因此我停在"Pam-Pam"咖啡馆歇脚。


她的名字叫 Maïf,是 Marie-France 的简写,19 岁的她一直生活在纳沙泰尔。她当时正在咖啡馆,那是她放学后的常规活动,享受咖啡、香烟和弹珠游戏。她刚刚完成了一天的毕业考试,从高中毕业。

在接下来的两天里,她带我参观了她生活的镇子。我们沿着鹅卵石铺成的街道走上 12 世纪的古堡,那里是她小时候与她的德国牧羊犬 Kathy 玩耍的地方。我们躺在湖边的草地上,远方是白色的阿尔卑斯山。在一家不显眼的俱乐部里,我们一直待到黎明。她将一枚自动点唱机硬币交给我,让我为她点一首她最爱的 George Benson 演唱的歌曲。随后,她认识的另外一位儒雅的年长者加入了我们。很明显,他并不喜欢我和她在一起。

哈比:"一双迷人的蓝眼睛如同宝石一般闪亮,乌黑的长发如波浪般垂下"(图片来源:Philippe Robert)


所以我悄悄离开。我再次在路旁竖起了大拇指,搭上便车……前往其他地方,但这些地方我现在已经全然忘记。几天之后,鬼使神差一般,我再次回到纳沙泰尔,回到了"Pam-Pam"咖啡馆。没过多久,Maïf 骑着她的小踏板车而来,一路上了小山。一杯咖啡过后,她带我到了她家,她的奶奶给我们做了煎蛋饼充当午餐。我之前从没有在午餐时吃煎蛋饼。我们在厨房里的一张桌子上就餐,这张桌子现在仍在那里。

我在纳沙泰尔又度过了一夜。在飞回美国之前,我还有很多地方要去,而在这里待的越久就越痛苦。我们在她家门前道别,我们最终亲吻了彼此,但只是像欧洲人对朋友那样在脸颊上的亲吻。当我转身离开时,我听到了 Maïf 低声的叹息。任何傻瓜都会马上转身,永远和她在一起。

过了几天之后,哈比再次回到纳沙泰尔去看 Maïf(图片来源:Agata Panas/Alamy)

9 月的时候,我生活在芝加哥,上了研究生,而 Maïf 则在安大略上大学。我们彼此只有一次通信。否则她男朋友会进行干涉。我打电话给她,她说也许很快会到芝加哥。但是几周之后当我再次打电话时,她告诉我她遇到了自己的意中人。我们就此失去了联系。32 年过去了。

研究生毕业后,我在新西兰和澳大利亚度过了一年半,然后搬回我家人在 60 年代生活了三年的夏威夷。

我有时还是会想到 Maïf。

32 年后,Bill 和 Maïf 在 LinkedIn 上再次相遇(图片来源:Bill Harby)

进入互联网时代后,一些小奇迹开始出现。我们的再次相遇只是因为,几乎在同时,生活在日内瓦的她和生活在夏威夷的我都耐不住同事的劝说,不情愿地注册了 LinkedIn 账号。当我 2007 年通过谷歌搜索她的名字时,看到了她的 LinkedIn 地址。我通过我的 LinkedIn 账号给她发送了消息,然后奇迹就发生了,我们突然再次取得了联系。

Maïf 几周前写给我说,她曾做了一个梦:一位戴头巾的神秘妇人,沿着一条小路前行,离她越来越远。Maïf 问她要去向何处。"我要回到阿克伦(Akron),"妇人说道。Maïf 问道:"阿克伦是什么?谁在那儿"妇人没有回答。

而在现实生活中,当 1975 年我与 Maïf 相遇时,我就生活在俄亥俄阿克伦。

我们开始每天都发邮件,然后就使用了 Skype。我们了解到彼此都已离婚许久;她有了三个已经长大成人的孩子,我没有孩子;她正处在一段八年的感情末期;我们都喜欢 Leonard Cohen、Tom Waits 和 Vic Chesnutt;我们都喜欢被逗乐;我们必须再见一面。

她来夏威夷待了几周。第二年我去日内瓦待了三个月,与 Maïf 和她已经成年的儿子 Daniel 生活在一起。直到那时,我们惊讶地发现,我们不仅在时隔 32 年之后再次遇见彼此,而且我们还深深喜欢着彼此,喜欢我们如今的彼此,喜欢马上就变成热恋。我们认为如果年轻时在一起,可能会搞砸这一切。但是我们也担心是否我们只是对这个故事的一部分仍然恋恋不舍,而我们可能会被现实打败,最终遗憾收场。



哈比在多年前寄给朋友的明信片上写到了他与 Maïf 的故事(图片来源:Bill Harby)

我在离开纳沙泰尔之后把明信片寄给了 Larry 和 Sandy,所以也许蒙特勒是我在离开 Maïf 之后前往的地方。34年后,Sandy 在准备丢弃旧纸张的时候发现了这张卡片。她看到了我混乱的笔迹所书写的我的旅行故事。它的内容如下:

“……Marie-France,一位 19 岁的美人,我和她在纳沙泰尔度过了轻松而美妙的三天时光——她一直生活在那里,可以说一口流利的英语——如果我不离开的话,恐怕将面临爱情的烦恼。我知道我将会长久长久地爱着她。”

当然,Maïf 和我后来回去过"Pam-Pam"咖啡馆。第一次,我们看到了嵌有棋盘的大理石桌子。老板说它是唯一始终保留下来的东西。这张桌子如今摆在我们位于纳沙泰尔家的阳台上,同样停留在此的还有我们极致的欣喜。

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