Birthday, same same, but different
Each year, February 20th is a special day to me. It is my birthday and usually this day brings back our long-desired spring.
This year, it was double special as I by chance found out my Chinese girlfriend’s daughter was born exactly on the same day…just 21 years after.
Like me and many other Pisces women, she is artistic. But she takes it to a much higher and more serious level. She is an art student working on her master program.
The first meeting with her was a bit funny. Her mom – my friend – asked her to call me sister, as I’m not a parent. “Whoa.” I took a step back. “Does it mean, you and I belong to two different generations now?” I blinked at my friend.
“Aunty?” She asked for my consent.
That title made me feel…old. So I answered:”How about simply call me by my given name?”
We all agreed and settled.
I was very proud of myself that I was able to find a not-yet-officially-open Japanese pastry shop in Lausanne to order a very authentic matcha cake for us as a birthday cake.
Complying with the Swiss COVID measures, I divided my guests into two small groups. Hence, I had two sessions of celebration. Every moment of happiness doubled.
Next day, my birthday celebration continued. As if the lonelier I felt, the more eventful I had to make each day.
With a “Goldenpass Panoramic” train, from a breathtakingly beautiful spring in Montreux, I arrived in Gstaad’s winterland, which was just like another little tiny town in Disneyland.
I was welcomed by a man who arranged for my stay at Hotel Le Grand Bellevue and who liked to say “big time” in English quite often. Mr. Big-Time was elegantly dressed – slim cut blue suit and neat velvet dark red shoes. That was the first thing that distinguished him from the locals – the Swiss locals. Yes, he was Italian.
I was warmly greeted by the hotel staff. Everyone looked just so sophisticated, as if I was on a movie site in Hollywood. One of them was called Oliver, from Paris. While I was being awed by his greetings in perfect Mandarin, he told me he spoke other fifteen languages more fluently.
After drinking up a delicious hot chocolate from a small cute cup offered by one of the staff, I was led to go upstairs to my room. At the entrance of the staircase stood a real-sized dromedary made of cloth. Actually, that was the “butler” to the bar and restaurant. Going up, I was dazzled by an exquisite chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Somehow, I felt her loneliness through her warm light, as if she had been standing there for too long, waiting for her true admirer.
I knew I had been to many other five-star hotels. It had become a sort of ritual of my birthday celebration. However, this time, I felt something different, something unique, something mysterious.
“I hope you like your room.” Said Mr. Big-Time.
“Very.” I answered, politely, with a smile on my face.
He seemed satisfied. Then he slowly stepped towards the door.
“Are we going to meet again?” I asked.
“Dinner, at seven.” He gently closed the door.
I checked the time on my iPhone. There was enough time for me to visit the wellness & spa area. It was a delicate place with enough facilities. Yet, seeing all others in couple, I decided I might need more time to get ready for dinner.
When I returned to my room, the evening housekeeping service had just been done. The water bottles I had left empty and the peanut shells I had peeled off were cleaned up and gone.
On my way to the bathroom I started taking off my bathrobe, unknotting the strings of my bikini top and quickly realizing that in this spacious bathroom where two sink cabinets opposite of each other stood, a bathtub and a shower room were next to each other installed, mirrors were everywhere, and windows were not yet covered by the curtains. It was too inviting and too…revealing.
I instinctually used one of my hands to cover my top (this was one of the moments where I appreciated my humble breasts for their genuine size), dashed to the windows and swiftly put down the curtains. But the mirrors… were alluring. Before entering the shower room, I stopped in front of a full-length mirror behind the door. I contemplated my intact body, thinking, who could really tell my age – “The Age of Adaline”. (In the end of the movie, Adaline finally meets her soulmate and starts to age normally.)
After the shower, I went to look for my dress – a red one, not too formal, not too casual, not to thin, also not to thick, the one I had planned to go to the restaurant in, the one that would have been perfect for such an occasion. Yet it was nowhere in my suitcase nor my room. I sighed. I had forgotten to pack it. As if the universe wanted to warn me beforehand that I’d only be dining among those families and couples. Nothing romantic would occur. There would be no chance for such an effort. “How about my birthday ritual?” I thought to myself and felt like a beaten sack.
“I’m waiting for you in the bar with a drink.” At a quarter to seven, a text message came in from Mr. Big-Time.
I had to put on what I had had before, and same applied to my make-up.
A tall slender waitress with blonde hair neatly put up was chatting with Mr. Big-Time. Even though a mask was covering nearly half of her face, I could still imagine how pretty she must have been. We greeted each other before I was seated. She said to me that the head of the chef in the restaurant wanted to prepare a surprise menu for us and asked me attentively whether there was anything I’d like to eat or not to eat.
“Wonderful!” I smiled. “I have planned to eat fish this evening. But, just surprise me, please.”
That was the advantage of being with someone who knew everyone here. I knew I was getting spoiled, big time. Such a familiar feeling that I had left about a century ago; sitting in a posh bar in a five-star hotel, being served with a lot of attention and care, all seemed like happened in my previous life – now was all coming back to me.
I didn’t know what Mr. Big-Time was drinking. I asked for the name and quickly forgot. So, I ordered the same. Again, the familiar taste and sensation, crawling onto me unmistakably, reminded me of how my life used to be.
COVID happened only a bit over a year ago. Yet, I had lost contact with myself for like over a hundred years. Or, did I find the true self instead?
Mr. Big-Time seemed very content or rather amused to see my satisfactory facial expressions. He was sitting on the other side of the table, trying to have an amicable conversation with me. Very friendly and very professionally.
Just after having enough time for an aperitif, we were led to the dining table. Another waiter seated us at a round table that could easily serve a family of four.
We were eagerly expecting the surprise.
Mr. Big-Time was telling me about his professional experiences in wine business and hospitality industry. Whenever he was exited, he would exclaim “Big time!” Meanwhile, he was checking his mobile phone every now and then, excusing himself for potential emergency calls at work.
The theme of the dinner was seafood, as I had wished. I couldn’t ask for more, could I?
Then Mr. Big-Time said something to surprise me, which was in fact foreseeable and predictable already. “I’m afraid I will have to leave around 21:30. She is not feeling well. It’s a forty-minute drive one way to her place.”
Of course. The “potential emergency calls at work” was far beyond understandable. I was neither entirely surprised nor disappointed. I was in line with the universe. However, with the alcohol running through my veins, I couldn’t deny that I was envious.
Once upon a time, there was a prince charming who cared about me as well.
Mr. Big-Time managed to wait until the last course which came out together with the head of the chef. We had already lost track of the courses. (But apparently, we didn’t lose the track of the time.) Thanks to my typically notorious Chinese behavior, I took photos of each course and every dish to help me to remember afterwards, perhaps in another century.
“I will have breakfast with you tomorrow morning.” He said that before leaving. I told him it was not necessary. But he insisted.
I was back in my room, drunk. I hit the song on my iPhone “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” and started to enjoy my own party. I moved my body for a while, dancing like indeed nobody was watching. Even while I was changing into a night gown, I couldn’t stop dancing. At last, I hit a number. It went off.
I hit another. It was answered. A single girlfriend’s soothing voice was all I wanted to hear at that moment. “You will find love.” She repeated that to me, like a lullaby.
I then hit a different song and went to bed. It was Selena’s “Dreaming Of You”.
The 8-course dinner kept me awake until late. At some point, I drifted into my dreamland. Surprisingly, when I woke next morning, I was feeling hungry.
Mr. Big-Time was drinking his coffee with one hand and holding a newspaper in the other when I joined him in the restaurant.
“All the bills have been taken care of.” He said gently, without raising eyes from his newspaper.
“No!” I protested. No one had been so kind to me lately. I formed the habit of rejecting kindness. “How much did that dinner cost? I must pay you, together with the room rate.” While saying that emotionally, I took out my iPhone and opened TWINT.
“What are you doing?” He asked me, nonchalantly.
“Transferring you the money.” I answered. Wasn’t it obvious? Everybody in Switzerland used TWINT.
“I don’t use that kind of App.” He finally looked at me, catching me tossing a weird look at him. He was smirking.
“Finish up. Go pack. I will be waiting for you in my car.” It sounded like an order. But very pleasant.
“Right.” I thought to myself, “He is not Swiss. He is Italian. A true Italian gentleman that appears only once in a blue moon.”
Later that day, he drove me to the snow mountains nearby. We took a walk together and we chatted. He told me how he met his special lady and how they fell in love with each other. And how he realized he was in love with her – “When you are in love with someone, they bring out the best in you.”
He then drove me to the train station as I had scheduled. We said goodbye, like old friends. I knew, I was going to write down this extraordinary birthday experience. I also knew, one day, another prince charming would be willing to slay a dragon for me, even if I would not need that. But that would be meant to be the beginning of another beautiful story. And we would want to be the best version of ourselves.