The sky is dark now and I just had a delicious meal in a small and cozy restaurant near the harbor. I plan to take the cable car to the top of Mt. Floyen to enjoy the view of ‘Bergen by night’. It is a popular tourist attraction. There is a longer queue of people at the ticket office than I expected. Damn. If there is one thing I hate, it’s waiting. I’m not sure whether to join the queue or wait until tomorrow night. Maybe it will be less crowded then.
“Excuse me, miss. Do you know where the harbor is?” A French tourist points to a map of the city on his phone.
“Yes, the harbor is a ten minute walk from here. That way.” I roughly point out the location of the harbor in the distance and then take a better look at him.
“I was your grandmother in 1750, wasn’t I?” I chuckle, convinced that my next special encounter has arrived.
“Excuse me?” The man looks at me like I’m crazy.
“Oh … uh … we’ve never met before?” I stammer.
“No, I don’t think so. Have a great evening,” the man says quickly and walks off. Fortunately, he does go in the direction I have pointed out.
That was embarrassing.
“That was hilarious,” someone behind me laughs.
“What?” I turn round and see a girl of approximately fifteen years old with long, wavy blond hair standing a few feet away from me. She looks at me in amusement, awaiting my reaction.
“Oh my God … Catherine!” Before I realize what I’m doing, I run up to the girl and give her a big a hug. I feel her arms close around my waist as she hugs me back.
“Do you remember me?” she smiles.
“Yes and no,” I answer truthfully, slightly confused by my affectionate reaction.
“You feel that we were close in a previous life, but you don’t exactly remember the details?”
“Yes! You take the words out of my mouth.”
“Let me give you a brief summary: we were best friends in Canada at the beginning of this century.”
“That’s why this feels so familiar.”
“Do you feel like going to the top of Mt. Floyen by foot?”
I look up and then turn my gaze back to Catherine.
“Wouldn’t it take us all night to get there?”
“We can be at the top in an hour.”
“Okay, then we’ll walk there”, I nod in agreement.
We energetically start our journey to the top. The route initially passes several houses that have been built along the winding road. I look at the girl curiously.
“Did we have a good life in Canada, Catherine?”
“Initially, yes,” she says. “Until my family moved to the other side of the country because of my father’s job. At that time, it was obviously not easy to keep in touch. We didn’t have stuff like social media. I went to a new school and the girls there weren’t that nice. I was the odd one out and I was bullied. The worst part was when I confessed to the boy next door that I fancied him. For weeks I had gathered the courage to tell him, but I didn’t know that he was friends with the biggest bully in my class. He said I was ugly and that no one would ever like me. That same day I committed suicide. ”
I come to an abrupt halt.
“You did what?” I ask softly, my hand on her arm.
“I cut my wrists with a piece of glass,” she calmly elaborates.
“It’s okay,” she reassures me. “Although I regretted it immediately after my death. I realized what I had done to my family. And how stupid it was to believe the words of that boy. I had destroyed my entire life and that of my parents in a fit of grief.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“It’s not your fault, Mackenzie. It was my decision.”
“I wish I could have been there for you. Maybe you would have made a different choice then.”
“Maybe… maybe not … but I learned a lot from it.”
“What did you learn?”
“I’ve learned to accept myself exactly the way I am. The good, the bad and the ugly. My body and my character. We are all here on Earth in a unique form. And we must respect that form, with all its attractive and less attractive aspects. Both our own and those of someone else.”
I smile at her. What wisdom this young woman has.
“Those are wise words.”
She gives me a faint smile.
“Yet few people take those words to heart.”
I stop for a moment and look at the girl.
“I’ll take them to heart,” I promise her.
Fifty minutes later we are on top of the most well-known mountain of the city. My leg muscles hurt and I am out of breath. But the view is phenomenal. Thousands of small lights a few hundred meters lower provide a beautiful spectacle.
“This was well worth the exhausting climb to the top, wasn’t it?” Catherines asks.
“Absolutely!” I confirm and lower myself to the ground.
For the first time in a long time I feel satisfied. I made an effort and am now rewarded with a beautiful view and the knowledge that this experience has made me a richer person.
We sit next to each other in silence for a few minutes. It’s almost nine pm. Most tourists make their way back to the cable car. I don’t feel like leaving yet. Catherine’s presence and the beautiful view have a calming effect on me. For the first time in a long time, I am optimistic and serene. I don’t feel that strong urge to look for something that will help me feel better. I can finally enjoy the moment again.
“Thank you, Catherine.”
The girl looks at me, slightly surprised.
“That you’re here with me now. And for the lessons you teach me.”
“I’m not teaching you lessons. I’m helping you remember them,” she corrects me and then looks ahead again to our beautiful view. “You have a long life ahead of you, Mackenzie. Make it count…”
I nod and feel tears well up in my eyes. I don’t want her to go. She gives my shoulder an encouraging squeeze and gets back to her feet. I wipe the tears from my eyes and look up. Catherine is gone. There is now someone else in the place where she just stood. Someone taller, older and a lot less cheerful. Takuya.
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