The more I try to understand the world of creativity, the world of art, the more I come to the conclusion that we are all in need of stories: stories to tell, stories to listen to. The fact is, our civilization was built on stories; what we now call the study of history, used to be – and still is in some cultures – the tales and fables that were passed on from generation to generation. Stories can be told in different ways: photos tell stories as well as paintings or sculptures. It is not only about words. All you have to decide is what kind of stories you want to hear or what kind of stories you want to tell. Well, I have a story for you.
During the summer of 2012, I felt like I just had to see the premiere of Master and Margarita, a novel by the Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov at the theater in Vienna. Most normal people go to theaters with someone else; because, quite honestly, the only people who are alone at theaters are over 60. That did not bother me for two reasons: first of all, the seats were almost sold-out, and so between going alone and not going at all, the choice was obvious. Second, finding a fellow university student who is up for going to the theater on a Sunday morning to see a Russian play happens to be a rarity.
So there I was, sitting in the front row of a little balcony in the wonderful Viennese “Burgtheater” and waiting for some kind, old lady to come and take her place next to me. Yet that is not what happened.
At this point in the story, I would like to tell you that I am the biggest fan of clichés. If you think imagining what your relationship and maybe even your kids could look like as soon as you meet a cute/ interesting person is freaky – trust me, I am worse. Maybe worse is the wrong word. I simply like stories, yes, some of them involve romantic encounters and others obsessive promiscuity. Those stories, as rare as they are, do happen. Some we usually exaggerate in our freaky little heads, but the fact is, they are real.
Just before the play began, a dark, curly haired woman sat down next to me. She had a gentile figure and the real signs of her age were only to be seen in the depth of the expression on her face. You know how you sometimes try to observe people without them noticing? Well this was one of those moments, except in a theater booth, it happens to be quite difficult. She definitely looked older than me, so I estimated between twenty-five and thirty years old. I wasn’t yet quite sure if I thought she was my type, but the different ways this would play out already started going through my head. Pretty quickly, I came to the conclusion that it would probably end the way it always does, with me playing with some stories in my head and eventually going home. So the play began.
For those of you who have read or seen Master and Margarita, you know it is an intense piece. Considering that it revolves around the bureaucracy, the hypocrisy and the human characteristics in the Soviet Union, it was not something easily digested. At the end of the first act came the first awkward silence. Boy, do I hate those. I couldn’t stand it for very long so I started a little chat with the woman next to me. I remember coming out of that theater feeling like a hero, simply because it happened to be one of those few moments where I actually made the effort to start a conversation. Sometimes you have to have faith that the person next to you might have something interesting to say.
A wonderful surprise followed: Roxanne turned out to be a 25-year-old PhD Geography student from Romania. She just recently came to Vienna and was very excited to have gotten a seat for this performance. We talked about the play, the morality, faith, god and human flaws. The more I listened, the more stories started to play out in the back of my mind. Could this be the moment that we all wait for? Well, as I sit here, writing this story, nothing much really happened but the event itself reminded me that we should be brave. We should be brave enough to follow the simple urges that tell us to find emotional or psychological closeness to other people.
After months of meeting girls who barely had an opinion on any genuinely interesting topic, I was in awe. The age was a big factor, but even at 25, it is hard to find a woman who will start talking to a stranger about where humanity has gone wrong and what we as humans should try to change. This went on during the whole break and for another 30 minutes after the play was finished and the room was empty. I was already trying to think of the best way to develop this theater visit into a coffee with my new acquaintance, but sadly it didn’t quite go that well. As we were saying our goodbyes in front of the theater I did the cockiest thing I could have possibly done. Instead of asking for her number or her email address, I gave her my silly little business card. I told her, if she ever felt like going for a drink, she could call me. Smart move, eh?
By now you are probably thinking, what a silly little child I am. You are probably right. However she did write to me, and even if due to the course of life and daily business, we have not met yet, I do believe that there are profound conversations that will follow. The point is, it is a story which I will remember for quite some time and maybe even conjure up another ending for it, the next time I tell it.
Just keep telling stories, it is worth living for.