The grassy slope was covered with people, mostly young, playing music from speakers and swigging beers. Sophie sat on a large blanket surrounded by a small group. “Eleanor!” Sophie pulled her into a quick embrace once she reached her. Over Sophie’s shoulder, Eleanor’s eyes looked out at the surface of the water, visible between the trees. “Everyone,” Sophie turned back to the blanket. “This is Eleanor, my friend from New York.”
There were about five people not including Sophie. The women were fresh-faced, most some shade of natural blonde, wearing blouses and tunics of solid color. They dipped pieces of bread into a tub of hummus as they chatted with the male members of the group: two long- limbed, dark-haired boys, one scruffy and one clean shaven, both wearing beautiful leather shoes. Eleanor waved a shy hello. The others greeted her briefly and returned to their conversation. Sophie distributed another round of beer from a cooler bag. Eleanor took one. The group twittered easily on the subject of the impending marriage of a couple they had gone to school with. Eleanor looked up at the rustling foliage. The beer prickled against her tongue. She felt frustrated. After months of living in Berlin she was fluent, yet always she encountered the same feeling — words she couldn’t understand, meanings and context that passed her by.