The Woman Named Theresa, Celeste, or Désirée in Vienna



You could find us on the corner of Stiftgasse and Schrankgasse. Gasse means alley, or lane by the way, not gas. But while we’re distracted and on the subject, the word fährt also has no relation to farting in German. It’s the verb “to go” – so if you’re constantly shutting up and going, just know that in a way, you’re constantly fährting. I’m sorry.

You’re in a gasse constantly fährting. Ok, really, I’m done.

Stiftgasses and Shrinkgasse | Mm | Shut Up and Go

Right. You could find us on the corner of Stiftgasse and Schrankgasse. Us: me and the American woman with one of those older Meryl Streep elegant American accents, freshly died purple hair, and a Lonely Planet Vienna Guide in her purse. She looked like her name could have been Theresa, Celeste, or something French, but butchered by Americans, like Désirée. We’re at Tian Bistro am Spittelberg, an upscale vegetarian restaurant in the Volkstheater neighborhood, where for only €8,50 you can be eating pumpkin risotto, or some soup and salad combo with white bread (yeah, wasn’t as interesting).

I was in a bit of a mood this morning. I’m on day two of studying at Actilingua. I’m taking three-hour private German courses, so in other words, my brain is fried, and I don’t know how to interact with anyone past “Hi, I would like a coffee with two espressos” which still fails every time when the barista hands me a coffee and two single espressos. In addition to my A1 level German, I’ve got a C2 level sore throat happening.

I had just finished my pumpkin risotto and berry “Energy” smoothie when she walked in right off the street, responding to the waiter’s “How are you?” with a “Happy to be here. Happy to be sitting down at a nice vegetarian restaurant outdoors.”

Hearing an American accent abroad is oddly refreshing. At least when it’s not coming from a drunk study abroad student yelling in the street.

I’m all for having fun, but at least yell in the club where your voice is masked by Migos mumbling.

Vienna cobblestones

On that point, if you’ve ever been to Vienna, you might have noticed that the inner districts, where most of the activities, bars, and restaurants are, seem to shut down after 8 pm, and more than any other major cosmopolitan city. Maybe this 8 pm silence and overall calm and collected behavior have helped preserve the city’s beautiful architecture in the way that it is today. When a friend informed me that Vienna had recently implemented Quiet Hours, I looked it up online only to be disappointed after finding quiet hours for construction.

While Theresa, Celeste, or Désirée waited for her food, she opened up her Lonely Planet Vienna Guide and began reading on Page 1. She seemed content to be on her own. Satisfied. Secure. This is the moment she has been telling her friends and family about, and it’s finally here. She’s in Vienna. She took an 8+ hour flight to get here; why shouldn’t she be “happy to be here. Happy to be sitting down at a nice vegetarian restaurant outdoors.” Maybe she is here visiting some guy or girl she met here years ago at a crazy rave at Grelle Forelle? Maybe her children are living here studying at the University of Wien? Maybe she’s on her own and simply wants to see the world?

I’m telling this story as if something major happened, but it didn’t, and that’s the point. I spent my meal observing this older woman, imagining every last detail about her life. What steps led her here? Is there a reason our paths are crossing? Is there a reason any of our paths cross? Why, at any given time, are the people around you, the people around you? And not another group of strangers. Can these people bring you something? Can you bring them something? Could your next job offer, love interest, new friendship be found within this selected group of people? Is it this complex, or is it really all just a coincidence after all?

By the end of our lunch, together but alone, she noticed me too, overhearing my American accent when asking the waiter for die Rechnung, and I wonder if she too, were wondering what the hell I was doing alone in Vienna.

Sometimes, I don’t even know.



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