“My sister doesn’t know the difference between a hippie and a hipster,” I heard her say. I met Nina at Preseren Square at 8:15 pm. I couldn’t help but wonder how many thousands of people had chosen the same meeting point over the years. “This must be like telling someone to meet you under the clock at Grand Central,” I said. “Everyone knows where it is.”
As Nina approached, I was nearly tackled by her younger sister. She offered a bear hug as if we’d known each other since our sandbox days. “This is my sister, Ines,” she said. She stood a few inches shorter than Nina, but like her sister wore glasses. She beamed, life emanating from every pour of her being. I knew instantly the two were related. What they lacked in physical resemblance they made up for in their commitment to joy, to a singular type of existence.
While Nina looked as though she was stopped en route to a first date, Ines would have been appropriately placed on the corner of Haight-Ashbury, sporting a colorful pullover and sandals.
We made our way towards a popular outdoor café that played live jazz, joking and poking fun as if we’d grown up together. What a strange bunch, I thought. Here were two twenty-something Slovenian sisters and an American man in his thirties going through one of the most transitional phases of his life.
The walk over was brief as every walk in this town is. One of Europe’s smallest capitals, it leaves little excuse to ever feel overwhelmed by your surroundings. You really have to try to get lost.
We took our seats at the same table I’d sat at just the day before. As we got comfortable, the voice singing in the background reminded me of Diane Kroll or Madeleine Peyroux, which is to say I was happy. In between sets they played the familiar hits of Sinatra. I secretly hoped to hear, “Summer Wind.”
Ines sipped on a beer as Nina nursed a lemonade. I opted for a green tea as we delved into a conversation that danced mostly in and around love and relationships. We traded notes on American customs of dating versus those in Slovenia as I held up my umbrella creating a makeshift parasol.
Before we shared intimate tales of loves lost and won, Nina said, “You were so happy yesterday, but tonight you are sad.” “I’m not,” I tried to explain. “I just have a lot on my mind.” Hesitant about talking too much or being the evening’s headline I tried to deflect by asking the girls ensuing questions as though I were Walter Kronkite.
Eventually, the three of us got up and flirted with the idea of going to Nina’s friend’s house. “You girls go ahead,” I insisted. “You’re invited too,” Nina assured me. Ines seemed ambivalent about going as well. I got the sense she would have been happiest wandering aimlessly through the drizzly dark city, or picking wildflowers in the park.
We headed south turning down an invitation to a pub crawl along the way. When we reached the next corner I told the girls I was heading home. “I’m worried we’ll never see you again,” Ines said. “Sure you will,” I told her. “With some people you just know.” She seemed convinced before Nina asked about my plans the following day. “I’m not really doing anything,” I said. She invited me to, “Film Under the Stars,” a series of screenings held at Ljubljana Castle every July. What lucky timing, I thought. “Okay, throw me a shout tomorrow.” She nodded and soon the sisters made there way off into the night one way as I did the other. Just before they left, I glanced up the street from where we stood. I could just make out the intersection where Nina and I had met for the first time the day before.
Jurij, a twenty-something mechanical engineer from Slovenia told me, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life. For example, when I booked my flight to Los Angeles, I had a lot of studying to do. But I thought, ‘If I don’t live tomorrow I will have missed this opportunity to meet new people.’ This is it.”