Kanako and Noriko: the angels
My apartment building had five floors with two units on each floor. I was on the third floor in the European counting, and two Japanese women lived on the fourth.
Kanako was in an import-export business between Northern Europe and Japan, specializing in furniture and textile. She worked from home and traveled around Europe to meet the buyers and clients. She was in her late 40s and had lived in Europe for about 20 years. She was energetic but calm and grounded, though sometimes she had a wall of defense, which didn’t necessarily separate her from people but had fortified her independent personality.
Noriko worked for a Japanese airline company as a flight schedule administrator. She had moved to Germany as a student in the ’80s and lived through the integration of the country. She was a well-dressed woman in her 50s, with a soft demeanor and quiet sense of humor.
Both women had heard about me from the landlady, probably including my peccadillo with her earlier. I ran into Kanako first at the mailbox, and we introduced each other briefly. Then, that evening, I somehow managed to lock myself out when I stepped out to do the laundry in the basement. Panicked, the only thing I could think of was to go to Kanako, though I knew well enough she wouldn’t be able to open the door, and she might be out as it was Saturday night. So I was relieved when she opened the door as soon as I knocked. Kanako had a phone on her ear and looked surprised it was me instead of someone else she expected to see. “She’s here, Noriko!” she spoke into the phone, and the next moment, Noriko came out of her apartment door across the hall. They laughed and said, “we were talking about you, and you are here!” Their laugh calmed my nerve a little, but I had to tell them about my blunder. There was an apotheke (pharmacy) on the ground floor, and they kept the spare keys of all the tenants, but it was Saturday, and they wouldn’t open until Monday morning. Just when I thought I’d have to ask them to let me stay until Monday, Noriko remembered about a sign above the mailbox. We went downstairs and found the sign in German that said something of, “in case of a lockout, contact the locksmith. Phone number: xxxx-xxxx” We wrote down the number, and from the comfort of Kanako’s living room, we called the locksmith, who came within one hour. A bulky man with long curly mullet hair stood at my door and asked for my passport and cash in advance. I asked him why anyone would get accidentally locked out with their passport and cash in hand. Kanako and Noriko quickly intervened to make the air cheerful so that the man my life depended on wouldn’t get offended by my snarky comment. Thanks to the two women, he relented and said, “ok, but don’t tell anyone.” He inserted a flat iron tool between the door and the pane, and with a clang, it opened. I let out a sigh of relief, and the two women applauded the mullet-haired locksmith, who looked very pleased. In I went to pick up my passport and the cash of 150 Euro. I was fortunate to have the cash at hand. Some mysterious power must have worked to make me withdraw that much money a few days before the incident. The power didn’t stop me from closing the door but made me befriend the women who’d keep holding my hands for the next twelve months so I wouldn’t fall off.