The semester went mostly the way you’d figure it would. Jake and I put a decent amount of effort into our classes and our internships, and Paul mostly just kind of floated along. We went to pubs, we blew off classes, we had a few flings, but Paul went every night, blew off more, and charmed girls left and right with his brash American ways.
I suppose that was another talent of his, knowing who would buy into his schtick and who wouldn’t. If sleeping with as many people as possible is a measure of success in life (and for my own sake, I maintain that it isn’t,) he had Jake and me beat hands down. He took the easy way, as it were, while Jake and I beat our heads against a wall trying to impress girls who were too sophisticated for us. We were caught in between what we saw as the recklessness of our earlier years and the more worldly and mature men we saw ourselves becoming. We suffered in a way that Paul never did, and when the depression and frustration of a Thanksgiving spent away from home and a few more weeks to go before seeing familiar faces again set in, he was there with a solution.
“Guys, guys,” he said with that mischievous grin of his. “I know what’ll cheer you up! We’ll have Christmas early this year. We’ll take a train to Salzburg for the big Feast of Saint Nicholas they have there. It’ll be fantastic, man. Really authentic. None of the bullshit of Christmas back in the States or here in England. No advertising shoving shit we don’t need down our throats.”
Jake frowned at that. “Hey, man. We’re in advertising.”
“And aren’t you proud of yourselves?” Paul said with a sneer, but before we could tell him to screw himself, he continued. “Come on! We’ve only got a few more weeks here, and who knows if you’ll ever be back with this kind of freedom? Sack up and let’s do it!”
“We’ll be cutting it too close to our flights back home.”
“No, you won’t. The feast is on December sixth.”
“It’ll interfere with our finals.”
“It’s on a weekend.”
“I don’t want to spend the money.”
“Fucking live a little, will you?” Paul frowned. He knew he was on the edge of losing us, but a sly smile crept across his face as a new strategy occurred to him. “Come on, guys. Austria for Christmastime. You’re not looking at this the right way. This is going to be like Oktoberfest.”
Jake and I looked at each other. There was still some hesitation on our faces, but he’d won us over and he knew it. One of the biggest regrets of the semester up to that point had been the fact that we hadn’t made it out to Munich for Oktoberfest. Fate had conspired against us then, but here was the opportunity to correct that mistake. Here was a chance to go someplace we’d never been before, to meet people we’d never see again. To get lost in a country where none of us spoke the language. To hop on a train, ride it all night, run wild in a foreign city, and take the train back the next day. We’d regret it on Monday morning, and then laugh about it for the rest of our lives.
I looked to Jake again, and he gave a single quick nod. I sighed and smiled and turned back to Paul and said, “Alright, fine. Let’s go do something stupid.”