It’s still January and winter has turned to an April mood, mixing harsh north easterly winds and icy rain and hail with bluest skies and cutting– white, cold sunshine – every good reason to light the fire in the big inglenook fireplace in my living room. So, this time I send you the warmth and the perfume of the burning wood. I know how much you liked to smell things and people and yes, I remember, secret places, hidden places. It was your most favourite sense of orientation.
And something else to smell; I made myself a good cup of black tea with Orange– blossom – yes, from ‘Established since 1707’– Fortnum and Mason, from the ground floor’s exotic fragrant corner where still very beautiful Asian shop assistants serve you with perfect solicitude. And because of the ceremony of writing a letter to you, I have poured again from the white bone china pot you always preferred to the ‘Jenaer Glas– Bauhaus’– one, another cup onto white sugar crystals.
How we celebrated life when we sat together in our little student apartment with the Christmas– tree– lined horizon of the Odenwald in the frame of our panoramic window to the West, accompanying our deep talks about life in general and in detail with the little crackling of the sugar– crystals melting into the hot tea. And, ah – the tea’s perfume of the Orange blossoms, how beautiful. You haven’t forgotten that I use Orange blossom essence as my private perfume, have you, Clara. I told you then that the perfume’s choice was inspired by Lila, my first Jewish/Chinese, heavenly scented, most beautiful– lover– girlfriend from my adventurous times after I absconded from home. I can still remember how hesitant I was to speak about this love affair. Not because of too many details which you might have wanted me to reveal. No. Because of the vengeance of your jealousy... I am sure you can remember.
Have I told you that I still keep it secret, my being Jewish. I told Hans im Glück, my HiG, about it. He doesn’t mind. And Friend Donald knows. I’m sure you remember Friend Donald – you met him ages ago in Heidelberg, it’s the handsome, dark– haired, dark– eyed, dark– humoured one, you immediately fancied, you «geile Kuh», you horny cow, didn’t you.
I can’t remember which year it was when Auntie Viola asked me to visit her and to bring Friend Donald with me: «I met your friend several times during my research, he is trustworthy. HiG is too much of a ‘Goy’ for the story I want to tell you!» So Friend Donald accompanied me, he is my living witness of the spoken testimony of Auntie Viola, cousin of our fathers. She explained everything I always knew but was never able to believe: Since early childhood my dear nanny Frieda told me so many family– stories but most of them I had to lock up in my Angst– Haus, memory– key thrown away.
Still a nightmare to think of Friend Donald and me in the super– rich, sky– scraper filled German Banking Metropolis Frankfurt am Main and, in contrast, Auntie Viola’s tiny little apartment in a small, shabby apartment block, reserved exclusively for mentally disordered elderly people, many of them from Frankfurt’s former Jewish quarter which was almost totally destroyed during World War II. A little private «Zweite Heimat’ full of replicas of old rich glory of Bescheidenheit, modesty, of German Biedermeier, and the smell of Auntie Viola’s cancer– eaten body fighting for precedence against the oily, musty lavender furniture polish.
What I can’t remember … Did I ever tell you about my visit to Auntie Viola. I don’t think so. I clearly remember that I didn’t want to believe Auntie Viola’s story about our grandparents and parents – it was all too much for me. We never questioned the stories our parents had told us, about the past, that our grandparents all had died «in the war“. We were used to hear that «...the past does not count and the present is there to plan the future.» I just remember I was once asked by a Kindergarten– friend about my grandparents. I told her that my grandfathers and my grandmothers had been soldiers – only soldiers die in wars. I listened to true stories about lies so many times that they became part of me, Clara. That made me being extremely secretive regarding our family lives – I think, I knew instinctively that it might be dangerous to speak about it. And as far as I can remember, the two of us never discussed any family– history. We preferred to stay stumm.
But I want to change, I want to know, I want to remember, I want to find keys for closed doors of the past. So, Clara – what about you and your secrets. You never told me: who is the father of your son Uriel. I once asked you whether the meaning of his name – «God is my light», or «Radiance of God»– suggests that you want everyone to believe that your son stems from a «holy affair». Or perhaps even from an «Immaculate Conception». But then you might have chosen the name «Gabriel», the one who brought the good news to the Holy Virgin Maria… (I imagine you smiling your beautiful smile now.) It just occurs to me that Friend Donald and your son have a strange similarity. (That would have been a very un– holy affair, indeed, Clara.) But as Uriel told me that he has no interest in who his father is, how dare I ask.
Did I tell you that Auntie Viola refused to sleep in an orderly bed, but always lay down in a replica of her Auschwitz bunk bed, done by her old survivor– friend Victor. Just blank wood, no sheets, and always happy, as she said, «to have it all for myself and not to share with dying or dead women, about fourteen of them, and a lot of excrement. Though not that much» Auntie Viola corrected herself, «as there was not food around worth that name so sometimes, it was helpful to have the excrements at least to fill the mouth. And the urine so warm in the coldest of air, that nobody really cared whether it smelled or not, it was a liquid for disinfection and sometimes, a good drink after hard work.»
She had a peculiar way of telling stories, Auntie Viola. A truly black humour, she had – as you sometimes had, dear, sweet Jewish princess and cousin Clara. I hope you haven’t lost it.
I have to stop for a second, Clara, just watch the sky with me: The sun has already settled behind the western hills, and the firmament starts to play around with all colours imaginable. Do you like more pink. Then you just have to wait a little longer. Let us be taken away by the wind in the meantime. But we have to keep each other warm, the two of us together. No, you can’t take over. Not always. Fine, you are riding ON the wind. Fine with me. I don’t know whether the wind minds at all. He is there anyway. Up and under. Are there some clouds around. Yes, a few. No, not strong enough for cloud walking. You have to lose some weight first.
She was so right in warning me that no one would ever accept the truth – Auntie Viola, I mean – and what a big true story about lies that was. Or better: still is. Unfortunately.
While Friend Donald vanished into the silent shadows of the adjacent room, Auntie Viola carefully settled her frail, black– dressed body in the armchair opposite me. Out of her pale, papery face, her deep black eyes were glowing with the intensity of a firing squad.
«I feel not very well lately, so I have chosen today to speak about your father’s family. I know from your nanny Frieda, that you can keep secrets, Karla. You are the garbage– bin of my memory, Liebchen: Keep the lid closed otherwise the bad odour would be unbearable. Silence can mean: Survival. I didn’t betray your father. It would have been so easy for me to explain to my torturers in the KZ that I am part of his family. That I didn’t speak, kept me alive, Liebchen.»
Imagine just for a moment how different our lives would have been, Clara, if Auntie Viola had spoken. Actually, there is a fair chance that we wouldn’t be born at all, depending on when she would have broken her silence. I can’t remember when but I once tried to speak about our families’ ‘history’ to our old family doctor, Clara, and he just told me: «Viola is gaga, as a matter of fact. Stop thinking about it. Stop it. It’s all a pack of lies!»
Auntie Viola convinced me with her evidences, Clara: She showed me private and official documents, eyewitness– reports, letters, photos – all results of compulsive, life– long research work into our families’ past. Some of her stories were based on personal experiences from her early childhood: She was five years old when she was integrated into our paternal grandparents’ household after the death of her father with a good Jewish name and her mother, sister of our Jewish grandfather Krystof (alias Germanized «Christoph»). Auntie Viola immediately fell in love with his Jewish wife Anja, our fathers’ mother, our paternal grandmother, Clara:
«I still see your beautiful grandmother sitting in her armchair opposite me, looking at me through the twilight of her salon: her dark eyes had the deepness of the Black Forest, her white skin the clearness of a full moon. I sat there for hours, just looking at her – she didn’t mind. She hardly ever spoke to me. The tenderness of her melancholia was a soothing resting– place to my heartaches.»
The adoration for her aunt never left her – it was Auntie Viola who found out how the Jew Anja survived, «helped» by a Nazi ‘friend’, by her former nurse and grandfather’s new love, Auntie Viola called her the ‘Blue– eyed Blonde‘:
«Your grandfather was actually a bigamist – he married the Blue– eyed Blonde even so his Jewish wife Anja was still alive. I don’t think that your grandfather loved the Blue– eyed Blonde, she was his survival– ‘tool’ to make good Aryans of him and his sons.»
«It was not easy to find the Blue– eyed Blonde after the war», Auntie Viola continued «it took me six years before she was willing to speak to me – and only after I assured her that I had ‘no bad feelings left’ regarding her betrayal of me, the «too Jewish– looking’». It still makes me sick of fury how she bragged about that it was HER who knew the psychiatrist running the Scheuern psychiatric clinic in Hesse– Nassau. There, your fathers’ mother, ‘saved’ from the Ravensbrück– concentration camp, was placed for hiding, Liebchen. And the Blue– eyed Blonde’s psychiatrist excluded Anja from the transports of hundreds and hundreds of patients to the NS Tötungsanstalt Hadamar, the Euthanasia Clinic near by, where they were added to the thousands and thousands being killed by gas, medical experiments, lethal injections or through starvation. German scientist love to do experiments of «Precise Natural Science», how they call it till today, don’t they – and most of them still don’t like any Jewish Lumpenproletariat – but that they have in common with many people in Israel...oy yey, oy yey.... »
I remember that Auntie Viola needed quite a few tea– breaks for continuing to tell her story, Clara – and so do I now: To think of the past often makes me shiver – death and guilt have a cold breathe. Why I feel so often guilty, I don’t know, Clara.
The warmth of the tea made my cheeks glow – like it did to Auntie Viola on that day. Kiss my cheeks now, Clara and I continue with Auntie Viola’s story:
«Your grandmother Anja survived the war but she was never ever able to leave the Scheuern psychiatric clinic, not even five years after the war; she had become completely mad from all these hiding games and, during all those years, not knowing what had happened to her husband and her two boys: Anja hanged herself with her shoe– laces around her neck on the upper roof space where they dried the washing in the winter. She hung there, between the linen sheets, dangling from an iron– cased hook for electric wires. When they found her she looked as dry and as white as the surrounding sheets.» Yes, Auntie Viola was good at story telling. After we left, Friend Donald had to hold me in his arms for a long time.
Oh, please, Clara, don’t lose your reason because of the past – NO! I demand from you that you pull yourself together and that we will re– trace our memory. My letters are supposed to be the beginning of it, very painful, oh ja.
But we both like pain, hefty pain from time to time, don’t we. Ah, our wild games in the desert and in the warm waters of the Red Sea – never forgotten, never by me, at least. But how about you, my sweet, so sweet tasting ruby– blood– coloured kiss– lips cousin and girlfriend. Help me that I can help you, help for self– help, helper’s syndrome, helper’s fate....
Keep healthy and don’t eat too many sweets. Uriel told me that you seem to be a food– and sweet– addict, oy vey, Clara, I hope that’s not true! I stopped smoking because I found it boring. Perhaps you can imagine how boring it is to eat and eat and eat. Hope so for you. Please, you will always be my most beautiful love, surely.
I just found an old note from ages ago – I think I wrote it after coming back from my visit to Auntie Viola – showing my amazement how little I know about our families, Clara Cousin, no names and dates most of the time, often no faces to the names I got from Auntie Viola. At our family homes, there were no photos standing around in silver frames on elegant side tables, and I never asked questions and neither did you, to the best of my knowledge.
So, Clara, let’s start, in the not too far future, an adventurous journey back into our families’ past – by at the same time not forgetting that we should live in the present. But I am convinced that there is no future for us if we don’t understand our past. Yes, that’s something I started to reflect upon only recently (that comes with age, ha). Ach, Clara, please, join in, there will be suffering, there will be excitement to be (re)discovered, I am sure; so come along, but first let’s sing a song for a Good night sleep, just choose which you like… ach, I am so tired, I close my arms around your waist so gently, I close my eyes and feel your warmth, the warmth of Mother Earth: Good night.
PS: HiG sends you greetings with a smile and a tender hug. He is no longer jealous of you, he told me on the phone this lunchtime. (I think that’s one of his jokes – he never had a reason to be jealous of you!) He is still up in the North with a solicitor to go through his files to prepare a response to allegations made against him. (No need to go into boring details, be assured). Yes, how do you know, it is a female solicitor. For sure – he instinctively knows to find the right female beauty to support him, the «HiG Schlawiner’: He always likes to play the «Lausbub», the rascal. But I can trust him – he always comes home to me and then he kisses me and loves me and laughs my Angst away. Sounds too simple for you, I know – and I don’t care.
Your cousin Karla kisses you in your dreams
I hope you were enraptured by today’s sunshine – down here in the Southeast, it was really warm during the day, almost 16 degrees Celsius. I participated in nature’s awakening from winter’s sleep by working hard in the garden: using my new pruning saw and secateurs (HiG’s Christmas presents), I cut back the rest of the Wisteria’s sideshoots and cleared the trunks of last year’s newly planted fruit trees from too long and misplaced stems. Next autumn, I hope, among others, for the most delicious Pink Lady apples and Williams pears, Clara – I promise to keep some for you.
From time to time, I stopped my gardening– work to dreamingly indulge myself in the strong, breathtaking perfumes of my winter– flowering beauties – their fragile, tender blossoms dancing on the inner screen of my closed eyes: With the sunshine, the yellow Hamamelis mollis’ spider– shaped flowers radiate their sharp– sweet fragrance into the air, and the Christmas Box with its small feathery white flowers and their tiny pink anthers compete with Skimmia japonica’s white flowers with a tinge of pink: Which one has the sweetest fragrance – and which flowers get the most attention of the early, busy bumble bees. «Bah», says the Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline postill’ with her abundance of larger white and rosy– pink flowers, «Me, me, me – I have the strongest sweetness in my pink perfume, I get the most attention.» (Very rightly so.)
In the blue above me, the clouds played shepherd dogs chasing sheep across the sky. Dark sorrows, playing windmills in my mind, come to a halt and the peaceful silence of the earth let’s me forget all commotion.
I completed my winter digging, and by spreading leave mulch and well– rotted manure over the soil, I prepared a new vegetable plot for HiG. Self– sufficiency in regard to organically grown salads and vegetables throughout the year is my aim. It’s a labour– intensive job, I can assure you, Clara – you wouldn’t like to do it. At the moment, HiG loves the idea – but has not yet a clue how much hard work waits for him. When he is at home, he needs to be occupied so that he does not suffer from a too fast decline of his muscles and his brain through «Stillstand», standstill, caused by his compulsory retirement. (I hope you find something interesting to do for your brains, Clara – letter reading might not be enough.)
It’s four o’clock in the afternoon, the light is fading fast and the temperature is dropping rapidly. I cut a bundle of branches from the Witch Hazel to bring early– spring– messenger’s perfume into the house and to inspire me to write this letter to you, Clara. I have put my finest white cashmere throw around my shoulders. Yes, it’s the one you gave me as a present ages ago, and I have always kept it for precious occasions. It got so cold in the house that I had to start the fire in the inglenook and the flames cast their dancing shadows over the room and onto my writing desk.
HiG looked quite cute today, leaving for a conference in Switzerland. I cut his hair in the morning. In the front, I cut it layered and so short that it stands high up like with ‘Little Nemo’ waking up from some strange, unsettling dreams.
Even though he is ten years older, HiG looks so much younger than me. He does not have a conscience and he never feels guilty. That’s perhaps why he looks so ‘timeless’. He never investigated what his father did in Poland, why he was part of the «Vorfront», the spearhead of the invasion. And HiG did not bother to know why his father’s unit, very soon after his Poland deployment, was one of the first to «free» Belgium. The one who shot HiG’s father dead in Belgium while parading in his tank, was a «cowardly sniper“ for HiG, not an honourable member of the resistance, a freedom fighter. You see, Clara, here, there, everywhere, a true story of lies.
Auntie Viola was sure that my mother witnessed Jews being treated like sheep, chased by German Shepherd dogs through the streets. That was before she herself was caught and hunted down because of ‘collaborating’ with a Polish woman, her former cleaner who, by accident, had discovered in an old box on top of the dresser in the dining room the hidden photos of familiar looking faces wearing the long trimmed curly hair on both sides of Jewish temples. And this cleaner had demanded money and jewellery to keep silent. Have you ever noticed that our word «Jew“ is contained in that glitzy word. How sentimental of my mother, to keep family photos from the past.
«And at one of these ‘jewellery for silence’– transactions», Auntie Viola told me, «your mother was caught, as a German Aryan, disgracing herself by not only keeping contact with the Pole but also by supporting this ‘sub– human race’, by giving her money and jewellery, thus being a collaborator with the enemy of the supreme Aryan race. That was even before the big uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto when the Nazis decided Polish people who helped the Jews, were just good enough to work themselves to death in concentration camps».
Where was your mother at that time, Clara, neither Frieda nor Auntie Viola had an answer to this question, just suggestions.
«So, off your mother went, kicked into one of these cattle trains, destination concentration camp. But what a survivor they caught with her, what a survivor!» Auntie Viola continued admiring my mother but was deeply offended by my father’s rejection after the war to (re– ) integrate her into our family life: „He told me into my face that I am ‘too East– European looking’». Auntie Viola had many reasons to take revenge on my father, Clara.
Regarding my mother, I comprehend Auntie Viola’s admiration. Mother had something that made you long for her love. I still admire her style, I really do. Actually, Clara, it seems a little bit odd to call it ‘style’. But surely, she would enjoy the word, she was quite vain – like your mother.
Our mothers – ageless, forever young: their faces without a line, their blue eyes innocent without a shadow, their slim, elegant bodies with their flexible tendons and muscles – our mothers with their flexible minds…
Have you ever had any dreams about your mother, Clara. Or about me. I had quite a few dreams about you. If you are interested, I will tell you later about them.
It is worth to remember what our mothers told us: «It’s always good to be utterly cautious, don’t forget that ever», we were taught over and over again, were we not.
The only times I almost forgot my caution was during my practising family therapy together with HiG. When Jewish parents shied away from us because of our stainless steel ‘Made in Germany’– appearance. That was their view, I mean. Every time I saw Audi’s «Vorsprung durch Technik» on the television screen or in newspaper– ads, I thought that HiG and I might have fallen into the same category: slick and slim and stylish. And I felt the urge to tell those Jewish families: I am one of yours, can’t you see.
You remember that I refused not to wear my Jill Sander costumes in the slums of Port Sudan. And I was right as every poor refugee told me, they felt honoured that: «A lady» came to help them and not any helpers dressed like bums.
Most of the time, you looked like a gypsy, Clara, a wild, beautiful one, very attractive to many, yes, I know, don’t come again with these endless accounts of how many lovers you had – have you ever thought that this could have been upsetting for your son. No wonder he put you in a home. Now I sound cruel, but the truth is the truth, I can’t help it. Forgive me. Or not. I love you...still and against all odds. You gave me a lot to swallow...You loved to love me and you loved to hate me. My bet is: You’ll never expected me to survive your betrayal, your hate, my time in Port Sudan’s prison – and: to be able to forgive you. I do forgive you. You cannot do better than believing me. You don’t have to vanish into Dementia because you fear my retaliation.
I came out at the other end of the tunnel stronger than you anyway. And I can’t honestly say that this was not my intention. It’s in my blood, it’s in my genes.
Auntie Viola compared my father with someone following you into a revolving door to come out first: «After the Second World War your father knew how to stop trains full of fabrics for the American Army and to rebuild his garment– industry and with his newly acquired wealth, he immediately started his re– invention as the good German who risked his life to help Jews.» I just see again Auntie Viola’s eyes in front of me, darkened with hate.
After the war, my father could have opted for another version of his life, of our lives. He didn’t. Perhaps he thought it would upset his marriage, our lives, because he, always being so righteous about everything, would have had to admit a lie, a mistake to his wife, my mother, and to me. And then his brother, your father, would have been obliged to do the same with you and your mother. Imagine with what RELIEF our mothers would have reacted to such a revelation, enabling them to open their cupboards full of skeletons. But my father chose the other way.
We do understand this decision, don’t we, Clara, it sometimes seems so much easier and less upsetting to continue lying.
The sun has vanished behind dark clouds now, and his rays are putting their deep magenta on, cutting through the rest of the sky to form an Art Deco painting of some magnitude.
Having been rescued again from retribution and hate, this time from neighbourhood– rivals, Cock Theobald’s feathers have been re– arranged and he looks very Art Deco – rhythmically beige brown orderly layered, settling next to me and the fire. He is now deeply asleep and seems to dream of flying because both of his wings are slightly stretched and lifted and lowered again in a very slow rhythm of a ‘High– flyer’, while his little cock– head is still comfortably resting underneath his left wing. Cock Theobald is a happy cock. He is mad.
Even so everyone else told me that Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian, my father insisted, that «our Adolf», how he called him, loved to eat chicken. And so did Alfred Speer and Co, inclusive, or better: especially Leni Riefenstahl. It’s strange to notice, Clara that «Leni» is highest up in the appreciation of English high– flyers of today. It only happened last week at a party where we traditionally discuss what opera we all will indulge us in at this years’ Glyndebourne season. But HiG and I had to announce our «retreat from all social obligations to live for a year in ‘splendid isolation’» (isn’t that a discreet way of expressing that we suffer from austerity– times). Our intellectual friends spoke enthusiastically about Leni’s martial photography, her mass– hypnotic films even though, oh yes – one knows about the Nazi destruction of art, music, of literature and the horrid number of Jews killed, that’s all, so horribly big that number, six million, or so. And how they laughed about their story of a rich Jewish pub owner who instructs his staff to collect all slices of lemon out of emptied glasses to put them again into the next servings of Gin and Tonic. (Special emphasis to «Jewish» pub owner, Clara.) Yes, I do hear more and more Anti– Semitic jokes and remarks. But nobody should be blamed in this righteous land of privileged people, Clara – don’t you dare blame anybody, especially when you are considered to be a guest in this country. Whose idea was it anyway, the state of Israel.
A strange excitement touches some emotionally crippled people, women and men alike, when they see an Aryan– type German, Clara, someone like my beautiful, handsome German HiG, thinking that he might have been part of the Nazi horror scenario when he was still «at home». With the intention to hide curiosity behind a half– downward bent head and a glance from below up to his face and into his wonderful grey eyes (yes, Clara, they are grey, no, not blue, I told you a hundred times, it’s written ‘grey’ in his passport), they sometimes ask HiG whether he had «experienced the war“. The English never ask what his father did during the war. They are polite, really. Most of them are.
The problem with HiG is that he is not aware of all the complex feelings and subconscious implications to be seen, to be known as, to BE a German in this country. He is so badly educated that he himself hardly knows anything from after the Second World War. So, it does not need any questions from others for him to tell everybody around him about his father, with seemingly neutral voice but there could be also some pride to be heard. Especially, when HiG mentions that his father put HiG’s name in white paint onto the biggest tank in Warsaw when he first learnt of the birth of his first son.
No one, also none of our Jewish friends, ever dare to ask HiG what his father did in Warsaw, with his big tank with HiG’s name on it. Surely he has not used the tank to sell ice cream. By the way, «Where do you come from» – questions I start to ignore, and more recently, I ask back: «What do you mean: Where I was born or where I live or whether I just came from around the corner and you want to know my postcode.», leaving embarrassed looking tiny little people or pompous ones, who all just wanted to be polite. But I am sick and tired to hear all their stories about drunken nights at the Oktoberfest in Munich, the Drosselgasse in Rüdesheim, or private Porsche racings on the Nürburgring. What a waste of time you experience sometimes in this country of indifferent politeness.
I feel guilty though, Clara, to say such a thing, bearing in mind the sacrifices of British people, their families, fathers, sons killed by the Germans.
Bad memories are eating us up, us survivors, or – as Auntie Viola liked to call us, «the after– aftermath ones». I am determined not to get cancer. All my friends who died in the last years died of cancer. We have to learn how to fight the blackening darkness of our collective past with the lightness of our intellect, don’t you see that, Clara. Please, do.
Heaven on Earth is never far for me, you know, Clara, I LIVE this country, I love this country so much, so deeply that it turns and twists my heart. Actually, my heart is aching more and more often, beating in a frenzy. Where do you want to be buried, Clara. I want to be buried ‘up, up and away’ into the air, my ashes mixed with black powder for a sky– rocket as big as legally permitted for HiG to shoot into the English sky.
I just feel a little hungry, peckish, I think they call it nowadays, sounds like a noise from a woodpecker, don’t you think so, Clara. While eating my beautiful fresh and firm Rye– Bread, topped with thin slices of Parma Ham, I remember you eating that fat Speck you obliged me to bring you as a present (in kilograms, not pounds!) every time I came to visit you during our student– times. I warned you: one day it would make you fat. It is one thing to be a non– believer – you even called yourself an atheist, a communist. You ignored all rules for kosher eating. But to eat the yellow– greyish, slimy fat of a PIG is really too much. It did not take long for you to develop a certain similarity with that animal. Last November, son Uriel gave me a shocking description, which I will not repeat here. Oy vey, oh dear, oh dear, how fat you seem to be now is still not believable for me – you my, for most and utmost, beautiful Jewish Princess from the old times. You see, I am still not English, not polite, not even– tempered, not pragmatic, not mildew– powdered– emotionless, I am really hungry now. I need more ham, real ham. Unfortunately, they can only COOK ham in this country, really – their various mustards are delicious, though. But still «Pah“ would my mother say, «Pah, don’t eat IT. Pah.» I still feel guilty to eat pork meat.
I vividly remember both the disgust of my mother and my joy and excitement when, around every Advent’s fourth week, an over– dimensional, huge dry– cured Black Forest Ham was personally delivered to our house, with a little greeting– slip: «From the grateful Friedländers: Wohl bekomm’s!» My father really did help other Jews. But every Christmas, I also got very nice little fluffy bears and bunnies – mostly pink and smelling of plastic – from a lady from New York. I learned about her only much later, from Auntie Viola, that this lady was the Nazi– Blue– eyed Blonde with high ranking connections who had helped our father’s family to be Aryanized. She was hiding in America with American Nazis (yes, Clara you can believe me, and they still exist) – to avoid being prosecuted by the American Tribunal in Germany, she, the official only wife of our fathers’ father during the Reich.
God, what a family we are Clara, what a mess the whole caboodle. Remembering is a good exercise for both of us, Clara.
Yes, my father helped other Jews and your father as well, but I am convinced that the two brothers were driven by their instinct for survival and their instinct for making money out of it. But who will judge them, and who can imagine their fear to be uncovered as Jews themselves. But perhaps they really were so used to feeling and speaking and acting as German Christians that they never ever thought of their past but as having been born to Aryan parents, and the only trouble was that the birth– certificates and all other documents had vanished together with our grandparents. You see, another true lie.
Working together with HiG in Family Therapy with English patients, I was made aware of HiG’s disapproval that I started to drop little remarks that my family has different «origins“, for instance, or that I have been taught Yiddish but forgotten all but a few words.
I mentioned my teacher of life – Frieda – spontaneously because a patient’s mother wore a perfume from the Thirties, Blue Velvet, Frieda’s favourite. I regretted my indiscretion immediately: The mother told me that Guerlain had re– created this perfume and that they charge a fortune per 50ml crystal flacon. And that she is so glad that at least Guerlain would stay exclusive and would not be sold in supermarkets to «Shopkeepers’ wives».
In memoriam of Frieda, my dear nanny– mother, who always begged me to behave, I did not tell this stupid rich bitch off that she was not worth any perfume at all and that she could just put it in the toilet because her skin was dead and dry and so not able to breathe any life into the perfume, stupid bitchy bitch, she was and is. I can’t stand this work any longer, Clara; I have enough sickness around me anyway. Ah, Frieda was just so much fun and laughter. How I miss her. I am sure you do remember her, you were always so jealous about her loving me so unconditionally. You will remember her laughter, so relentlessly infectious.
And then I had an encounter with an upper class family, father a real pretender of intellect, mother a real pain in the bottom, daughter really crazy but you call it in their circles «eccentric». After entering the therapy room, all three of them looked at me and immediately started speaking a gibberish Yiddish, typically all of them at the same time.
I spontaneously thought of our way to confuse people, Clara, you surely remember how we got the horror into the others’ eyes and faces, especially HiG’s face, when we deliberately spoke simultaneously and totally synchronized – it always revitalized our love for each other, didn’t it.
Now imagine to hear the following ‘conversation’ by three people, all looking at me, all speaking at the same time: «What do you think – having definitely the same «backgroun» (exchange of conspiracy– looks) – do we Jewish people have a genetic code that is linked to Schizophrenia.»
«Is erratic behaviour not a very normal sign for a healthy temperament.»
«Should I leave my parents to understand them better.»
«Do I want to understand my daughter better, I might detest her even more.»
«Even though we do not practise our religion and you might not want to tell us anything personal about yourself, but is the lack of spirituality not a reason for intellectual decline into barbarism. Hitler was an atheist.»
«How did your family survive. You must tell us all about it. It is sometimes so gruesome, isn’t it.»
«How about the Bar Mitzvah celebration for our little son. Come to our country house next weekend, stay for as long as you wish, it’s so relaxing there, so much more informal than our London home, you will feel comfortable with us, don’t you think so, Mrs and Dr HiG.»
«Darling mummy, we could invite some friends over from your last World cruise, they might like these two new ‘trophies’!»
«Shut up your little dirty mouth, darling daughter, we will send you to nuns in the Swiss Alps, where they are allowed to beat their pupils whenever they find it appropriate. Their reputation is spotless, Dr and Mrs HiG, can you write us a referral, please! Otherwise, you might hear of a famous murder case in due course!»
«Oh, darling maman, you are not famous, you will never be famous, – even if you WOULD kill me.»
And then both mother and daughter, turning around abruptly, bombarded poor papa with their coffee cups. He did not even blink an eyelash.
How much I detest bad behaviour. There is no excuse for it but stupidity. I know, you like details, your Jewish/German «Ordnungsliebe» wants everything orderly, properly described: Yes, Clara, the coffee was really hot. Yes, they had to pay for the cleaning of the curtains and carpets. No, they never forgave me for refusing their invitation, for sending back presents, for not ringing them back on their private telephone numbers, even the one in his Lordship’s very exclusive London Club.
So, their daughter’s problems were «simple attention– seeking» and all they wanted is a German/Jewish Sigmund– Freud– replacement they can small– talk about, these neurotic English aristocrats. Oh yes, inherited, self– understood, not these political Lordships, God, no, really not. This picture– book– like neurotic Jewish family made me feel homesick, Clara: no common sense at all but vitality. My heart started aching, and I wanted to ask Lady Z. whether she would like to open her arms for me and embrace my whole being with her motherly, crazy, neurotic, beautiful, heavily perfumed apple breasts– silk– cashmere– being so that I could vanish for a break of a moment to be at home again. Oh, Clara, how lonely I felt, my dear German upright husband standing next to me, smiling, understanding everything and keeping a clear head, as always, in order not to lose control of the situation (and of me, that’s for sure).
Don’t talk about the ‘Golden Cage’ again, Clara, you are just jealous that you were not able to marry. And you always mentioned how good you felt and how desired by your lovers you were and how so easily you could get rid of them whenever you wanted – comfort food, comfort lovers, comfort life, is that’s what is left of you, my once high– flying friend. So, in a way, I just thought, that where you are now, gives you SUBSTANCE again, even if it is part of a drama. You always liked the role of Medea, remember. Please, wake up again. It is so hard to think of you getting perhaps lost forever, Clara.
This is a very long letter, I feel very tired, I will go to bed now.
Hope, you sleep well in your «Bettgestell», Clara dear. We don’t have the comfort from school times any longer, the routine of night– prayers that made us immediately fall asleep. I try every night to send good thoughts to my beloved ones and to the whole universe, too – can’t damage my reputation with the Almighty, can it. Do the same, Clara – will help you feel less lonely.
Love, love, love… all you need is love from me,
PS: HiG comes back next week. So much time to write to you, to speak to you like in the old days. It does me good, it will do us good. Everything will be fine. You will remember. Definitely. It’s only a question of time. Love and tender hugs.
PS II: And good dreams with lots of lovers, if you want, why not. And if you read this letter in the morning, enjoy the new day as NEW, i.e. some sweet surprises could come along, some excitement, some joy, you never know: «Wonders could happen all the time». HiG thinks it’s a miracle that I still love you dearly. You know he’s right.
PS III: Good– bye and Auf Wiedersehen, mein Liebchen, «gelibte», mein Herzblatt: See you in my dreams, at daytime or at night, you are always in my mind. «Only you…» I kiss your heroically swinging, ruby– red lines of lips, again and again. I suck them gently until they will be marked, visible for all others: You still belong to me.
I am sure you would fancy our new postman, a young blond muscleman from the Royal Mail– district sorting office, introducing himself with a wink as «your ever so trustworthy postie– pal». (He looks like one of the postman– actors in HiG’s porn– videos). Every time I see him coming up the little staircase to the servants’ gate and hearing the clip– clap of the mailbox– top, I can’t wait and run to pick up the mail. Today again no letter from you. I do not give up. It will be only a matter of time and you will send me letters again, I am sure. ‘Once upon a time’, you loved sending me letters.
I sit now in the little courtyard outside the stables at the garden table, preparing this letter for you. How warm the fine writing paper glows in the sunshine, every sheet a dear, faithful companion and true confidant, accepting every word of mine in stillness, in silence. Ach, Clara, I miss our vociferous disputes, even our bickering – why can’t you send me a letter.
This morning, from my roof terrace, I saw in the first day light the strong winds from last night turning to the south to lash the sea into a turquoise fury with white horses riding on top of each breaking wave, leaving the garden, the woods and me behind in the quiescence of the aftermath. I checked that none of our trees have fallen onto the public lane adjacent to our woodland, and I was relieved to see all electric cables still fixed on the wooden poles, so nothing to be worried about. I am the caretaker of the lane. I have to collect the fallen twigs and branches for the firewood later.
Every time I start writing a letter to you, Clara, my heart is beating faster, full of expectations of what I will re– discover this time in my «Lebensraum». I regain the word for me, it is too meaningful to be stuck in the past, I free it, jawohl.
From the woods, a slow, cautious procession of drenched pheasant hens approach the sun– flooded courtyard to join my tamed pheasant hens (tamed through regular winter– feeding): I am now surrounded by lots of wide– spread wings, flattened to dry from last night’s rain and to get every possible warmth into the tiny, thin bodies underneath. I haven’t seen the ‘King of the Harem’, my proud pheasant Cesar for ages, I hope that the fox didn’t get him. The dark– brown and beige shimmering feathers have some resemblance with the English Orpington hens. At least, that’ s what Cesar’s fiercest rival Theobald seems to see. Even so his preferences are with the dogs, he doesn’t mind ‘to go for a ride’, having chosen my most beautiful golden– beige pheasant hen Hannah as his favourite. In this moment, she looks at me as if she wants to tell me that she gave in to Theobald’s urges. Her green eyes look dreamingly soft; yes, I am sure, she surrendered to him all female resistance. Even though two different ‘species’ don’t mix well, with some luck, I will have some sweet little chicks soon, I hope.
I always think of the eyes of cows whenever I see this watery, soft, blurry look. That was Uriel, the beautiful Uriel on his way onto this planet and into our lives, Clara, when you had this look for the first time – for the last time.
If you could look into my eyes now, you would see them getting soft too, caressing each and every wintry beauty of colours and shades, my different Cornus shrubs and Salix trees, their striking gold, orange, red and deep purple competing with the copper– brown bark of the Himalayan birch and the steel– like coating of the wet stems of the wood– cherry. And then the darkest of green from the yew hedge against the topaz of the box topiary – I am still so proud of my courage to start with balls and spirals and wedding– cake– shapes. The grasses I do not cut down before the green shoots are out, even if this means that it is a painstaking work to separate old from new later in spring. With their yellow waving in the wind, the long grasses remind me of sand dunes …I love the sea. I love being at the same time in the woodland, in my garden and by the sea to free my heart and my thoughts from winter’s grey, Clara.
How attention seeking is that: I just witnessed my almost tame shrew doing forward and backward somersaults and high jumps for love of life in the little piece of the winter– dormant wildflower meadow next to me. The disrespectful shrew likes to nibble each and every one of my dearest crocuses and wild narcissi. (I thought the flowers were poisonous, obviously not for the shrew.)
Let’s have a walk to the pond, Clara: The goldfish and the carp are waiting – it is really much too warm, they should be all deeply asleep at the bottom of the pond. But what can I do, they want their food, and they not only want to be fed but also to have my hands beating gently onto the surface of the water and letting the water run through my waving fingers, so they could join me and my fingers and start to nibble at whatever they are able to get hold of.
I always send a good thought to Hannah, my favourite girlfriend from school, every time I touch water, wherever I am. (You might remember her – you did like her, Clara, but she couldn’t stand you). Hannah, waving goodbye with her arms and hands under water, her body entangled with seaweed, her fine white breasts already swollen from being too long in the lake. And I, breathless, clutching my hands onto the water, «Listen to me, Hannah, listen, come up, speak to me, sing to me: ’Love me tender’», I splash into the water, «No, I don’t find that amusing, don’t play Charade with me too long – I know it, I know it, come up, come up: It’s ’Ophelia’, I am right, that is what you perform. Come up, you will be too cold, come up to the light. My ‘Ophelia’ dearest.»
Always wanted to be in the middle of everybody’s attention, always acting on the stage of life, preferably in a self– inflicted drama. To the very end. I am sure Hannah was convinced that she could not drown, really. She believed that she was so light, so transcendent in her Anorexia nervosa, that the surface of the water would definitely carry her. Her nipples were the most beautiful I have ever seen. (You would not have been able to disagree, Clara.) This record stands. Still. Fortunately, the fishes had not started taking nibbles.
Nipples to nibble, that was always fun to play between us girls. Especially with Hannah. What a happy girl I was, what I still am with all these sweet memories made out of fingertip– gentle touching and wetting with the tickling tip of the tongue the very centre of the nipples, light pink my favourite colour, little rosebuds, left, right, left, right, sometimes trying to squeeze them together closely so that the tongue could taste much more of the so tenderly arousing mixture of fresh, slightly acid saliva and the satin perfume of luxurious soap.
And who was to ask first for the hand to go deeper, with one hand only, that was the rule, the other had always to be free for possible and necessary interventions into the heat of our lust, to make each other beg for fulfilment. Hannah and I often preferred the shiver of possible disclosure by doing it in the toilets next to a closed door– cabin of someone known as prudish and boringly innocent and favoured by our nuns – not always the «Mauerblümchen», the «wall– flower», by the way, our nuns had sometimes a very good taste… These little noises of wet fingers in wet places, gently moving in and out before being flooded – ah, how delicious, how exquisite, how so much more exciting than any other male– hefty– heavy– longing.
And then winter’s tristesse of departure arrived: Hannah’s view that male love comes straighter to the important point, so to say, still makes me angry. But not jealous like before. So jealous, that I told the nuns about Hannah. And what she had done. To me, poor, innocent soul I was. Everyone believed me – except from you, Clara, you knew better but kept silent. I never saw Hannah again. Apart from our short reunion when I tried to pull her out of the water of our school’s lake.
Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa – I never confessed in confession sessions. I was used to feel the deep burning pain of SHAME. You were generous, Clara – you forgave me: I remember your eternity ring made of grass and your deep kiss you granted me as a reward to return to you as my only lover. My eternity ring for you was made of yellow ribbons of Hannah’s hair– band.
It is important to see the bright side of life, so I had been told by my father since my memory started to exist – and it was also one of your «mantras», Clara.
The warmth of the sunshine revives the longing for private pleasures. I just thought: Haven’t done it for a long time, nibbling nipples. How are you doing, dear fastest– fingered Clara– love.
Clouds are whirling darker shadows into the blue sky, and the pheasant– hens start their procession back into the woods.
I often feel so GUILTY, in one way or the other – there still seems to be a curse on us, Clara. We promised each other never to confess our sins. We lied, and the black clouds of guilt darkened the horizon of our mind and I believe, they are still gathering in the distance.
By the way, or as we preferred to say in the past, ‘en passant’: you are and will always be my favourite Drama– Queen. Against all silence in and around us. When you raised your voice, dear me, Clara, nobody had a chance to not listen. Your voice could bring dead souls back to life. I can’t imagine what they do with you in your exclusive old people’s ‘residence’ when you start screaming. You could scream for hours. Until each and every little hair on your body stood upright. I lashed my loudest laughter at you. What a competition that was. Hardly ever understood by anyone. It didn’t matter. It passed. It was easily forgiven and quickly forgotten by us. Last December, in Berlin, Uriel and I did it in the early hours in the Potsdamer Strasse with its heavy morning traffic. We were too scared to do it in a silent surrounding. We were too scared to not doing it. We did it for you to get better, Clara.
I need a break. I continue this letter later. All day, I have your eternity ring made of grass in the pocket of my trousers – yes, close to the place you loved most, Clara.
I took a break for getting my blood circulation going: I put my muddy Wellingtons on, collected wind– broken branches from the woods for the fire in the hall tonight and took many deep breaths – also some for you, Clara. Fresh air for fresh thoughts.
I always look for firewood with Irish moss on it, I like the smell of the moss on the branches’ skin when they dissolve their perfume into the heat of the fire. With HiG away, the day seems so long, with so little structure that I could get lost in it. But here, in front of me, is my polyglot world of beauty and excitement, my garden, my guide through the day, touched by the shades of light, the luminescent daughter of the Gods, highest Goddess to all beings, shining onto the living and the dead. My Engel– land with your magic light, shine on me, shine on me. And cross all the rivers through to Clara to illuminate her spirit. Do you feel it, dearest – feel it, please.
In every garden– moment, I expect the unexpected, the surprise of change and endurance in a tree, a flower, a wind from the southwest, bringing the salty air of the near– by sea – a wind from the northeast, whirling the smell of snowflakes with the snowdrops down below. I endure my life. I wait for my life to change.
I imagine you Clara, waiting for change as well. Let’s hope it does not forget us, does not pass us by. Let’s hope that we are still able to recognize the chance to change. It must be there, near us, around us, here, there, everywhere. In the meantime, I stay connected with reality. It is very simple to do so, Clara. Try to find something to do for other creatures. That always helps to be re– routed back to earth.
For me, it’s always rewarding to fill sunflower seeds into the bird feeders, supervised by many black little eyes from above and around the trees and shrubs waiting for the peanuts to follow, and the immediate rising of the song level after over– fulfilling my obligations by adding some living earth– worms onto the feeding table.
I can’t have mercy with all living creatures. But it impresses me every time to see how strong the will to live is in even these tiny creatures, these worms, desperately trying to flee the table or to roll themselves into round clumps of brownish flesh. I can never find out which tactic is more effective for self– defence, as the blue– tits and the robins are always pecking up their victims very fast.
I admire these little worms having no chance of survival but they do fight to the very end. We Jews do not have their resilience and stamina. The whole state of Israel does not seem to have it. We are not right in what we are doing. We do live from blaming, each other and all others. We always find excuses for ourselves and our children and the children of the children don’t know any better either. You might ask me how dare I say such a thing, I know. I do not care any longer. And, en passant again, the Germans are very much alike.
I am stronger than an earthworm – I survived the prison of Port Sudan. You must remember Clara, I know that you betrayed me, wanted me to be killed. I told you before: I forgive you – but I do not forget.
I am so tired. Only when I think of love and lovers, do I feel alive and well. I must go to bed, expecting HiG’s night– call. He can be quite angry with me when I go too late to bed. He finds sleep essential and gets nervous when he does not get enough of it. Sleeping is not one of my passions. Our huge bed makes me turn like a windmill when HiG is not next to me to take me into his arms, let me rest on his hairy, beautiful breasts. His nipples I also like very much. I miss him. No HiG’s night– night– call, nothing. It’s the third night he doesn’t call. Do I really want to know why not. Silence is better, for now.
On New Year’s Eve, HiG and I kept the tradition of going and watch the fireworks from our rooftop, in the cold of the night. The eyes adjusting to the dark and seeing the horizon around us enlightened by fireworks, I wished it would inspire HiG and me to find each other again in the whirlwind of excitement and lust and promises to be kept because we love each other so deeply. But nothing inside “rocketed“ when we kissed the twelve midnight– chives away, both of us kept stumm.
Did you have a big firework display to watch on New Years Eve, Clara. Have you been on your own.
On New Year’s morning, HiG played the first three of Bach’s Cello Suites, starting with the introvert D minor, continuing with the joyful D major and reaching grandeur with the exuberant C major. HiG keeps the tradition of expanding our Great Hall’s acoustics to a ceremonial dimension of a gothic cathedral where he likes to hear himself play. And the cello’s voice resounded beautiful and uplifting and so longing that tears came to my eyes, which I did not let him see. He can be so passionate.
We only talk about affairs when they get too close to home and when we think that love might be involved. Angst waits around the corner of my sleep. You see, Clara, love does not protect me – love hurts.
I miss you, Hans im Glück, I really miss you.
Don’t judge me, Clara; I remember your desperation when I did not come home for the night. And how much you were in need of me comforting you afterwards.
Good night, dearest all over the world. «God bless», I hear Frieda’s hush– hush– voice especially when there’s no HiG whispering in my ear that everything will be fine in the end.
I will whisper into your ear tonight, dearest Clara, very sweet memories of winter– and summer– lust and wet dreams to come. Good night.
Karla’s love is watching over you
Dear Clara mine,
It’s three o’clock in the morning and I have been trying for hours to fall asleep. Inside my head, around my dark Angst– Haus, the windmills are turning round and round. Strange noises they make, a «rush– rush“ against the wind of my thoughts. Please, come back into my ears, comforting small little voice of mummy– nanny Frieda, surrogate mother for all of my early years up to my teens.
She was very attractive, Clara, until her very end – with big brown eyes (called ‘goggle– eyes’ by my jealous mother) in a round child– like face, her copper– brown hair falling in gentle curves onto very white shoulders she always liked to show, even in cold winters. Her tiny body well proportioned in its littleness, «Frieda en miniature», as my father called her, was always well dressed. She seemed to manage well, even with her small means – my father didn’t pay her much neither as nanny nor as our ‘All– rounder’, as he called her later. My mother, the spoilt bitch, insisted that Frieda continued to be part of the household, she could not imagine «to cope on my own with everything in the household», seemingly forgetting that there was Mrs Fisher from the Spreewald for the washing and ironing and Mrs Schneider from East Berlin for the sewing and Mrs Fröhlich from Neukölln for the cooking and strong, huge Gudrun (nobody knew from where she came but she was always at our house in time) for the cleaning and the shopping.
Every time Frieda invited me to her modest little one– bedroom– flat in the servants’ wing of our house, with a cold water tap above the kitchen sink in the room for all needs (except for the toilet, being halfway down the stairs for Frieda but also for all other domestic helpers), she prepared a feast for me with meringue and thick double cream, and in summer, sugared strawberries on top, in winter sweet little triangles of pineapples.
I could only visit her when school– free weekends started exceptionally early (with temperatures too hot in summer, too cold in winter). My mother always tried to stop me visiting Frieda: «Really not a person I like you to have social contact with outside our house and during her hours of duty in our house – you should seek contact with people you can learn from, my dearest daughter. Pah.» My mother seduced me with attractive offers on my free weekends by inviting me to go to the cinema with her. We saw mainly Charlie Chaplin– films. And my mother sometimes wetted her pants because of endless laughter. I liked her very much on these occasions.
I always felt guilty when I saw Frieda afterwards, with her little smile, telling me that she has gained a little more weight because she had to eat two portions of my favourite sweets. When she retreated to her midday nap – as every one in the household had to sleep for half an hour after lunch so my parents could comfort their needs without any disturbances – I begged her pardon to which she light– hearted responded with a kiss on my lips, straight and sweet. Sometimes, I cried. For various reasons I wanted not to be mentioned. But Frieda knew. Her dayroom was next to my bedroom. Especially when mother followed her social duties away from our house, Frieda assured me that she would be around instead.
I hope for you Clara, that you never had to fear so many things I had to be afraid of. In those times, when the frighteningly long half hour approached, Frieda tried to be busy in my room: when I was still very little, just three years old, by sorting out my dresses and my underwear – and later, when I was already a little girl, dusting my book cupboards – and later, when I was a teenager, being home for the holidays, coaching me in Latin. That, by the way, was a stupid mistake of mine to say to my mother that I was in need of coaching and that Frieda would be intelligent enough to test me on the necessary Latin vocabulary: My mother had immediately the ears of my father because my father’s Latin was exceptionally good and always praised by our catholic bishop when he visited us, so my father had even more reason to be with me on his own, door closed, key turned. Miserere nobis.
Nobody heard anything, saw anything. None of our household– «cavalry» – except from Frieda. When she opened her mouth one day and spoke up when she was alone with my father, she was beaten unconscious. She was lying in her own blood underneath mother’s Steinway when I found her. From this day onwards he strangled me into the black night whenever I resisted. I sometimes still feel guilty. The marks around my neck were unspecific and varied in form and colour and were ignored by everyone as they were explained as «nervous and neurotic self– harm» by our family doctor. I was offered psychoanalysis. I resisted, I refused cooperation, I was a «hopeless case» (in contrast to you, Clara who obviously had profited as a young child – we both never talked about it, did we – from your ‘time– out’ in a psychiatric institution).
I loved the time at the convent boarding school. You hated it. As far as I can remember, you loved your mother and wanted to be close to her. I felt guilty that I could find no reason to love my mother. But when I was at home, I did like her being at home as well. Even so, this did not always help.
She liked to retreat in the early evenings into her «studio» to play the piano: «My lover Steinway awaits me, darling», giving my father a little kiss on his forehead before she closed the door of the salon behind her. And off she went, and I often had to eat without her, only having the company of the servants being exceptionally asked to join us by sitting squeezed together at the very end of the table while my father presided on the wide top of the table on his own. On these occasions it was Frieda’s duty to serve all – my mother loved to humiliate Frieda, I hated her for her cherry stone– little heart of rock.
When Frieda had to go to hospital to be freed from a breast tumour so big it almost stopped her breathing – I will never forget the odour of human flesh, falling apart into yellow pus – my mother held back the address of the hospital: «Frieda will be back soon. What an inconvenience, her being not here helping us. Pah.» I learned much later from a seemingly so much wiser mother that she had asked the doctors not to let me visit Frieda («Too stressful for our nervous daughter»).
So the nurses in the hospital came monotonously up with: «Miss Fiddle can’t see you, she is not well enough.»
«Are you sure she doesn’t want to see me? I am the closest to her heart. She lost all her family members during the war. Please ask her again.»
«She doesn’t want any visitors.»
«Be so kind and take that message to her» (Helpless little note with a heart and sunshine drawn with her and my initials interwoven).
They never came back to me. I was too scared to mention that she lost all of her family members in concentration camps, she, the only survivor because she was fed with every possible thing to eat. She was the chosen one by all of the mothers of her KZ block. She survived, like my mother – but with different pain and anguish throughout the rest of her life. She told me very little about herself. She wanted to be jolly and enjoyable. Frieda never stopped telling jokes. Like her endless appetite, she wanted to have endless fun, to be fun, to be funny.
I had to lick our family doctor’s little twirled cock to full strength and satisfaction to get the address of the hospital out of his mouth. Shameful it was. Don’t judge me too harshly, Clara. I know why I am telling you all about it now. I thought you would pull me to pieces out of feelings for me and my honour and the whole ‘Holy Family’– idea of yours. Our mutual love affair never touched your conscience. It might be still the case that whatever pleases you is appropriate – and all right with you.
You had it so much easier: You got more ‘holidays’ than I could have ever wished for – you often needed «to get better», as my father commented. You retreated several times to a luxurious so called «Secure Unit». Frieda told me that. I hope you don’t mind that I know and that I am reminding you. It is my firm belief that truth can never be damaging for your mental health.
And another firm belief: The purpose dictates the means. At last and at least, I could visit Frieda in the hospital – thanks to begging my «gentleman– lover“ Clemens from the Hotel du Vin in the right way by encouraging the right «hand home– work», after he had told me that he knows the hospital director intimately: With my creative ‘input’, he organized a feast for Frieda which we brought to her bed, accompanied by servants, handsome young men, giving Frieda immediately apple– red cheeks of joy and excitement.
And all the finest from the patisserie, from the hors– d’oeuvre– chefs, from the sommelier was on display together with an abundance of orchids – Frieda always wanted to emigrate to tropical islands, the German winters were too icy for her, the summers too wet, the autumns too grey, the spring too cold. But her smile and laughter gave all the warmth needed, unlimited, to anyone, everyone. It burned her empty in the end.
On this so special day of the permitted visit, Frieda could not believe what she saw and the surprise and excitement made her cry and try to catch her breath – and a nun– nurse changed to the sister of mercy, freeing her from the mask over her mouth and nose: «Ten minutes.»
I held my hands tied around the only thing I had been able to think of, a little bouquet of beautiful scented violets and little red roses, called «Moosröschen» (moss rose), reminding and mocking with it Frieda’s constantly ignored ‘Good Advice’, freely quoted from a poem she had forgotten from whom it was and what more it said:
«Be like the violet in the moss – demure, modest and pure – and not like the proud rose, always asking for admiration.»
And whenever she said that, we both could not stop laughing because she always used her knowledge of the most awful German dialect, the Saxon, and her little beautiful mouth became the greedy grabbing mouth of a toad.
With lips grey and bloodlessly cracked, the mouth I saw now, was exhausted. But Frieda smiled, she really tried. Kyrie eleison.
From the Medical Director and Hospital Manager down to the nun in charge of the hospital ward – nobody had told me that Frieda was not able to eat anything any longer. Frieda who loved to eat, loved food in all forms and colour and texture, fish and sweets in particular more than anything in this world, Frieda saw in front of her all what she had dreamt of: Grey Iranian Caviar, Lobster, finest pate´, all her favourite cakes, and especially a ‘Victoria Sponge’– creation that was worthy of a Queen.... I stared at the tubes going into her breast, into her arms, legs, neck, nose. I fell on my knees, Kyrie eleison.
«I love you, too.», Frieda in the sweetest blur of her hush– hush– voice, «Don’t worry, I eat with my eyes. But I can eat only very slowly with my eyes. They are a little bit tired…I don’t want you to stay that long. Leave the nice waiters here to entertain me.»
And with a smile around her Good– bye– saying eyes: «Don’t allow the nuns to take the food and flowers away from me the minute you go. And stay away from Clemens. He is not good for you, much too old. Would be good for me. Tell him.»
And Frieda’s eyes closed forever. I never saw their beautiful darkness again, sparkling with orange spots.
Frieda dearest, don’t forget me wherever you are. I am lonely. (You can never be ‘the only– one for every– one’, Clara.)
Frieda was right concerning Clemens. But it was only a short episode. He was good for touching, only touching, «fummeln, not more, and oh, ja, kisses, lasting an eternity, deep ones, sweet ones when we drank Champagne with strawberries. Clemens – son of father’s intimate wartime– friend Friederich, now owner of one of the finest hotels in town – was somewhat in love with touching pubertal sweat and a little cunt with little soft red hair in white cotton knickers. He always made quite clear though that he prefers to be his own man, so to speak: he liked to please himself to find relief from the pressure of ejaculation – and next to his busy hand always a clean white handkerchief, Egyptian hand– brushed cotton. Dear Clemens was very stylish.
I considered myself to be generous, I didn’t mind. You and all of my girlfriends from school envied me, seeing him standing in front of the convent, in his black Mercedes Coupe, waving little kiss– hands to me. Even our nun– director was charmed by him and invited him for an afternoon– tea. (They had a sherry instead, Clemens told me.)
Neither my father nor my mother intervened in the ‘Clemens– affair’. Not wanting to know – that’s part of our families’ extraordinary talent, isn’t it, to survive all the sweet lies and the bitter truths.
It’s now five o’clock in the morning and still dark outside – in summer, the bird song would keep me awake. The winter– stillness lets me hope to find some early morning– hour– sleep; the sandman has already done his visit.
Good night, Clara, my dear companion throughout the night. HiG has not called. I will forgive him as long as love is not involved. No consequences if he plays to the rules. One– night– stands will not be mentioned as they are not important.
My heart is beating quite fast. I might fall ill with a heart disease if I don’t stop writing now.
Karla closes her eyes and sends you a smile