Evening of 2nd February
A long day comes to an end, full of waiting for some signs from HiG. The silence in the house becomes very loud. I asked my young friend Gloria from the village around for a light lunch – warm duck-liver-paté with black truffles on walnut-bread, Italian leaves-salad from Marks & Spencer with my dressing everyone from the village loves so much that they proposed that I make a business out of it. And we enjoyed, like always, too much Cloudy-Bay-Sauvignon-Blanc. And when BBC Radio 1 played Snowpatrol’s sentimental «Will you still love me, hold me…» we were dancing and singing along with wildest joy. Gloria would never dare to touch me. She is very English-beautiful, with white porcelain-skin and long, ash-blonde silk-hair and sea-blue eyes and a big, firm bosom. I can do these informal invitations only in HiG’s absence – people feel rarely relaxed in his presence. They say in the village that HiG has something of a knight – strange people, our locals.
Now, good to speak to you again, dearest friend, I feel so comfortable in your presence. Every yesterday will appear in another light. Today, in the glowing light of this glorious February evening, the brisk winds from the southeast bring mountains of Cumulus clouds in darker shades of blue to the sun setting-spectacle. The smell of spring melts away the scent of snow from the far country’s mountains. Tired blue-- and black- and great-tits call for the night to come – they want to rest, while robins ensure their places to nest with beautiful, longing evening-songs. Did you know that the male and female robins are not only look-alikes, but that both of them can sing marvellous melodies. You see, me, the old city-girl, learning so much in the countryside. In some places in the South, the robin gets killed to be placed on a slit-through-throat of a man or a woman who spoke to the police, a symbol for a traitor. Other villagers have told me that the robins are the re-born souls of unwanted children. Our mothers had quite a fair share of these souls.
One of my most favourite nightmares from the past I told my mother about – but I never told YOU. My mother went very pale during my story – I hope that you are much more easygoing about it. Might be that you are petrified by a similar dream sometimes but had no chance to understand it’s content. So here comes the dream, listen: I am in the dark of an endless night. It is not uncomfortable in that night. Noises only through fog but familiar and soothing together with a constant, rhythmic beat from nearby. I am dreaming in this dream, very calmly swinging from one side to the other like a little space astronaut. Out of the dark comes a sharp pain, something very thin and long tries to push me out of my place, it really hurts, I get no more air to breathe, my pain gets unbearable, everything turns into streaming red. I wake up from soundless screams, my mouth wide open.
Are you pleased by this very obvious story of a foetus–dream. You always liked bad dream stories, bad news stories, bad, sad endings of stories. As if you do want to ensure that there will be no happy-endings for you, never ever. What goes round in your head, comes round into your mind and soul, doesn’t it…
Nowadays, I have a «Dream-catcher» at my bed, I will send you one with this letter. It does not do any harm. Might just be helpful, you never know. Do what you want. It’s just another form of possible help. Yes, it is from a different cultural background. And yes, you can call it «nonsense-cheap-folklore-fake-done-in-prisons» (one of your favourite verdicts I remember, very similar to our mothers’ «Pah»- judgements): Are you still this harsh, dissecting, un-sentimental analyst, are you. In your dreams, dearest, in your dreams.
Did your mother tell you as my mother told me (on the last day of her last visit). I want you to know what I am able to understand only in this very moment of describing the nightmare to you – can’t believe how stupid I am, please listen: The pain in my ‘foetus-dream’ was caused by knitting needles. That’s what I am now able to deduct from my mother’s tale of herself and her sister, your mother, Clara. Whenever they had unwillingly been made pregnant by their rabbit-like love making husbands, in their desperation to get rid of unwanted life, they pushed knitting needles deep into their vagina. But when this barbarically painful method had produced only blood, nothing ’substantial’, they had to go to an «Engelmacherin», an «Angel-maker», (how soothing the German word for an abortionist). And they had to start again with the knitting needles the following year… So you see, Clara, there is my dream coming from – my so called ‘foetus-dream’. I proved from the very beginning of my life what a survivor I am, it’s, so to say, really ‘in my blood’. My mother gave me good reasons for good nightmare scenarios, Clara. But at least, during her last visit, she asked me for forgiveness that she tried to kill me in her belly like my ‘predecessors’.
It was very dark when I went to the dark place for the first time, ’escorted’ by dear Clemens, very pale but determined to play ‘the producer’. I know that you still condemn me, that I did it. It might satisfy you that I condemn myself. Until this very day. Even so there was not any alternative possible. You have to believe me, really, really, Clara.
Fortunately, my red hair, done up in the fashionable «Farah Diba» style (you remember the young wife of the Shah of Persia with her bird nest-like hair-turban) and my big Jewish nose made me look much older than twelve, and my ‘confident’, the blonde haired – and very different nosed friend Clemens accompanied me, and we played it well, the story of lies – he was proud to be seen as the father of the child, so proud that he never dared to ask who was the real culprit.
We really have a fair share of shame in our family, Clara, oh ja, you can believe me, really, really. It might well be that you do not want to know who the father was, never ever. I leave it as it is, for the moment. I will come back to it later. Perhaps.
You sometimes appear in my dreams, Clara – only two nights ago you were in the middle of it: I was running in the woods, flying, my long hair swirling around my neck as if it would like to strangle me. Only you could help me, I was sure, to get rid of this man following me, a tall, handsome looking man who effortlessly caught up with me every time I thought I had left him behind. He stretched his arms longer and longer until he caught my hair with his hands and I had a panic attack, torn apart by total ambivalence between the wish to be strangled by him or held by him to make endless love until death do us part. And then you appeared from nowhere, and I felt embarrassed that the man was gone but shed a lot of tears so that you got the impression that you had saved me.
I feel tense and ‘en garde’. Yes, you might be right, the dream is just an indication that I want to fall in love again. You know this ‘melody’. Fine, then sing along, dearest.
Use the enclosure of this letter, use the Dream-catcher to find your own wishes fulfilled to the only possible extent left.
Why do I always feel belittled by you when I try to prepare myself to fall in love. You know that it helps me a lot to write to you in such a situation…Talk to you later. In my dreams. Shsss! Stop talking into my dreams. Kiss-Kiss-Karla
What a cold morning, tiny frost-crystals are covering every branch and even the tiny few hairs in my nose. So you get a very warm, heating-up ‘Good morning-kiss’ from me.
Have you realised that, with us getting older, there is more and more hair growing in the wrong places. Where I can, I pull them out with my pair of tweezers. The pain of this procedure lets me shiver. I can’t stand any pain, not the slightest, any more. How do you handle this matter.
Don’t neglect your body. Don’t neglect the beautiful sophistication of your mind. Don’t neglect controlling your viciousness, dearest.
With every letter, I want you to remember. I don’t find this funny, you, getting lost in space just as it pleases you. Come on, accompany me through the day.
First thing this morning, I went out into the garden to check my Mimosa trees, my Acacia dealbata. The icy coat from last night was already melting away and hundreds of tender, young buds are showing first signs of eagerness to burst into yellow clouds of sweetest, anaesthetizing perfume. How resilient nature is. You are obliged to take extra care when you bring plants into a climate they are not familiar with. If you would come to visit me now, you would see a lot of frost-protection fleece or hay around younger trees and shrubs in the garden, Clara.
Better wait for the summer. I still count on you to visit me here, in my beloved ‘Angel country’s garden’ – the anticipation grows constantly. Everything should be perfect for you, my loveress, my princess. The preparations for summer’s stunning dahlia display are in full swing: yesterday, the local vegetable grocer from the Spar shop in the village gave me old, shallow fruit trays which I brought up into the greenhouse, filled them with rich, organic compost and set the dahlia tubers on top to start growing their buds in the protecting warmth and the good light of the glass-house.
Matching the frosty temperatures outside, the presence of the Service showed up today in form of a letter announcing new courier-jobs. I find them easy to do; you just fly around the world and hand out some letters or small parcels to secret persons at secret places. I wonder whether they also call you, still. Tell me, if they bother you. I will tell them off. I have a ‘reputation’ through the years that gives a big red warning-light to all who want to boss me around. I just wonder whether you are again the cleverest woman I know: To pretend to be gaga so that they leave you off the hook.
Speaking of the devil…a moment ago, I’ve had a call from our ‘old friends’. Later, they will again leave something in the mailbox I have to bring to Paris, taking the first flight tomorrow morning. I have to earn serious money again, Clara. I told you before, didn’t I that HiG is out of work through intrigues of his blood-wanting Jewish colleagues, revenge-wanting Polish colleagues who learned about his medical past. ‘By accident’ in the real meaning of the word because HiG had to tell his story at the wrong place to the wrong people at a congress about «Trauma and Rehabilitation». All were there and all heard him, David, a former friend and loyal colleague of HiG confided to me.
In David’s opinion, HiG brought himself to the guillotine by speaking proudly about his collaboration with his former professor-boss in Heidelberg who specialised after the war on Expert Witness-reports about Trauma in Jews from the first, the KZ-generation and the second, the children’s generation. The Jews came to Heidelberg and to his professor from all over the world, HiG said, they came in «flocks of hundreds» in order to make him write his Expert Opinion that they are suffering from «Post Traumatic Stress Disorder». This diagnosis entitled them to draw the highly valuated «Wiedergutmachung» from the Federal Republic of Germany – Compensation for the Crimes against Humanity and against the Jews, he told his stumm audience. And then followed his often used analogy of «Carrion-eater-flies, attracted by the German Speck».
David also reported that HiG expressed his pride that he, as a young assistant doctor, developed his own research-methods to re-evaluate the medical, neurological, ethnographical and eugenic studies done on Jews of all ages by Nazi scientists in the concentration camps and psychiatric institutions. And that he was grateful to the Americans who were generous with their confiscated evidences of hundreds of scientific studies and with thousands of human remains, swimming in formaldehyde, the German «Ordnungsliebe» had meticulously catalogued and stored at the correct temperature in especially equipped bunkers. And how his professor, the institute and he, HiG himself, used his newly acquired knowledge to write even more sophisticated medico-legal reports, filling all «sackeles» with gold, including his own. And at this point, David said, HiG really laughed loud into the silence of his audience. Only asking David later whether this last remark had been a little «too strong tobacco» for the colleagues.
Stupid, naïve HiG. Wanted to entertain, to be an appreciated small-talker. It’s unbelievable, Clara, how his vanity, his cockiness brought us into the ‘shit’ already mentioned in an earlier letter. I could slap him hard, again and again. Sometimes I would like to strangle him with my own hands.
You do remember, almost forty years ago, how HIG and I met and fell in love with each other, don’t you, white-with-jealousy-friend, oh yes. Do you remember how sick we felt when we saw him protecting his professor’s office from our attack. We, the united force of all righteous left-wing people, we were the future of the world – at least a very important part of the fight against neo-capitalism, neo-imperialism, US-imperialism in particular. Apropos imperialism: How sure I was that I was right to condemn the Zionists from Israel and to support the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Clara – I almost forgot. The Service wouldn’t have been impressed if they had known me then, would they, Clara.
But I will never forget the moment, HiG and I looked into each other’s eyes for an ever lasting eternity – and the rest of the world vanished for me. My heart immediately went berserk, my mouth became dry, my little moese wet. And instead of kicking each other into the face or stomach, HiG and I ridiculously shook hands – to the roaring burst of laughter from the surrounding crowd. I can also remember that you spontaneously started humming the wedding-march from Mendelssohn-Bartholdy to enforce the verdict of our friends that I definitely had lost my brain, damaged by a Specialist in Neuro-Psychiatry. And it did not help my lefty status that HiG was wealthy and that he drove a silver Porsche convertible with black leather seats.
I felt so guilty that I had fallen in love with him, that I started to hate you, Clara, for being still on the right side of the political spectrum, being able to analyse, categorize, organize. I divided our lives into «before» and «after». The after-math came in form of a greeting-less next morning and my moving out of our shared flat, the ‘Kommune’ in Heidelberg, left you, left the Communist Student Community, went to the Freie Universität Berlin, became a Marxist-Leninist, fighting for Mao Tse Tung and started to support the Cultural Revolution by working for the Cultural Programme of German television stations as researcher to earn money for my continuing university-studies of Communication and Philosophy, still having stopped all contact to my parents. (Do you remember why I did it, why I refused to see them or hear from them for quite a long time. I forgot all about it. Perhaps, it is not important any longer. Not at this moment of time. Perhaps later. Who knows.)
What I still can and want to remember is, that I could not forget HiG’s eyes. So I went back to Heidelberg, one summer evening and waited in front of the institute where HiG last worked, and the moment he opened the door, we caught each other’s eyes and got lost in the everlasting moment of eternity again and started to smile this brainless smile of people falling in love.
That evening, HiG invited me over to his house. He made detours, driving far into the Neckar valley up to the Heidelberg Castle to see the sunset and to drink one of the best white wines ever fermented in this world and to eat warm, huge pretzels and delicious local sausages. HiG was and is a sybarite, it’s a joy of life to live with him, believe me, Clara. God, my mouth still fills with saliva, or, like the English prefer to say, it’s mouth-watering, when I think of these deliciously soft but firm sausages. When I think of the velvety elegance of the wine’s bouquet, I get sentimental and I start crying. I really don’t know why. It might be some sort of homesickness.
This special first night with HiG, the air was filled with the heavy perfume of Lime-tree blossoms and Jasmine, and from the distance of the other side of the Neckar valley, the Philosopher’s Walk was engulfed with thunder and lightning which accompanied us on our way home, dramatically illuminating the woods in front of us.
I did tell you, didn’t I, Clara, that I was impressed by HiG’s stylish house, a very impressive 19 rooms’-Art nouveau beauty. But when he started to play the Bach C-major Cello Suite on his Stradivari-Cello so beautifully in the middle of the dark, oak-panelled music room, I was caught for the rest of my life. So I thought. I wanted to be in heaven with HiG. And our first lovemaking coincided with the lime-tree-blossoms being at the height of their exuberant perfume. I will never stop loving the perfume of the lime tree.
All these wonderful, uplifting high, high into the heavenly sky-moments, hours, days, endless times of making love with HiG. Don’t let your jealousy close your ears, Clara, you have to listen, please, this is part of my life. Most of my memories are accompanied by this precious, heavy perfume of Lime tree-blossoms. Even if I sometimes only see HiG, I smell the heavenly perfumes of making love. Every little hair on his body has its own aesthetics, was sucked, licked, caressed by my tongue, my lips. I really think that I know HiG.
I often feel GUILTY that I love a psychiatrist who has trained his skills of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry by studying the material made out of the flesh, the bones, the hair, the teeth, the brains, the muscles, the tendon reflexes, the visual organs and the pain-tests, the blood-tests, the nerve-tests of the tortured children of our people. But HiG deeply believed, and still believes that the suffering of all of «them» can not be justified but at least it can help future generations to suffer less «experimental stress», including animals as all these tests would have to be done with all kinds of highly developed mammals - but would still never be as accurate as the ones done «then».
Without my Secret Job, we really would have to face hunger. HiG’s patients are staying away from his private practice, possibly scared by rumours about malpractice with which HiG’s enemies, even after HiG had left the private clinic, want to drive him into financial bankruptcy and professional madness so that he has to be treated, he, the Psychiatrist, in a «Secure Unit», I assume. And treated by whom – guess, Clara: Yes, by the same colleagues who planted false evidence for false accusations in patients’ reports, and constructed complaints from local GPs, etc. Until now, they fortunately only succeeded chasing HiG into the corner where he could not do anything but to avoid prosecution by quitting his job at the clinic «voluntarily and in mutual consent». But that has not stopped HiG’s enemies spreading their venom.
I still feel sick about this injustice. I do stand by my man – I know, Clara, you always hated Dolly Parton, but some of her songs are nothing but true love. HiG spitefully says «Popular Music» – he reminds me in these moments of my father speaking about «Nigger-music» when I turned the volume of my Braun Music Centre - Radio (I am, sure, you remember it, Clara) to «Pitch 10» for the Rock’n Roll-hour from Radio Luxembourg.
What do you think. Has your musical taste changed with the times. I do remember how you upset both our parents by starting to play Arabic music and wanting to learn belly dancing. I remember that my father’s eyes were even more blinded by rage than those of your father’s. I forgot to ask you about it.
I only now start to realize how much I try to forget and try to smooth any worries with my way of forgetting. And here we meet again, perhaps, perhaps, dearest, longest-lasting love of mine, in the realm of Forgetting», how absurd would that be, to meet in our space there, and then we would not be able to recognize each other - what a laugh that would be.
On the other hand… that would be perhaps our unique and very special ‘Pink Cloud No 9’ in our cloud-cuckoo-land, so let’s perhaps agree upon that meeting-point for the future. I remember from our childhood, it has high mountains and even higher castle-towers. We will never really leave each other, will we. Cloud No 9 is a huge Cumulus formation Clara, so you don’t have to worry that we might not fit on one cloud together because of your fat body. (Try to slim down again, please, at least that your Red Stilettos fit again).
We can always visit our ‘Cloud No 9’, can’t we. No, nobody will know where we are, we will be invisible for all the others. Haven’t we spoken so many times in our childhood, how urgently, desperately we want to be invisible/visible whenever we need to be. Do you remember, Clara. I do. What I can’t really remember is how often and why YOU wanted to vanish. I only know my reasons. I never asked you for yours.
I don’t know whether you know why I wanted to be invisible.
I just thought I could become less anxious whenever my father appears - wanting to come into my bed again, even if it’s this time only via my dreams. Instead, I could have a laugh. Or two. You might now say in your disapproving voice and with blackened blue eyes, that you consider the whole matter to be quite silly and your mouth would bend downwards to silence any further remarks. But my father’s re-appearances in my dreams sometimes drive me mad, so mad, that I have to wake myself up, have to take the dream-catcher I told you earlier about and need to rattle with it to chase away the White Prince, The Forever-Prince, The Fairy-Teller who crashes into my bed in his Clown costume to show me how to open it at special places to let pop out special parts. I sometimes still feel sick when I see a clown. Or a costume that reminds me of a clown. But it happens very rarely. That I see a clown. Fortunately.
When HiG is around, he has to take me into his arms but is never allowed to touch me in those nights except from taking my shaking hands into his warm, calming ones. He once tried to caress my breasts in such a moment and I spontaneously and uncontrollably threw up on him. That was my way of teaching him a lesson, not a very pleasant one, I know. But sometimes men are so slow in understanding the truth. Or, better and more honestly said, what we tell them the truth is, Clara.
Let’s have a laugh. It’s easy, try it, Clara: Stand up from your cosy armchair, lazy cow, stop watching these nonsense early evening soaps; they will block your brain like thick sewage. Move yourself to the bathroom, but close the door behind you, someone might otherwise hear you. Now you look into the mirror, no, keep your hands down and stop winding a strand of your black hair around your fingers all the time. It’s really irritating.
Now, you stand upright in front of your bathroom-mirror, you open your eyes fully, not that «Schlafzimmer»-look, these come-to-bed eyes, please. And now you just open your mouth and start laughing but you have to watch yourself in the mirror while laughing and be your own judge how well you perform: How many people would be seduced to start laughing with you. If there are not hundreds you imagine, you don’t laugh hard enough. This is a good exercise, believe me. I was able to justify so many tears of mine with this exercise Frieda showed me after she witnessed how badly I survived the first visit of the White Prince in the clown’s costume. Yes, that’s ‘ages’ ago. What’s left is the exercise, a good one. And my tender and loving thoughts I am sending to Frieda. No, you do not get any before you have done the exercise. Be a good girl. (How we both hated to be called «Good Girls». Pah.)
Coming back to the present, so, what’s left of my glorious HiG at the moment, I fear, is what he is best in: he is desperately determined to bring happiness to as many little cunts as possible with his precious big ‘manhood’. And I do know for sure, Clara, that there are two wives of two ‘enemy-colleagues’ deeply involved. In this very moment of time, that’s HiG’s way of satisfying, adequate revenge. I do love him though.
He is quite frank about these two affairs, even tries to cheer me up with his descriptions of how boyishly he behaves at the homes of his hated rivals. For example, he secretly took a kipper, a smoked herring, from our house and took it to his next rendezvous with the woman of one of his former colleagues, to hide it deep underneath the mattresses. The following week she postponed their ‘meeting’: the local council’s pest control had been called by her husband to clear »the smell in the house that is beyond the stink of a rat’s decomposing body» she told HiG. And HiG had such a good laugh, recommending his mistress that her husband should have «a kip»(meaning «listen to the mattress», Clara), to find the source of the stench. However, HiG was not amused when I asked him how a psychiatrist would analyse his «practical jokes».
As instructed by our Secret Service, Clara, I officially prepare a film-script about Balzac and his «Comédie humaine» - a subject that is again so open that everything can be played around it - even visits to the Headquarters, if necessary. My former work for the German television channels still pays off, you see. Nobody, not even you, thought that I would have the stamina to finish my studies with a degree. But I did. And you then followed afterwards with newly awakened competitiveness and went back to evening school to get your baccalaureate so you could go to university as well, studying ethnology - a subject of study considered to be ‘quite handy’ for disguising any Secret Service work in foreign countries. It took me quite some time after the Sudan episode to consider that you might have been so much more a successful part of this whole shitty setting of living secret lives in Secret Services, Clara.
You look less Jewish than I do, that’s the reason I found after cogitating for a long time about why you became more and deeper involved in the Secret Service than I could ever dream to achieve. The one who appears less likely to be Jewish is the chosen one to survive, is supposed to succeed. You and your mother, Clara… To the best of Auntie Viola’s knowledge, your mother never had to fear a concentration camp, she was the chosen one by our grandfather’s beloved Blue-eyed-Blonde and her helpers to be smuggled to England to work for our fathers at their London headquarters. She only had to become a traitor to her sister, my mother. She only had to tell the Blockwart about her sister, giving jewellery to the Polish cleaner, to make sure that my mother would ‘vanish’. Perhaps your mother was jealous that she did not get the ‘glitzies’. Perhaps, her justification was her wish to survive.
My mother forgave her. Perhaps, because your mother kept ‘the boys’ so close that they could not run off but instead, helped my mother to survive the concentration camp: your mother might have been a traitor, but she changed to a saviour. And consequently, your mother made it happen that the brothers married her and her sister, seemingly banning any fear of getting lost in the inner and outer maze of Jewish Angst of starvation and prosecution by the most lavish double-wedding ceremony one could imagine so shortly after the war. That’s all part of the accounts from Auntie Viola, Clara - and some from Frieda… there is so much more I want to tell you…
But before I continue, I would like to come back to facts of our shared past. Fact, Clara: you denunciated me, you betrayed me in Port Sudan - you were in our good old family tradition, were you not, in the tradition of turning into a traitor. Telling the Sudanese authorities that I am a Jewish spy. Where was the necessity to do so, you didn’t have to secure your own survival, did you, Clara. Perhaps, you betrayed me out of jealousy: at that time, you were not my favourite loveress any longer. Or even worse - but possible for me to imagine - you betrayed me out of a playful mind: You wanted to prove that you are tough enough to work in Islamic countries, you wanted to prove that you are an excellent Secret Agent. I am not sure whether I ever want to know why you betrayed me.
Whatever you did in the past, it does not help you to avoid the situation you are currently in, Clara. On the contrary, I suspect, because part of the Service job is to forget things from the past. A selective cleansing of the memory might have resulted in more cleansing than required. You can’t get rid of your past by forgetting what you did to me. I don’t let that happen, Clara.
I can’t stand all these lies any longer, reaching from the Sudan up to our lives in the presence of here and now: It was you who left the Sudan while I went to prison. Herewith, I want you to know what prison times in Port Sudan were like: I was tormented every day to «clean the place», meaning on good days when the prison guards from Omdurman were so high-sniffed from glue canisters, they forced you to eat your own shit and all the thick, green scavenger-flies with it and to lick from the floor of the prison cell your own urine. But on bad days, when there were no more glue canisters around, they threw the shit from others into my cell, urinated onto the floor and the same command, »Have your meal, have your drink, whore», was given. No call from the Muezzin ever stopped them. No heat of 109 degrees Fahrenheit. No mercy on me ever. After twenty days of abstinence during Ramadan they started to be very close to killing me with their own hands. Someone intervened - I still can only guess who it was but I am sure you didn’t give a shit (ha, what an irony is that, dearest friend).
In the end, when the Sudanese Secret Service threatened to kill me by hanging - not even offering me the ‘honour» of a bullet - another anonymous intervention saved my life but neither my mind nor my soul. And all this started when and where. I really can’t remember whether I actually ever knew. But I survived, I am alive, I eat and drink, I sing and sleep, I breathe and kiss, I walk and run, I listen and speak, I make love, and I laugh. But remember, Clara, I don’t forget, «really, really not», as we were used to say when we were children….
In Port Sudan, you liked to recite poems by Heinrich Heine and by Rainer Maria Rilke. My father also liked Rilke and Heine and recited often from their work. For a Good Night to both of us, I herewith give you one of my recent presents I received from my Google-search for an English translation of Rilke’s poem «Abend»:
Slowly the evening changes into the clothes
Held for it by a row of ancient trees.
You look: and two worlds grow separate from you,
one ascending to heaven, another, that falls;
and leave you, belonging not wholly to either one,
not quite as dark as the house that remains silent,
not quite as certainly sworn to eternity
as that which becomes star each night and rises –
and leave you (unsayably to disentangle) your life
with all its immensity and fear and great ripening,
so that, all but bounded, all but understood,
it is by turns stone in you and star.
Karla, leaving her Angst-Haus with one door to one room wide open, looking for the «Blue Star» to watch over our dreams
The silence of fog surrounds this morning hour completely, the house and garden seem to be encapsulated in a soft white cloud floating along the horizon, reaching for the endless space. I sit still and watch the windows of the conservatory with their watery eyes, letting tears running down their sides. I wait for the wind to come and lift the curtain for the new day.
The telephone rings, nobody rushes to answer: HiG is still in his world of claims and arguments with his colleagues; I rarely see him, he vanishes behind files, files, more files - and almost out of my life.
If I remember correctly, you vanished from my life after I fell in love with HiG and only returned years later, with your son Uriel as a big surprise, just shortly before we started the Sudan project and then you vanished more frequently, Clara - and I haven’t seen you since the funeral of your father and my father. Still, I can’t stop loving you, I really can’t - may be it has to do with this unique bond of having the same blood of the same mad families running through our veins. And I still believe that you love me, too. Despite all that happened, despite all you made happen.
On the writing table next to me lies the mail my ‘postie-pal’ brought me yesterday. No letter from you but catalogues of new summer varieties of Echinacea and of pelargonium. The most obvious change to last year’s season is the new colour-preference of dark purple or brownish-black. I shy away from dark colours, I find them depressing, they remind me of dried blood.
Not important what colour, just a very general question: Do you like pelargonium, Clara.
Only three days after our fathers ‘departed’, and our two mothers starting to celebrate a new life by digging out all the fire-red flowering pelargonium - so much loved by our fathers, so detested by our mothers: I remember watching over the years their nasty tricks to suffocate the pelargonium with plastic bags, to poison them with Fairy-liquid, to drown them with schnapps, to let them freeze to death by secretly bringing them from the dark corridor of the house into the bright light of ice-cold winter mornings pretending to wish them to regain colour to their bleached leaves with a little help of the sun and - what a surprise - totally forgetting to bring them into the house again because - «the work in the house has been exhausting». With their eyes up to the sky and ‘blink-blink’ with their long, seducing eyelashes, our mothers tried hard to appear innocent. Every time when these things happened, our fathers seemed to want to give up - but only until the next opportunity arose to channel their rage into a frenzy to buy even bigger, even more fire-reddish, even more exuberant pelargonium to be put into ever more prominent places in the gardens. Our fathers weren’t stupid, Clara.
But, as our mothers said to us whenever there was a challenge: »We will have the last word». Two days before the funeral, our mothers ordered our gardeners to take all the pelargonium to the graveyard to surround both «Rest in Peace»-stones and to cover the whole family burial place reserved for their husbands well up to the next family burial plot. But the owners of the neighbouring gravesites made an official complaint and insisted to have the pelargonium immediately removed.
So, after the funeral service, at the cemetery, we were welcomed by big holes with enormous piles of brown mud, looking and stinking like shit, all around our fathers’ burying place. I clearly remember that I thought that the Nazis liked the shitty colour and that both our fathers, at their very end, had a reminder of their ugly past decoratively spread around their ‘Resting Place’ and I overheard our mothers whispering to each other: «Brown mud to brown mud.»
And I remember that I saw you for the first time after the long break you took from our lives, standing close to the open grave, so beautifully dressed in purest white that even our - normally so strictly following every «etiquette»- mothers did not mind. And instead of throwing a flower or something onto the coffins, you recited a Rilke and a Heine poem (I forgot which ones). Yes, yes, Clara, I remember how much my father and you liked to recite poetry to each other when we were enjoying summer evenings in the garden, while Mother’s grand piano played into the hot summer-air, filled with the perfume of the roses and the blossoms of our lime trees, and the music made the world whirl around in the most exciting Waltz. Our mothers liked to wear white all the time.
So, you stood there in a white dress our mothers had no courage to wear on that occasion, you stood there at the open grave in your white dress, very elegant, and recited the poems as if our fathers, or better my father had asked you to do that.
I wasn’t at all sure, Clara, but I thought your white dress looked very similar to the wedding dress of my mother she once showed me, and I can’t remember having seen you wearing a white dress ever before - never ever, actually. On the day of the funeral, I clearly remember that you charmed everyone, and nobody was able to ask you any questions anyway.
You were everybody’s darling again, Carla, and it did not matter that you haven’t moved a little bit of your little finger to help with the funeral or every other aspect of our changing lives.
Everybody’s darling…But where are you now. And who brought you there. All right, you are forgetful sometimes. That’s self-understood within the making of the last twenty years of your life you disguised most of it to survive and succeed. But why are you forgetting things, even who you are. You can pick who you want to be. My harsh proposal: Do that for a break, dearest friend, to give all a break who care for you, who want to see you well again, who love you - yes, I included. Give us a break, BE SOMEONE, CHOOSE. They always offer a good alternative to your former life when you stop working for them - the Service people are not stupid - they know what they would risk if we would run ‘free’. Not feeling any obligations any more, ‘disconnecting’ yourself without consent can be deadly. Don’t forget that. If you can’t succeed any longer with anything, please continue at least to survive. Please.
Another suggestion would be that you consider re-entering the competition from the past: Why don’t you try to be the better storyteller again.
I don’t actually know whether I told you that there had been a mad member of our families locked away indefinitely in a «Heilanstalt», a Psychiatric Hospital. I can only remember that Auntie Viola told me all about our paternal grandmother Anja. I just thought of quite a lot of reasons for being mad, Clara: Our lives, our families, the strangely intertwined sisters, our mothers with their lives full of black lies and secrecies, marrying two strangely intertwined brothers, our fathers with their obsession with bloody lies and deceptions; and then both couples giving their mad genes to only one child each, a girl, and these two girls are loving and hating each other like their parents, throughout their lives: the two of us, Karla and Clara, blood relatives, first grade cousins, and lovers of the same blood - all part of a ‘Comédie Humaine’, a modern version, Clara, aren’t we. (And not to mention the Jewish blood in all of us, ha.)
I remember you wanting to be the best storyteller ever, and that my father was supportive of your talent. Unfortunately, he was the only one, wasn’t he, Clara. He must have recognized some of his own ambitions in you.
I forgot to tell you last time, that the Service wants me to film in Switzerland and do more research work concerning the ‘Blood Gold’-bankers, too. It’s always quite a gap between instructions and the actual work. And even then, during the work process, they let you wait for further follow-up instructions. I really hate waiting.
I can’t wait for something to happen without my heart beating faster, too fast, most of the time. Something worth waiting for - just six to seven more weeks: the tenderness of young evolving leaves with silvery soft hair on their blades shivering in the cold air. It will always remind me of your silky skin getting goose pimples and bringing every silvery, sun-bleached arm-hair higher into the air, closer to my caressing lips. I do love you. Still.
Life could be peaceful. Sometimes, I long for the moment that I can leave my Angst-Haus behind. But I still need to feel the safety of my soul’s and mind’s inner enclosure: I am frightened by my work for the Service, to hunt down Swiss bankers with their bloody money. I fear the retaliation of destiny: sometimes I think, only the locked rooms of my Angst-house keep me safe from being hunted down myself.
You need a strong belief in yourself and the righteousness of your belief to persecute people. I guess, to have six millions of your own kind murdered is enough reason to feel superior concerning revenge, don’t you agree, Clara. Every time I meet a German in England who regards me to be a sister of the nation and wants to mingle, I feel embarrassed. I don’t like Germans. I share this dislike with almost every German living in England. That is something I really appreciate, Clara, that Germans don’t like each other. Aren’t they like Jews, Clara.
I was really furious when I got this call today: a Germanic harsh English voice gave orders. How dare they threaten me - I will not accept a German ‘V’-man ever. I told them. But who listens.
That’s life how I know it since the Sudan: the same routine, provoking the same anger in me, Clara. What a bunch of arrogant shit-heads these Service people are. You made a romantic story out of our obligation to work for the Service. No wonder, that’s what a princess of fairytales does when life gets too rough, dearest friend, doesn’t she. A storyteller - maybe my father’s life was too rough, too. You did not copy him, did you, Clara. Or did and do you.
Sometimes I think you are doing the right thing, to vanish into forgetfulness and memory-loss. If it is true, what Uriel told me in December. Your silence concerning my previous letters may be caused by their content - too close to the truth, too often on the edge of sentimentalities you always hated. Do I hear you say your «Pah!» - like our mothers would say: »Pah!» The sound of this ‘ex-pression’ will never leave me.
So, Clara, before it is too late: I want to make it absolutely clear to you that I would not accept you losing your marbles, never. It appears to be an easy solution. I know that’s not fair. It’s not an easy way out for someone so intellectual and intelligent as you are. But it keeps your theatrical acting skills in constant demand. Very exhausting, I imagine, ‘to perform on stage’ 24 hours a day. Jehovah blesses you, Clara, or whoever is superior to us and can make things change to the better.
I am so tired - some days, the tiredness starts almost immediately after waking up. The tiredness sometimes also becomes quite noisy - I hear my heartbeat: Too fast - I hear my Tinnitus-peepish-peep-peep: Too loud. If you would sit now next to me, Clara, you would distract me with some fine music, you could sit down at the grand piano from Mother-Aunt - Chopin, for example, a Waltz, and I would love to dance… how just heavenly we danced together…. Come on, let’s leave the inside world for a bit of fresh air. I get never tired of looking at nature’s glory that surrounds me here, getting seduced to wander in it, embrace it, inhale it, wanting to completely disappear and re-appear like an elf, a fairy in it. One minute one can be seen, next minute one is invisible. (No, I have not left my senses behind, dear loveress, including the common ones.) Yes, it might be an old resonance from my former German Wanderlust and the search for the Blaue Blume, the ‘Blue Flower’ of romanticism. I am longing to see and smell the Bluebells again. Soon. Only another eight weeks or so depending how cold it stays, or how much more extreme hot (for this time of the year) or wet weather we will have until then. I hope that the Service does not demand a too long absence from home.
It’s still such a beautiful silence outside, a light wind has lifted the icy fog to sweep along majestically with some gleaming clouds of light, and I slip out of my warm and cosy sitting room to walk barefoot into the garden, watching my toes walking underneath me, being so naked and red and blue that I guess they do complain being out and about in this weather on their own without their guards, the socks and shoes.
The ice-cold dew covers every little swing of the grasses and bends them underneath the weight of their watery diamonds. The woodland path shimmers with the old leaves and the tree roots, all wearing their wet, shiny coat, and with the soft, gentle hint of a breeze their perfume rises high into the air, this warm, earthy, motherly rot of both decay and nurture. I imagine, you would enjoy walking with me, Clara.
Although you might insist on taking with you a big pashmina to cover your whitest of white shoulders and one of your mink hats and perhaps even ask me to help you into your long, heavy mink coat - all these things for just stepping out of the door to have a little walk. You see, you really made life sometimes much too complicated for me to bear. When you visit, promise me to be less demanding, please. I also get older, you know. But I am sure you would enjoy walking with me. So, follow me and take a deep breath of fresh, cold, rejuvenating air of the woods.
Quite a lot of eyes are following every movement of the two of us, watching our hands whether they carry something promising like peanuts or worms to feed them. You remember the cock-dog Theobald from next door, he has to be taken into the conservatory by me every time before I leave the house, because he then can still see me when I am out in the garden. If he is left behind in the sitting room from where he can’t see me, Theobald shits all over the place and flutters around in the air. The other day, he even brought the heavy oil paintings of hunting scenes, inherited from HiG’s mother, down to the floor what I really could not but congratulate him for (I would have been much too anxious to do the same.) And what a good job he did: not only were the frames broken, his shit was so deeply toxic to the oil paint that the restorer refused to consider restoring the paintings. And I refused to have them up on the wall again in this damaged, desecrated form. From this incident onwards, Theobald was only allowed to stay in the sitting room with me present.
Ah, Clara, the winter ‘s cold makes me longing for the sitting room so welcoming, so cosy, with the big inglenook fireplace staffed with wonderfully perfumed birch and apple tree wood that the fire itself is a sensation for the nose, not only for the eyes with the flickering swinging flames, steadily and calmly eating the wood and creating fire-images of castles, mountains, rivers, princes, princesses, kings and queens, whatever we dreamt of seeing…. Do you remember Clara, what a fantastic time we had watching the open fire at our home, how privileged we felt, surrounded by the most elegant furniture we could imagine, Mother’s grand piano-play from the distance of her salon, this time inviting the flames to dance to the tunes of, as Frieda liked to call it, «Madame-Pianist’s elaborate music». Frieda’s irony was always finely tuned.
Out into the cold again, dearest Clara: the winter’s icy reign comes back again and again, harsher than last year and the one before. The wild creatures from the woods are in need of some food to survive. The foxes come nearer to the house now, and the vixen seems very close to giving birth, her yellow eyes are searching for my eyes, and she turns her heavy little belly towards me as if she wants to make sure that I take notice of her condition and prepare the right supply of food and shelter for her motherhood. She does like the firewood-shed behind the house.
Try to gain the trust of some living creature, Clara. Ask for a birdfeeder next time you get visitors (or you can ask your nurse to organize one for you). I am sure that your very good pension allows you to spend some of your means to support other helpless creatures, you so very rich, geizig, avarice-filled cow. I do love you.
I hope that you can walk out of your door and just wander around in bare feet like I do, stupidly risking a cold, but choosing the freedom to go outside into the light. Without shoes, without someone holding me back, tighten his grip around my arms until they become swollen red and blue, pulling me down to the floor, sitting on me, trying to suffocate me with his knees, then halting his laughter back only to hear more clearly the breaking of my ribs, hailing every fracture with another blow of his fists into my spinal column until my head is spinning into the black dance of faint. I do not want to see his face any longer. Neither at daytime nor in my dreams. Never. Ever. Never ever again. I am still not sure whether these are only day- and nightmares and whether you have to live through them as well, Clara. This is one of the questions I always wanted to ask you.
But these questions have to wait - I have to prepare myself to travel again, for the Service job, for some time.
I think this is part of my problem, and it might be as well an additional problem for you, Clara, that our Secret work for the Service makes us mix images from our work with dreams and vice versa, and we sometimes don’t know any longer whether we are in a dream or in one of these, sometimes so bloody realities which we have to cover up with lies.
And the lies always have to be so good that we ourselves don’t know in the end whether our stories, our memories are true - or half-true or not true at all. Frieda sometimes made the distinction between ‘White lies’ and ‘Black lies’, like between white and black sheep. I was always the black sheep in our families. And you were the white sheep, Clara. When others thought these may be irreconcilable differences, we lived the principle of «Opposites attract» - that’s why we were, why we are so instinctively and dramatically and inseparably intertwined. And that’s why you had so many desperate attempts to get away from me - perhaps.
Your nurse Esther told me last time I contacted her to hear about your state of mind, that you don’t want to see me. And I also remember in this very moment that we had promised each other many times that we want to stay forever imprinted in our mutual memory as eternally young and beautiful lovers.
I need more time. I don’t know how much more time before being able to consider seeing you again… But HiG expects from me that I invite you over to visit us, «…despite any unpleasant memories». I do like this English word, «unpleasant», it is so non-dramatic and keeps out-of-order emotions under control, don’t you agree, Clara.…
I try to catch my breath to calm my heartbeat.
I don’t want to die of heart failure. I want to live.
«Shssh, my Liebling, shssh», Frieda’s voice from the past.
My hands flying with my thoughts: The luggage is not yet ready, another Secret job awaits me. I always like to travel lightly. I am never tired of travelling. Sometimes I have to change places from one day to the other. This time, I know, it has to be countries.
«Run Liebchen», I hear Frieda whisper, «Herzblatt, run.»
I always leave a little note behind on the little round table in the entrance hall of our house: «Hans-im-Glück, continue loving me, please. I will be back soon.»
Clara, this letter will reach you clear and open minded, I hope.
We will see each other again. I am just still too scared. I am just too scared to fall in love. Again, Clara. I want to live in the ‘here and now’, not in the past. I do forgive you. I will always forgive you. Ach, why can’t you hurry and get better soon, dearest princess-friend, I need you and your eyes shining on me, and your lips kissing away the clouds from my forehead. Please, continue loving me as I do love you. Wish me luck and mazeltoff.
Let’s meet on ‘Cloud No 9’ later.
Yours truly, Karla