||A German Love Story
by Abigail George
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|There is always hope. From the time I was born my mother and I were rivals, friends, best friends, enemies, competing for the attention, the affection of my father. When I was very little I thought I would never be happy or experience any real attention, any genuine happiness or sincere acceptance until the day I met you.
When I was a child I had an unsettling view of the world. I regarded my parents' own friends as my own. I found them interesting, the wives fat, always laughing, their almost grown up sons sweet, handsome and funny. One works for a company in America now. He went to Harvard. I dreamed about marrying him when I was older. I was four years old at a grown up party, bored with the party and already precocious, a beautiful child, hair thick, dark, intelligent and bored with the planet when I discovered the sons, all the boys at the family's house my parents and I were at. They let me play cards with them, explained the game when I didn't understand patiently without making fun of me and later one of them got me a juice when I was thirsty. I sat still and watched them in awe of this bedroom so different from mine with sports equipment on the floor, shoes, ties, books and a Sunday jacket for church. Model aeroplanes whirred above my head. A collection of toy cars had come to a stand still on a desk.
Besides talking I liked to eat. I always thought food was pretty especially Sunday lunch the way my mother prepared it. Remember when I told you about that? I thought she did it perfectly. The colors on the plate always seemed elegant to me. I knew there was always hope in the world whenever we ate together as a family.
Wherever you are right now, I want to tell you it is over. The horror, the fear and this senseless war that this world has been fighting. For what have they been fighting? For victory? For power? For a million deaths.
People still know of great happiness and great joy. I see it as they are reunited.
They told me through word of mouth that you were on this train. That the survivors of Auschwitz would be on this train. Perhaps you will be on the next train. They say there are many trains from Bergen-Belsen, Leipzig and Auschwitz. They say they cannot find so many people. They are afraid to tell because so many are dead. So many cannot be found.
Do you remember when we were happy? When we were so much in love and we dreamt dreams that only young people could dream of before they had children, settled down, planted a rose garden and bought plates? I planted the roses at the back. My hands dug into the brown soil. The thorns had penetrated my skin and my hands had been stained with pinpricks of blood. The wall had provided some shade. There they grew. I had watered them dutifully like a good wife and the vermilion velvet petals perfumed the rooms of our apartment. Perhaps our home is still standing in the narrow, cobbled street. Perhaps.
I look for your face. I search for you amongst the survivors. But I cannot find you because you are dead. Pain — dense heavy knots of pain — lingers like the charred smoke and the cries of the deaf children. Then there is the silence. There is the bloodstained redness. There are old people who are still alive. Their faces lined with age. There are young people who have forgotten how to be young. I know you will come out of the dense mass of bodies and call out my name. I will turn to you and tears will be running down the hollows of my cheeks and we will embrace. We will mourn for countless deaths and I will ask, "Do you still remember?"
The roses that I grew at the back. The edges of their sepals now brown and wilted. The fragrance sweet. I kept this memory at the back of my mind to tell you. I am looking for you. I am searching for you amongst this black dense mass of bodies. I cannot find you. The war is over but all I am thinking about is seawater curling around my body while I am watching you swim out to the horizon with your cousins and your father while I stay close to the shore, to the women who are preparing a picnic lunch of cold chicken and sandwiches.
When I close my eyes now I can hear your voice. "Why do grownups do bad things?" I had never seen you look more anxious, agitated, more protective of me of where I went and with whom I spoke to and more frightened but even then I knew there was nothing we could do but wait and see.
In the streets after the war people's faces looked different in the morning light. Pale, haunting, ghostly and heartbroken. They can no longer hold your gaze or make you feel connected to humanity. They feel their heartache makes them out of reach and they will never be capable of forgiveness or loving an animal, touching another human being's heart with kindness and tenderness. They are self-conscious as I am, ill at ease and always wanting to be informed. During the war I learned to become a good listener.
You are telling me a joke and I am sitting at the kitchen table gazing up at you, waiting for you to help me clear the dishes from the table.
I was always waiting for you to take the lead and now here I am — older, infinitely wiser and more humble. There is a new and almost poetic intensity to my dreams now. First the black beach rises out of the wintry depths of the ocean to meet the shore, where water holds me and ripple-like currents flow through me as I swim towards you. It is as if there is a bright new force shining within me now.
Every journey is unique, purpose-driven and provides a guide, an interpretation to both a global and an individual worldview. I strived to live my own life that way without regrets, looking towards the future, open and honest, unafraid to embrace the future. I did it all for you. I survived. When I was a child I always felt I was invisible. When I married you, I came home to a wonderful life everyday where I could improvise if I didn't get it right the first time. The first time you made me laugh so hard out loud that I had a bellyache is the moment I knew I was perfect for you and that we were a perfect match, the dark-haired tomboy, writer and published poet and the perfect gentleman. A match made in heaven your mother used to say. People aren't always what they seem when you meet them. Instead of accepting each other as equal they feel disconnected now from the rest of the universe and separate.
In childhood sometimes the newspapers ignore the fact that we have our whole lives to deny our life education, to grow into the potential for grief, and self-centeredness. To grow simply into vacant rooms, call a house a home where the silence gathers like the weight of water.
We are now taught from birth to put our hearts on automatic, to worship communities both urban and rural and never to ignore all the advice we are given in childhood. Never to let our hearts remain eternally useless or unmarked by love letters, soul food prepared on holidays, birthdays, celebrations and the winters that pass. I am no longer writing to reach you.
The first time you kissed me launched a heady revolution from within. I began to think about things I had dreamed about pursuing as a child again and I forgot about my mother's negative, droning voice even though I knew she only had my best interests at heart.
War is like divine discontent in a hot climate. At first the world was selfless, cold, composed and emotionally uninvolved for as long as the war was continuing. Now everyone is hopeful. But most of all I want to say is this. Parents do not neglect your children.
The other day a lone soldier, a lone wolf appeared out of nowhere in the cold. He glanced at me wildly and with hope. I nod as I walk past him. My head bowed down deep. He cups his hands together as if in deep thought and calls after me, "This life is no life to live." Once I surrendered to the unknown when I fell in love with you and now I have to follow that path once again. Terrified and alone at the wonder, beauty and inviting possibilities that the world is so full of.
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