Nothing is worth more than this day

My uncle was living in Tel Aviv when I visited him 15 years ago. He told me the story of his escape during the war , his love for 14 years old C which he never forgot even if M held his heart now and lived with him for the last 20 years . My uncle and his friend D were 18 years old back in 1943 trying desperately to fool the Gestapo during a tough time in Düsseldorf. They hid in the building where the 14 years old C’s parents had an apartment. At that time, both men were infatuated with her.

After 40 years, in 1983, my uncle reconnected with his friend D and decided to take a trip down memory lane, maybe close some open circles, wounds and such. This story is inspired by his experience, and since he died 2 years ago I never had the heart to put it on paper until now.

 

When D appeared at the hotel, I felt old maybe by 20 years. He almost had no white hair, had little wrinkles. I knew  that most  Israelis, stressed by the state of permanent war and spoiled by the  sun, age  faster, but I didn’t expected to find him  so fresh. He came with his wife, a sweet German woman, which - I found out later – was aware of the Hebrew tradition better than him. We left all four of us to see his father, who knew me when a small child. We stopped just a few minutes, we were in a rush, D had reserved a table at an Italian restaurant, and C.  was waiting for us and we were to pick her up on the way. In the car I started coughing  awful, I was nursing a cold  , and  as we were going , I was coughing  more and more, I  could not articulate  a word.  M. was quiet.  D asked me details of the past, and I answered with interjections only, increasing in intensity, trying to sound convincing and composed.
We were now in a residential area, quiet, with trees and parked cars ordered, in German fashion. D slid   out of the car and we decided to wait in the car where it looked like you could cut the tension with a knife; none of us moved.  I wanted  to run - I said to myself  - take a taxi to the  hotel, I'll be excused, I have a cold  and I  do not want everybody to get , sick , I can barely  breathe . I looked around, what was M thinking about? So many kilometers, so many thoughts, and my cough that doesn’t stop. Maybe I am dreaming, maybe it’s not me  now. Maybe  I‘ll wake up,  but  it downed  on me that I did  not recognize the parking lot  we were in , it was probably  built after the  last time I was here   ... It couldn’t be a dream .
D reappeared with a smiling face though looking a little forced:

- C. invited us to an appetizer, a down moment.

Looks like I remembered now some steps as we started climbing onto the first floor. Lots of steps.  Over 30 years ago, they were still going up, what do you know?  I saw  in my mind all the  others before me , in the great  silence of the past , only quiet breaths,  whispering  sounds , incomprehensible .

I was looking now up the stairs trying to number them, and I came to realize that it seemed I had forgotten to number. I restarted  numbering  and a poem I knew when very little came to mind  ... I raised my eyes, a  slightly open door  and in the  threshold - She - so beautiful, so unchanged . Too quickly everybody joined us, so we embraced at the entrance and walked in the apartment. It was the same one her parents lived so many moons ago. C brought the snacks and a bottle of white wine. I asked a for a glass of water and an ashtray. I  went out  on the terrace, I lit a cigarette and I looked around trees, my hands shaking . I was alone  , first  floor of the building holding my youth all the way  in Düsseldorf .
-- You cough a lot, sounds awful, smoke much? – She came beside me, perfect frame, not one gram of extra weigh, her eyes burning me as my eyes flew in all directions.

- I feel that I must tell you something that I told myself in childhood, is it OK to wake up memories?
-- Messy memories are just that!

I decided to remain silent.
We came in the living room and on a shelf I saw a photo of a   little girl I knew.   I asked with suspicion in my voice

-Why put this picture here?
-- No, it's my daughter, looks much like me.

I remained quiet again.


The restaurant was a lot of blabbering in German, English, Hebrew. I sat in front of them, somewhat diagonally, and was coughing hard. Was trying not to talk too much. C immediately found  a common language with M., my girlfriend, in broken Hebrew  and that  made me  laugh inside  at the absurdity of life , at our lost  adolescence, with  so  many  years gone by and us so changed . In Düsseldorf we seemed so different from the way we were in Israel. We gossiped about friends from childhood, knowing that each is now in another corner of the world. Who would have imagined our destiny back in those times as we were running and trying to cheat life?


In the car back to the hotel I was sitting in the back of the car between C. and M., We were quiet again, interrupted by my annoying cough. Uncontrolled thoughts, had to come here in each of our minds, however, we said anything. Who is C. today I asked myself?

In an effort to stay ahead of so many memories I told myself that tomorrow I will visit Düsseldorf. We arrived at the hotel, we all descended, saying good bye, while hugging.  I felt her body stuck to mine and my mind went blank for a second.

I knew I had closed a circle that night in Düsseldorf.

***

The second day I made a big discovery. That I can control the partial thoughts.

 We visited Düsseldorf and I liked every corner, every street was a long dream and several times I thought I saw her slender shadow, on the street.

 M and I decided that we will have a successful vacation and so it was. I showed her each area in part. I visited the vicinity of the Harz Mountains, Goslar, Menden, where we ended up caught in a torrential rain and under a cover we had a dialogue with a super realist old lady in German about Judaism and Christianity. I told her how life  persuaded  me to become a Christian and forced me for a while to  recognize Jesus as Messiah, but  she answered back  that Jesus does not require the recognition ,  in short, we understood each other  a great time. We went through Gottingen, Kassel (where I had the luck to see a Chagall exhibit), Wurzburg, then we changed the route, we left Nurnberg and Regensburg for another time as we focused on Munich   .
When finally back home in Tel Aviv, I received a letter with a Düsseldorf address.  I opened it  and the  name  C jumped before my  eyes .The picture of a  woman of 50 plus years, living far away, a few hours of flight from  Israel with a little girl of only 14 years next to her , which I saw but had never met  jumped at me .  

For a week M and I avoided this subject as images overlapped foggy and with broken lines, moments unclear, the letter C, which on the keyboard, appeared  alongside an anonymous V.

C. and her  circle was closed now and forever.


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atlantis
Short Story
Romance
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