Don’t think it is easy for me to tell you this story. It should be one of the chapters of the sequel to my book “We Don’t Talk About That”. It is a little love story but it really isn’t a love story. Read it and decide for yourself what you want to call it.
I met Hannes two months too late. Had we met two months earlier something might have become of it. Maybe. Maybe not. He had such an infectious laugh, such as I had never heard from a man and never did again. I knew he would never do or try something I would not want. He was ‘comfortable’ like an old pair of shoes, more like a brother and I felt at ease when I was with him. I still kept him at arm’s length. Why? There were several reasons. One, I was afraid I could fall in love with him. Two, he was in the middle of a divorce even it was a friendly one. Three, he was from the Rhineland and the Rhinelanders had a reputation for being ‘light weights’, people who didn’t take life too seriously. Fourth, he was Catholic and I was Lutheran, a match my parents would not approve of, even if neither of us were religious church goers. Fifth, I was in love with a little girl in Canada who needed a new mommy. Her father and I had been pen friends for two months and he wanted to marry me. But the main reason was I was afraid, simply afraid that a man who was obsessed with me, who had stalked me for years would be true to his promise to ruin any relationship I would ever have with another man. “If I can’t have you, nobody else will.” I had told Hannes all about it. Hannes listened, talked to me and made me see all sides, he pointed out the pros but mainly the cons about going to Canada. He sounded exactly like my father who thought I had gone totally bananas. “Canada! Marry a man you didn’t know, divorced and with a daughter? Nuts!” The problem was my compassion for that little girl, after seeing the photos with the sad eyes. I just couldn’t get her out of my mind. After I had met the grandparents in Wiesbaden I was lost. They didn’t even give me a chance to back out. I wasn’t strong enough. And I didn’t know I was being manipulated. The word did not exist in my vocabulary or my thinking.
Hannes became my best friend. He helped me plan my emigration. We went to the zoo in Hamburg, to a fabulous Indian Restaurant and sampled the “Indian Rice Table” with 23 little bowls containing different delectable types of food. We visited the “Pferdestall” a famous kind of pub/bar in an original horse barn. We attended “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on the stage under the stars in the Herrenhäuser Gardens in Hanover. Until I started to get very involved with my Canadian penfriend and his parents and sadly, my friendship with Hannes somehow tapered out. It was the end of a time with lots of laughter for me but I didn’t realize it until much, much later. When I was living in Winnipeg in Canada I got terribly homesick. I wrote to Hannes telling him about my life. He was married to a lady he had seen in the theater. He wrote “I had noticed her legs and they reminded me of you.” He had approached her during intermission, they had a glass of champagne and the rest is history. Hannes and I remained in contact.
It was a few years later when I visited Germany again. I had arranged a meeting with the last company I worked for since I wanted to import their skin care line to Canada. I had been instrumental in developing a number of the creams. Before flying home I planned to visit my sister in Hamburg and since Hannes lived there he picked me up at the train station. He handed me a beautiful long stemmed dark red ‘Baccara Rose’. We walked across the busy plaza in front of the station to his parked car. After he put my suitcase in the trunk he opened the door for me. We both were a bit shy, not yet at ease as we had been during the two months in the past when we had laughed a lot. I held the rose and my purse with one hand, trying to arrange my fancy coat which had a split in the back so the two sides could be lifted and you would not sit on it. I changed the flower from my left to me right hand and arranged the coat around me with the other. Finally I was seated with both coat tails on my lap. Hannes asked “is everything in now?” We looked at each other when I replied, “yes everything is in”. He closed the door and walked around the car to his side. As he was inserting the car key I noticed I had only the stem of the rose in my hand. I felt the shock right down into my tummy:
“Hannes, look” I whispered with a tiny voice. Hannes grabbed his steering wheel, put his head on his arms and slowly, quietly said “Just like us. It’s our story. A beheaded love story, a beheaded rose. I should have seen the rose wasn’t in when I closed the door. Should we stop by a flower shop and I buy you a new one?”
We decided against it. After a while driving along Hannes started to laugh. His Rhineland humour had taken over and he thought the whole episode was really very funny. I was sorry to have lost the beautiful flower head but I saw the weird humour in it as well. Actually, because of the accident, – I never forgot the rose.
Good morning, Giselle
Before I had read your blog today, I thought you were going to write about Sophie Scholl and the White Rose. Have you read about that anti-Nazi group? Here’s a link to check it out. Sophie Scholl was the founder of the White Rose group and was eventually caught by the Gestapo, and was beheaded. Not QUITE the same as your beheaded red rose.
When I was in Germany ten years after the end of the war, Germans still were silent about Hitler and the Nazi control of the country and the conduct of the war. With time, I could understand the silence.
Your silence was different. You suffered from the onslaught of battles, and later from the division of the country into four occupied zones. You in Pomerania had very little knowledge or interest in political actions, but only in basic survival. So it was for most Germans – and yet the average German citizen in the street took on the guilt of the nation. It has taken half a century to climb out of the deep dusk of the Hitler regime. I wish I could go back now, and hear the personal stories of the more recent generations. I would bet my Christmas turkey dinner that very few would mention the word “Nazi”. And yet Nazism remains a grey fog over the country.
A very touching prelude to your next book. Looking forward.