Briefe IX, X, XI und XII
It’s the 1st of April, dearest Clara,
I am back home after travelling zigzag through France and Switzerland, covering up the usual work for our so called “Old Friends”, and trying very hard to make HiG jealous by keeping him ignorant of my whereabouts, planting doubts in his mind about what deals I have to make and how much ‘entertainment’ is involved. You know that he knows about my obligations to the Service after the ‘Sudan-Affair’.
How much I missed writing to you. The reason for my silence: I fell in love, again – yes, indeed! I will tell you all about it, bit by bit. Because you know him. From old times. From Sudan times. Yes, it’s Karim. He is back in my life through the Service. They brought us together for a job – and in Paris, under the bridge, we fell for each other as if no time had gone by since our last affair. But you will always be my favourite “she”. The other good thing is that you cannot steal him. He is mine. Because he loves me – and only me. Yes, you are right, the dream guided me. I wanted to fall in love. But I will be cautious – not too much passion, this love affair shouldn’t strangle me, should it, Clara.
Today is ‘April Fool’s Day’ as it’s called here in England, dear Clara – I think it’s quite an appropriate date to start writing to you again because I might have behaved like a fool, but who doesn’t, when falling in love with an ‘old flame’.
I also start writing to you on that specific day, because HiG is ‘On Call’ again and I feel quite lonely.
I wonder who is calling HiG.
On such a wonderful day.
Just one little revenge I will tell you about: You might remember that HiG insists that I am the one who can best cut his hair. So this time, I thought I will teach him a lesson to give me instruments into my hands so unconditionally that you can read from it his highest expectation of absolute loyalty, one-way-only, as I suspect: I cut his back-hair very short, left the upper hair longer and then, in the front a wave to the right, so that he really looks like a Hitler-Youth with an old face. I saw two of our friends exchanging raised eyebrows – and HiG, not having the faintest idea why. He just noticed that they looked up to his hair and felt obliged to praise my excellent haircut-qualities. I stood stumm and turned around before the friends could check my reaction. You see, Clara, how “banal” I can be.
First thing after bringing my luggage upstairs, was to rush to the sea, to the beach, to my favourite ‘Back-home’- place that stretches its dunes into the infinity of my expectation to see more and more horizon.
Blinded by the strong sunshine sparkling the bluest of sea-blue into white light, two girls came dancing towards me, in spite of the chilling north-westerly breeze, dressed in colourful, silly-thin organza – asking for a photo taken of both in front of the sea, and with the single white cloud to the left, and with the seagulls on the right, and with the small beach-café in the far distance behind them, and for a close-up:
”Are both our hats in the frame, please.”
“Jilly, shut up, give your best smile.”
“Look, this lady is really into it – don’t walk to France, look out for your skirt – it’s wet, oh dear!”
The elegantly cruising black-headed seagulls spread their mocking, hoarse laughter: Overwhelmed by a sudden big wave, I stand still, with dripping wet skirt, sinking deeper into the soft sand with my wellies full of ice-cold sea-water. All three of us can’t stop laughing while I hand the camera back.
The wind suddenly takes the girls’ straw-hats and rolls them towards the strand and the girls, still giggling, rush to catch them, turning around from time to time, waving, sending thank-you- kisses from the distance to me, still standing in the water.
How happy I am.
How many chances for happiness the two of us had …When we were young kids, flying towards the sea, climbing up, rolling down, up, down, up, down sand dunes, with bare feet, blue and purple from the cold. And no underwear because we had just declared the summer to have started in this very moment of a sunny April’s day, a day like today, Clara. We got sunburned, do you remember. And we both thought that our love for each other would prepare us for all difficulties, to climb whatever mountain was ahead of us, to find all ways and means necessary to achieve what we wanted to achieve, to have our one ways – here, there or anywhere. We could not foresee the parting of our ways, we did not foresee our reunions…
I just see the two of us on another walk along another sea… I can’t remember whether there were any seagulls in the air – only the sun I remember, the white burning, the deadly sun on our excursions from Port Sudan to the sandy beaches alongside the road to Sawakin.
We were still young, we thought, being only in our thirties. And we were again in love with each other – but this time in a more complex, deeper love of our intellects, our endeavour to fight for the International Women’s Movement by helping our poor black sisters in this God-forgotten place.
And we thought that the seaside and the road to Sawakin might be a good place to sell food, to establish a row of little stands with chairs to sit, inviting the lorry drivers for a stop-over: A good – however small but still a business opportunity for some of the poorest women from the dusty slums of Port Sudan. We thought: they know the sudden clouds of sand rising into the air, with or without wind, they would not complain about the scourging grains of sand crawling into every pore of the body – they know how to use their bare hands to protect the eyes. They would be grateful for any opportunity to earn money.
Do you remember, Clara, how long it took us to understand why our initiative wasn’t appreciated at all – we just got silence as a response and dark eyes, letting the inner chador down. I think it was only when we drove further down the Sawakin road that we saw the poorly assembled scrap metal- and cardboard-huts and women standing in front of them, waving the lorry drivers to stop for a ‘service and check-up’ of another kind.
How far away this Africa from our naïve ideas of English, German, European feminism we were proud (you more than me) to be activists of since our student times in Heidelberg. The Feministic Movement brought you back into my life with HiG, the two of us being already in England for some time. You asked me to join a new initiative for our black sisters in Africa…And our ways reunited again. For a while.
I think, I have the right subject now for today’s date of April Fool’s Day. And it will bring you back to some of these old days (- and to my old flame-revival-best-ever lover later).
It was an April many years ago, and without our past in mind, we had so many reasons to be happy: You were the International Women’s Organisation’s newly appointed coordinator for the Sudan for female development-aid. And my plan was to accompany the project with love and compassion and quite a nice sum of money. I was looking for directions that time in my life, wasn’t I, Clara, being so irritated by HiG constant love affairs. You never asked where the money came from: the money in my account, was a present from Auntie Viola who wanted me to use it for my personal “Wiedergutmachung”, my own reconciliation. (So “Help to help yourself” had a real meaning for me, Clara).
Auntie Viola called herself “a good Jew” and an “Anti-Zionist” – she was convinced that all the conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians would recreate all the prejudices against her race, my race. She taught me that I have to be cautious also towards Jewish people, Clara. She wanted me to spend the money for a non-Jewish, for a non-divisive project.
My heart beats fast, I just thought: Do you have any idea what it would feel like if we both could say loud and proud: We are Jews, wir sind Juden. I think we would get lost in our minds. I think I would be too happy – too much happiness can drive people crazy.
Are you happy now, where you are now, who you are now.
We were both so excited and happy, so proud to be part of the international female community, planning to establish worldwide training courses for female local development workers so that the White Face of development work vanishes and is replaced by black and yellow and women of whatever skin-colour.
And how proud I was to have a husband who had no strings attached to his unconditional love so that I could leave him behind without risking to lose him. And remember, Clara, HiG even got involved in our project by organizing technical support for drilling wells so that we were able to support the female-led households with the most precious good, water, to start growing vegetables for them to eat, for them to sell, even in the desolation of the smallest compounds of the slums.
Our Africa, Clara, our Sudan, our chosen “martyrdom” to work in stinking shit-holes like the slums around the “Harbour of the Hopeless”, my synonym for Port Sudan. Because only there, close to the Eritrean border, we were able to get additional money from international refugee-funds to also spend on native Sudanese ‘displaced’ from their villages by drought, by war, by bandits paid by the Italians or the Chinese or whoever at that time, in the nineteen-eighties, had the most money to invest in the most brutal form to get hold of the oil reserve in the Sudanese soil.
While we were safe in the North, Mercenaries were burning down villages, destroying fields and crops to get easier access to the black gold in Southern Sudan, killing every man in their way, abusing every woman they could get hold of. Afterwards, the half-dead women and their screaming children were split into pieces by their machetes. The ones who were able to flee from the South to the North, came to tell us, to tell the world, but nobody wanted to listen. We couldn’t bear to listen – we just wanted them to start working, doing something practical, creating something they could hold in their hands, something new to be proud of…
I am sure, Clara, the Americans knew of the massacres, the English and the Germans and the French and the Israelis and the Italians and the Chinese and the other African States – all waited and watched and sent their Secret Agents to Khartoum to circle over the place like vultures, in case there would be war over oil, in case there would be a new crisis on the other side of the Red Sea, in case there would be new trouble with Mr Gaddafhi.
And the only way for us to calm our conscience was to exploit the Services’ bad conscience by asking for money for the water- and the women’s project, inclusive the ones for the local prostitutes, to give all the gentlemen-agents the good feeling that their love-birds would be cared for. It wasn’t a very professional approach, but it worked, Clara, didn’t it. (The agents were really too stupid-macho to understand that they, the love-birds’ customers, were paying the bill, all bills anyway, like good customers do.)
We rented a nice house in a nice street in Port Sudan for our nice office cum home for the Help for Self-Help-Initiative-Forum – very big the house, actually, but we gave as a good reason that we would facilitate the women’s training curriculum.
Do you remember, Clara, after coming home from the slums to our comfortable house next to the few rich and influential people of Port Sudan with their Bougainvilleas and their Harems with beautiful walled gardens, we loved looking towards the desert to watch the sunset from our roof terrace. I will never forget the short evenings, the sudden nightfall, Clara. All these precious times we had all to ourselves, your sweet son from nowhere, little Uriel included.
You were so good in reciting your beloved sad and longing Rilke and Heine poems into the wildest flame of the orange, red, black sky, Clara. I saw the few fading clouds taking away any hope of any drop of rain at night. Only the shooting stars were raining down on us, so many, so fast, that we were not even able to think of something the shooting star could fulfil as our wish.
It was the third year of no rain. The flies were all over the place. They also came home with us and filled our Gin and Tonic glasses when we left them uncovered. They filled every little crack in the mosquito-tents and their emerald-green, turquoise armoured bodies were only over-shimmered by the brown-black gleam of the cockroaches.
In the beginning of our time in Port Sudan, out of the Harems’ gardens, nightingale songs ascended jubilantly into the heat of the night
while we, lying close to the stars, thought to be rightly considering ourselves as their genuine children, them being our original home we are longing to return one day.
I did think of HiG whenever there were shooting stars around, Clara. I always knew that I would come home to him one day. But I kept it to myself. I was so much more in love with you. In the beginning.
In the beginning, Clara, you and I, we are satisfied by our mutual closeness and beauty, we are our one and only “harem” when we lay down on whitest of white Egyptian cotton, covered only by the lightest mousseline, too exhausted to caress ourselves but holding hands instead until the first sign of dawn brings the young and beautiful voice of the muezzin into our ears to wake us up.
How easily one can get lost in fantasies of omnipotence, believing to always get what one wants. Remember, Clara, we addressed each other -partly ironically, partly seriously – as “Co-Workers with Higher Entities”. Oy vey, Clara, I still blush with shame. I know, I know, subconsciously Angst-driven as we were, our German ‘Übermensch-mentality’ let us lose the plot, the grip on reality. It was all so perfectly thought through, planned through, we only had to do efficient managerial work to organize money and means to establish female, self-efficient, self-sustainable, local businesses – the rest would be done by the indigenous women. We felt to be the Chosen Ones to choose a God-forgotten country, Africa’s biggest, the Sudan and in this vast country one of the most desperate places, Port Sudan.
And so altruistic we were, we thought, we should also try to offer help to whoever arrived at Port Sudan’s harbour every night, together with illegal freight of pigs and alcohol: prostitutes and refugees. Sometimes the latter two were identical: they had nothing to sell but their bodies. We thought we could help every woman in this stinking, dusty, shitty place Port Sudan, to regain strength and dignity. To be closer if not to their home-place but to their God or Prophet by earning money in an honourable way.
After only a few very harsh months we were in dire need of our refuge, the American Club in Khartoum, do you remember, Clara, how we were longing for good food and a stiff drink. After another few months, the international Jet-Set of Development Help became aware of our project and visitors came flocking in, and with them, more and more money for our project we hadn’t asked for in the first place.
And all the time, we were of the opinion that everything had to do with our efficiency and with our deep belief in ourselves. We were beautiful. We were successful. We were desirable. We were wealthy and healthy. We were so much in love. With the project. With ourselves. But not for long.
I am sure that it all started to fall apart in the American Club in Khartoum, the only place outside the Hilton-Hotel, to be allowed to offer alcohol for consumption behind very high walls to protect from the sharp eyes of Sharia-Law. And so typical for the two of us – it had to do with falling in love, remember.
In the middle of the upper-class-part of dusty, hot Khartoum, where bodyguards were sitting in the shade of the palm trees in front of every villa surrounded by high fences and iron-cast gates, their only activity being to chase the wild dogs with clumps of clay or flat little stones they collect from the embankment of the Nile, I see you and me, elegantly dressed in cool summer-linen (oh, yes, sometimes you listened to me and dressed appropriately) stepping out of a taxi to walk slowly, hand in hand, towards the military guards of the American Club, very casually waving our embassy/UN entry-permission.
And every time, in the very moment of the big gates opening under the huge palm trees, the scorching hot air changed to a cooling breeze. And the yellow, orange, white and magenta-purple shades of Bougainvillea and the heavy, oily perfumes of Magnolia Grandiflora, Camellia, Gardenia, Jasmine, Wild Roses, Stephanotis, Banana-plants, Mimosa trees, all these fulsome clouds of colour and perfume mixing with the sweat of the American Clubs’ most beautiful male and female prostitutes’ armpits and their secret triangle between their legs. And the sweet-sour breath of the forbidden alcohol meeting in mid-air with the classical after-shaves of the cool, calm and collectable gentlemen-secret agents from the CIA, KGB, BND, Stasi, Mossad, the military attachés from God knows where from. But I can’t remember meeting any Chinese people except from the waiters.
The Club’s guests were part of the many clichés met in every corner of the secret world of secret agents; around the huge swimming pool, you could easily recognize the KGB-people, too many muscles under too pale skin, their hair cut all with the same scissors and razor-blades and much too short – they were always dressed too old-fashioned in blue short-sleeved shirts and dark blue cotton trousers, with ugly dark brown leather-sandals on their feet, only topped by the German BND ones in Khaki outfit as if they would be desert-rat fighters. The agents of Her Majesty wore gentleman-like ties in the stripe-versions of Oxford and Cambridge colleges with their Indian Cotton Eton shirts over whiter shades of skin, shorts and socks. All CIA-people wore dark sunglasses, all the time. In the beginning, they were the only ones chewing, chewing like the mules outside in the dust of the streets on their bit, chewing, chewing gum all the time even when they were smoking, drinking, eating, and proudly telling us that they don’t stop chewing just because of making love, going to the toilet, driving a tank, shooting a dirty bastard. Later, you were able to recognize their favourite maitresses and love-boys by their munching jaws.
Fortunately for us, there were other people wandering about as well, handsome females and males casting flirtatious glances at lonely single ladies like you and me.
And one day (can you remember when, I can’t, Clara) – surrounded by a specific glow – your Josef, and my Karim were among the crowd. You already knew both, can’t remember from where or who had introduced whom; you seemed to fall for Josef, the Eritrean freedom fighter who bragged to work for both, the CIA and Mossad. And my Karim Amour – well, well, that was (and, oh yes, IS!) an over-dimension of manhood and passion I can still and again enjoy – all of it – and his eyes, his hands, so secretive, so dark, so soft, so gentle, so strong.
I am not sure whether, in the beginning, Karim was not more in love with you. I was determined to make the first move. I wanted to conquer him, I wanted to occupy him, I wanted to invade him, to oppress him, to imperialize him, yes, that’s what I wanted. And I knew that it would mean to be willing to walk a long, winding road to the goal. I was never interested in easy wins in contrast to you, dearest. You were not – let’s call it ‘selective’ enough for my taste. But never mind. The wind blows here, there and everywhere – any way.
Like you, Clara, Karim was quite jealous (he called it ‘competitive’) when I spent too much time with the top CIA-girl in town: all tanned, all muscles, highbrow Boston, New England ‘crème de la crème’ Miriam. Gosh, she was hot, hot and so much fun in the blue shade of the moon light-night when we prepared to sleep in her majestic Berber-Tent half-open on the top to watch the stars, to feel the gentle air-stream cooled by the comforting waving of huge purple banana leaves in the night breeze, and the white, heavy perfume of the Jasmine and the disturbing sweetness of the night-scent of the Datura-blossoms made us drunk with lust for each other’s sweet juices…
The American Club’s Chinese servants kept nightingales in cages, and the birds’ weeping melodies accompanied Miriam’s sweetest kisses until the first dawn – she was a better kisser than you, Clara. But, and I am sure you are pleased to hear that after such a long time – most of the time, in my dreams and after waking up, I was confused, calling Miriam “Clara”, searching for her rosebuds only to be irritated to find so much bigger ones than you had. (And I hope yours are still looking upright and pink into this world). Oh, how I am longing to see – oh, at least, your witty sweet smile around your lips, you my beautiful Jewish Princess. Let me have a fast, tender bite into your lips, let me lick the sweetest drop of blood from them, let me, let me….
Miriam was never close to my heart – only to my G-point, that was all. But she helped to save my life. With her sub-temperature charm she later told me that she didn’t like the idea that one of her former lovers would be ‘head-less’. (Even now, in the presence of my writing table, so many years later, I struggle to see you, Clara, as somebody who was asking for my head. But I can imagine you unscrupulously following your desires and dreams – and saying “Hoppla, oops”, being surprised to see a head rolling as a consequence of your pursuit.)
In my memory, you were never ever again so beautiful as you were in Africa. Especially in the mornings. Every time the Muezzin called for the first prayer, we put our cassette-recorder on with wild Israeli Kitsch-love-songs for the ceremony of brushing our teeth, standing naked next to each other at our wash basins, belly-dancing with our swinging hips towards each other. That was our unique way of every-morning-coming-to-terms again with the other reality surrounding our lives: the hunger, the desperation in the slums and the dying in the fast growing desert camps outside of Port Sudan. We really tried to help with food and water and medicine we organized through our ‘international connections’. I say “we”, Clara – but effectively, Karim and I did the main work – you always found the most ridiculous excuses (your ”migraine -attacks”) to stay away from the hungry and the dying and instead preferring to do “office work”.
We were really a quite clever, narcissistic, sentimental piece of white shit, as Karim Amour called us once, with a bright smile on his face to disguise the truth behind his words.
We could only give so little, we couldn’t risk to fail our women’s projects which we had difficulties to protect anyway, being foreign workers in a foreign, hostile country which was proud of the continuous Civil War with the South going into years of bloody brotherhood-killing.
I am still deeply embarrassed, Clara: What did we really KNOW, except from that we were surrounded by a bunch of bloody liars, missionaries for Jesus or for Mohammed or for oil or diamonds or for strategic military priorities. We were not apolitical creatures, luxurious twats like most of the women in the White Compounds, we knew about the Middle East hate-zone, the wars, the war criminals, the war-profiteers, the religions’ crusade against each other’s followers, roadside bombs, curfews to cast a hiding shadow over the looting by the military personnel throughout the night, Muslims setting fire to slums where there were too many Christians and believers in Jesus, the holy son of father God and the Holy Spirit, setting fire to slums with a mosque in their midst. We knew – we told everyone, we were neutral by visiting religious and non-religious elders to gain support for our women’s project. We had money in the project both from the Red Cross and the Blue Crescent, we felt so safe, I felt so safe.
On the other side of my thoughts, Clara, I clearly remember that we couldn’t have cared less, could we, as long as we considered ourselves belonging to the exclusive, high-handed club of Very Important Development People, part of the Very Important International Women’s Movement.
Shame on us: There were so many local women running small enterprises better than we thought we would need to initiate. Nothing was exclusive. Not even the lies we told each other about our hope, about our glory, about our “Promised Land”.
I am still not sure whether I would have had the same endurance of continuing working in the Sudan if I had not been totally lost in the pink clouds and the sea of red roses, established in my mind by the lust, the dependency, the madness of my love for Karim. I really wanted to impress Karim Amour and I wanted to show him that I could not only live in his country but also do something good for his homeland.
Why have you betrayed me, Clara, why have you reported me to the Secret Military Police of the Sudan for spying for the State of Israel in order to help the Military Junta, which was waiting in the backdrop of the Sudanese Stage to overthrow the government of President Numerei, one of the idols of the African Independence-Movement. You knew as everyone knew that espionage was a deadly sin – why did you do that to me, your favourite sister of hearts, your loveress.
I told you before that I am not sure whether I really want to hear an answer. You know why, don’t you. Because I fear it could be outrageous and ridiculous and appallingly banal: Sadistic jealousy concerning Miriam and Karim Amour brought you to betray me, your loveress, and to get your Silberling, your pieces of silver, for your Judas-Kiss you gave me in front of all the officials and guests at the American Club while we were playing the weekly, drunken Charade to identify the biggest liars and betrayers. A dangerous play, it was, comparable to Russian Roulette because we realized, didn’t we, Clara, that every following weekend the one losing out at this satanic charade, had vanished and was never seen again, in the slogan of the club, he/she ‘was sent home’.
Your violating, open tongue-kiss that evening paralysed me, stripped me naked, exposed me as a lesbian in front of the American Club crowd, and even worse, in front of my beloved Karim Amour. The Muslim drivers from the club refused to drive me home afterwards and spit at me. I took our Land Rover from the Club, drove to the airport and was lucky to get the morning flight back to Port Sudan. How relieved I felt to see our house cum office again: flying up the stairs, I opened the front door – and the next door that I remember was opened for me, was a much bigger one, the door to the Secret Police station… I ended up in prison; the security section was my new address for all torturers around. Don’t tell me, that you did not know. I suspect you are still a grandiose liar.
I will never forget that the nightingales sang heartrendingly, beautifully, heavenly that night at the American Club, bringing tears to my eyes.
So many days and nights followed where there were no more body liquid for tears for me to lose. They didn’t try to starve me to death. After they realized that an official beheading might cause a little problem with their white friends, they wanted me to die of thirst. Until today, I still don’t know who ‘they’ were. And whether you belonged to ‘them’. I hope, if you did, that ‘they’ come to haunt you for some time, too. Not too long, you should not die.
I do not forget, Clara. I only love you, not more, not less. No white lie hidden behind my confession, no obscure wish for revenge. You can trust me as much as you can trust yourself. That sounds quite complicated, riddled with contradictions, doesn’t it.
I hope that they give you enough to drink, Clara, in your comfortable home you are in now. One always hears horrible stories about forgetful people dying of dehydration because the nurses are either just too stupid to know or can’t be bothered to realize that their ‘clients’ are so far away in ‘Cuckoo Land’ that they have no wish to drink or eat. You need to DRINK, Clara, don’t forget to drink, my local doctor from the village tells me, it’s one of the best preventions for Alzheimer’s. Not that I think that you are that seriously ill, dearest mine, same blood-incest-loveress. I will not believe you are innocent, anyway – so don’t try one of your easy, cheap tricks on me, please.
I hope that my letters are in general thought provoking and a healthy memory training. You should pick up missing bits and pieces from the past easily with them. It’s like a crossword puzzle – to put the right words into the right places to solve the riddle, I very often have to try myself.
During the last hour, April Fool’s Day has slipped into the normality of the second day of April, and I am going to bed now, in my lonely bed, no one next to me, and the night wind rises to new strength. I listen what the wind has to tell me, he has travelled far, much further than the two of us will ever travel in our lives, Clara. But with our thoughts we can be everywhere, very fast.
Good night, Clara – I am with you now, and I kiss you with gentle tenderness to let go of you, only holding your hand in my hand tonight so that we are not too cold in the deep dark of the night and not too lonely.
5th of April
Uriel just called telling me that he thought of the two of us, belly dancing for him and that he will send me an email later – I can only hope that he imagined us being young again, Clara!
I sometimes like to think of the two of us being ‘sisters of one heart and one mind’, and still COMPETING with each other. We always liked to fight for control and dominance. Perhaps you can’t think of anything in this context. I give you an idea how vicious I could have been, ‘sister’: How about your main achievement in life – in my opinion – even so you didn’t bother to care for him: your son Uriel. I could have easily taken revenge for all what you did to me by even further alienate Uriel from you, until he would start hating you. But I didn’t. Instead, I told him that you love him – as much as you are able to love, adding another true lie to our family story.
I am not sure whether Uriel remembers from the past that I picked him up in front of my car, leaving Port Sudan: so desperate was he to get away and come with me that he threw himself in front of my car when I left the compound to fulfil my obligation to leave the Sudan in 24 hours after my prison-release.
I was desperate, too, Clara, and I could have easily killed Uriel, I was on such an adrenaline high to reach the airport outside in the desert in time to catch the only airplane leaving Port Sudan that day – being probably the only flight for weeks and months to come because of the Civil War raging even around Port Sudan, not noticed by the international community, just ‘monitored’ by Secret Services and unscrupulously fuelled by the Eritrean Liberation Front. They moved in with more and more soldiers dressed as civilians in order to coordinate the smuggling of weapons and heavy machinery for their bloody fight for independence of their homeland from the central government in Addis Ababa. And they controlled all routes to my precious getaway that was waiting for me outside Port Sudan, in the melting heat of 55 degrees Celsius, in the middle of nowhere with one seat reserved for me by Karim Amour who was supposed to sit next to me as my personal protection.
And instead rushing to reach a place of safety for my own life, I had to collect this little anorectic bundle of misery, bones sticking out of papery skin, full of ticks and fleas and take him with me as my personal “protégé”. And here I have to praise the Eritrean Liberation Front: when they checked my passport which was ‘equipped’ with one hundred US Dollar-notes on every other page, they carefully turned all the pages and, hearing about my misery – Uriel, being so little but so good at speaking their language, Uriel moved their hearts, and their command via short wave radio message let the plane wait for me and Uriel. But no Karim Amour was there to accompany me – at the airport I only met the roaring wind, picking up more and more sand so that there was no time left to wait and see, but to accept the strong arm of the Co-pilot to drag me and Uriel into the plane that had the propellers running from the moment we arrived.
So, in Karim Amour’s place, Uriel sat silently but with a silly, happy smile on his dirty face next to me, and he did not leave me until I brought him to the safe haven of a private boarding school – also thanks to the financial support of HiG – where Uriel was thriving during the following years to become the very best pupil of the whole, high-achieving school. But in the beginning Uriel continued his ‘silent times’, Clara, he did not speak a word for the first six months so I had to play the interpreter all the time. Fortunately, this school coped with all obstacles Uriel tried to challenge them with. What a proud day that was, to see him with his classmates, all dressed up, on the stage in the Great Hall, waiting to receive their baccalaureate certificate. Uriel so mature, so tall, so slim, so handsome with long black, curly hair surrounding his very Jewish-pale, radiant face. And his smile from his eyes into my eyes from that distance sparkled like the Blue Star, you remember, don’t you, the Blue Star, our chosen Star of Wonder, Clara.
Where have you been all these years. You vanished so many times in my life, I can’t recall any longer for how long you were gone, Clara. I call it ‘the time of silence’. Auntie Viola had her time of silence, and so did Frieda. Our mothers and our fathers had their time of silence. And there was the silence between our mothers and us, their daughters, Clara, was there not. HiG and Karim did and do have their silence, too. Regarding the Sudan times, I still don’t speak about it with HiG, and I am grateful for his silent acceptance of my ‘silent times’; whatever happened in my past, whatever I am trying to forget, he never asks questions.
Silent times are there to hide memories that can’t be shared or to willingly forget them. I think that I might have forgotten things, perhaps even reasonable explanations from you, Clara. Perhaps we have exchanged stories, true ones, Clara – if we have done so, I am sorry but I no longer remember them.
But one can be also silent in order to not forget, to not share, to keep a secret and nurture it with silence to feel special and outstanding, Clara. One can do that but the risk is there to get lost, isolated in one’s own mind.
I still struggle to understand what you did to your son, and why: You were not in Port Sudan when I fled with Uriel – you had abandoned him weeks, months ago, on the day of my imprisonment: Our sweet, huge German neighbour from the Christian School from opposite the road was on the same plane leaving Port Sudan. She was reduced to tears when she saw me and Uriel reunited, relieved that he was with me because he had run away in the morning and she had searched for him all day before reluctantly giving money to another neighbour to take care of Uriel if he would turn up again while she had to catch the flight to Khartoum. She told me that she had cared for Uriel since she had learned about my “misfortune” and you, Clara, leaving without Uriel “…on a hot, lazy afternoon when even the cats couldn’t bother to take any notice of the biggest rats in front of their noses.” While Uriel was in his local Arab primary school, she saw a black, air-conditioned limousine arriving in front of our house cum office, (we know which cars, don’t we Clara, those limousines only the Sudanese Ministry of the Interior used, sometimes lending them to their ‘colleagues’ of the KGB, CIA, BND, MI5/6, or whatever Secret Service). “This luxurious car waited fifteen minutes, I could not see all of it, but heard car doors opening and closing”, the German neighbour said, ”and then it drove off and I forgot about it. I was only alerted by Uriel in the evening, calling for his mother and for you, Karla.”
Imagine hearing his voice, Uriel’s voice, calling in despair for you, Clara, for you and for me, until the night fell and your German friend, as a caring neighbour, took him in.
The following morning she went back to the house, Clara, to find neither of us had come home but the Eritrean nanny sitting already on the kitchen floor to prepare her traditional spaghetti for the breakfast (I am sure you remember the Eritrean nanny trying to convince us that spaghettis are a genuine Eritrean national dish.) And she was the one telling our neighbour that friends have told her that I had been arrested and nobody knew what had become of me. Your neighbour started searching the house and found in Uriel’s playroom your good-bye note, Clara and a pledge to take care of Uriel together with quite a lot of money and – to her surprise – Silberlinge, pieces of silver she thought was a good idea to have with this galloping Sudanese inflation. (Except from the Swiss “Blood-Gold” there is almost nothing closer to indicate “Blood-money” than Silberlinge, Clara – did you get it for ‘selling’ me to the Secret Sudanese Police and was there no ‘smell’ connected to them you could have found repelling enough to reject it.)
From the moment of leaving the house and moving in with the neighbour, Uriel fell silent – for a long time. Two exceptions I would like to tell you (I forgot to mention them earlier): On the plane leaving Port Sudan, he spoke his first word with a rough sounding voice like a rook: “Thanks”, and his little hand slipped into mine to build a fist in the palm of my hand. Only when we arrived at his new school in the South of England, he spoke his second word, another “Thanks”. And then Uriel continued his ‘silent time’ into his time at the boarding school – but that I have told you already.
I can still feel his hands in the palms of my hands now. I do think – and I told Uriel the same again and again (even so he was not keen at all to hear or to believe it) – that you tried to love him. But you must have told him – honestly, but how brutally – you could not forgive him that his birth ruined your secret beauty, and that you gained weight afterwards. That’s what Uriel told me in Berlin in December. What a liar, what a vain and hollow person you can be, you have been, Clara.
I would like you to acknowledge that you are in the best tradition of our mothers with this attitude. You swore by all you held dear, never to ever be like our mothers. You did not want to be a selfish, egoistical (I add: ‘Jewish’, Clara) mother either, throwing yourself over the whole life of your child like a sucking octopus, living your life through your child. But you drifted to the extreme opposite, to neglect your child. Yes, I am aware what I write here – no perfect mother ever exists in this world, at least, not in the eyes of her children.
However, what our mothers did to us with their silence and their true stories of lies, our fathers with their endless bedtime-stories, their mutual ‘Märchenstunde’ – I hope, it will haunt their souls wherever they are. I took the consequence to have no children. You went for the risk. And I ended up with your child to be cared for by me. Should I be grateful. I do love Uriel.
Let me assure you, Clara, no parent-universe is wide and far enough to flee from the curse of a child. I know what I am talking about.
One question pops up in my head again and again, and I just wonder whether you can tell me: did you or did you not know that you are a Jewish girl, through and through. If you know, who told you and why. Was it me, after having received the ‘Initiation’ from Auntie Viola. I can’t remember it at all. You see, Clara, forgetting is not a privilege reserved for you only, ha.
I had never any idea what ‘Jewish’ would mean to me. After I had listened and had to believe Auntie Viola’s stories, my attitude changed to self-inflicted total ambivalence towards this ‘subject’. I kept it all to myself (Friend Donald promised to keep everything secret). I realized that I would always be on the wrong side anyway: Germans feeling guilty towards Jews, trying to avoid them wherever possible, Jews still hating Germans or at least, rejecting them whenever possible. And I also had to take into consideration the Israel-Palestine conflict and the ugly wars fought for the right to live on the same piece of land.
Considering the Sudan incident, did you talk about any Jewish background, or more realistically, about ME BEING JEWISH when you told them the Spy-for-Israel-lie. I am convinced, I am certain, that you did it, I would like to scream that into both of your ears, Clara, until your head explodes, all the garbage inside being thrown out, and my Jewish Princess (I never called you so, it’s only now, since writing letters to you, that I dare to caress you with this endearment), you, my loveress from the past re-appears ever more beautiful, with all the dark-and-stone-heartedness vanished into the haze of the forgettable past.
Try to understand what I believe happened: You, Clara, with your morbid jealousy, started to hate Karim from the moment I fell in love with him even though you had to admit that he was our one and only efficient intermediary to organize and supply small business-permissions or the desperately needed medicine and water to the Port Sudan-concentration camps.
You started to have sleepless nights and restless days, we went into different beds at night, into different bathrooms in the morning, we only shared luncheons and dinners because of Uriel. You went downhill, Clara, your ability to analyze, to judge, all just went steadily downhill – to the point of accusing Karim of mismanagement, of being “A thief of our means”. And you started screaming and yelling like a wailer that he has stolen an even more precious good: my love for you. You later apologized by saying that you had just too much to drink that night – but you and I knew better, Clara, didn’t we.
Taking this attitude of yours into account, and the almost pathological nature of it, I clearly see that you must have liked to make me believe that Karim was the culprit, the informer, that he betrayed me so that he could run our then famous, world acclaimed development project with constant cash- or credit flow, as the newly (self-) appointed director. Here you are actually right – Karim became the new head immediately after I went to prison – but just as an interims solution because no one else, no female contestant had put herself forward for the job. But in contrast to what you might think, I was, I am grateful that Karim took over because you had abandoned the project and I had no chance to continue – neither as a prisoner nor as a despicable ‘persona non grata’ by the Sudanese Government, only let out of prison on condition that I leave the Sudan in 24 hours.
If not Karim, who would otherwise have cared to organize continuous support for our projects; who would have given a protective umbrella to the evolving small businesses. Ach Clara, my heart aches, remember, remember at least a few: beautiful, bright young orphan Ayishah, the bread maker; the thin as a rake, close to starving Maria, now an acclaimed tailor with lots of huge women-clients for bespoke Saris; Dahab, the mute, producing spaghetti and unleavened Durra-loafs her old mother sells on the market; the divorced Basmah, mother of four youngsters, with her vegetable grocery starting to see the cloud’s silver lining; Fadwa, the water merchant, earning enough money to send her former pimp home; the market stall administrator, traumatized, brave Husniyah, the only survivor of her village’s massacre by the militia; Suhayla, the refugee who left behind her professorship in Asmara to teach reading and writing Tigrinya in the slums’ only day- and evening school, for an hourly fee that enables her to eat and pay back the small credit she needed to furnish the classroom; Ghusoon, who learned to speak up for herself, leaving her abusive husband, establishing a business with her artistic Henna-make-up skills to make every beautiful girl or bride of the surrounding quarters longing for an appointment with her; Reema, former secretary from the South with no recollection of her past except of her former profession, now tea- and cake maker and supplier for afternoon and evening Henna decoration-sessions at Ghusoon’s hut in the slum.
I herewith greet all former ‘sisters’ of ours, Clara – I hope they forgive me, I am deeply saddened that I failed them, damaging their reputation, soiling their honour through my imprisonment (it’s a world-known saying, “Where there is smoke, there is fire”). I could not say Good-bye to any of them but it was a relief to later learn from Karim that they are all successful businesswomen, even spreading their skills by initiating independent networks throughout the region. All of them have paid back any initial start-money in full.
Since I started talking about Port Sudan, opening another of my closed rooms of my Angst-Haus, Clara, the wild dragons of fear want to tear me apart again: During daytime, clouds of fog change into white cotton sheets, covering corpses, one row after another, stretching far into the black-stoned desert; tree roots and brambles in the woods become desperate human claws, tugging at my legs, at my hands to be rescued from the jaws of death. At night, the call of the badgers, the hauling of the foxes are the never ending screams I could not hear but see in the eyes of dying mothers asking to take care of their starving children. Kyrie eleison.
I was too traumatized myself to stay in contact with Karim or any other person of the project for a long time during which HiG never asked questions, just held me in his arms to calm my screaming during sleepless nights. I didn’t know and didn’t want to know whether you are still alive – or not, Clara.
Without Uriel and the obligation to care for him, I might not have survived, Clara.
I still love you. I don’t know why.
Until you are back from the Dark side of the Moon, I can’t be over the Moon, ever.
I am perfectly aware of the fact that I get easily obsessive with my Jewish-ness.
I had to suffer too much, I had to endure agony.
I can easily imagine that you get a little bit ‘agitated’ through this read, Clara, but you can’t flee from the truth. And if you have been a traitor, don’t make it worse by denying it.
I didn’t have a clue that you were already working for the Service, via the CIA. You had to do ‘slave work’ – it’s not a fabrication of lies, no, no, Clara, my former CIA love affair Miriam told me only recently when we met in Paris. She herself brought you to your recruiting officer during a meeting in Geneva at the Lake side of her UN-office, on one of your “recreational trips” you allowed yourself while I was still in Port Sudan, still in love with Karim.
I repeat, Clara, what I wrote in an earlier letter to you: if they bother you, let me know; if they call you too often, if you want to have these telephone calls stopped, tell me. I am now in a position to do something for you in the Secret Service – times have changed, I am on the up, you are on the down – so let me help you.
Apart from pointing out the fact that Karim became the head of our project and received perhaps all the praise for our hard work – how would you try to convince me to believe in Karim’s responsibility regarding my Sudanese imprisonment. You would make me aware that it was unusual for the American Club to accept African people at their special event-evenings. Why was Karim there. You are right, Clara – I was surprised to see him, I know for sure that I did not invite him for that specific night to accompany me to the Club because of the Club’s charade-evening at the swimming pool. Officially, locals were only allowed to enter the Club in the company of a club member anyway. It should have made me so aware of something unusual going on here because even your lover Josef was present. And Josef was really quite dark, his skin was. Karim, in contrast, he is the lightest of a Berber-skinned person because of his white Jewish-Belgian mother and his Berber-North-African-beautiful father. And he was a prince with best connections to the higher ranks of the Sudanese government as well as to various Secret Services. That would be the other reason for you to suggest that Karim was the traitor – with his good connections he would be able to discreetly arrange any arrest he wanted to happen – and would have been able to immediately free me from any imprisonment.
I know you can’t stand being contradicted but Karim was not ‘omnipotent’, there were so many rivalries between different fractions of the government, of Secret Services. I would like to suggest that you – having already the revolting charade-kiss in your mind and wanting to have the most upsetting spectators present – had invited both of them, Karim and Josef, on that very night into the Club, supported by your very special Arab Conjoint (because the Americans didn’t like “coloureds” around at Charade-nights), the Secret Service person you always kept secret, the one who brought you out of Khartoum in that very same night in his private plane, perhaps even out of the Sudan – you told me that he had a night-flight-permission, at least to reach Cairo’s military airport. (Typical for you, the only further ‘specification’ you revealed to me when I asked you about him in Port Sudan was that he had a “hot stick in his pants, strong enough to belly-dance upon.” Pah, Clara, pah.)
You vanished from the Sudan while the henchmen waited for me to enter the office in Port Sudan. At least you made sure that they did come to catch me while Uriel was still at school. Don’t refuse to listen, Clara, please, it’s hard enough for me to recollect the past, so you could at least listen! You must have been informed about my arrest – because you would not have sent money for Uriel, brought by a black limousine, driver unknown.
You are always welcome to tell me another version of all the events.
Karim’s role might still be not very clear for you, I am aware of that, Clara. But for me it’s important to know that he loves me. He would not have gone through all the trouble to find me again. I want to tell you all about it – but at a later date, it’s a long letter already – and you and I, we need a break soon. Yes, he is still the prince, the prince of my heart, oh yes! Karim Amour has kept his promise, even so he said it in French: ”Je reviens!” Ach, I really like to believe that he is – and was – deeply in love with me, only with me.
Clara, it is painful for me but I re-‘vitalize’ the past to wake you up, to shake you with words back into your viciousness, come on – fight with me. Again. I don’t like to win so easily. Challenge me as I challenge you.
It can be cathartic for both of us.
Clara, I still believe that you are just playing one of your favourite plays’ leading role, as always, you and nobody but you. I remember that you were quite easily seduced to give up reality for the privilege of an eccentric performance.
Throughout the time I am writing this letter to you the cold fog from the sea has built white walls enclosing the house and me with a chilled silence that makes me shiver.
And something else brushes my heart with icy needles, I just read the email from Uriel – I want you to hear what he has to say:
“… I am not sure whether she (- he means YOU, Clara!) recognizes me any more, she does not react at all, looks straight through me, no movement of her head or her eyes.
I spoke to the doctor and the day nurses of St John’s Wood Care centre – where her apartment is – they are all very nice people, quite relaxed, no stress. They say that they think that she (that is YOU, again, Clara!) will not get better but worse – this is what they expect. They call it now officially ‘Dementia’. It scares me a lot and I think whether I should keep that to myself because, as her son, I might get gaga soon, too. Please, can you email me back.
Your letters are read to Clara as soon as they arrive. She doesn’t show any reactions to them. But she is stumm during the reading and the nurses and carers think that’s a good sign. So, continue writing, it may reach some layers of her brain somehow, you never know….”
What should I do with you, tell me, Clara. I can’t believe you, I can’t believe you are suffering from Dementia. But I have to take Uriel’s fears seriously, I know. I sent an email to Uriel, assuring him that, even if the diagnosis of ‘Dementia’ is correct, it is common knowledge that this illness is hardly ever an inherited one, therefore he should not be scared to get it. I just received Uriel’s feedback, expressing his grateful relief. He still has every trust in me.
I take a break now, I am hungry, it gets late, I haven’t eaten anything yet, my brain is empty, I feel for you, I feel for me, I feel lost if you get lost. I want an answer from you. I deserve an answer. I don’t know why I start crying now but I had too many occasions in my life to gulp back my tears.
I am going to prepare hotdogs for my lonely dinner, one of your favourite, mouth-watering snacks I could always cheer you up with, Clara – but I always eat it with a knife and fork, I have not forgotten my manners, I have never ever gulped my meals down like you.
Sometimes my hate dissolved into tears.
Sometimes we cried together.
Remember, Clara, the night we both chose the Blue Star in the night sky to be our ‘Star of Wonder’; a magic night, the velvet air filled with gentle breezes of our perfumes whenever our ‘secret places’ were gently moved between our legs, melting into waves of the sensuous, voluptuous fragrance from the Magnolia Grandiflora, her white flowers’ shining lights accompanying us into the dark distance of the night sky. We looked both up, high up into the trillions of stars of the Milky Way, just above us, holding our hands close to our hearts and then you pointed to the West and there was a star, so brilliantly bright blue, and it seemed that he sent signals of blue sparkles into our eyes and we both said in unison: ”The Blue Star of Wonder”.
That night, in a most extraordinary song-contest, the nightingales competed fiercely with each other: every interval, every breathing time was immediately filled with just another piteous wailing note of longing, subtle melancholia or rapid cascades of wild, exuberant joy. You must remember this night, Clara.
I clearly see our faces in front of my inner eye: So young, so vulnerable, so flooded by tears from the yearning of our little hearts to experience love that is able to hold the pain and the gladness of a nightingale’s song.
I kiss you ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ in our dreams with one of our favourite songs and poems from our childhood. (I hope you don’t mind, it might be that my mother wants to join in, this time not timidly humming but with regained, jubilant, heavenly voice.)
“Dichterliebe”, Poet’s Love, “Liedercyklus”, Cycle of Songs,
By Robert Schumann and Heinrich Heine.
Song 2, Poem II:
Aus meinen Tränen spriessen From my tears spring
Viel blühende Blumen hervor, many blooming flowers forth
Und meine Seufzer werden and my sighs become
ein Nachtigallenchor, a nightingale choir,
und wenn du mich lieb hast, Kindchen and if you have love for me, child,
schenk’ ich Dir die Blumen all’, I’ll give you all the flowers,
und vor deinem Fenster soll klingen and before your window shall sound
das Lied der Nachtigall. The song of the nightingale.
2nd of May
Oh Clara, what a change this month brings right from the beginning: The weather is fantastic, almost too hot already, and the white and pink early-flowering roses and the white and purple lilac and the yellow primrose jasmine and the blue sea of bluebells, they all let their colours and perfumes explode into the depths of the blue sky while a gentle breeze caresses the meadow’s grasses to wave their young shouts into a silvery green sea. I sit with my laptop at the garden table in my wisteria-gazebo underneath its cascades of airy, sweet scented light blue flowers, and the dappled shade gives a deep intensity for the view into the far distance of the blue hills of the North Downs.
Come closer to my table, sit down next to me, dearest Herzblatt, and listen with me to the endless bird songs – and yes, between all these voices you can clearly enjoy the nightingale melody again. This time, there are only two couples in our garden, the males’ song is a duet throughout the day, throughout the night: they celebrate the nesting season so passionately that their songs only stop for the short hours of dawn before the sweet and sad melodies accompany me again through the whole night and into the dusk of the new day.
I sometimes fear that the high pitch tremolo will break their heart. Or that it will break mine. I sometimes fear that my eyes don’t have enough tears left. Quite often – and recently more often – I am suddenly overwhelmed by a dark, numb sadness that let my tears flow without giving me any relief. (The only help, if HiG is not around, is to look into the mirror and to try to laugh – I think, I told you about this good exercise before, Clara.) I am determined to be happy. Or at least to appear happy. And to make others happy. I bet you are not sure whether you are one of them. Have another guess.
How wonderful the determination of the nightingale’s song to attract love – the melodies so longing but also so assuring that love has the purpose to fulfil dreams. Male and female nightingales rejoice in their parenthood, he is jubilant, she is breeding in the shade of their chosen home – underneath my Rhododendron decorum, now in full abundant bloom, looking overwhelmed by the exuberant green perfume of his bell-shaped white flower-trusses. The nest is so close to my writing table that I can see between the scattered dry oak and birch leaves four olive-brown eggs which seem to have their own lives: they are moving slightly as soon as mother is away for a short break. I am sure the youngsters will hatch any minute, it seems that they have already their own language because you can pick up the faintest, gentle little “cur-cur” when you bend your ears down closer to the ground-nest, Clara.
But not too close, otherwise you get the parent’s peck into your nose, quite painful, to remind you that you are human and therefore you have no right to be so close to their beloved brood.
Just compare my father, my mother with them, Clara – what a morbid contrast: Mother playing the music, father playing “breeding” inclusive to feed me with too many of my favourite sweets and to ‘sit’ on me. And to not wanting me to flee the nest, never ever. I forgive him. Now. Because he is dead. No, that’s not true, it’s a white lie: I can only pretend to know what forgiveness is. Instead…ach, Clara, I never told you why your father and my father died so quickly, almost at the same day. But wait, later, not all news at once. It won’t kill you. You’ll survive.
It’s soothing to know that all bird-catchers are ignoring the nightingale now – it’s May, their expertise telling them that you can only catch a nightingale able to continue to live and sing in captivity, when you catch them before they have reunited with their female partner, meaning around the middle of April, because the males are always first to come home from Africa or other warmer places, producing these enormous, overwhelming concerts to attract their lover from as far away as the other side of the world.
And when you catch the male nightingale on these days in April, the days and nights of waiting for his one and only love to arrive, when you get him into a cage and put him outside your door into the open, he will continue singing and singing and singing and never giving up his hope to see his lover flying to him, reuniting, creating new life.
It can take months of the most wonderful love songs filling the air before the male bird will die of exhaustion – I strongly believe that he does not die of hopelessness and desperation, never ever. The strongest longing love lets the male nightingale sing the longest. If you catch the bird after his celebrated reunion with his love, he will not survive the day of the catch in your cage.
It’s this old knowledge from the past, taught by Frieda that made me so sad in the American Club in Khartoum when I heard the nightingales singing in their little bamboo cages scattered around the park; I am still not sure whether it’s true what Karim Amour told me, that these nightingales are a totally different species from the European ones.
”But they come from Africa to visit us in England, Karim.”
“Shssh, ‘Star-sparkle’ (oh yes, that was his wonderful name for me from our first night at the Club – he never called me anything else), don’t be sad, no reason for it, enjoy the song, think of me singing to you that song forever and ever”. But I could see that he himself was deeply saddened.
Lips-opening kisses in the dark of the night.
Karim Amour’s “Shssh” always brings back sweet memories. Like the month of May does, always. Do you remember, Clara, we licked from each other’s lips, oh yes, from all our lips, the perfume of the roses and orange blossoms and we kissed the sweetest kisses with the honey, sucked from the little lilac-blossoms.
I phoned your nurse Esther today – she was so nice telling me that you like to sit in the garden of the care centre all day long, weather permitting. So I just imagine that you see the same little movements of light and shade through wisteria flowers and leaves as I do. Do you also have to sneeze from time to time as if the shade is tickling your nose. “Gesundheit”, “Bless you”, dearest.
Esther reassured me that you like to get letters from me and that you quite often ask whether there is another letter for you. But she thinks that you can’t write any letter any longer yourself, Clara. I encouraged your nurse to give you a good kick into your fat arse and not to accept everything you say or do, just because you might have told her that you are a Jewish princess. She had quite a good laugh. I really still seem to know you and your stories.
With this beautiful May day in mind and HiG having made such beautiful and refreshing love to me last night until the early morning hours when he had to leave for a mysterious London-meeting with a solicitor he worked for as a medico legal expert witness, I can write to you all day long. What a luxury that is, isn’t it, to be able to write to you without the pressure of postponing other important duties I have.
I just watched a very young blackbird filling his beak very neatly with sunflower-seeds like his mother had done to feed him in the past, when out of the dark undergrowth appears a juicy, fat snail moving directly towards him. You should have observed the deep conflict our little bird was stressed into by this alternative delicatessen, Clara – blinking with his eyes, looking down at the snail, up again, down again, moving one little jump closer towards the snail only to make it disappear in its snail-house. That made him angry, so angry that he started to bombard the snail house with his beak, but loosing through this action all his so carefully collected sunflower-seeds.
Next appears father-blackbird from behind, eats all the sunflower-seeds while his youngster still demonstrates his determination to open the snail-house, relentlessly hammering on. Possibly attracted by the sound, mother-blackbird appears, immediately pulls the snail-house out of reach from her youngsters activities, flies with the snail up to the little stonewall next to my garden-table and crashes the snail-house with two strong beats onto the stone, gets hold of the now naked snail, flies back to her youngster, stands in front of him, struggling to keep the snail still, youngster-blackbird starts begging with wide-open eyes and mouth, only to see the whole snail in one long gulp vanish into his mother’s mouth.
Your son Uriel might find this description of a greedy, egoistic mother quite appropriate to characterize you, Clara. I told you: I do compete for his affection, even his love, with you. He has no mercy for you, just apathy. I don’t know whether you had any mercy for him. I am sure he begged for it. You didn’t have any mercy for me, to let me end up in prison. That was your way to teach a lesson about fidelity, was it, Clara. How disproportionate, how mad your jealousy was. The law of cause and effect will take centre stage: You have to realize ‘what goes round comes round’ and to be strong enough to cope with other people’s rough tongue. Sometimes it might be more than you have bargained for. We’ll see. I have no doubt that you are more than able to cope, strongest of all my lovers.
Let’s change to something more uplifting.
How about to continue the story of my lover Karim Amour and me. You still know, Clara, you cannot forget – love-matters makes life so loveable, don’t they. And the month of May is always considered as the month of new love. Karim came back into my life, as in a dream, a sweet dream, a wet dream, oh ja and yes.
He came back, following the male nightingales, came back from Africa and with him came the sweetest melancholia that still lingers in my heart, mind and soul.
The nightingale song leads me back to these mad days of the American Club and our corruptible morality through our passion for beauty, not distinguishing between male and female representatives of lust and excess. So, to remind ourselves, Clara, the exquisite, stunningly beautiful Karim, the son of the wealthy upper class Sudanese father and Jewish-Belgian mother, was seduced by me, in the American Club, in the first night of our encounter, to make passionate love behind the rusting, rotten pavilion that was swallowed by the darkness of the night in the back of the Club, not watched by any guard-battalion of drugged-out Eritrean and dogs from the street.
It was the most natural thing to do, the seduction was a conjoint one, definitely, Clara. Alongside the pool towards the bar where the small path leads to the palm and jasmine garden in the back of the club, we approached each other like magnetically attracted metals, like somnambulists, seeing the moon in the other’s eyes, no faltering in keeping the conventional conversation flowing – only a hint of short breath. I still see me with my red silk cocktail dress and my red high stilettos, absolutely and ridiculously over-dressed, risking falling into the pool or getting stuck with my high heels in the cracks of the concrete around the pool, just totally careless because I was sure that the Angels of Love carry me on their wings.
I remember that Karim started to say sweet compliments about my eyes which I accepted gracefully and responded to with a very vulgar look at his manhood, registering that he wears it left, Clara – and to my surprise and joy, he let his hand follow my eyes, very lightly touching his elegant black silk trousers there and staying for a break of a second just to show me some movements down there.
At this moment in time, I remember that the music and the voices from the swimming pool and the bar seemed to be so remote that I started to search for his right hand and, holding it very gently open, guiding it into my red cocktail dresses’ décolleté, gliding into the palm of his hand my still soft left nipple, with the other hand slowly opening the zip of his trousers. And what a joy awaited me, Clara, his gorgeous cock so generously and obediently rising out of his bed of smallest little curls of hair into my hand, seemingly comfortably familiar with its softness.
And all the nightingales of the earth were surrounding Karim and me with their melodies, hiding our love-making-noises of lust-groaning, screams of utter delight…we kissed, licked, sucked, caressed with hands and fingertips and dancing tongues our precious parts… ah, and then you lift me up, Karim Amour, I call your name again and again, Karim Amour, and I start dancing on your cock, making it sliding deeper and deeper into my flooded softness… ah, your dark-pink nipples rising in the dark of your muscular breasts, meet mine again and again, letting us explode to the ecstasy of every part of our body in high waves, in long waves, in endless waves with white horses riding through the night of our affair de coeur.
Cock-a-hoop, cock-eyed I was from that night onwards, Clara. Karim Amour and I knew that this was a love affair, perhaps with a short ‘attention-span’ but nevertheless a necessity for both of us to find again and again, sometimes the most bizarre, excuses to see each other again.
I need a blanket – it gets cold, the sun has already turned to the West, leaving the condensation trials of the airplanes criss-crossing the sky to turn into the evening-delight of lightest orange and turquoise.
Good time, right time for a Gin and Tonic with fresh lime from my greenhouse. Prosit, Clara. No, we do not let the crystal glasses clink, that is too common, dearest – you remember, that was the only thing our mothers told us to have been taught by their mother: how ridiculous was that.
You may drink kisses from my lips throughout the evening, throughout the night.
15th of May
Dear Clara, I just thought that I have to be aware that other people read my letters to you and can check you out for any reactions.
I don’t want to change my way of therapeutic letter writing. I can’t imagine that nurse Esther finds it worth to reflect upon the letter’s content for a second, or that descriptions of our activities from the past or present could be of any harm for anybody, ourselves included. Because that would be the only reason that she could feel obliged to intervene, as a nurse, I mean, who must feel so determined to get you better, Clara, mentally, I mean, not your character, that would be in vain, not worth the effort.
I guess that Esther even sometimes enjoys reading these letters to you, Clara. Must be a change to the daily routine for both of you. Yes, it does me good as well. I was never that good at remembering things and people from the past. I find it even recreational to clear my short term- and my long term- memory’s capacities from time to time, it sometimes happens through writing – in the minute I have written down something, I can forget it. The written paper keeps it safe and far enough from me and my consciousness, or the writing lets the subjects slide back into the well-groomed part of my sub-conscious, where I settle all my disputes with myself and with my moral standards to the best of my abilities.
No ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’ can affect me, Clara, I am very confident. Two dead young blackbirds in front of my garden-writing table, looking strangely relieved with twisted heads as if they sang their first and last song while dying, let me think of our two mothers’ deaths so shortly after the deaths of our fathers. The unusual circumstances of their deaths required two Coroners, the experts had to reassure themselves. They quoted the GP’s reports that your mother and my mother both “suffered from (English people with their obsession with abbreviations!) PTSD, leading to sleep deprivation and prolonged episodes of depression with apathy and intermittent agitation of mood with anxiety and irritability.”
We both did not have a clue about any “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder” did we, Clara: Both our mothers seemed to be so well off, not to have any worries about anything after the deaths of our fathers. But now we have to consider that their stability derived from our fathers’ belief and trust in their wives being good German Christian Housewives, the roles our mothers seemingly had conditioned themselves for throughout their previous lives, desperately wanting to be a world apart from any worrying past.
It still seems to be so unlike our mothers’ image, their mental dependency from our fathers. Perhaps they became morally and emotionally exhausted through their constant denial of their ethnic background, of their race. (Attention, Clara, could happen to us as well!) Frieda told me that my mother mentioned from her past, that she fiercely rejected her father who had already ‘abolished’ their Jewish past in the early 1920s. Anti-Semitism was virulent long before a Hitler came onto the stage to create the German “Übermensch”, Clara. We sometimes forget, don’t we, that Hitler just added another dimension, that’s all, isn’t it.
Our mothers’ GP was clever to write in his report: ”No mentioning of suicidal thoughts, general impression of well contained ladies with excellent manners and lucid thought processes.” Because otherwise he would have neglected his Good Medical Standards and we could sue him into his professional grave, Clara.
Both our mothers had their hands tied behind their back with quite strong plastic washing-lines, cut into handy pieces for their small wrists.
I know for sure that my mother and your mother saw in their childhood and early adulthood the famous Houdini and learned perhaps some tricks from him. That’s what I told the Coroners when I was questioned – and my story was appreciated: True lies are good lies.
It’s such an amazingly beautiful madness to do that, this tying your own hands together with a trick, just to make life a little bit complicated for those ones left behind – one of their strange games they put on stage as their last ‘live performance’. You remember all the charades we had to play endlessly in our shared holidays and how both mothers liked to perform “Hamlet” to dramatically die in front of us children. It was boring in the end because we children immediately knew who they were imitating but took the brave decision to rather suffer boredom than to frustrate our mothers and end their favourite play early.
It was comparable to pretending to still believe in the Angels at Christmas, preparing the Christmas Tree and leaving behind traces of beautiful Angel’s Hair, effectively being glass-wool, very bad for our skin, causing endless scratching and rashes to all parts that had been in contact with it, to the dramatic point of both of us becoming blue and purple gasping for air as an allergic reaction. But these performances we staged only when we were quite desperate to educate our mothers to SEE that we have become ‘grown-ups’, quite late in our lives. But we were still compassionate, were we not, Clara.
Due to witnesses’ reports our mothers obviously enjoyed their last day: They went out in the early hours of a very fine summer morning, my mother picking your mother up, so their journey started in Berlin-Dahlem, both wearing light, elegant white summer-silk costumes, white pumps, white gloves, white little handbags, on their heads white ladies’ Panama-hats. And we can easily add, Clara, can’t we, so many times being witness of their exquisite taste, so many times during our holidays secretly watching through the keyholes of their dressing rooms how and with what they covered their precious parts: white silk underwear with lace borders, very light silk stockings, shining like silver on their immaculate legs- and their perfumes, my mother “Guerlainade’, your mother “Guet Apens”, we could have added to the witnesses’ reports, couldn’t we, Clara. It was so exciting to watch our mothers, secretly, I mean, wasn’t it. Sometimes we found it so exciting that we pleased ourselves, didn’t we, Clara. We loved our mothers – in one way or another. And we hated them, I know, Clara, I know. But I still like to think of how they spent their last day together, yes, I am aware of it, I mean, it’s my imagination that talks to you now, Clara. But tell me, if you know better.
So they waved for a taxi – or had they pre-ordered one, but I don’t think so, it would be too obvious to do, they both liked improvisation, didn’t they. Their destination: the Oyster-Bar of the KaDeWe, The ‘Kaufhaus des Westens’, the one they saw with their own eyes to be Aryanized from the Wertheims, as Frieda told me, and given back to some, they called it blasé: “new” family members after the war. They told us some stories, didn’t they, our mothers, Clara. They had their own way of changing realities into “Märchenstunden” story-times. On their last day at the KaDeWe, they met two young men at the Oyster Bar and according to the report of the waiter, invited them to share another bottle of champagne with them. Afterwards, they went “ to powder their noses” at the ladies, taking quite a while to come back from there, the waiter said, so long that he already feared that our mothers had vanished leaving him with a massive bill that would have cost him his job.
The two young men were obviously strangers to our mothers, but very attracted by them and very likely professional gigolos who know how to please ladies discretely, in broad daylight, in the open, public-flooded space of a bar or at the more challenging setting of a ‘restroom’.
According to the report, that was the whole content of the statement of the Oyster-Bar-waiter who refused to reveal any further details of the encounter.
Discretion is all, isn’t it, Clara, in so many professions. You lacked it, oh yes, I can assure you. You embarrassed me many times in my life. Mainly through indiscretion, Clara: For example, you told HiG about our love affair and Karim Amour and I don’t know who else – but definitely the wrong person in Port Sudan. My little “Plappermaul”, that was the name, your mother gave you, ‘blabbermouth’. Sometimes, you were just drunk and vicious. Very dangerous in Secret Service jobs, Clara.
Our mothers left the bar alone – it was a hot day and the blossoms’ perfume of the ‘Lindenbaum’ filled the air and above their heads there must have been already a gathering of shadows in the sky, the blue being pushed aside by huge cumulus-mountains, announcing thunder and lightning and darkening their faces on their way home.
Perhaps my mother hummed “Der Lindenbaum”, The Linden Tree, by Franz Schubert, one of her favourite parts of “Die Winterreise”, Winter journey, she never sang during our times, Clara – and your mother quoted the text by Friedrich Müller, – perhaps in German, perhaps in English, – just let us remember the beauty of the song, Clara:
Am Brunnen vor dem Tore At the well by the gate
Da steht ein Lindenbaum; There stands a linden tree:
Ich träumt’ in seinem Schatten I dreamed in its shadow
So manchen süssen Traum. Many a sweet dream.
But it is also possible to imagine that my mother started singing again, after all these years of staying stumm, only playing the songs on her piano – and your mother accompanied her. When we meet again, Clara, I would like to hear you singing again, your voice slightly husky with emotion, intonating what suits you best:
Ich muss auch heute wandern Again today I had to travel
Vorbei in tiefer Nacht, Past it in the depth of night
Da hab’ ich noch im Dunkeln There even in the darkness
Die Augen zugemacht. I closed my eyes.
But it’s also quite likely that our mothers preferred to play their favourite game “I spy”, starting with: “I do see something that you don’t see…” and have challenged each other with more and more bizarre assumptions of what the clouds looked like. Yes, they were drunk. But happy. Apparently, Clara. But not too drunk to find the right washing-line, a new, white one.
The tablets they might have started to take in the ladies ‘powder room’ in the KaDeWe. Our mothers might have felt very at home in the restored Art Deco splendour of the biggest European Luxury Warehouse of its Jewish time in the Thirties – it was always attractive for them to go there, wasn’t it. How many times they dragged us there, Clara. How many times we felt ashamed of them, of their Champagne-breath we felt sick from.
I remember thinking that you became my father’s darling, Clara, because with your blabbermouth, you betrayed our mothers, telling him every little detail of our mothers’ excesses. Why have I not noticed how much of a ‘collaborator’ you are. It almost cost me my life, in the Sudan. But only almost. Never mind.
Sorry, I really should stop blaming you, Clara and to show more awareness of your recent situation and consider more forgiveness and forgetting. But that‘s the vicious circle, Clara, isn’t it: To really forgive you, I have to forget. And then I might end up like you, in a home for Dementia-sufferers; however clever that might be from your point of view, to perhaps even keep your life away from prosecution by the Secret Service, I definitely don’t want to end up like that, no way. And I really want you to come out from where you are now, don’t forget that, Clara. All this remembering isn’t easy for me, believe me, I still try to come to terms with the past and its malevolent presence.
So, on that last day of our mothers, the first rain drops started to fall and the thunder was roaring like German shepherd dogs playing wolves when they catch humans they want to eat – that was how Frieda liked to describe the rumbling thunder. Always afraid of the thunder she was, not of the lightning, because it reminded her of the noises she heard and could not forget; the dogs chasing Jews through the streets, and the snarling, when they caught some. Nobody helped, ever – Frieda included. She could not forget, never ever. Memories are there forever.
She was always honest, Frieda. At least her memory was, I believe.
I don’t think that you would ever be able to appreciate a character, a personality like Frieda, really-really, Clara. Sometimes I don’t know why I write all these things to you. Perhaps, because you were always good in vanishing when times became difficult. You were not there when our fathers died, where were you. You came from nowhere to attend their funeral – you were there for about three, four hours – that was all. (And even now, I don’t know who told you to come.) You were not around when our mothers died – and nobody knew where you were. I could not contact you, you were invisible, or possibly: you played your old game to be invisible even though you were around.
I just remember, at school, you – obviously already then predestined for spying – liked to secretly keep me under your surveillance while I was in love with Hannah. It’s no longer important, never mind, Clara. Because I was there, in the right moment, in the right time, to do the things I had to do, in my own rhythm, in my own right to do them. Even to be a traitor myself. As with Hannah, you remember, yes, my serious love affair from early boarding school times, the one who drowned.
So our mothers went home. (They always came home, didn’t they.)
And the thunder played the Almighty while our mothers were walking towards our home – or they took a taxi – nobody seemed to have seen them arriving in our alley, still very jolly, I imagine. Margaret, a neighbour from the opposite side of the lane, witnessed and testified for the police protocol that she saw it coming, the tragic end, she said. Because our mothers had lost their husbands. In her view you can’t survive the death of your husband.
Do we know better, Clara.
Is there any knowledge about the female nightingale when her lover does not come back to her because he is caught in a cage. Not hearing his songs any longer, she might die immediately from a broken heart over the loss of her beloved-one-and-only-one.
Or, if there are already little eggs underneath her belly in the nest, is the nightingale’s motherly instinct stronger and she manages to carry on. Can she breed and feed at the same time, as a single parent. Can she also sing, perhaps not so beautifully but well enough to teach her children.
Considering our mothers, I don’t know why but I remember from my childhood that I always thought of our mothers as nightingales – androgynous-ones, but I imagined an elegant, exotic paradise-bird with that name. And how elegant they have been: their dinner parties, their music performances, their splendour – they were magnificently elegant, whatever they did, Clara. We never ever could imagine reaching their beauty. Of course, we are more intelligent, I know. But does it matter, really. I am not sure any longer, really not. They might have hidden their intelligence so that they did not have to do something with it. You know what I mean, Clara, intelligent to observe, to judge, to deal with a situation, with THE situation. If you don’t see, you don’t know, you don’t need to do anything.
We could have starved underneath their bellies in the nest; we could have frozen to death because they left us behind in the nest, unattended. So the predators could fetch us.
The Coroner Reports came to the conclusion that no other person seemed to be involved in the deaths of our mothers as they had an extremely high amount of barbiturates, of anti-depressants, of anti-psychotic medication, of alcohol in their blood. To top all this, they very obviously had put their heads into the oven after the gas was set free to stream into the baking part, therefore creating their own small little gas chamber, big enough for their little heads, demonstrating the elusiveness of forgetting, the elusiveness of happiness.
The sisters’, our mothers’ house exploded with them, and their souls were freed from any dirty piece of earthly burden of true stories of lies.
It’s so lonely to be left behind with your memories while all the others do forget or die. The silence spreads. The silence gets louder.
Can it be that, if you ignore the truth of your identity long enough, you forget who you are.
Is that what it is all about, your forgetfulness, your so-called ‘Dementia’ Clara: You believed to be a good German girl, and it was important to be a good German girl because our fathers and mothers told us so, because that was their own inner belief of the truth and nothing but the truth they themselves had to believe to survive.
Then I came along – telling you, Clara, of being Jewish and to forget being German, an Aryan. I am sure it was me but I can’t remember when it happened- perhaps after one of these dangerous, drunken Charade Games at the American Club in Khartoum. Do you hate me for that.
Please reflect upon it, Clara, don’t put the letter away now, just listen: Have you reacted to the truth like our parents and grandparents. Can you not bear the truth; and you first thought that you could bear it but your subconscious mind could not accept that you were lied to all your life by your father, your mother, my mother, my father.
Is it hate that let you forget.
The first thing I remember you “really, really” hated, was your name “Clara,” the Christian name of the beloved wife of our Mothers’ beloved Robert Schumann . At least they did not give you a name with the first part “Jud” being the short form of “Jew”, like calling you Jude, or Judith. Or would you have liked to have such an obvious name – you can still choose another name tomorrow, if you wish, Clara.
Let’s remind ourselves, Clara. Concerning our families’ history, I know that most of the time in our lives, we repeated what we had been told by our parents, these sworn-in sibling teams clinging to their own versions of their past and their family origin. We, being asked about our families, repeated white lies and black lies. And I am sure that both of us, Clara, we both found it very compelling, to top the stories we were told, with stories we invented about our families in the past and in the present, thus being in the continuum of our families’ history. We were good with our own, very special way of story telling. And I continue to do so.
For example, you can rest assured that I will always say that no stranger was involved in the deaths of our mothers. Remember Clara, I successfully ‘established’ the same conclusion in connection with the deaths of our fathers. With you vanishing immediately after the fathers’ funeral, you fled any possible commitment regarding your mother. I still see you standing in that white dress in the brown mud around the graves of our fathers. Why haven’t I ask you at the fathers’ funeral why you wore a white dress that looked like a wedding dress. I think I didn’t want to know about it then, really, really not. That was my instinctive reaction, Clara – my way of opting out from the past, I admit. We both avoided looking into each other’s eyes. Would you be able to look into my eyes now, or are you still the fugitive from the past. You can’t be, you belong to the generation that will close the eyes forever, will die next, that’s for sure. Don’t forget the certainty of death for all living beings. I know, I know, I myself need a reminder from time to time. Do I see a little smile around your fine lines of softest of lips. Try harder.
I don’t want to go to bed immediately. I need time for myself. I hope you are looking forward to my next letter – with a smile.