© 2004 Matuschka

Adventures of a German American girl.
The first 15 pages. 
This manuscript and story is also available in a German translation and as a moviescript.


Yesterday, I was so happy, so full of hope. It was the weekend and I went out big, first the theater and then dining at the Mark. I wore my new evening dress for effect, short as I had tailored it. My streamlined legs and my deepest décolleté, not to mention my hips my rear and my curves from top to bottom are displayed. At age twenty-six without question, I am the classiest woman in San Francisco. That is unless Marilyn Monroe shows up. But she won’t, because she is dead.

 Dinner was great, company passable and with a good bottle of Napa Bordeaux at the end not much could be done to improve the day, or should I say night. Life, the thought went through my mind, was rather quite bearable.

 Now it is Monday morning. A hundred times I have told Jake, my husband of what, eighteen months, that this tiny studio of his is too small for the two of us. Rarely does a day go by without me getting a new bruise. I have not found a way of avoiding the corners of the few pieces of furniture. ‘Ouch’, there I go again and how this always hurts. I could just simply scream. All Jake offers is a grunt and admonishment to be more careful. That is all I need to hit the roof, the tone of his voice is what really burns me.

 “Just shut up.” Is what I yell, my face half turned back through the now closed bathroom door. With the pain, and one look show a rapidly growing purple spot, I am fit to be tied. I know it is payday today, but under these circumstances, a tear runs down my cheek, I am beyond myself with anger when so early in the week everything goes bad. Jake, my mate, has learned to do this to me and by now it seems he enjoys it. The devil take him. He is such a stubborn man.  

 One fleeting look at my watch tells me I am late for the office. Damn it all. Just as I run out of the door, the window open it’s drafty like hell, so that the door slams with a sound as if a cannon fired a salute to the president. It is such a devastating thunder my ears ring and I am shocked myself.

 I am at my spirits limit. “The hell with him” I think. “With luck maybe, this exit of mine, will wake him up out of his Snow White slumber. On top of it all I, not wanting to get a reputation for being a bitch, swear in German. I do this as if out of the gutter. I curse him, the apartment, the day I met him, my new bruise and all my other bad luck.

 This time it is two a.m. when he comes home. It just simply gets later and later each morning. Jake comes from the Julius castle a block below Coit tower. The restaurant isn’t his, he is just the maitre D’. What is he doing all that extra time? I know the place closes at midnight.

 My thoughts dwell on my bad luck with men. The collected experiences from two marriages and a slew of lesser relationships, I have to sadly admit, have been wanting badly. Why is it that no matter how talented, how nice, how good looking, how rich, there is always something missing in the men I fall in love with? With luck I always seem to find a few endearing character traits or what have you. Yet after a while the empty spaces rear their ugly heads.

  So I have been thinking if I add it all up it shows an odd picture which is a new recipe for me. I have come to the conclusion, a woman needs four men. She needs four men to satisfy all the four requirements a woman has. More than that, they are needs for being happy.

 My eyes are roaming from sausages, cheeses, and salads cleverly sorted by the deli in these glazed and refrigerated displays. Each type of ham, each sort of cheese or sausage and whatever else there is on display, has a little shield with the name and price per pound stuck to its top. The joke is that the German word Lachsschinken is missing an ‘s’ in the middle. This changes it from ‘Lox Ham’ to ‘Laughing Ham.’

 What is particularly pleasant with my job here, is the location of my office. This location is the Fisherman’s Wharf of the San Francisco Bay. When I step out of the building I am in the middle of vacationland. There are restaurants, street-vendors, artists, magicians, tourists, vacationers from around the world. This is better than Disneyland.

 I am basically in the next door deli at the Cannery. While scrutinizing the selection of cold cuts I cannot help, but be aware of a leisurely elegant man at the periphery of my vision about six feet to my right. He is wearing a fishbone pattern, light gray single front suit. His hair is sparse. His shoes, on close inspection, are light gray suede. The red tie is, I can tell from the way it falls at the knot, sheer silk.

 In this environment he sticks out like a sore thumb. Then again I get this funny feeling that this man fits in anywhere in the world. A closer look brings me recognition. I have seen this man in the building where I have a job in a small advertising agency. He has an office there ,I am sure. The voice of the saleslady behind the counter breaks through the noise. “Who is next?” is her query.

 Her question wakes me up to the here and now. My eyes flick to her and then to this gentleman; with this slight move of my mouth which indicates him to be that next. Gentleman, ridiculous, when did I last think of a man as a gentleman. He is aware I can see when he moves his head in agreement with a certain smile in my direction. I believe it indicates a silent thank you. And then he does the unthinkable. He orders a roll that is more the size of a small loaf and has the girl put what looks like a pound of smoked ham between its top and bottom-slices.

 What a pig this guy is. Then again I cannot help but check him out for qualifications. Is this man one of the four needed types? Is he good for bed, for going out, for the money? Who knows, to be sure, this one is not that easy and fast to tell.

 The present is my second marriage running halfway into the second year. Jake my husband is kind of finished with his life, it seems to me. He has two grown children from his first wife. His lifestyle is that of a bachelor I have learned, with me as something between an also ran and a hangout shield.

 I should say this is not exactly what I had expected. His job keeps him up till midnight when he closes down the Julius place. I have made a mistake alright. That is where I unwittingly have landed myself in a dead end. It’s a soap opera without a happy ending. Okay, Jake pays the rent so that my eight hundred, after tax, pay are mine to split between clothes and going out as I see fit.

 A cold north-wind blows from Alcatraz down the bay through the courtyard that separates the Cannery and the Haslett warehouse. The Haslett, its upper two floors are offices, which is home to some hundred businesses. The lower two floors are empty and unused except for rats, I suspect. The building is owned by the state so no one is worried about low revenue.

 The cannery, formerly housing a fish packing plant, situated with the bay less then a block from the north side of the building, has a new life. For a good number of years already it has been a favorite tourist meeting spot. The red brick structure is fully rented to restaurants from fast food to super elegant. There are shops selling kitsch, jewelry, from costume to expensive, wines and foods of at least ten nations. Soft drinks, ice cream to shish kebab and of course the fabulous deli not excluded. The place is kind of the western part of the Fisherman’s wharf just east of the Aquatic Park. To make it safe, thick long beams hold up both buildings secure against any earthquake.

 It is noontime for me. There is ample seating on weather-beaten wooden benches in the center courtyard. That is where I am in the midst of tourists from half a dozen countries. I have finished with my lunch some minutes ago. To keep my hands warm I have squeezed them between my legs. It is not perfect, but it does feel warmer.

 Mark is a handsome man, his age probably close to my twenty-six. He makes a scarce living as a street magician on Beach Street. There he is in a stork-like prancing gate approaching me. His well worn, brown leather jacket hangs oversized from his shoulders. His blue jeans cover most of his worn cowboy boots. A haircut and a manicure would be a good investment for this boy who looks more like thirty-something, rather than his real age.

 I judge him to live near the poverty level despite the six girlfriends he has, who I suspect, house him and feed him on successive days.  He does not let up on his straight line for my bench. He has, and that seems odd, the unknown known man from last weeks deli experience in tow. Now the two stand at my table in front of me. Today the man I labeled gentleman that day seems so very different from last week. Is this the same man I wonder? He is dressed in a green brown tweed-suit, the material of his tie this time is raw silk and as the pants leg rides up in his stride I see there is this rare type of riding boot I have heard called Jodhpurs.

 Mark introduces the man with a somewhat left-handed wave. “Hey Susan, this is John. When my magic is short of providing for me I get to put in some time with him.” He half turns to John and continues. “This is Susan.” John’s eyes are full on me, slowly his gaze slides down from my face to neck and bosom, past my bellybutton to the warming hands between my legs. Today I am wearing a white blouse with a warm wool skirt and shoes with half-high heels. I am used to man inspecting me. My figure is of the kind that is almost magnetic to a man’s wandering eye. If anything, I find it amusing when this brings about an embarrassment after the initial perusal. This especially when it is followed by an attempt to distract from the excitement I seem to elicit.

 Good old John in his tweed suit does not follow suit. His eyes are resting on me in an utterly relaxed fashion. He must be a foreigner or something like it. Pulling my hands from my legs I am quickly checking my watch before I shake John’s fingers. There is this large, warm hand of his, inside of which mine disappears. My eyes fly up to his smiling bearded face.

 “Susan, your hands are kind of chilled.”, are his first words in a low clear voice, which doesn’t hide a strange accent. I nod briefly at him with a short glance over my shoulder into the chilly north-wind, then back to the two men, I explain. “It is high time for me to go; my lunch time is more than up.” John frees my hand, which I had left in his warming one. He nods slightly at me. “It is a pleasure to meet you Susan.” These common words coming from him have an unexpected formality to them.

                                                                                                **********2 CHAPTER******

Next time I meet John I am on my way along the corridor to my agency’s office. It gives me sudden fright when he suddenly steps from what appears to be a rear entrance to his offices. John has a glint in his eyes when he sees my consternation. He nods just barely warning me, “Susan, better watch out for the crocodiles.”

 Somehow this John strikes me as comic, quite different from what I would call my usual fare. Next time I see him it is my payday and I have planned to splurge for lunch at the Cannery French style. On the second floor is the Old Brittany a crepe and casserole place which also has the most fabulous French Onion soup this side of the Mississippi.

 As I come in the door all by myself I find the bar on the right, on the left the room is shaped like a reverse large L. As a restaurant it is not so big in size maybe about eighty or so chairs is all. The waiter strikes me as a touch too friendly. My quick glance around comes to rest on no other than John the crocodile man. This time he is in a dark blue double-breasted serge suit with waistcoat. His shirt has French cuffs and he has no doubt the ultimate seat in the place, at the best window, to himself.

 It gives me a slight twinge when he looks up at me. My usual self-confidence is somewhat disturbed as I walk toward him. I feel better when he makes a motion I could take for an invitation towards me. With a light smile he moves the chair next to him back an inch or two. With a look back I assure myself that this is meant for me. As if this was not enough the waiter suddenly passes me and by the time I am close he has already pulled back the chair for me at John’s table. I am not quite that ready yet. So I stop questioning him. “You are expecting someone or?”

 There is the quickest flicker of a smile as John denies my question with a subtle move of his head. Then there I sit with an unexpected suddenness. Without pause the waiter, who I now realize is the maitre d’, presses a menu into my hand. This man is way too friendly for my taste or is it just subservience. I lean slightly forward asking “Aren’t these people a little too much?”  My face, I am sure, shows concern. Now John has a genuine friendly smile crossing his eyes while he shakes his head. “Never mind Susan these are all gay French types. I am, I fear, the only one with grounds to be concerned.”

 My first surprise turns to amusement. It is great, this way I don’t have to take so much care about my skirt riding up on my thighs or my blouse buttons bursting open from the pressure of my generous upper torso while I sit back. It is an extra feeling of comfort this brings with it, which I can truly appreciate. No greedy eyes searching my cleavage. Not that I am a prude in general, it’s just that I can value a peaceful meal at a time like this. For a change I can be totally comfortable, it’s just simply great.

 Maybe I am too fast with my expectations. The Maitre D is at my side with a menu asking. “A glass of wine Ma’am?” It is after all just my lunch break and I had not planned to imbibe returning with a cloud on my breath. However there John sits nipping from a glass of white wine the slight pink of which tells me it is Inglenook. So I nod at the frog-eyed man agreeing “Yes, I’ll have the same.”

 I am pointing at Johns’ glass. Barely are the words out of my mouth and the little French man is gone. My eyes are perusing my Vis a Vis while my head forms a strange conclusion. I am experiencing a feeling of peace and comfort I have not had for quite a long time. One of my mother’s proverbs slithers into my conscious. ‘Tell me who you associate with and I’ll tell you who you are.’ With this man the other side of the table I get the feeling you can go anywhere and be okay. Does this mean he is type number three? The man to go out with. It is too bad there is not the slightest indication of deeper interest in me as a woman. All I see is some almost smooth level of friendly courtliness. Oh yes, there is a lack of a wedding band on his manicured hand as well as any other kind of Jewelry. The only embellishment I can detect is a simple gold watch held to his wrist by a stiff ladder like gold band.

 Why, I ask myself, do I find myself paying attention to other men. Is it possible that my feelings of love for my present mate Jake are dwindling? Is my powerful libido at work of finding new fields of venture? My attention is diverted when our bugeyed maitre d serves John a casserole and my wine is placed in front of me. The waiter turns to me as my nose gets a whiff of the dish across the table. It helps me to make an instant decision. “I would like to have the same.”  The waiter still stands there. “Certainly madam, do you still wish to keep the menu?”

 It is I who nods now, because frankly, I am at a loss for words, can’t think of anything to say to this man across the table, except, “What did I just order there for myself?” John offers without me asking. He folds his napkin once then places it over his dish explaining. “It is Coquille St. Jack, something you will find difficult to find a match to anywhere else.” As I see that he intends to wait for me to get my order I find his courtesy too much to take.

 “John please don’t wait for me. Your food will get all cold.” His eyes rove to the kitchendoor then back to me while he let’s the serviette slide down on his lap. “It’s coming already. I much prefer to have company while dining.” My brain storms. That is it, he is the type three all right. ‘Christ, the man actually says ‘I dine’ instead of having lunch.’

 But he is right, the little Frenchman is at my left serving what I discover with a second look is a dish of scallops. What really astounds me is the speed with which this food has materialized in front of me. I think a look of puzzlement is plainly on my face as I look from casserole to waiter and across at my table partner. The waiter lifts his head with a show of what is a cross of pride and pleasure at, no, it’s more a kind of triumph, triumph over me I wonder? His fingers are reaching, I come to understand, for my menu as he asks. “Anything else you wish ma’am?” What else can I do. I slide the folder over to him shaking my head. “No, thank you not at the moment.”

 The meal runs pleasantly enough. It is with an elegance and comfort not so common even here in our city of plenty. Desert turns out to be Chocolate Mousse. I have to excuse myself since my bladder is at its limit. That the toilette is upstairs anyone at the Cannery here knows. Upstairs it is and I have to wait quite a while. When perhaps ten minutes later I come back to our table I find my friendly lunch companion John has disappeared. First I think he had the same need as I. The closer I get to the end of my lunch-break the less can I keep my feelings about this calm.

 Thousands of feelings and thoughts flash through my mind. This miserable guy, he is stiffing me with the bill. This John is not my third type he is a user. I am sure, he knows it is payday for me today and he took advantage of me. Memories of so many other dates, which this hadn’t even been, run through my mind. If I had him here this minute I would smack him in the face. I am going to tell him what I think of him when I see him next time. In front of as many people as possible too. I am going to make him feel like a mouse. What a creep this John is. I just never would have expected this from him. Not from this man, never.

 Am I ever mad. The anger drives my blood to my face. Deep down there is a fountain of tears. I can not stop them either, slowly one rolls from my eye. I don’t want anyone to see me like this. So I lift my napkin and dry my face careful so as not to ruin my makeup, little as it may be. Then I lift my head, raise my finger a bit to summon the Frenchman. In the soft swaying fashion of his ilk he swiftly comes to my side. His Frogeyes seem to get bigger as I ask. “My bill please?”

 What the hell is wrong with the man? He acts as if a rattler were striking. He twists himself as if on a string while giving me a very strange look. Ah yes he knows and feels some remorse. He must have known. His face turns stiff. “Pardone moi madam, there is no bill for this table. Is there anything else I can do for you?” I shake my head thinking. ‘What is this, a new scam. Did I make a mistake here?’ My eyes scan the restaurant for a mouse-hole. I need a place to hide, damn it. The bug-eyed maitre D is twisting his hips. I am so mad I want to scream, to swear, to break something, push over the table, anything.

 “Sorry madam, your table companion Mr. Bechau, was called away. He asks for you to excuse him. This is unfortunately the first opportunity for me to tell you.” Now I shake my head at him “I at least want to pay for my own bill.” Again he winds himself I think he is going to dislocate his spine. He rubs his hands, wipes his head looks around as if he were looking for help. He takes a large napkin from his apron wiping the tabletop. I am sure in a second his eyes are going to pop out. Now he steps back. “I am terribly sorry madam. It is against my better judgement to refuse taking money. This case is a very different matter. Mr. von Bechau is a regular guest here. We do not question his wishes?’

 After taking his stand with me there is a new level of satisfaction on his face. Proudly he stands there, his chest pushed forward as if he were minister to the Emperor of China. I still have an empty feeling in my stomach about this issue. I have lost my trust. However there is no doubt the Frenchman is holding his position. Slowly I get up with that uneasy feeling still. Already he is behind me moving my chair back. I take a couple of dollars from my bag carefully placing them on the table. Then with my head high I walk to the door where the other waiter is already opening it for me.

 Well what do you know. No question in my mind, John is a member of the clan of gays, a homosexual. I am sure they are going to talk about this laughing and giggling how they showed this woman. It is a rather disappointing experience for me. It was unpredictable for me, no way to see it coming, not from this John.

 Unfortunately I can not avoid him since I work in the same building as he has his office. The good part is the manager of WHW at the Ghirardelli Square has been talking about an offer there as exec secretary with advancement potential. Whatever may happen I am not going to let on how I felt, should I inadvertently run into him.

                                                                                           *************3 Chapter************

Every year once a special friend of mine visits me from
Montreal. He invariably stays for a week. This has always been a guaranteed success no matter where or what I have been doing. Nothing has been an obstacle to this once a year reprieve from the day’s hazards of my life. Neither work nor marriages have I allowed interfering with this exhilarating week of fun, adventure and vacation. Jacques is a rare specimen of the romantic era. He is not so much for sex, though he is quite the stand up guy there as well. He is the ultimate for fun making the rounds from one restaurant to the next variety show or what have you. It is explosive show after show with jokes thrown in for spice and little sleep throughout the week. It is Vegas, Reno, Los Angeles and not to forget the Sierras. It is by far the freshest wind I ever get when Jacques shows up on the peninsula.

 No matter what, I take off from work, make excuses from my Mom’s health to funerals in the East, problems with my sister. This always works with friends as well as with my husband or steady companion. If all fails I get my doctor to send me for a cure out of town. For this I can be the most inventive woman in California. What a liar I can be that one time each year, mom would hate me for it if she knew. Dad is a very different man. A type I have never met out there. I have this suspicion that he knows. Why do I think this? He never says a word when I lie to him, he just keeps quiet with that steady look in his eyes. Whatever Jacques does for me, it is what the doctor prescribes.

 Amazingly it is a whole two months later, that I, still in high spirits from the Montreal visit, run into John. I am just returning from the bank when I hear the steady step of a man behind me. Then his voice, unmistakably with that light accent and without the soft tinge I associate with the gays.

 “Hi Susan.” He has caught up with me and falls back to my step and speed. What now I think, but I am determined to keep my cool responding. “Good morning John.” His voice is merry and carefree when he adds. “Do you and I have an urge for a coffee?” It is a friendly enough offer. I cannot hear the slightest innuendo or mockery. Quite the opposite, he sounds warm, friendly and pleasant. Nevertheless I am sure he is laughing at me deep down. I hate him. I will absolutely not have anything to do with the bastard. Odd thoughts stream through my head about my clothes? What am I wearing, what do I look like right now. I am wearing high boots with a tight skirt, green cotton blouse and my buckskin Vaquero jacket. I know vaca means cow, but that is just the style not the leather.

 Nothing wrong with me and my dress I definitely look chic even in the eyes of a sophisticated and elegant gay guy. Damn it all, I refuse to think of him as a gentleman. When I take it straight, this is not even an invitation. My head is filled with hate, add to this I am vengeful, there is a trace of fear too. Fear to be taken lightly, become the butt of a joke. Someone should beat him up for his miserable deed back there at the Old Brittany. I am sure he has been avoiding me all this time; the only way to explain the long span of time since our last meeting.

 If I accept now it’ll be as if I was unaware, not in the know. Perfect, I think. I lift my head looking at him with my face like a question mark. “Hot chocolate?” I make it a point to look at my wristwatch while hearing him say. “Okay, let’s do the Ghirardelli.”

 The Ghirardelli is a chocolate factory of old. It has largely been turned into a tourist trap of shops, restaurants and you can shop there much like at the Cannery, with the chocolate manufacturing part getting smaller each year. Sitting there you have a fabulous view of Alcatraz, Angel Island, Sausalito, Belvedere and Tiburon. On a clear day you can even see Oakland from the upper stories, though the Golden Gate Bridge is not easy to spot in the west. To go there is good for my plans with WHW. It is where the station has its offices. So I am, disregarding all else, quite happy with the invitation. Maybe I’ll see Bob, the manager, there and get to have a third job offer. Being seen with the kind of man John appears to be is definitely a plus.

 There I sit with John the impossible gay, on the terrace, sun and wind on us in the midst of dozens of tourists from all over the world. A huge quart sized glass of hot chocolate with whipped cream two inches thick on top. One story down the crowd gets to see magicians, musicians, and artists. It is a regular full time show, as you would find at a renaissance fair. There are a majority of Californians true, but there are unmistakably Japanese, Germans, English, Koreans and Swedish. The whip cream runs down the side of my glass so that I feel I must reach out and skim it with my finger. I lick it drawing my finger through my mouth. John explains how he has bought a partnership in the Santa Clara valley, which these days is often called Silicon Valley. It is, he explains, a turnaround which is needed and his job to archive.

 I don’t quite know what to make of all this. At best it explains why I haven’t seen him around. So there obviously was no attempt to avoid me on his part. The question is, is there anything to this story of his. If yes what does it all mean? I know from my own observation that these homos quite often have exceptional talents, it seems, superior to the heteros. Whatever, one thing for sure is John will be never be more than good for a round of drinks or a free lunch.

 Suddenly I am very happy to sit here on the terrace with this John von Bechau. Were it not for the debacle at the Brittany I would not even know his full name. My first conclusion, I have convinced myself, he certainly had no interest to do me any harm that day at the Old Brittany. It was a misunderstanding. Second, Bob from the WHW station is coming toward us. Johns’ serious gaze seems to sweep it all until at last it fastens on Bob.

 Bob excuses himself to John, more than to me, for the interruption. He explains that he has a genuine serious need for me at the station. Additionally he offers to improve the offer substantially. John has the typically executive type friendly pokerface while Bob, poor Bob, slowly step by step, loses it. I have in all my time that I have known Bob the manager of WHW not ever seen him so out of his depth. I cannot help it but my eyes fly back and forth between the two. It leaves me speechless. I finally promise to come and see him at the station. I will, I say, come to a settlement with him and if it’s smart, change over and take this job offer. What I actually say is. “Okay Robert, I promise. Next Monday I’ll come and see you to make a final decision.” He seems relieved.

 It is only now that I introduce the two. “Oh, this is Robert, WHW’s manager. “This,” I nod my head at John, “is John von Bechau; he has an office at the Haslett for business consultation and runs a firm down in Santa Clara valley.”  I hope I didn’t overdo it about John. The two shake hands. Bob makes some small remark about it being a pleasure and leaves. Ouch I think. John didn’t even do more than nod his head in reply. These people at the top have a culture of their own. They can be so smooth and still put it all across and the sparks are flying for anyone who has an eye for it. I cannot hide my pleasure. This was excellent. The advantage had shifted to my side in a most unexpected fashion.

 Meanwhile it has gotten late. My eyes move from the disappearing Bob to John. The man has a look in his eyes that is most intriguing. Is it a grin or is it just a smile. Then I decide he knows exactly what went on here and how his presence helped. John is about to pay and as I leave he takes my hand as he did last time. It is a gentle grasp, which lasts for that perfect small moment with just so much warm pressure. He, I am sure, didn’t press or squeeze it, he just framed my hand into his. I am wondering, did he learn this in school or is it just this man’s aura of John, my gay friend. All I know is that shaking hands with him is a thoroughly pleasant experience.

 Much of this comes to me in these next few hours. Never in my life have I given so much attention to a simple handshake.


                                *********4 Chapter**********

 It is at least three months later when I see John again. I am on my way to the Buena Vista. The Buena Vista is at the corner of Hyde Street and Beach Street right across from the Haslett. From its windows you look out across the bay with the cable car turnabout just the other side of the street. You see ships coming into the bay from the Golden Gate as much as wind surfers with their multicolored sails beating in the wind. The street is lined with vendors who sell an unbelievable variety of trinkets. 

 John is just coming out. He hasn’t called me a single time since the hot chocolate at the Ghirardelli. But what the hell I think that is how those gay guys are. Regardless, I am overjoyed to see him. His presence had been crucial with Bob. That last offer had made my transit more attractive. By god, I had made the jump into WHW with a thirty-percent raise. Disregarding all future chances for advancement, it had been a hell of an improvement.

 Funny thing about this was that next Monday Bob warned me.  “Don’t let this John talk you out of working for us. WHW is a subsidiary of GE. You can’t get into a more solid firm than that. It means more money and security as well as advancements.

 So my first words are. “I owe you one.” He stops with a slight grin on his face. “I take it you took the job with WHW with a reasonable improvement in pay.” I can only nod. I have leaned forward and am kissing him right and left on his cheeks. John takes my face in his hands, his eyes are on mine. Ouch, I think, my gay friend John is going to kiss me and I decide to let it happen, because I am so deliriously happy.

 It comes not as I expected. Instead of having his wet lips on mine John places his dry cool mouth on my nose. “Susan, I am so very glad for you. I don’t have time today, but next time I promise we’ll celebrate and you can tell me all about it.” I look at the man and think, if you weren’t gay, I would tell you that I left my husband. I would tell you I have my own place. I shake my head in wonder at myself. Then you will think, what a stupid bitch I am and I will stand there like an idiot. No, I am not going to make that kind of fool out of me. John now has his hand on my shoulder, which he strokes like a child’s. Then he is gone.

                                    *********5 Chapter*********

Bob my new boss has let me know he has time for me privately. Cripes, I think, if I have children with this man they will have his chinless face. I know it looks all right now. Fact is I saw him four year ago and he had a face as unbelievable as I have ever seen before. They did quite a job on him, but this kind of thing is hereditary.  Then there is Willie at the radio station. He is our technician. A while ago we had some coke together. We were halfway through with our drinks when he volunteered. “Susan you are a dreamboat, but I cannot afford someone like you.”

 To tell me that must have cost him because he turned all red. That much insecurity from a man in his forties I found surprising. Other than that at times I find him pleasant company. I take it more as a compliment than anything else. A man who is short on spending money is not my type of guy anyway.

 There is, among my coworkers, a very neat looking boy by the name of Sonny. To say boy is perhaps an understatement. Sonny’s’ age is, I believe, twenty-six; the same age as I am. I take it for granted that, seeing the way he uses every opportunity to check out my legs, he is ripe. I think he is the perfect candidate for the discouragement plan I have for my boss Bob. Autumn is not really the best time to start a new relationship, but Bob has given me more than enough reason to create a scenario using the tactic of being already taken. That ought to cool him down.

 Sonny has some inhibitions unless it is Bob’s interest in me, which makes him hesitate. So if he doesn’t hit on me I’ll have to add something to the chase. At first it’s nothing but a maneuver to keep Bob off my neck, though his interest is in an area a bit lower than my neck. Then I start to find Sonny a lot more attractive. He is making the transition from sheer tool to the man with romantic potential. I counsel myself to this unexpected change. It is not the smartest thing I have ever done, but then at times I tend to make some less then perfect choices.

 Now that the gloves are off, so to speak, I find my pleasure at seeing Sonny rise from day to day. I have started to watch him first without giving him more encouragement than my daily presence. After all I am not in any particular hurry. When two weeks have gone by without any action on his part I start to become concerned. The boy has withstood my plain natural attraction. I have seen his continued glances at my legs and, when opportunity existed, down my blouse. So I puzzle, what is wrong in this picture. Am I losing it?

 You poor boy, I think, what are you thinking? I use the next opportunity to go to his desk and ask for help. I have taken a station program with me and lean over him to have him explain the new strange terminology used in the radio station business. What else can happen when I am so close to him or anyone for that matter? From what I have learned in the past, a cloud of my pheromones is sure to do what just seeing me each day has so far failed to accomplished.

 Good old Sonny is not too bright about what goes on, that much I can determine. He shows a natural talent in going through the pages explaining the various terms. At the end I thank him profusely, but with some doubt showing as to my ability to absorb all this in one sitting. I am not sure whether I succeed in fooling him or if he is just happy to grab the opportunity to spend time with me. He offers to buy me lunch and with the help of the booklet help me get a more complete comprehension of the radio station vernacular.

 To be sure I bring a pad of paper and the manual with me. Then as we sit, I have picked a bench for this purpose, with our lunch, I lean close to him with questions while making notes on my pad. It is a perfectly innocent setting. From time to time I lean closer our bodies touching to show serious interest in a specific word thanking him repeatedly. In the end he places his arm around me in brotherly fashion. I once more thank him for his help and to top it all off I pay for his lunch despite his objections.

 Next day he walks past me four times, I assume to make sure. Each time I smile at him like we are buddies. At last he has gained enough confidence. He comes over to my desk and suggests. “Oh Susan, do you have any plans for dinner?” I give him an encouraging look but give him a dumb look. “If not,” he pauses, “We could get a bite to eat together.” I give him that look of mine showing surprise to the fullest. Then after a small pause I nod vehemently. Holy cow, I think this is the first hurdle now we shall see what Sonny is made of.

 That evening I pay attention to every word he utters as if it were the bible. Forgetting about the original purpose of scaring off Bob this is becoming a pleasant outing and my feelings for this boy are starting to mean more than a maneuver of convenience. Hell, if I don’t watch out I may fall in love with Sonny. Wouldn’t that be something? I think this may turn into a trap of my own design and I may end up being the sacrifice.

 After dinner he takes me home and I let the goodnight kiss linger till our passion is hot enough to take the next step. I have got him. That is how I see this whole affair. He stays to spend the night. There is no question this is the beginning of a relationship. At the office our new way of greeting and spending time together is soon recognized for us being a couple. One result is Bobs pulling back from his pursuit of me.

 Altogether it straightens my relationship out with all of the male employees. Peculiar is that I hardly ever know where Sonny is except when he is in the bathroom while visiting. The guy takes three times as long in there than I do. We have a neat love-life. I find out Sonny is only twenty-four years old which makes him two years my junior. This puts a bit of a damper into our developing love. I have a special feeling for older men. My comfort level has always been influenced by the special aura older men seem to exude.

 Sonny is a great friend to have, he is neat, clean and loveable so much I sometimes want to take a bite out of him, yet I don’t quite trust him enough to give him a key to my apartment.

                                                    ***********6 Chapter************

 I should tell you about my family. Well not about them all at once. There is of course my mom. She is from Bavaria and was born in Garmisch Partenkirchen if we want to be exact. So from the time I was a toddler I have been calling her Mutti. Today would be a good day to call her on the phone. When I turned twelve she decided to send me to my Grandma in, you guessed it, Garmisch Partenkirchen. Her reasoning was that here in California we have too dangerous a lifestyle. What she means is drugs and our loose society. Additionally she thinks our school system is lacking and worse yet our teachers are mentally limited. Talking about prejudice, that is my Mutti. Not enough, she judges us to be deficient in the cultural arena as well.

 Endeffect is, that I spent three years with Oma and Opa going to school in southern Bavaria. Garmisch is about a hundred kilometers south of Munich. Oh yes, that comes to about sixty-two miles by our way of reckoning. This whole chapter of my life is an experience I find hard to describe. So what I want to do is bring you just sections cut out for you to fill in whereever it is needed. Then I hope the added in parts of my past education will give the picture of what it is to be transplanted from here to Europe and in particular to Germany with a pinpoint in Garmisch Partenkirchen.

 My Mutti says she is not prejudiced. She only wants what is best for me. I bet you have heard this before. What does it mean that Hanna my sister was exempted from this best thing and not sent to Bavaria?  Is it that I am a problem child and therefore someone to be deposited somewhere else? Does this signify she loves me more than Hanna or that she loves me less? In my memories from those years it is all largely a kind of Disneyland trip. I see just what kind of a timid, little girl I had been.

 At the beginning my path appeared to be full of potholes., what with my German, not to mention my Bavarian. Yes Bavarian is something else. If you think you will understand a Bavarian speaking this language which they call a ‘Dialect’ you better think again. Not the least was the ‘der, die, das’ thing where you have no reasonable rule to use for finding out which to replace our simple word THE with. Then there was Opa swearing when he felt something wrong with my comprehension or my pronunciation. I must have heard his ‘Kruzifix Sakrament Madel’ a hundred times a day during those first ten months.

 As long as Opa says Madel it is still quite all right. Bad it gets when he calls me Susan, which is the time I better get my act together. Opa calls my dad the ‘Sau Ami’ and that this abomination Colonel dropped his goddamn bombs from his flying fortress on his beloved München is something he will never forgive him.

 Oma only says, that the men here are all either dead, crippled or starved to death POWs in Siberia. That is to explain why her daughter, my Mutti, had no other choice. She had to get out of Bavaria and out of Europe. That is the reason why I was born in California and lived there to the ripe age of twelve. That also was why Mutti had to marry an Ami instead of a Bavarian schoolboy, as so many other German women did. Oma is from Silesia that makes her a Silesian. You probably never heard of this province. It is the one that Maria Theresia, Empress of Austria gave to Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. Not now, dummy, that happened around the middle of the eighteen’s century. Oh yes, it does not exist anymore, its name has been changed and Opa says the Pollacks have it now except for the part the Czechs have, but this wasn’t part of the deal then anyway.

 The story here is the same. These people called Silesian speak another dialect correctly named Silesian. If you ask me, it is just one more language which no other German has a chance to understand. Dialect my foot. If and when Oma curses not anyone understands her. Opa doesn’t either. Only the tone of voice tells you she is mad, madder, and maddest. Rarely as this happens, if it does, Opa gets up takes his hat and goes for a Münchener Bräu. I still have the ring of it in my ear today, “Nehal’dochdeluffe” is always the first word. I think it means shut up.

 Once in a while Opa takes me with him. Then he sits there with his beer mumbling. After the third half liter he starts to curse. First it is the Romans, then the Italians, then it is Attila and his Huns. So far so good, but not the end. The rotten Napoleon followed by the stinky French, the rotting Prussians, the dumb Americans and worst of them all the damned Church-bandits. All those who failed to be mentioned are, I am sure so, only because of lack of time.


                                **********7 chapter **********

Most of the time I am in a quandary. Who is right and who is not. Vati has long since been divorced from Mutti. I told him what Opa accuses him of. Vati is my daddy. I think he is half European and half American. He is a real no nonsense type of guy.   You can ask him, but please don’t expect an answer other than some sarcasm about humanity. What his background is, is a real puzzle. Is it German, Hungarian or Bohemian or all three? Maybe that is the reason why my full name is Susanne Maria Freiin von Pappelhain.

 At home in the States I don’t ever tell anyone about my name or they will think I have a screw loose. About the bombs I got Vati once when he was soft. First he says he was only a lieutenant at the time. With his head shaking he let it out that he dropped those bombs carefully and accurately in various fields and some of the rivers. His eyes were far away when he told me about the air raids as if he had gone back to the very minute it all went down. The way the Flak was at the time, he told me, he thought this was both humanistic and benevolent to his crew’s life expectancy.  It is not something I have much comprehension for. For the rest Opa approves of Mutti marrying a Baron even if it is not a valid title any more and the man is an Ami.

 Vati is, I think, almost as old as Opa. In response to my query about Opa he had only one answer. Your Opa is first class and your Mutti is a fantastic woman. Everybody is going to be tickled pink if you get to be half as good as she. There I made the careless mistake of asking him. “Why if this is so did you two split up?” At first he just grunts, and then he gives me one of those looks fixing me as if I am in his sights. I feel he is taking my age in consideration when he answers my question. “Susan, your Vati is a hard boned man. This type of man is likely to be hard on a woman’s nerves. As far as you are concerned this all happened more than half of your life’s time ago.

 In many ways my going to high school in Garmisch was a blast. For the difficulties with my lack of good German there was a price to pay. I took a lot of ribbing. Then there was English class. That is where I made up for it. What struck me, as the most peculiar was that most of my invitations by school friends were from the bluebloods. One that stuck out was Hildegard von Ogertschnig whom I even today regard as my best friend from those days. 

 Visiting Hildegard was to be my first lesson in a lifestyle that, I am sure, dates back to the crusades. Manners are a mix of formal and yet as warm as I have ever experienced anywhere. My first call at their castle, which is called a Schloß, this has first of all the meaning of lock like doorlock; then the second use you get out of this word Schloß, is mansion or castle. Once I stepped out of the car, which had picked me up at the railroad station I started to feel out of touch with reality.

 My reception by a butler in a mix of Trachten and Loden hunting suit set me back a while. It struck me as if I was on a movie set in Hollywood. I was slightly shocked when he helps me out of the car saying. “Baroness Susanne you are already being expected.” Then when I want to take my luggage he protests. “No, no Baroness; Stefan will take care of that.” Not ever before had I been addressed by our old defunct title. All I can say it’s a strange feeling for a twelve-year-old to be greeted by an older man with such respect and politeness, especially when you come from the good old USA.

 As I start up the steps I see this adorable cute boy, hardly older than I, stepping out from behind the butler. The most decorative suspenders I have ever seen hold up his Lederhosen. Above the short socks he has a separate top which covers just his calves. The shoes have a row of odd heavy hails around the soles and heels. He picks my heavy bags out of the trunk with a light speedy flick of his wrist. That is my experience at Hildegard’s parents. Oh yes so I don’t forget: I got an immediate invitation to stay the week.

 Well that was absolutely cool for me. To get a week, a whole week of this kind of life. Only flaw is Oma. She will be worried. On second thought Mutti will be calling. She does this once a week. The Ogertschnigs agree. It’ll be taken care of.

 The von Ogertschnigs have a kind of secretary which they call Fräulein. She is a lot more than a secretary. She takes car of servant hiring, training and firing, I guess, as well. Once my longer stay has been established Hildegard’s father nods to her mother who turns to me advising me. “Okay Susi, be a sweetheart and find Fräulein and tell her to call your Oma and Mutti too. So we can be sure there is no reason to worry about you.”

 I am so happy at the time; just thinking about it even now makes my heart jump. Right there and then I wanted to jump up and hug somebody, but I controlled myself. I bit my lips and got up slowly and ladylike to go and find Fräulein. What I wondered does a secretary do in a private household? Where do I find this Fräulein?

 Almost at once I luck out running into that handsome boy Stefan who just a while ago fetched my luggage. I am sure I can ask him and I only hope it’ll take him awhile to find out. Stefan is polite and eager to please, but also fast with the information. He informs me with a certain air, out of which I can detect a large amount of manly superiority. I also find that the boy is not only a foot taller than I, but I judge him to be a couple of years older that I as well. Well that is all right too since, even when I was twelve, I preferred older Boys.

 Stefan explains to me about Fräulein. “Yes Fräulein, right now she is in the kitchen putting the weekly menu together.” He makes a face as if he had told me some world-shaking news. I give him a nod, half agreement half questionmark. “She is always pertinent to have it all run to perfection.” I was about to learn this in just a few days and much more. When I found her, Yes, in the kitchen I told her about the needed phone calls, she got on the phone to Oma without delay. “Yes Madam this is Miss Novachek at Schloß Windhausen. I am calling for Baroness Susan, the Ogertschnigs are asking her to stay for a week if this is agreeable.” There is a short pause. Fräulein nods saying “Then I shall make the call to her mother, thank you.”

 She hangs up starts dialing again and then turning to me she asks. “Baroness tell me please, your Mother is in the habit of getting up by eight in the morning, yes?” I nod silently. I hear the familiar ring from home in California. It is just a few seconds I can tell the ringing has stopped and Fräulein informs my Mutti. “Good morning, this is Fräulein Novachek. I am calling to tell you Baroness Susan is spending a week with us here at Schloß Windhausen at the von Ogertschnigs. Our telephone number here is 49 7845 63423.” She listens for a while and in answer to god knows what she says. “She is right here with me. I’ll put her on and thank you very much. I will tell the family.”

 What really catches me by surprise is that Fräulein Novachek has switched to perfect American when she speaks to Mutti. Well I should say it was mostly New England I heard in her voice. She gives me the receiver. I hear Muttis worried voice from California. “Susan listen to me. Watch your manners. Don’t make an ass of yourself with our American behavior. Be good.” I interrupt her with some less patience that I should have. “Okay, okay Mutti I’ll watch myself; bye, bye.” There is still doubt in her voice when she says “Good bye Susan.” I hang up eyeing Fräulein with new respect. “It’s all okay, thanks a mill for calling.” Fräulein nods briefly. "Not a problem, Baroness, no thanks necessary.” I turn with one last look at her and go back to the salon. Oh yes the living room is called a salon. Frankly it’s the size of a school mess hall or a fair sized hotel lobby. Go figure.


                                        ***********8 chapter***********

These memories of my childhood in
Europe ring me back to the now and today. I push my fingernail against the speed dial button and then I hit the one twice. Now I hear the dialer click itself through the ten numbers. There is the hum, the ring, once, twice and at three Mutti lifts the receiver. “Susan how are you, what are you doing?” I hope to sometime learn to understand how she can be so sure it is I who is calling. “Good morning Mutti. I am fine thank you, and I am talking to you on the phone.” I say it and know I should not have. “Susi I have told you a thousand times don’t you get fresh with me. Well, talk, talk.”

 That is how it goes for me with my Mutti. I tell her about my career, details about my change from advertising to the radio station. When I mention John, my gay friend, and how knowing him and having him there has helped me, she gets curious. Mutti getting so nosy it is hilarious. “This John is about the most solid man you have met so far, Susan.” I have landed myself in a groove with her I would have rather avoided. Knowing her as you can only know your mother, I am in for it. She isn’t going to quit till, yes till I pour the cold water on her new pet theory.

 Mutti, Mutti, slow down please, slow down. John is a homosexual, a gay guy.” I repeat it slowly to drive it home to her. Finally she grasps it and it stops her cold. I start counting the seconds. Twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six. That is where it stands; six seconds until I give up I talk to her just to see if she is still on the line. “Mutti, hallo, hallo?” it wakes her up from wherever. “Yes Susi, I am still here. One of these days I will have a stroke. Are you sure this John is a, …a…?” She can’t get herself to say the word gay or whatever. She sounds so serious, so mixed up and unsure. Yes unsure, Mutti, she is unsure, for her that is a first all right.

 “Okay Mutti listen to this. He never calls me, I mean not even once. Men don’t do that with me. Second item he doesn’t ogle my legs. Men do it always and guaranteed. Number three, he doesn’t even take a peak down my blouse. The way I am equipped all men do this. Hey, that is not all. He doesn’t put his hand on my knee. That is what, number four. The best he does is a kiss me on my nose.” Mutti breathes deeply which is a bad omen.  I think hard. Mutti doubts my words, no, my judgement. Why the hell does she? I mean I am not stupid, not about men, am I?  “That is it?” The way I see it, what she says, it isn’t fair how she comes at me out of nowhere. “You have found out he is not pushy and he has good manners?” Mutti likes to pause for thought. I have always disliked this trait in her. She queries. “Is he married?”

 “Mutti, he wears no wedding band. Besides, he is thick with the gay guys at the Old Brittany.” She can’t be stopped “Come on girl don’t be naïve. Good food is just a sign of a potential gourmet no matter where it comes from. Go and ask him.” That is it for me. “Mutti you are nuts, no worse, you have a screw loose. I should go and ask John ‘Are you gay?’ Like ‘why haven’t you jumped me yet?’ Hello!”

 Mutti is so exited as if she had caught me at something. “There, you see. You don’t want to embarrass yourself because he impresses you. I knew this the moment you started talking about him.” I don’t know why, but I can concede a point when I see a reason for it. “Okay Mutti, he is neat or attractive. John is an elegant man, but he is not interested in women. That is the end, finish. If you want him, you can have him.” I have that sick feeling I am getting into it, too deep.

 My Mutti has a condition. She actually believes she has a certain precognition. This brings her an unreasonable self-confidence. I don’t mean there is anything wrong with self confidence. It is just with her it goes beyond reasonable self-assurance. Opa had a way of labeling it. He said she can hear the grass grow. I deserve it when she tells me what to do because she knows. I should learn to keep my mouth shut. She gets to this point where she tries to talk me into doing something which I know better, not to do; hell for that matter, not even to get close to. It takes me awhile alright to fill her in with my priorities. It is not just to get her off my back. I genuinely want her to know about my life. I mean, after all, she is my mother.

 So, once more I talk to her and explain. “Mutti I have to wait to the first of the month for my paycheck before I can do anything.” I know how the mention of money is a way of getting her attention. My next is I tell her I have a date with the hair salon to keep. She pauses and I wonder if she is catching on to my ruse. Have I used it one time too many? So I bring a new reason up for her that is not a repeat. “Mutti listen I have a heavy date for a party to celebrate my new job at WHW. I have been planning this for months.” I am so happy. She finally takes my cue and concedes this is important. “So, you are going to do the town and celebrate your change of jobs and going upward in the world. Good night Susan.” As quick as I can I squeeze out my. “Good night, Mutti.” I put the receiver down with a deep sigh of relief. 

At first I take Friday to go out with Sonny.  After a while we go out twice, that is, I decide to make it for Wednesday and Saturday. As time goes by, we add a third day to it. It works out fine for me. We split it so we do a movie in the middle of the week, the other two days it’s dinner and bed. Of course bed. Sex twice a week is important. Time flies and it is Fall so quickly. Slowly I get to be aware that Sonny, my sweet friend, is not at home on the days we are not together. When I confront him he admits to sleeping with another girl. But he assures me he loves me, not her. I had just thought of giving him a key to my apartment. Well I caught it just in time.