Teaser 194: Leaving Baden Baden
One more swing through four days of Magdalena's constant presence and I would “check out” of the Schekter home, as a paying guest, forever. What little I had accumulated which I would not take with me to Africa I put in storage provided by my hosts. Their suggestion came via Matty's insistence when she offered, “You can put it in our storage unit here in the village, Gregory, since we have plenty of room in it for your belongings and it will ensure you'll have to see us again, if you ever want your stuff back.” She said it standing before me with a “severe” expression, her arms tightly folded across her chest to emphasize the “severity” of her suggestion. I can't help it. I'm incorrigible. You know it. Every time I see any woman in that posture I instantly think it and say it. “You have your arms crossed before you like you're my mother, Matty.” When she attempted to object I stopped her. “And I accept your offer completely in the manner intended...Mom.” I stepped to Matty and we hugged like we would never see each other again. It's how I interpreted Matty's hug, because she did squeeze me exceptionally tight.
Lena was as positive and upbeat as always, and as sensuous and sexual when we were alone as ever. I would come back to her when my presence in Africa was no longer necessary, when I would deem it so, and she was merely ensuring the outcome. It would be up to me to get through all those months with a brain half-way intact, reasonably unfried from thinking about the outcome over and over...You get the picture. The jury was out. I could only promise myself I would stay busy, do something, don't stop and think about that whatever I do. It would take discipline. If Drake can do it, well, heck, who am I kidding? Drake's an exceptional human when it comes to discipline and married to an equally exceptional human in that regard. I could begin to develop the discipline. I wasn't too old to learn. Focus, little boy, focus...
Imagine my surprise when Lena suddenly asked, “Do you want to go to Munich Thursday night after I leave?”
“Why would I want to do that?”
“To see Tanya.”
“Why would I want to see Tanya?”
“You want to see all of us, Gregory. It is instinctive, because as much as you don't want to think it, you know you may never leave Africa alive.” When Lena said it she was not flustered or overly emotional. It came from her mouth accompanied by the same calm posture, a clinical statement, detached, unemotional, intended to put light on a very real possibility and nothing more.
“Why are you not livid with me, Lena? Why are you not screaming at me?”
“Because I have shared you from the moment I met you, Gregory, and I have accepted it for what it is. We are all in your life because we belong there. Do you not know that by now? I won't leave you for one reason. You give me the attention, affection, consideration, concern, in short, Gregory, the love which I crave in my own selfish way, like most of us. But when I am forced to think about it, to think of how selfish I am, I know I cannot bind you, that what I must do is love you as much as I can, and to love everyone else as much as I can. Your presence in my life, Gregory, has taught me this and it is still teaching me this. You will come back to me as you promised. I will still be waiting.” I sat on the sofa while we conducted this discussion and I knew I was learning, I was being taught, too. Lena was right when she said they all belonged in my life. What she may or may not have understood was they all had different levels of belonging and Lena's level was at the top.
Serena offered to pick me up at the airport but I declined her offer. “I need to be able to get around without depending on someone else to get me around. I have many things to do in a short week in Los Angeles and I want to see many people before I leave. It is not acceptable to me to put your vehicles and drivers at my beck and call.”
“But you are staying with me?” Serena half-questioned. “My home is your home, Gregory.”
“Since you have invited me, yes, I will stay in your home with you. Thank you for your invitation. It is appreciated.”
“I have to invite you now?”
“You will always have to invite me, Serena, because if I expect to stay with you without an invitation, then I have created an assumption which is not true, that your home is always my home. That is not the truth. You must always invite me first each time, because each time is new and different, so I will know that for this new and different time, you want to share your home with me. This is the right way, Serena. This way leads to understanding between us. You may always think of it as a mere formality, nothing more. This is fine. To me, though, it shall always be a requirement.”
“Africa is changing you somehow, Gregory. I don't think you ever considered it a requirement. You always took it to heart my home was your home.”
“I am discovering the way, Serena, perhaps because Africa is forcing me.”
Heinz appeared at the back door after supper Thursday night as I requested. Lena had all her items in a bag. They would have to make their way back to their home, since they would have no place at the Schekter's home in a few hours. We all drank a little wine and the conversation was soft, not morose, more in a respectful vein. I cleaned out the refrigerator and freezer by moving what was left downstairs. There was beer but I had no taste for it and put it in Conrad's refrigerator with his acceptance. Conrad and Anna were both home for a while to say goodbye. Anna cried when I kissed her. My eyes watered, too, but I gently rubbed my finger below her eyes and reminded her that her action was inconsistent with my failure to be her favorite American actor. It made everyone laugh, Anna's laugh, though, being the most sincere. Everyone knew I was leaving for Munich before I needed to be there and knew why, but no one ever mentioned it. When it came time for Lena to leave, Heinz, Lena and I all walked down to Matty and Wilhelm, where we said our goodbyes and I handed them my key. We all walked out together but Heinz and I waited until Lena backed out and drove away. At the train station, Heinz and I both reminisced about the first day. It started right at this very spot. I jested it would be difficult for me to find such a trustworthy and dependable driver anywhere else in the world. It would make things less stressful if I could simply step into a ride driven by one of Deutschland's finest.
“A man of your stature, Herr Hess,” Heinz remarked, “quite often employs a driver, one driver, to drive him wherever he needs to go. Perhaps when you return from Africa, we should have a conversation on that theme.”
“Now that you brought it up, Heinz, count on it.”
- Just Desserts, Segment Twenty-Four “Back in the USA” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021
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