Maybe Margaret

by hargitai

Rudiger turns towards the wall. His pale fingers draw curious figures on the thin patternless paper. His red hair folds over the white slope of his neck and from his neck down his shoulder. Under his naked arm a folded greenish pillow, on it fast-fading impressions of my face.

I leave him like that. Quickly down the steps, dizzy, all the way to Ottmarsommersweg. Near the post office I slow down to catch my breath. It is hard to shake the stuff. Rudiger is different, he slides right into it.

The last time it happened in Innsbruck. It was a first visit, a total loss. By night I had completely lost my way, no bearings, no directions, just that dark and very strange city. Relax, Rudiger said. I couldn't.

I pass the post office, weakening vision, teary eyes, perception completely gone. I rest leaning against a shop-window, slipping down, trying to hide. Then I move on.

It is the wrong place, busy Kaufhoff strasse, small-town friendly familiar faces. At Piano Schneider I run into Anka. She looks at me and knows right away, she knows and takes me to the lake behind Quelle where she pulls me down onto the grass.

I think we broke up some time ago, but now I have no idea where we stand. She pulls my head onto her breasts and we rest like that. From the lake a spray of frightened loons shot up towards the sky. My burning eyes follow.

It wasn't really a break-up. We were just sitting in my room, looking down at the terrace of the noisy pub. She was silent. Then she asked on that desperate and abused and severely rejected voice: "Why?"

Now she holds me tight. We have been through this many times and it is easy now. A short moment and my pants are sticky. She too comes, deep unappealing moan.

I look up, her nose bleeds profusely. I hope I didn't hurt her, but I really don't know. I have little feeling in my head and no coordination. "Just popped," she says, shaking me to pay attention. "Just popped, that's all!"

I am getting up to leave, wobbling slowly towards the lake. "You can't go like this!" She protests. But I do.

I walk to Jugend Zentrum. It is the perfect place to sit this thing out. On the way people stare. It must be the wet pants. Maybe my eyes, hard-drawn rigid glass.

The Zentrum is packed, early afternoon after-school crowd. Not far from the door is the Auslanderin Alda. Back against the wall, one leg pulled up like a flamingo's. She is fresh and frail, sickly and weak, the keenest aphrodisiac.

I have been watching her for some time, and not a long time ago, just like Anka's, her nose was profusely bleeding. Peter and I got her off the concrete floor. Rough-dancing crowd. Her white shirt soaked, her face blood-smeared and damaged. At last she came to outside the Zentrum, on the damp grass.

It was a shiny dark night. The neons of the American car-lot, the strange sparkle of the moon. She had tiny child-like breasts. She wiped herself with her soiled shirt. Then Peter gave her his jacket. Large, almost a kid in it, rough on the breasts, rough on the skin.

Now she looks at me from the noisy music hall. She looks away. She is still embarrassed by our help that night. I back out. The noise bothers me. The strange pulsating lights.

In a few minutes I stop in front of Frau VerKooteren's house. Cross-cut, smooth lawn, sharp edges. I think I owe her money for an English tape.

She takes me to her kitchen, to her bedroom. It is something she had been waiting for.

"My husband isn't coming home tonight!"

I shake my head and slowly walk towards the door. She stops me. She is well-kept, overweight. I would like that now. I really would. But I go.

In a flash I see Rudiger. He is wailing on the heavy cotton pillow. The creases from it long gone, comforting little impressions.

The images now come quick and blurry. There was this girl from Amsterdam. I don't even know her name. Just remember the childish struggle. The red turtleneck she wore. Thick red hair. She was another nurse at St. Kreautz. She was a good dancer but in bed she struggled. She was too old for that.

In her panties now on the bed. Freckles, and that funny red-head smell. And back to the struggle, her tight breasts. Large, skin-colored plastic cups. Rigid, lifeless plastic cups. She gave me something when I finally left. "There," Rudiger said. "Did you at least catch her name?"

Two days ago in Amsterdam we had a beer. It was a cold damp day for a cold beer. "Full of freckles?" Rudiger asked.

We rode back the long way, wanted to touch the sea at Larswegen, Emden, Leer-Loga, Wolfsburg, Meppen. Long ride and the rain soon has beaten us back.

Now there is a swelling in my throat. Maybe hives. If I could go straight home, if I could sleep, I might somehow rest it out.

Peter boils red wine in the kitchen for his cold. There's a little bag of nutmeg on the stove and sugar in a cup. "Rudiger got some bad stuff," he says as I lean against the wall. "He is in the emergency room."

My body still holds, but then the soft vapor of the wine darkens my eyes.

In the ambulance the crystal ball finally breaks, splinters, sharp insistent pain. At the hospital the KRIPO man flashes faces from his portfolio in front of me. "Just a name, try to give us a name!"

I try to remember her name, but things now seem distant and dim. The soft face of the KRIPO man, his folio of dealers, greyish ill-snapped photographs, among them the red-head girl, soft, calm beautiful face. Maybe, maybe, I try, but I cannot remember her name.

And then the strange sensation, suddenly everything is sweet smooth and mellow.

Copyright © 1997
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