Someone she used to know said this about his life: I cannot live wishing for something or someone. All the good memories, thoughts and images are stored in a special box. That is how I live.
This person did not deviate from the tunnel vision he created. Hardly looking right nor left he followed the flow of the direction of his life. He lived his reality and restricted his desire for distraction ; He resisted love, yet longed for it. He was too disciplined to display any emotion except to himself, and only in the nethermost region of his rock-solid interior — only allowing brief glimpses of his vulnerability. He was kind but most unforgiving when treated wrongly. It was easy to love him
She wondered what it would be like to be a person with a schedule. She often wish she could have all her memories stored inside like a filing cabinet, and in alphabetical order by year and person involved. Instead hers came to life in spurts or inadvertently tumbled out; bitter and sweet.
In a roundabout way he reminded her of the Little Prince, disappointed by the rose whose lie betrayed his love. The prince ventured out into the world to gather experience and make other friends, but later decided to return to the love he missed, even though his rose hurt him with her claim that she was the only one of her kind. But before he could make it back to his rose, a snake bit him.
She often wondered about her lost friend and where his life would lead him with his many ambitions. Her wish for him was that he figure out there was more to life than reaching his goal. She wished for his sake, it would be sooner than later.
She wrote a journal so she could remember the things that mattered. It started out . . .
I’m sitting out on the lanai, gazing out at the ocean, not really seeing anything. It’s dusk and I seek out my memories, to come back and help me relive what once was. Here they come. Like a long-lost love, the kind that caused agony and pain, but also sheer joy, I welcome them all. Maybe I can make sense of my life. This is not a memoir, rather a series of short stories of people I’ve met along the way after leaving my home. Once upon a time, a girl, now a woman traveled from her country of birth to halfway around the world, and as she grew older, she began her journey back home. The one true thing she knew she would return to before her life was complete.
She put the journal aside and let her mind wander.
She thought about what Helen, her Chinese fortune-teller friend recently said about her destiny. Helen was always at the Pohl Gallery in Honolulu’s Chinatown. She didn’t read cards instead she used another method. When she had a feel for a person, she offered her jar full of glass stones.
She didn’t buy into fortune telling, but played along when Helen offered her the jar. As instructed and with her eyes closed she picked the stones. She opened her eyes and saw a green stone shaped like a star, and a blue stone shaped like a fish. She handed both stones with her right hand into Helen’s right palm.
Helen’s eyes were closed as she held the stones briefly and told her to open and stretch out her right palm. The fortune-teller placed the stones on her palm.
The stones are your destiny, Helen said. The fish was facing the void and the star was behind it.
The fish is you heading towards your destiny and the star behind it signifies children. You’re kidding, right Helen? I am going through peri-menopause and I don’t have much time left to conceive a child. Can we get real here? Sweetie, I’m just telling you what the stones signify. The children don’t have to come from your womb. It could be that your destiny means that you will be leading children, not having them. As far as I knowI haven’t reached my destiny. The only connection I have with children are my many nieces and nephews and the kids that bother to read my young-adult fiction novels. And as you know, kids don’t hold real books anymore, let alone read its contents; they browse through the wide world of cyber space. Only time will tell. Just wait and see . . .Helen said.
The next time she had her fortune told was when her hairdresser friend, Cleo, swore up and down that she knew a lady from Hong Kong whose card readings were always accurate. Cleo even paid for the reading.
The cards revealed that children were her destiny (once again), but this time a man and true love were in the cards.
Well, at least there’s a man in the picture. I was getting worried where all these kids were going to come from. My husband and I can’t have children, by the way. Maybe another man, the Chinese lady said.
Don’t count on it. I'm out of touch with men except the one I have. Besides, we have plans to grow old together.
She returned to her memories of the past.
She was a 10-year old girl in the family’s house in Manila. One of her favorite things to do was sneak in the library and lock the door, away from her siblings’ prying eyes. She stood in front of a large mirror in the room and pretended she was a mysterious, exotic woman living in a foreign country. Or she was somebody famous with fabulous wealth and intellectual friends.
The only time she hated the library was when her mother forced her to spend 1 hour a week to read the silly Emily Post Book on Etiquette.
You need to know how to set a table and arrange flowers. It will come in handy when you are grown up and married and have to prepare dinner for guests, her mother used to say.
She always protested. Why would I need to learn this stuff? Ma, how do you know I’ll ever get married? I could become a nun, you know.Her mother snickered. Not in this lifetime.
After the key was turned and the door locked, she would quickly turn to the page with instructions on table setting, briefly scan the page in case she was quizzed, and moved on to the shelves full of books.
That was how reading, imagining different worlds and being a loner in her large family molded her character. She read about Alice romping around in Wonderland endlessly annoying the Red Queen, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn’s adventures, and the Little Prince who reminded her of the friend she used to have.
She wandered through her maze of memories and stopped in Germany.
She thought about her 2 red Bessies— Volkswagen beetles — she bought from her mechanic friend, Hartmut, who lived on the outskirts of Griesheim.
She remembered driving back from Muenster to Wiesbaden on a wickedly cold winter's day. The heater wasn’t working right but she was prepared, or so she thought. She covered herself in a turtleneck sweater and woolen pullover, long scarf wrapped around her head and neck, thermal leggings and heavy corduroy pants tucked in fur-lined boots and braved the nasty, cold and wet weather that punished the bones. Only in gloomy Germany was this kind of weather normal. As if that wasn’t enough punishment, a freezing rain showered down on her poor Bessie and the windshield became encrusted with ice.
She drove with her side of the window wide open and warning lights blinking. She stopped wherever she could, got out of the car and scraped the windshield and side mirrors of the never-ending downpour of stinging ice pounding down on poor Bessie and herself. Her woolen get up was getting soaked and increasingly heavy.
I would give anything for a warm mug or two of grog and a toasty 'Beamer Bessie' zooming along the fast lane with automatic transmission, she muttered, amid curses of scheisse and verflucht nochmal!
Ice-covered Bessie finally sputtered into the parking lot of an autobahn rest stop with a mini restaurant. The driver needed a breather to rest her poor aching arms and legs and change her soaked pullover. She patted Bessie's dashboard asking for forgiveness; standard is better in this slip-sliding shit weather.
Huge semi-trucks were lined up along the rest stop. She decided to wait out the storm. She parked a little ways from the trucks; a lone Asian girl and Beetle Bessie in the midst of barracuda truckers wasn’t a good situation to be in.
Bessie didn't provide much needed heat from the bone-chilling cold. She switched off the motor — cursed her mechanic friend who tinkered with Bessie and proclaimed her ready to tackle the 4-hour drive to Muenster — peeled off the soaking wet pullover, dug out a couple of sweaters from the back and put those on. She took off her gloves, rubbed her hands and slapped her arms and legs, trying in vain to fight off the numbing cold assaulting her body.
That was when a truck driver positioned himself at the passenger window side of Bessie, unzipped his pants, pulled out his manhood, leered at her and began jerking off.
She had to laugh at the sight. The hood of his long parka was zipped up with only his beady eyes showing, and he wore mukluk boots up to his knees. The only skin she saw was a pinkish fleshy hand moving up and down, attempting to get a rise from his cold little buddy. She thought about a horny Eskimo on an ice-fishing trip.
Her laughter pissed the maniac off. He moved closer to the window to show off his one-eyed snake. She thought about his thing getting painfully stuck on Bessie's metal skin instead of the glass and laughed some more. Her reaction must have pissed him off. He started jiggling the door of the car with his free hand.
In a wild panic, she pounded hard on Bessie’s horn for several long minutes until the palm of her hand started to hurt. Bessie’s to the rescue and incessant beeping got the attention of the other truckers. The sex fiend put his buddy back in his pants.
She got out of the car and screamed out choice street German lingo at the idiot who exposed himself. The other truckers seemed mildly concerned for her welfare and were more interested in knowing whether she enjoyed the show. Some even had a good laugh with the bastard. She screamed at the top of her lungs until some employees from the restaurant came running out. The fiend and his trucker buddies beat feet when she threatened to call the autobahn police.
The fiend disappeared during the commotion and she only saw the tail lights of his truck heading out. One of the restaurant employees handed her a large styrofoam cup of hot tea on the house. The warm tea slowed the adrenalin rush and calmed her nerves. She got back in the car and waited until the ice storm let up before heading home to Wiesbaden.
She should have stayed in Muenster, tucked under the feder bett in her cozy bedroom, with Mutti reading in her room and Papa playing solitaire, drinking beer and watching television in his study/bedroom.
Ach, Mutti und Papa wo seid ihr? I habe keine zu Hause mehr. Hilf mir doch, bitte!
Where to begin? Her first-hand experience living with others than those of her race: Gerd and Ingemaria Schroeder of Muenster in NordRhein Westafalen, her German parents.
They treated her like the daughter they never had. Papa was the managing editor of the main newspaper, Muenstersche Zeitung, and the reason she became interested in journalism. She liked visiting him in the newsroom and watching the writers churn out the news, and going with Papa to his favorite kneipe, drinking with his editors after work hours. He taught her how to cook delicious meals; the cooking lessons came in handy when she moved to her first flat in Wiesbaden.
Mutti was a retired nurse who ran the household and taught her about being a good hausfrau. She learned how to cook and clean properly and took long walks in the woods with Mutti and Bolamann, the boxer dog. She looked forward to stopping at a cafe in the middle of the woods for cake and coffee before heading back home. She loved listening to Mutti talk about her youth, her heartbreaks, the war and her life with Papa.
The stories of the past was fascinating to a 17-year old girl, ignorant of her adopted parents’ history as well as Europe in turmoil during WWII. She barely knew of her country's sufferings under the Japanese Empire.
Sitting on the floor of the living room, she listened to Mutti's recount of the cruel and sadistic treatment she received from her first marriage at the height of Hitler's Nazi Germany. The loveless union produced a son taken away by the family of her husband because of an affair she had with a doctor. The affair didn't last, but she bore her second son and kept him. She finally met Papa, a dashing and handsome major with the Deutsche Luftwaffe. He was to be transferred to Poland after a cushy desk job in Paris. The war was getting serious and the Allied Army was hot on the German trail. It was time for Papa to be up in the air, scouting for enemy fighter and bomber planes threatening to wipe Germany from the face of the earth.
They married, moved to Poland and had a son named Ernst, only to lose the baby when the Russians invaded Poland. The infant was confined in a hospital with pneumonia. When Mutti and Papa came to take their baby, they were informed that the hospital had been evacuated along with all the patients. The heartbreaking and fruitless search for their child in enemy territory was cut short when they were forced to flee to Berlin.
It was only a matter of time until the Russians would march into Germany's capital and wreak cruel revenge on its citizens. Once again, they had to flee on foot to the North so Papa could surrender to the British. He knew what his fate would be with the Russians; many soldiers and officers did not survive the punishing climate of Siberia. After the war, they tried in vain to find Ernst via the International Red Cross and other channels, but nothing ever came of it.
The young girl of 17 was enraptured, saddened, enraged and elated with the stories Mutti and Papa shared with her. They had so much to tell . . .
© Patricia Laurel