Wildflowers: part 11

by jamesmerolla

It was a dreary Sunday morning in Bavaria, and Alex sat at the kitchen table reading the paper, listening to his neighbor run her vacuum cleaner.

The news of the day was the same; the world was coming to an end, and his wife, Hannah, was dying with it.

She had once been the blonde beauty, stubborn and strong, four years older than he, who took him in, a young wildling, and tamed him. She was smarter than him, brimming with the highest education. She consumed knowledge, and dazzled him with her regurgitations. She believed every person must recognize and embrace immortality in the rare chance it’s presented.

He learned to share all her beliefs, and fervently so, with fists pounding on tavern tables he’d defend her word as if it was all he loved of her. And behind her pale blue eyes they loved each other, unknown to the teetering edge of madness for which they dwelled.

Soon the air in Germany grew sour, and whispers from darkened rooms escaped into the streets and slithered into homes, frothing with a poisonous bite. The air was charged for a spark that would shock the world and reverberate through time. Hanna looked into the heart of this spark and saw eternity.

And now, as she entered the kitchen, prim and proper in clothes Alex didn’t recognize, she was as faded as the carpet around the living room table

     Are you reading that Bolshevik propaganda again?

     No, I haven’t been able to get that in weeks.

     Good, those swine would have us eating each other if not for The Party.

     Your mother called again.

     What did you tell her?

     I told her you were out…again. Do I have to keep lying to her?

     Yes, I don’t want her to know anything about me anymore.

She stared sullenly into her morning reflection, as if something were hopelessly drowning in the black of her coffee.

     You should come with me today. There’s a great man speaking and I’d love for you to hear him.

     I don’t know. That auditorium gets awfully warm with all those people.

     I don’t know why you keep rejecting this. The Party needs men like you, strong, smart men. You can do a lot of good.

     We’ve had this discussion before, Hanna.

     Just this once, embrace what we’re becoming as a nation. This is our chance at greatness.

He squinted to try and see a glimmer of her past. He’d accept any reminder, maybe just one more sunlit smile from the girl from Munich.  There was a shameful want in his need for her. But she was a bitter shadow of his memory.

     If I go today will you never ask me again?

     If you go today I’ll never have to.

As they walked to the auditorium she held his hand for the first time in over a year. She leaned on him, and kissed his neck.

     I’m proud of you.

He watched as the faces filed into the auditorium, creased with the valleys of poverty and frustration, their plain clothes worn at the elbows, their fingers bitten to the bone, the vulnerable German people, ripe for the plucking.

Inside, the steamy room was abuzz with uniforms and pageantry, waiting for their song. Flag bearers leaned on their colors, horn players tuned to the din of the crowd percolating with nervous excitement, and the stage was draped with banners woven with perverted dreams.

“Where are the men who will speak to us?

They’re in quiet hallways, below the crowd, listening to the doomy echo of their pacing boots above their murmuring rehearsals.

Five minutes to show time, and their hands get nervous. They hope they remember their lines. What if the crowd doesn’t believe them? What if this Passion play, rewritten so many times, is proven false?

They must have faith in the tired masses that will bite their tongues and swallow their morals, so they could spit out their pride.”

The horn players got their cue and started the march without warning. The young flag bearers rang to attention, and the people stood with stone chins and watched. They watched their lives march before them and into the abyss.

Out from the mists stepped a man no less ordinary than someone’s uncle. He glared so sternly. Did he even believe what he was seeing? Alex watched as the demure faces bloomed with prideful anger with a sound of the man’s bellowing voice through a microphone. They were lost, answering the calls of wolves in the forest.

In the midst of the rally Hanna turned to him, pushed her blonde hair from her sweat soaked cheek and shouted:

     This moment will echo forever! You and I will always be here!

They found apples that escaped the frost, deep in the forest, further than they had traveled before. Neither Marla nor Alex had talked about their conversation just two weeks prior, so they felt like testing their limits. Every unknown inch they pushed forward into, bent their limits of expression, until it distorted their gestures. Accidental meetings of their eyes carried with them deeper misunderstandings.

They cooked the apples with rabbit meat. The meal was warm and sugary, and tasted of the sweet softness of memory. They remembered more civilized times when they were strangers.

And with the sweetness of the apples still heavy on her mouth, Marla stood in the doorway of Alex’s bedroom that night, and peered through the dark to watch him sleeping. However, she never crossed the crease in the floorboards that separated her from him. But something beyond mere compulsion stirred in her. It was a loneliness she wanted to inflict upon the world.  She crept over the crease, stumbled in the dark, and found him.

She never looked him in the face, and she rolled her nightgown back down faster than she pulled it up.

As she left the room, feeling him grasp for her, she felt nothing.

From that night her cold façade began to thaw until she was naked and vulnerable before him. Fiercely they gave into urges, ignoring their unfathomable truths in the blacks of their eyes.

The seasons changed, and their habits tightened around their necks. Strange lovers sleep walking through the wilderness.

Marla started seeing images of John. They were involuntary impressions of his life. She lies in bed with Alex, and all she sees is John in his mother’s backyard.

     That night, when you told me the story about your wife, was it the truth?

     Yes, of course. Why do you ask… now?

He looked at her with puzzlement. It had been months since he told her that story.

     I guess when you told me I was so overcome with grief for her, I didn’t think to question whether or not it was true. It just occurred to me.

     It’s true.

     Including the way she died?

     Yes, and I’m offended by your questioning.

     I deserve to know.

     And if I lied?

     It would just crush me… But I trust you.

     Good, because I’d never lie to you.

     I know you wouldn’t. I was just wondering.

Their exhausted bodies lay across each other in the cracks of midday sun through the window. A fist was slowly tightening around them.

continued in part 12…