Erinnerungen

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I am now very old, on the threshold, ready to sail, you might say, to Toteninseln. Yet I live. And Inga, my immortal love, is here too. We still haunt those forests and lakes, this is our home. We listen to the wind, to the rain, to the owls. For most people we are now almost invisible. We have travelled a lot, and always come back, here, to our country.

So, I remember. When we were incredibly young, still unaware of our strength, of how different we were, from others. Inga was ahead of me, my initiator, my guide. She taught me, how to listen, how to drink. In turn I transferred the knowledge I had, the science, what I already knew about „society“. I gave her everything, and she gave me everything. Evidently we were outsider. It was a miracle that we found each other. Or perhaps not. Certain things are preordained. They happen because they must.

This is our story.

 

Inspiration

We spoke often about “the book”, how we could turn the doctorate paper into an interesting story for a wider public. Inga thought I should keep to the main theme, the reality of people in the land, their hopes and changing destinies. I was tempted to seek some fictional inspiration from our lives, from my encounter with the Lady of the Forest, from what I had already learnt with Inga. Indeed my interest, as I was working on the thesis, had been maintained because of our discussions, my discoveries, the magic of the owl, Inga’s mystery. Ursula had suggested something much more commercial, some sort of rewrite of the paper with fictional characters, something I totally dismissed. I wanted 17th century Brandenburg to be the stage, the background to something real, a tragedy. I was also aware that Inga was not so keen on Ursula’s influence, or obvious interest in the project. We did not speak about it at first, then gradually she shared her unease about Ursula’s smooth way of making herself indispensable. I understood very well. Ursula was American through and through, pragmatic, and ultimately interested only in what she saw as a profitable outcome: another potential best-seller. Of course she was very experienced and knowledgeable about all things publishing, and I wanted, needed that expertise too.
I started working on what we quickly dubbed as “the inspired version”, with Inga reading, commenting, criticising and being my public. It was now late February, B** was grey on most days, with sometime bright sunshine that did not last very long. We visited the owl, took long walks at night in the woods, slept till late in the morning. Our own relationship deepened, together with the length of our love-making. We went back to the lake, swimming in what felt merely like cool water. The air around us smelled of pine and fresh rain. I continued with my jobs at the Uni, with an increased number of students. My mentor wanted me to apply for a more permanent post, but I was in no hurry: the book came first. Ursula wrote with more advice, and an offer of a writers’ sabbatical in Colorado that she would attend in the late summer.

I did not rush to reply but Inga and I were clear I would not go. Then, the world collapsed around us. One morning, which for us was around 11am, we heard the first official warning about the infection. I knew enough biology and chemistry to understand it was serious. We spoke, and decided we’d stay home for now, and limit our outings to the woods, which was not very different from what we usually did. Inga was worried for her aunt and grand parents. She spoke with Ewa and Marco. We would take our share of work at the farm.
Soon the Uni was closed down, as well as most of the schools and public places. I had no longer any reason to go to the city. B** was quiet, with even less traffic than usual. Our next door neighbour asked us to do his shopping for him when we did ours, which was no problem. We worked on the novel, listened to recorded concerts, read many books. We visited the owl, and Inga talked with her for several hours. As we were back home and going to bed she said the owl had told her there would be many dead humans soon. We read early academic reports on the disease. We wore disposable gloves when we went out although not in the woods. We kept to ourselves.


We had hints of Spring, some days the sun was really warm, but the nights stayed fresh. Inga wanted to speak with the bats, but the little friends remained elusive. She said she thought we were immune, without adventuring to say why. I was bemused by the speed of the infection spread. Still we continued with the novel, which was now developing well. I wrote most days over two thousand words, mostly at night, while Inga continued with her editing and still more research from books and online. We shopped once a week, for ourselves and our neighbour. The town, or at least the streets, were almost deserted. One morning Inga told me about her strange dream, how she’d woken up in a foreign room, and I started asking myself questions about how the total isolation we lived in affected us. The weirdest stories circulated about the virus, its origins, a sinister plan of world-wide domination, and worse. I had no longer any contact with my university colleagues nor students, everything was closed. 

La prisonnière

That morning, it was well after everywhere was locked down, I woke up and was looking for you. I had been dreaming, about myself, in another place, far away, foreign. I cannot pinpoint what I was doing there, for a while I was asleep, in a small cluttered room, some sort of study with a narrow couch. When I woke up, a man was sitting, his back to me, working at a desk on a computer. It was still dark, a nearly full moon, bright as diamond, was high in the January sky. I felt sympathy for the man, perhaps even more, as if he was someone I knew. The man was typing at a keyboard, I could hear him sigh a few times. I cannot tell you what he was writing. I decided to move, picked up my clothes, tidied the couch where I’d slept and went out. I was back here, I don’t think that man noticed me going.

Image: Rimel Neffati

Inga

Rimel

 

Yes, this is me, Inga, for once holding the pen. Of course I read your journal: you have no secret for me, and I enjoy reliving those haunted years, when we met, and after we met, when we were discovering each other. At that point, when you had just finished your thesis, you were poised to become what your fate was to be, a great writer. You did not know it then, but I did. The thesis was about the fight of local farm labourers against the abusive landowners who employed them, in the background of various attempts at land reforms, started by the Great Elector, as early as the 1650s, in this part of the world, then extending from the Brandenburg Mark to the East, Koenigsberg and Lithuania. What was to become Prussia, was then not yet a kingdom. The thirty-year war had ravaged the land. The subject was austere, but enlivened by local anecdotes, about legends and local heroes. The first reader outside academia, and myself, was my grand-father Hans. Then there was Ursula. They were enthusiastic, which encouraged you to start work on a wider public version, that which later became your first bestseller. But then, as Ursula came to visit us in B**, you were not sure yet it was the right thing for you to do. You wanted some quiet time, and explore the story of my great grand-father, Hans I.
I wanted to help, but I was myself skeptic, about how true the whole story was, and about the link between Hans I’s adventures during the war in the Caucasus, and the accident that killed my parents. On the other hand I felt that I had inherited some of Hans’ unusual gifts, such as communicating with other living creatures, birds and small, or not so small, mammals.

It was Ursula, who came and stayed in Berlin for several weeks, that convinced you to start your writing career in earnest. I must say that I suspected her interest to be not only your talent, but also you, as a person. Nonetheless we had long conversations about your thesis, the short fiction from you she knew about, Arizona, her own childhood in Sachsen, the war, and, ultimately, Hans’ s story. She was an interesting, passionate person. Her German was tainted with a slight New Jersey accent, and although no longer a young person, her sex-appeal was evident to me. We talked through long evenings, in our flat in B**, in Berlin, in Neuruppin in northern Havelland which we visited together as she wished to see die Fontanestadt.
She had an in-depth knowledge of northern Arizona and of the culture of the people who lived there. This came from early visits to the South-West she’d made when she first came to the US, and from her vast reading. She talked about the Mesas, where the local tribes had found refuge from the invading Spaniards. You were fascinated. She lent us books about the Hopis and the Navajos, and some notes she’d taken when travelling in northern Arizona, about the Painted Desert and the fossil trees of that area. She turned out to be also a very good photographer, as she invited us to visit her collections online. There were pictures of the New York streets, of the East Coast and of the South-West, Colorado and Arizona. Much later, you told me that Ursula had published several photography books, some of them erotic, and that you got interested in those. I think that she helped you working out what to do with the thesis material. But I was not unhappy when she went back to America, I felt, in a strange way, liberated. I don’t believe I was jealous, rather I feared her influence on you. For me Ursula was just a little too urbane, sophisticated, and, yes, not really German.

Image: Rimel Neffati

Catharsis

emotional-catharsis

 

My thesis was completed, although I still had to do some editing, and, of course, prepare a formal typed version. There were norms, and, with Inga’s help, I prepared a first set for my tutor. We would have to wait for his comments, and then proceed to a final submission. In the meantime I was selling a few stories to local magazines, and even one literary journal. I was lucky: thanks to Inga’s coaching, my knowledge of the local dialect had greatly improved, so that I was able to get a local audience for some of my stories. Inspiration for the stories came also from my academic work, so that, at the time, I started thinking about turning the thesis into a book for a larger audience. At the same time I published some articles in the US. This is how we got to know, and later started a correspondance with Ursula, a German literary agent, originally from Dresden, now working in New York City, who had read some of my stories in a New-Jersey on-line magazine. One of the stories was about a young explorer in the late 19th century, who had travelled from Berlin to what was still Mexico, and visited the Mesas of the Hopi Indians. It was partly based on articles I had read about the US South-West, and local Hopi legends. In one of of those, there was a wolf story that attracted Ursula’s attention. She got in touch, wanting to explore the source of my inspiration. I stalled my reply for some time, not wanting to engage much while I was busy with the thesis. Inga and I talked about it and she suggested I told Ursula about my academic interests. In fact Ursula wanted to know about my professional work.
My tutor suggested several changes to the thesis, and the next couple of weeks were busy editing and proof-reading. I realised I would not have done it without Inga, who was reading, encouraging, prompting me to complete the work. Finally it was ready. I met my tutor and we agreed this was it. We had the final version printed and bound, and despatched to the board. I had a lengthy interview at the University about my submission. Then we had to wait.
Having some time on our hands, we went finally to visit Hans and Henrietta, Inga’s grand parents. They were a charming couple, young-looking still, and very happy to see us. Hans explained that they had never reconciled themselves with the loss of Inga’s parents, Sonja and Albrecht. They were thinking about it, all the time, and preferred not to talk about the accident itself. The picture of Sonja, as a young woman, could have been that of her daughter Inga: I looked at my lover who smiled, knowingly. Their small farmhouse was well kept, comfortable and surrounded by dense woods. Both still worked on a small plot with Ewa’s and Marco’s occasional help. Hans wanted to know about my thesis, and said he wanted to read it, which made me very proud. I said it was a big read, well over four hundred pages, a good winter read then said Hans. I was a little puzzled as to why Inga had appeared hesitant to go and see them with me, but postponed asking her about it. We promised to come back to see them, and I told Hans I would bring the thesis. Later I realised that we’d never touched upon the story of Hans I, the father, who had gone all the way to the Caucasus, and made a pact with the wolf. Inga said she was glad we did not, there would be time to do that, but not now.

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The two me

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My thesis was progressing well, and I hoped that within a year, or less, I could present a nearly finished paper to my tutor. Inga was working on it all winter, when we were not visiting our friends in the woods, or walking for hours around the pristine lakes of the northern country. For a long time we did not speak about our last visit to the city. I was unhappy about my actions, and doubted my sanity at the time. There were two of me, I thought, the normal man who loved and was loved by Inga, and, emerging from darkness, a brutal thug who preyed on naive young humans. But, of course, the reality was far more complicated. Without Inga I imagined that I would not have discovered the bloodlust. But I could not be certain. There was, in my mind, no comparison between what I felt for her, when we fed from each other, and made love the whole day, and what had happened after the club. Yet I had to face reality: she had seduced the poor young man, abused him, rendered him helpless so  I could easily drink his blood. If I wanted to look at the facts without cheating, I had violated his person, and drank from him. I tried very hard to chase these thoughts from my dreams.

Inga was aware of my troubled conscience. She was perhaps waiting for my questions. After all, she had in the park shown me the way with that silly girl. I was not ready to discuss this with her, I was only blaming myself, and, frankly, was a little afraid of what she might say. For she had an explanation for the being she was: her great-grand father Hans, who had been saved by the wolves, at a price. I had no such excuse, I was not in the spell. I wanted to leave the whole event behind me, behind us, but I knew, even then, that it was not going to be.

So we worked in the late afternoon, went out in the evening, sometime eating in a small Italian restaurant, a few steps from our place, that cooked delicious vegetable dishes and risottos. We slept through the morning, or Inga did, since I continued to attend to my students, with some training at the dojo afterwards. I was back home in our town by the time Inga was preparing breakfast. In fact I realised that I was sleeping less and less. I felt that surplus of energy, and trained in an attempt to tire myself. I could only conclude that my metabolism was going through more changes.

One night we went to walk around one of the small lakes we so much loved. It was cold but I did not feel the cold. Once there, we walked to a small creek we knew. The night was silent. Inga said she wanted to bathe. We could see that the water had started freezing. I saw Inga strip, her lovely white body, almost radient in the moonshine. She looked at me, I followed her, and, naked, we entered the water which was delicious. We swam to the centre of the lake, which wasn’t more than four meters deep. We kissed, and heard the owl. Inga was teasing me, I suddenly felt a tremendous erection, and Inga gliding against me. As she seized my sex inside her, I felt her teeth, her strength, and that she was now above me, pushing and pressing my head under water.

Later, I woke up on the bank, dry and covered in the blanket we had brought. It started snowing, big fluffy flakes. Inga was next to me, dressed, smiling, more than ever the lady of the forest. I felt thirsty. We went back home, slowly, met no-one. I felt we were alone in the world. The small town was asleep. We went to bed, made love until dawn. I drank from Inga as we both came. The following day we slept, me in her, her lips over mine.

Image: Naturschutzgebiet Rangsdorfer See in Brandenburg, source

An den Pforten der Nacht

Savignyplatz in Berlin-Charlottenburg. Knabe mit Ziege von August Kraus

That year we spent most of our nights in the woods, despite the colder weather, but also, from time to time, in revisiting those parts of the city we loved. We walked along the tree- lined streets in forgotten corners of the East side. Living in the small town – where we still live, after all these years – made us enjoy our walks in the city even more. It is there that, one night, our lives took a new direction, without us planning for that change, although later, Inga, as ever thoughtful, explained that it had to happen, in order to preserve the balance of our immune system, and perhaps also our sanity.

So it was that as we walked along the river bank, in the pre-dawn hours, we heard  some intriguing melody, coming out of what looked like a small club, viewed from outside, in one of the narrow lanes that had escaped the planners. It was a club, and Inga suggested, silently, that we could go in and dance. At the door a huge bouncer wanted to see our members’ credentials, and was promptly convinced by Inga that there was no need. It was bigger inside, with young people crowded around a stage with a live New Rock band. People were dancing, or standing at the small bar talking and drinking. The sound level was, by the standards of the day, quite low, so that conversations were taking place. The atmosphere seemed to be relaxed, good behaviour reigned.

We danced, and both us observed the scene. I noticed immediately the good-looking youngsters, of all genders, in the audience. It was not rare in the city. The fashion then was for boys to adopt a kind of androgyn style, and for young women to look as butch as possible, breast and buttocks tight in leather. The band was very good, playing what sounded like original pieces, and some classics. After a while we went to the bar and ordered bourbon. We drank alcohol rarely, but it did not affect us. We drank a little, then Inga said to my ear: “look at that guy near the drums, the one who dances with the Greta look-alike… I think he’s interested in you…” A quick look revealed a tall, blond, regular-faced young man, elegantly dressed, who seemed to be more interested in looking at Inga and me, rather that at his partner, who looked a little bored. We went back dancing. Inga manoeuvred us closer to the drums. The band was playing some classic alternative tunes I had not heard for a while. Soon we were close to the other couple. The fellow was indeed very good looking, with a blasé smile, which was then fashionable. Inga and I danced close to each other, her arms often on my shoulders. It is he who spoke first to me, asking me, perhaps us, what we thought of the band. I was complimentary. The conversation started. He wanted to know next where we came from. We were of course as evasive as ever. And what about him? Greta was unimpressed, and shortly after joined another girl for a different dance. We soon retired to the bar with the blond young man. It was obvious to me that his interest was toward Inga, although he continued looking at me when speaking. He turned out to be an art manager for one of the fashionable galleries on the West side. We spoke paintings and sculptures. Inga was saying very little. The conversation continued on the theme of the city at night, and the artistic beauty of its streets under the moon. This was not terribly subtle. We ordered Riesling. Our new friend was a little more animated, drawing Inga into the conversation. We spoke about the art galleries, about theatre, about films. 

Some time later we decided to go out, the three of us, and visit a small park nearby, where our new friend said some exquisite modern sculptures had been installed. The air was clear, icy, the sky cloudless. The new moon lit the streets. The park was twenty minutes from the club, and deserted. I was surprised that it was unlocked. We passed some interesting modern statues, upon which our new friend commented. Then we stopped near a small sculpture of a Greek god. The young man took Inga in his arms, and I stood behind him a hand on his shoulder. Inga instructed me wordlessly to let her handle him. I did. We were standing in obscurity, in the midst of thick bushes. In the silence I could hear Inga’s regular breathing as our companion was telling her some tales. I saw my lady busying herself with the boy’s zipper. I tightened my grip. Soon the motion of her arm gave me no doubt as to what she was doing. I held him now tighter, which he appeared not to mind. 

I was breathing calmly but knew something was coming, and I could not resist it. As I pulled him lightly against me, my teeth went for his neck. His surprise was total, and the lock he was in did not give him any possibility of escape. A little later, not more than five minutes, I felt his body slacking against mine. I had to hold him upright. Inga freed herself, and said in a low voice: “he’s yours, take him!”

I drank, and stopped only when Inga intervened. I do not know when that was. I eased my victim slowly down, unconscious, to the ground and a grassy patch behind a thick bush. Inga tidied up his crotch. I was dizzy. “We must go now” Inga said, and guided us back, out of the park, and through the deserted streets, finally to our train station. I was floating. So, it had been my turn to be the predator. I remembered the first time, when Inga had drunk from the woman in another park. Now, we really were at the gate of the Night.

Bild: Savignyplatz in Berlin-Charlottenburg. Knabe mit Ziege von August Kraus – Fridolin freudenfett / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Moving

Bernau

 

In the following two weeks we visited possible apartments and houses in B**. We knew the town well, as we had stopped often there on our way to the northern province, Inga’s country. Wars had spared the town, that still had parts of its medieval wall. This is where, inside the old town, that we found what we were looking for: a top floor apartment in a recently renovated house, with a cellar and a small terrace. The place was a bit smaller than my urban flat in the city, but it had all that we needed, a nice kitchen, a large living room opening on the terrace and a comfortable bedroom, as well as a small study. The terrace had a nice view over the ancient wall and a park nearby. We promptly negotiated a contract, and signed off for a reasonable deposit.

I organised our move, rented a van, and recruited two of my students to give us a hand (the heaviest load were our books and the long table). A week later we moved in, at the end of the day, and were in our new place for our first night there. Inga was very happy. In a few days we had found the right place for our furniture. Inga undertook the greening of the terrace, as far as she could, given we were now in November. We had taken our best plants from the balcony with us. The house had three floors, and on the third, our floor, there were only two apartments. Our neighbour turned out to be an old – I guess in his sixties – photographer, who also knew a lot about local history.

We were familiar with the town, and quickly identified the essentials, local shops, and a good bike shop for repairs. We registered with the local library. The route to my work was straightforward. Inga was closer now to the woods, and to the owl. B** was a quiet town; the young, working residents often commuted to the capital, whose center was forty minutes away. We settled down very quickly, adjusted our sleeping routines – early morning to midday – and kept to ourselves.

Image source

Illness

Bat-4K

 

One day she got ill, and I was very frightened. She had a high fever and looked whiter than usual. Silently she forbid me to giver her any drug, or call a doctor. She only drank weak tea or water, did not want to feed from me. I was powerless and became desperate: I feared losing her. The fever lasted  four days. She lost weight, and when she woke up, finally, she looked younger. She took some fruits, a little milk. The day after she wanted me. We spent the day and the following night in bed. Then, she was back to her normal self. We worked a little, went out for a walk along the canal, not far from our place. She told me that from time to time she was ill like this, it never lasted, and she was always happy afterwards. I was not sure what she meant, happy to be alive, or happy to have gone through another bout of illness? Back home, she pulled me to our room, she wanted me to drink from her. Her scent had changed a little, I was overwhelmed by her new energy. Her appetite, following her short illness, grew immensely, both sexually and her thirst for blood. The light in her eyes looked wilder. As I fell asleep, exhausted, in her arms, much later, I started dreaming that Inga and the she-wolf were the same being. 

When I woke up, almost at sunset, Inga was busy in the house, she came to me with a radiant smile, saying she had prepared a special dinner. She had, and I realised she must have gone shopping while I was asleep. I looked at my watch, I had slept for over twenty four hours. Inga laughed. We ate, a delicious bake of vegetables and fruit. We drank Apfelwein. We talked about Hans’ story, and the diary Marlene had kept. Then I noticed the bats: that were flying around the courtyard, at the level of our windows, and I could hear the sound of their signals. Inga looked at me and smiled. “They are visiting us, you see, they want to know what happened, then they will tell the others…” I was speechless. It was rare to see the bats so late in the year, when the temperature had already dropped somewhat. Inga continued: “my great grand-father must have had a special talent with animals, he must have known how to communicate with them, and I have inherited from him!”

We worked a little longer, then Inga said: “the bats told me that there are shadows, around us, spies that observe us, our moves, maybe even read our thoughts…” Silence followed. I absorbed the news, which perhaps was not so new to me. I then replied that we had to move. Inga, silently, agreed. Later that night we rode to the woods. The air was clear, the forest silent. When we’d gone far away from the main path Inga said: “Let’s find a place in B**, it’s close to here, not too far for your work, and I’ll be closer to my friends.” B** would be a good choice for me, there was a direct train service to the city, and we liked the small town. We decided to start looking at places the following day. We would plan our move to be fast and discreet. I had only one month notice to give for the apartment.

Image source

Back to the woods

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For sometime after the ambush in the park, we kept our outings in town strictly to the necessities of my work, which meant only two or three brief visits a week, in the morning. I went to the dojo, just before meeting my students, when few people trained. Inga was a little subdued, and seemed to need to sleep longer. It was now too cold to stay outdoors at night, at least without shelter, but we spent some time in the woods in the late afternoon, talking, writing, and loving. We could carry on cycling until the ground got frozen and the snow fell, and we had an open invitation from both Ewa and Marco to come and stay at their farms whenever we wanted. We had long talks with them, about the country, about the wolves, and about my work. More than ever I felt protective of Inga, which did not escape Ewa’s attention. 

We continued to write down Hans’ story, and passed on our notes to Ewa and Marco. Hans, had been, on his return from captivity in the East, we thought in late 1947, a semi recluse, a very secretive person. His wife, Marlene, Inga’s great-grand mother, was then the only contact with the rest of the family. They had left the ancestral home, east of the Oder, and bought a small property in Brandenburg, close to what was now Ewa’s farm, and much smaller. The family had little money, as they had lost their main assets in what was now Poland. Three years later, their son was born, Hans II, Inga’s grand father, who soon, after leaving school, worked on the family’s farm, and was later very successful in developing their property. He appeared to have been a keen supporter of the new Republic, after the creation of the DDR. Aged twenty, after his father’s death, Hans II had married the daughter of a neighbour, Henrietta, which made Marlene very happy. Ewa and Sonja, Inga’s mother, were born in the following three years. Sonja later married Albrecht, a farmer who’d been an officer in the Volks Armee. Inga was born a little later. Sonja and Albrecht, and little Inga, lived happily until the tragic accident that killed them both. The fire had been caused by lightning, and they died the victims of a faulty fire alarm that should have woken them up. Little Inga had been staying at her aunt’s at the time. The spell on the family had been recorded by Marlene, who had kept a diary during and after the war. Then, Henrietta had somehow kept the diary together with notes she had written from conversations with Marlene. This had been saved from the ruins of Sonja’s and Albrecht’s home by Ewa. 

I asked Inga if her grand parents were still alive, she said they were, but since the death of her Mum, had not communicated much with the family, that is Ewa, and her, their grand daughter. I tried to convince her to go and visit them. Inga reflected, and said she wanted to talk again with her aunt first. The story of the spell intrigued me, but I could wait. The rainy season was upon us, we spent happy hours at home, working on the thesis, the archives we had collected from Marco, and making slow, endless love. Inga, half asleep, was feeding on me, but I was not aware of it until I woke up the following day, and felt the small bite. Strangely, I loved her more so, as it showed how she possessed me, totally. 

In the park

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We thought we were careful. We were discrete, we wore dark, unassuming clothes, we avoided crowded places. But we went often to the parks, and there we had been observed. One evening, after a day of work on the thesis, we walked out to the nearby park. We were silently reflecting on Hans’ story, all those years back. I was asking Inga what Marco had made of it. We took a small side lane leading to a little vale where, when it was warmer and dry, we liked to lie down and dream. I saw three big men, walking toward us, and I sensed trouble was coming. So did Inga, who took shelter behind me, knowing I would stop the frontal assault. One fat, big bellied but huge fellow, went for her. The other two, two tall thugs with bulging muscles, charged me, fists first. I heard Inga kicking, I hit the first guy with both fists on the temples, but as he crouched to the floor his companion managed to push me over. He weighed a ton. I hit first on his sides but he laughed, so I had to dig deep, I seized his neck and twisted. At the dojo, when training on the floor, my coach had often said I had too much grip. So it was, I twisted, he hit my face hard with his head, I twisted more, heard the vertebrae crack, my face was full of blood, probably mine. I pushed him aside and kicked him with extreme force, thinking I might have killed him, then I saw the fat thug was lying over Inga. I don’t know if it was the blood in my face, or the sight of my lover at his mercy: I went wild, seized the thug by his belt and throwing him around on the ground, hit him repeatedly on the head, then kicked his inanimate body. Inga stood up, pale, and I turned round to see the first thug charging again. I had plenty of time to place Ushimata, my favourite throw, which probably chewed his balls, then hit him twice straight on the plexus, as he fell to the ground.

Inga was in my arms. We stood silent. I knew that one of the three, the one I had hit with full strength to save my life, was not looking good, the other two were certain to spend a while in hospital but would survive. I checked, my lover was unhurt, but still shivering. She’d been afraid for me. Wordlessly I said, it’s okay, now we’ll have to be even more careful, there may be others. I dragged the bodies under the bushes. I had blood on my hands and over my shirt, my face was a mess. We walked away, fast, taking a side street to get home. We met no-one. As before I carried Inga in my arms to our floor, and laid her down on the sofa. I went straight to the shower, stripped, rinsed my clothes, and stuck them in the washing machine. I did first aid on my bloodied face. Naked, I went to the kitchen, Inga stood, smiling, making dinner. I said, I will finish this, have a hot shower. She came to me, I took her in my arms, kissed her, said I’d kill anyone who threatened her. She cried. She went to the bathroom. Soon dinner was ready, I put on my bathrobe, had a scotch. Inga came out and sat with me at the table. Later I went to the bathroom and looked at my face. I saw a lean stranger, someone I did not really know anymore. I looked at my hands. Had these hands killed someone? Inga called me, drew me to her, drew me in her. I belong, I thought, she’s my home, and I am her shield. We slept long, dreamless, as one being, one body, one soul. The following day, I checked the local news. No body had been found, there was no mention of a fight in the park. Either all three had survived and disappeared, or they had taken the dead with them.

Image: Rehberge, Berlin Wedding