Alone at the Siemens Apartment Building
“Study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow.”
In search for a place to spend the next six months Mother had found a mini-apartment in a huge building complex that had been specifically built for single workers in the local Siemens factory. Small it was indeed. The room I called my own covered hardly an area of fifteen sq. m. I shared the hallway, which contained a few basic kitchen facilities, with an older man next door, who fortunately moved out before Christmas with no one moving in to replace him. On the right side of the hallway was the common bathroom with a shower instead of a bathtub. In spite of the limited space I was extremely happy to have my own four walls with a large window and even a tiny balcony facing the rising sun.
It was from here that I wrote my first letter to Biene’s twin brother Walter at the end of August. As promised I included schematics of electronic circuits that I thought might be of interest to him. Of course, I had not forgotten Biene, whose image began to fade in my mind, but whose idealistic afterglow I cherished all the more. “And do not forget to greet your parents and Biene from me,” I ended this letter and all subsequent ones. Walter promptly replied and inserted an advanced RC transistor diagram that was far too complex for me to understand or to be useful for my simple projects. But the desired connection had been made, and before long Biene and I were corresponding with each other. There were two important aspects to the letters, which were traveling back and forth between Velbert and Wesel. One, they opened a window and brought bright sunshine and fresh air into the often gloomy, stuffy interior of my soul; two, due to the physical distance we could write about our thoughts and feelings, wrapped up in a flowery language, carefully worded and lovingly presented. We opened our hearts to each other and discovered that we both had a romantic vein that was rich and seemed to be inexhaustible. In short, the seeds of our developing relationship had fallen on fertile ground. For me in particular, the correspondence proved to be a journey into the wonderful world of self-discovery. I enjoyed creating written tableaus depicting dream-like, often melancholic scenes with fact and fiction imaginatively intertwined. They engendered in a perpetual cycle an ever increasing sense of self-awareness. Reminiscing about a stopover at a railroad station I once wrote her.
Over the railroad station sways the moon. Its pale light flickers through dense patches of fog, and the moist shimmering rails vanish behind the impenetrable wall of uncertainty. I am pacing the empty platform up and down, three minutes forth, and three minutes back. Slowly, hesitatingly the heavy hand of the clock advances from one-minute mark to the next. Lost in thoughts I look up to the moon. The cold, damp forces of nature’s power attempt to snuff out its golden light. But it is not you, good moon, who are eluding me, you, the embodiment of all my happiness. No, around me lurk the cold forces; they seize me with their moist fingers. Oh happiness, you would always dwell among people, if darkness were not all around us that hides you and saddens my heart. Two lights emerge from out of the fog. They have a goal; they glide over solid tracks. I can put my trust in them. In vain the dense fog is clutching to hold the iron vehicle; it cannot delay its course. I step onboard. 22:20
Shortly after I had written the letter to Biene with its sentimental railroad story, I traveled by train to Rendsburg in Northern Germany to attend my eldest brother’s wedding. Karl’s bride was Ingrid Lehmann, born in Königsberg (now Kaliningrad), East Prussia, whose father was a retired sea captain. Karl was making sure that everything was prim and proper for the festivities. He checked out my clothes and appearance very carefully and was quite pleased with the new suit I was wearing. Even though I had shaved in the morning, Karl spotted the beginning of new growth darkening the area around my chin and requested for the sake of the important event another shave. Putting my usual stubbornness aside, I complied with his request.
With almost all close relatives present it was a memorable wedding. At the banquet Captain Lehmann and Uncle Günther solemnly delivered words of wisdom, reflections on their lost home provinces in the East, fine speeches, which were recorded on tape and can still be heard today on audio CD. It was here in Rendsburg that for the first time I was seriously contemplating about what it would be like to tie the knot and form a life-long partnership in marriage. I also began to see that hard work at school and university must come first to realize such dreams. I thought that as an electronics engineer I might have a fairly good income to support a wife and family.