Rendezvous at the Wuppertal Opera House
On the Sunday morning of November 15th, I boarded the train at Giessen and was on my way to Wuppertal, where I was to meet Biene at the train station.
During the three-hour train ride I had ample time to reflect on the strange nature of my relationship with Biene. In the angry exchange of words with my friend Hans I had allowed the word ‘marriage’ to slip out of my mouth, which must have seemed totally ridiculous to him and seemed to me now as well. Hadn’t she set new boundaries for the two of us? Hadn’t I acknowledged them in my letters and promised to respect them? And what was the purpose of friendship in the light of my planned emigration to Canada? Hadn’t I lost within less than a year friends and classmates, who were living closer than a half-day’s train ride from me? Would any of my friends sit for hours in a train just to attend an opera in a distant city on a Sunday evening and then in a grand loop, including annoying late night transfers, return home at eight o’clock in the morning? Why was I doing this? It seemed to me that in spite of my promises to the contrary I still wanted to climb over the wall that Biene had erected between the two of us.
As the express train was approaching my destination, I put myself in Biene’s shoes and began to ponder what had made her so eager to meet me. Why would she go through the trouble of traveling to Wuppertal to buy tickets and then exchange them a few days later, because I had postponed the date of my arrival? Would anyone do this for a mere friend? In spite of my disagreements with Dieter, Gauke and Hans, they had been right in one thing. An actual face-to-face encounter is worth more than a hundred beautifully written love letters. I remembered how annoyed I was in my grief, when Private Gauke romanticized about that happy moment when he saw his sweetheart waiting for him at the end of the platform with her hair undulating in the evening breeze. After our transfer back to Koblenz we had lost sight of each other. I felt thankful now for the care and compassion of a true friend and for the romantic image that was almost identical to the one that I envisioned now. It had vividly come back through Biene’s instructions in her postcard, “I will be standing under the railway clock near the exit behind the ticket gate.”
Then we met. During the afternoon we immersed ourselves into the mellow sensation of togetherness that resisted any attempt to spoil it with talk about how we felt about each other and what destiny held in store for us. In my memory the exuberant feeling, which I experienced while being together with her so powerfully dominated my heart that all else was drawn into a blissful blur. Later on I could not tell where and how we had spent the twilight hours before we entered the opera house to take in the sights and sounds of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’. For me, who had never gone out on a date before, the experience was almost overwhelming. We were thankful for the silence imposed upon the audience by the theater’s etiquette. Any casual conversation would have ruined our sense of happiness. Instead we communicated the feeling of physical closeness to each other by the gentle squeezing of our hands. Too soon the three-hour long opera came to an end. I had to catch the last train to take me home in a veritable odyssey. By German traveling standards the round trip of more than ten hours with its many stopovers and waiting times had been an ordeal. Although I arrived at Mother’s place tired and exhausted, I felt happy. I sensed that our late night rendezvous at the opera had sprung a hairline crack in the invisible wall that Biene had erected.
While the monotonous click clack of the train lulled me into sleep, I was blissfully unaware of the profound sadness and feelings of desperation, which had gripped Biene the very moment my train had vanished like a phantom into the darkness of the night.