The Wall Comes Tumbling Down
Excerpts from our Correspondence Half a Century Ago
After the night-long train ride I was physically exhausted, but somehow refreshed in mind and spirit. In the next couple of days I felt like I was riding high above cloud nine.On my walks to the nearby derelict mill the dreary landscape shrouded in dense fog did not conjure up depressive thoughts. On the contrary, I let the new-found tender feelings guide me. I was whistling and singing bold scout and army songs and offered Mother a cheerful good morning, when I arrived at our home’s doorstep. A few days later I received Biene’s letter.
November 16th, 1964
” My dear Peter,
I would so much like to ask you: Come back right away and stay with me and no longer depart from me. Alas, I know that it is not possible and that you would come immediately if you could. I felt so miserable, when I walked off the platform. What would I have given to step on the train with you to travel anyplace with you no matter where. I feel so unspeakably lonesome, and the question gives me pain: For what do I live and for whom? I am so distressed and it hurts me so much in the terrible knowledge that you can only come to go away again and soon forever. Dear Peter, please forgive me. I don’t want to reproach you for anything. With your visit you brought me much joy and you undertook the long, strenuous journey, and yet I am sad and my longing for you is even greater. I would like to love you so much and be with you and make you happy. When I have calmed down a little bit, I will write you again.
No rhyme nor reason will ever explain why during my reading of her lines a dark cloud would cast a shadow over my entire being. Instead of rejoicing over her letter, I was deeply disturbed, not so much by her pain, suffering and longing for my presence, but rather by my own stubborn refusal to wholeheartedly accept her declaration of love. I was stewing over Biene’s sudden turnaround regarding the wall, which she had erected for whatever reason and which I had so foolishly and cowardly accepted. After I had brought the emotional stew, a mixture of confused anger and painful stubbornness, to the boiling point, I rashly wrote her a response. I told her that I had gotten used to the wall as a sort of protection against another blow of fate. Distrust had entered my heart and I was unwilling to start all over again. I had barely thrown my letter into the mailbox, when I felt sorry. I had a broken a promise I once made to myself, never to reply in haste and thoughtlessness. I was expecting the worst. Within 48 hours her reply arrived in the mail.
Something in your letter has frightened me. For I have again recognized how much I had hurt you at the time when it appeared to you as if I wanted to erect a wall between us in order to protect myself against your affection. Oh Peter, believe me that I had never wanted this, instead I had always longed for your affection. Perhaps you had also felt it. For why did you write in spite of everything and were so kind to me? But you are distrustful, because you could never really understand me. Maybe you don’t know or just cannot believe how I cling to you and how much I love you. For the longest time I myself did not think it possible that it is so, and therefore I wanted to warn you in order not to disappoint you; for I really did not know whether I really loved you as much as it seemed. Dear Peter, this is one reason; alas there were also many other reasons, which I cannot so quickly explain to you. Only after you had come to me did I dare to admit how much you mean to me; and now, Peter, I know it for sure. And now it is certainly too late; for you yourself say that you have resigned yourself to the limits of our friendship and no longer have the same longing as before. It oppresses me very much that it no longer means as much to you that I love you, as it would have meant to you before.
And now, when I want to dream something beautiful about us, this thought destroys it: It will not be! How much I wished now you would still dream about us studying together and be together every day. See, dear Peter, such thoughts are entering my mind and many more…
How I’d wish that I could bewitch you and give you a love potion just like it happens in fairy tales so that I won’t lose you…
Not waiting for a response from me, she quickly sent another letter making a last ditch effort to save what appeared to have already been lost.
“My dear Peter,
Guess Peter, what I did last night. I took all your letters out of the portfolio and read them all once more. Alternately I became quite sad and quite happy. How strangely things have come to pass with us, if I think only about the past year! In my subconscious I must have always loved you. When I look back, I recognize it, this feeling had to struggle first through much darkness and confusion to the light. And now Peter, it is the most beautiful feeling that I have ever experienced. I believe that if I could really be every minute with you, I would fall apart experiencing so much happiness.
To you dear Peter, I send a secret Christmas kiss, which you would get under the Christmas tree.
After reading Biene’s Christmas letter, the realization hit me with stunning clarity that if I could not see a wall, could not feel a wall, then in all likelihood there wasn’t a wall. Indeed, at the trumpet call of love from deep within her heart the wall had come tumbling down. The dam had been broken, and I found myself swept up by the torrent, against which no further resistance was possible and would have been sheer foolishness. Willingly I went with the flow and felt the tug carrying me unerringly into the direction of my dreams.