So men love sex and women love romance, or so the experts say. There is a good chance that the philosophy of ‘Think like a man’ may transport you to a place between pure bliss and heaven. But then again, after all the pandering and reverse psychology crap is over, every relationship reaches the elasticity stage where only one thing can save the ship from sinking. The word here is love.
Love. Definition. Love is the fiber that joins partners together and makes their heart beat as one, through sickness, health, thin and thick. And so my story begins…
So the Christmas holiday is winding down and folks are actually beginning to take a good look at their bank accounts. The smiles are slowly fading from the streets and the music in the malls is switching back to the 70s and 80s rock n roll.
On Thursday evening, I hurried from work to meet my girlfriend for a drink at a sports bar near our apartment. I was wearing the 800 dollars shoes that she had bought me for Christmas to reinforce my declaration to her that I loved the gift. It had been a long day at work and the generic conversations about Christmas hadn’t made it easier.
Outside the bar, I thought I saw a familiar car on the sidewalk but I was in too much of a hurry to take a second look. I walked through the door and found my wife sitting at a table right in the middle of the room. She was always put together, her clothes covered with a purple designer coat. The place was a bustle as patrons milled around drinking and playing pool. The time was 6 pm.
“Is that your brother’s car I just saw outside?” I asked as I kissed her on the cheek.
She didn’t reply and I instantly sensed that something was wrong. I ordered a cold bud light beer and dismissed the hovering waiter. That’s all, thank you.
“I’m leaving you Mathias,” she said solemnly and the beer got stuck in my throat. I swallowed in a big lump.
I didn’t understand her words. “What do you mean?” I asked as I straightened my chair to a comfortable position.
“I’m breaking up with you,” she clarified with precision. Her words were like sharp knifes all over my body.
I looked at the countenance on her face and realized that she was serious. I leaned back and studied her. She didn’t look like she was joking and after dating for five years I knew that face very well. How had I not seen it coming? Her words stung and I subconsciously reacted.
My hand swiftly reached across the table and gripped her arm. “You bi…” I stopped myself as I realized that people were watching and listening. She looked into my eyes with curiosity wondering what I was going to do… studying my face. I released her hand and straightened my jacket, tried to retain my dignity. She was a smart girl. I looked around and chuckled, the scene was perfect: a crowded bar, a table in the middle of the room, her brother waiting in the car… she had planned it well… she had also waited for Christmas to be over.
“Who is he?” I asked and watched her squirm in her seat.
“You don’t know him.”
“Who is he?” My voice was threatening.
She hesitated. “We went to high school together. I ran into him four months ago.”
“Have you slept with him?” My eyes bore through her.
“No. I wouldn’t do that to you Mathias!” her voice sounded sincere and I believed her. Her answers were calculated and precise, she had practiced.
“Do you love him?” I asked and my voice trembled with anxiety. I knew that the next words could shatter my world into a million pieces.
She lowered her eyes and whispered. “Yes, I love him.”
Blood shot into my eyes and I screamed at her. “We’ve been together for five years and you’ve only been with this guy for four months, and you love him?” I half rose from the chair then collapsed back. I lowered my tone. “Why are you doing this Isolde?” My voice was pleading. I was groping for a handle.
“Its not you Mathias, its me. I didn’t plan for this to happen, but it did. I never meant to hurt you!” Her cheeks trembled with emotion.
I looked at her unable to believe what was happening. We were still recovering from one of the best Christmas celebrations ever. I mean, I was. I had taken her to my parent’s house for lunch and then dinner with her family. We had dodged playfully around the usual questions about babies and marriage and had come out unscathed. And now this, today, the lunacy of the situation: a bar being turned into a courtroom… sentencing me into oblivion...into a cold world, minus the woman of my dreams. It felt like a bad dream but I knew her well and I knew that she meant every word that she said. I took off the 800 dollars shoes and stood up.
“Please, Mathias,” she cried desperately. “I want us to remain friends!” But she was talking to a wall. I had completely switched off. I was in a world of my own. I made a clumsy exit and left the bar a different man.
Sometimes in life, we do what we want to do and at times, we do what we have to do.
I went to work the following day feeling depressed and my partner Fritz tried his best to cheer me up. Our contract for the day was in the heart of Berlin. After many years of low students’ wages and meager existence, we had started our own interior design company and no, our job didn’t require a Harvard degree. All we did was go to rich people’s houses and tell them where to put the couch or the credenza. Did you know that rich people change their house interior with the seasons? In the winter, they would call us to take the pool chairs to storage and bring them back in the summer: and while at it, bring us a new chandelier and carpet. The not so rich folks in the world don’t care about how a couch brings the best ambience in the room… just put it in front of the TV and its good to go.
We took the elevator to the top floor and knocked on the door of a lovely suite. I knew from my research that the rent for these apartments was 10,000 dollars a month, an insane amount, a chunk of change for some.
“Guten Morgen,” we greeted the lady who opened the door. She was expecting us.
“Come on in.”
Her name was Viktoria and she was a single mum. Her boy was in school. She wanted to change the dining room design: replace the chairs and hang new black and white pictures on the wall.
“She’s so hot,” my partner Fritz whispered to me. “I would totally do her.” I winced at his language and tried to ignore him.
“Do you want the dining table moved a little to the right?” I asked the lady.
She made a pensive look then asked, “What do you think Mathias?”
“I think its perfect.”
We charged by the job and time was of no essence. I had learned that rich people are fanatics when it came to budgets. They just don’t spend money but then again they expect to pay. While we laugh thinking that we have overcharged them, the truth is that they had budgeted for that figure a long time ago. That’s how they got rich. They lived by a code that dictated their every move: always on a prudent prowl looking for more opportunities.
“She so totally digs you,” my partner whispered in my ear.
“No she doesn’t,” I protested but his words forced me to take a closer look at the lady. Mid thirties, narrow waist, slim legs, straight black hair, a black short skirt and a tight white blouse showing a full bosom. She was every man’s desire.
We decided to spend the night in Berlin and finish the job in the morning. We headed to the neighborhood bar at around 6pm, watched football and after knocking back a few beers, Fritz started showing me naked pictures of women on his phone.
“Why do you have nude pictures on your phone?” I asked him. “What happens if your wife sees them?”
“My wife doesn’t touch my phone, and I have a password,” Fritz said. And then he pushed the phone in my face. “Check this one out.”
I glanced at the photo: white girl, sexy body, huge rear, not a stitch on her.
“I can hook you up if you want,” my partner said and I looked startled.
“You know these girls?” I was shocked.
“I see them every Wednesday after work at the massage place. My wife thinks am at the gym.” Fritz took a swig at his drink then smirked his lips.
“You talk a lot for someone who says nothing,” I told him. I didn’t believe a word he said. But instead of defending himself, Fritz pulled out a business card and slipped it in my jacket pocket.
“Go check it out yourself,” he said. “Now that you are single, you never know, you may just like it.” And then as an after thought he added, “Don’t count me wrong now Mathias, I love my wife. But a man has to do what a man has to do.”
I had no idea what he was talking about and so I called it a night.
A man can sleep with another woman and still come home and kiss his wife goodnight. A woman on the other hand, and with a few exceptions, has to actually like you first before sleeping with you.
At 9pm, my phone rang and I saw Miss Viktoria’s number. The alarms went off in my head. Had Fritz been right?
“Hey Mathias.” She sounded hesitant. “This may seem odd but I think my car has a problem and I need some food. Figured you guys were still around and mobile. Any chance you can grab me some Chinese please? Am sorry to bother you so late.”
There was a long silence as the wheels in my head turned. “Sure Miss Viktoria,” I blurted. “What you want?”
She rattled out a list that was fit for four people and I scampered down the street to the nearest Chinese restaurant.
Her apartment was a walking distance from my hotel and on the way, I did what most investors do, I thought about real estate and the market. I was at a juncture in my life where I was all about the money. Gone were the leather jeans, jacket and sports wear, to be replaced with suits, trench coats and designer shoes…jelled hair. I wanted to look the part. I was swinging for the fence.
I took the elevator up and just before I knocked on her door, my phone went off. I looked at the caller ID and saw my ex’s number, I ignored the call and muted it.
Miss Viktoria opened the door looking sexy and seductive. She still wore the same short skirt but I realized that her hair was let loose and she didn’t have a bra underneath her blouse. She wore reading glasses that accentuated her looks and made her look like a teacher.
“You want me to take a look at your car?” I asked.
“I already called someone,” she objected. “Sit with me Mathias and share my food. I could use with some conversation. You are not in a hurry are you?”
She had me. “No,” I replied. The white tablecloth was pristine as I sat down. My friend’s words briefly crossed my mind: single mums don’t date…
“Ha,” Miss Viktoria was talking. “Please call me Viktoria. I liked what you guys did today. I think I may have more jobs for you.”
My face lit up as I crunched the shrimp in my mouth. More jobs meant more money and I couldn’t say no to that. At 10pm, and after two glasses of burgundy wine, we sat on the couch and she asked me if I wanted to watch a movie. I shrugged my shoulders nervously and told her yes, as long as it wasn’t a chic flick. She bought the movie straight from the TV plan that she had and sat real close to me, such that our bodies touched each other. I fidgeted as the smell of her hair and expensive deodorants drifted into my nose. My partner’s words came back to me with a sense of reality: Single mums don’t date. They have been to the circus and have seen the puppets… played with the puppets. They know what they want and how to get it.
We only watched the movie for fifteen minutes and then we watched no more. She touched me and the clothes came off. The sex was wild and I realized that she hadn’t been with a man in a long time. The details of what happened next are fuzzy.
Six months later I bought an apartment in Berlin, to avoid the commute from the outskirts of the city. The less time I spend on the road, the more time I spend making money.
One night I woke up with a start from a bad dream: something to do with a car going downhill and the brakes not functioning. I woke up right before I crashed. For six months I hadn’t talked to my ex although she had called me at least once a month. For some reason I never answered her calls although a bigger part of me wanted to. In the past few months, my life had taken a drastic turn for worse. Work was okay but my social life was a wreck. I refused to answer my friends’ calls and stayed away from parties. The only calls I answered were work related and those from my parents. I buried my head in the sand and shackled myself to the institution of work, in the hope that the world would hit a reset button and take me to a place of equilibrium.
Every night I saw Isolde’s face… in my dreams… when awake… and it hurt. I wanted things to go back the way they used to be. I wanted my ex back in my life. It’s true what they say. You only realize you had a good thing when its gone. Life had thrown me a curve ball … the pieces of my life were scattered all over the ground, and I didn’t know which one to pick up first from the debris.
I inserted a movie in the blue ray player but for some reason I couldn’t focus and so I turned it off and paced the room. I was going to go insane at this rate. I picked up my jacket from the floor, dug into the pocket and pulled out the business card Fritz had given me. I called the number and an hour later a Chinese girl walked into my apartment. She was in her early twenties, pretty and a cute body.
“Wooo, what are you doing?” I yelled as I ran after her. She was in the bedroom taking off her clothes.
“You don’t like me?” she asked in a surprised tone.
“No. Yes, I like you. But don’t take your clothes off!” I took her hand and led her to the couch. “Let’s talk. Tell me about yourself. What’s your name?”
“Okra,” she said hesitantly as she buttoned up her blouse. I brought her a glass of red wine and it turned out that she was a talker after all. She had come to Germany as a child with her parents: a waiter during the day, a call girl at night. Said she was trying to support her kid. I was horrified to imagine what the kid would think one day if the mum’s journey through ethical violations came to light.
I told Okra about my breakup and she seemed to have an idea of what I was talking about. It was the first time I was pouring my heart to anybody and it felt great. I almost cried with relief and Okra was not only a good listener but also a good mother backed into a corner just like the rest of us. “You did nothing wrong,” Okra told me with a thick Chinese accent. “One day, you find someone nice. You have a good heart.” She hesitated, not wanting to overstep her boundaries. “Loosing someone is a part of life, but the word here is ‘life’. You have to continue living.”
I paid Okra and she left four hours later. At the back of my mind I sensed that my history compared to hers was a piece of cake. Nevertheless, it was probably the easiest money she had made in a long time. After she was gone, I slept like a baby.
I lumbered through the months and my haggard look and gaunt face attested to my unraveling personality. How had I fallen so hard so fast?
New Year came and I still hadn’t talked to my ex. She had pretty much called me every month and her missed calls had become a part of my life. Every month I would wait for her call and even though I didn’t pick up, I always felt a stir inside me. It probably had to do with the knowledge of knowing that she was still thinking about me. It would probably hurt more if she didn’t call at all. But whatever it was, the conflicting and raging fury it left inside me was what made me feel alive.
The night was mildly cold as I walked down the streets of Berlin admiring the Christmas decorations and food stalls. A huge open-air New Year’s Eve party was in progress; live bands, light shows and visual media, euphoria in the air. Traffic was thick, both people and cars and the stars danced in the sky to crown a beautiful night.
I walked over to the ice skating arena and sat under one of the heaters, admiring the skating couples. It hurt me no more to see couples in love and I realized that my healing process was well underway.
A tap on my shoulder. I turned and saw a face I hadn’t seen in a long time, it was my ex.
“Hi Mathias,” she greeted then sat next to me.
“Hi,” I replied and for some reason I wasn’t startled to see her. It almost felt normal. It felt like we hadn’t even broken up.
“Remember how we met?” she asked.
“You bumped into me,” I said with a chuckle and she laughed.
“No, you bumped into me,” she corrected. Our eyes met briefly and we held the gaze before turning back to the waltzing skaters. There was so much that we wanted to say but couldn’t. The glow of the artificial heaters made a circumference around the arena but the lights on the ice were dimmed to create a romantic ambience. This was where we had met.
“Gosh, we were so young then,” she said and I agreed. Young enough to think that we would spend the rest of our lives together. The count down for New Year started and we stood up and joined the crowd in chorus. 3,2,1… Happy New Year! The fireworks exploded Berlin Style… big… Champaign cocks flew in the air, balloons and screams from giddy folks. Strangers hugged each other and clanked glasses. I turned and kissed Isolde briefly on her lips and then we hugged. I felt her warmth and tightness against my body and it gave me a little energy.
I took her back to my apartment just like we had done five years ago and after a few glasses of wine we fell in bed and made love. The sex was somber, nothing wild or explosive: just two yearning hearts coming together as one. I could tell that she had missed me as much as I had her.
The following day, and after a goodbye kiss, I went to work the happiest man in the whole world. Just like in the past, I knew that she would sleep in late then let herself out afterwards. I was wrong for when I came home at 6pm, she was on the couch watching TV and looking very tense.
“I need to talk to you,” she said as I walked into the room. The words hit me hard and the couch sighed as I sat across from her. She continued. “I’m getting married Mathias. That’s why I came, that’s why I have been trying to get in touch with you. I couldn’t do it without letting you know.”
I stared at her and a shudder ran through my body. This was the last thing I had expected and I now realized that last night had been all about saying goodbye. She had been looking for closure.
“Mathias,” she said. “I miss you so much. I want to be your friend, I want to be able to call you and hear your voice. You were a big part of my life and I can’t just erase that!” She was crying now and I searched for something hurting to say to her, but found none.
“Then don’t marry him!” I said. “Marry me…”
She shook her head vehemently. “I can’t Mathias. I love him. I love you too but… differently. I can’t give you what you want. You deserve a woman who can fully reciprocate the kind of love you are offering.”
Her words buried me deep. She walked over and took my hand. “If you tell me not to marry him Mathias, I won’t. But I can’t afford to loose you as a friend. I love you too much and the past months…” she chocked on tears. “The past months have been miserable without you. I’m so tired of fighting. Please Mathias, please!”
I knew she had me then because I could never tell her not to do something that would make her happy. I put my head in my hands and felt sad. I knew that I had lost her… but I didn’t want my future to look like the past twelve months. I needed her more than she needed me. She may have fallen in love with another but she still believed in me and it showed in her eyes … challenged me to be better.
“I can’t just forget what I was, what I lost… what we had,” I blurted out. “It’s a cold world out there without love-” She cut me off.
“Then don’t forget Mathias. What we had was beautiful, treasure it, but don’t build a shrine around it and drag it around. Celebrate it by living on. We were friends before we were lovers, remember?”
I did. I opened my arms and she snuggled her head on my chest. She had always been the voice of moderation. “I love you Isolde…iche liebe du… and I want you to be happy. When you are happy, am happy.”
She tickled me under the armpits and I laughed and pushed her away. It was my first real laughter in a long time and it felt good and rejuvenating. The air between us was palpable with relief. She smiled and we locked eyes again. “Wow,” she said. “I really missed that smile.”
Her smile lit me up: her presence invigorated me. Just like in Berlin, the wall between us came crashing down and our world was united … and all the pain and hurt bled from our bodies in a gush of air. I finally let go of her: its hard to get something new if you still clinging to the old.
“Go and get married Isolde, and go with my blessings,” I said as I looked into her eyes. My road ahead was clogged no more… I knew that now, more than ever. Love, against all odd, always won the day. She had found her true love… my quest to find mine was just beginning.
Off to AFRICA
My book A Whisper in the Jungle has been picked by a publishing company and approved by the board. It has been scheduled for release soon.
The music is all around you, all you have to do is listen
Without God, what are we? What do we have? What is life...