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5.6. The farewell

The last time I met Alma was at the Theatercafé. It is one of the city's most beautiful restaurants – and café, a Viennese café with stiff waiters and a classic menu that rarely changes.

It was at the Theatercafé Alma and I met for the last time in the middle of the day.

Was it you who took the initiative?

I think so.

I brought two duty-free purchases from a trip to Corsica during the summer holidays to visit my father and his new cohabitant, Rudhild. They had rented a small house.

Alma was not present. I had not invited her.

In letters from that time, I write to my father that I have met her and that she has made an indelible impression on me. I also note that she is not a probable potential wife.

When I came down to Corsica, I tried to describe Alma to Rudhild. It went badly.

I told further about the child and the adoption.

Rudhild is a Catholic and could not accept Alma's choice.

Could I please explain?

I could not.

It is a lot that words can't explain.

My heart could, but my heart can not speak.

At my young age, I claimed to Rudhild that I understood why the adoption was necessary.

I had no idea what it would mean for Helene, the child. But I understood with all my heart that Alma would not be able to function normally as a mother.

I was like that myself.


Yes, Rudhild, she and she alone had my heart.

She is the person who has shaped my life the most and from which I have learned the most, the one I loved the most, most profoundly and truest.

I can't help it. Love can't be controlled.

With me from Corsica, I had a bottle of Chanel No. 5 and a silk handkerchief with some red and black in it, bought at the airport in Paris or Marseilles, girly and a little flirty.

Yes, it was flirting.

It was over. You said that a while ago, and I had not asked. You had come to me and said that now you could not see me anymore. You had started meeting a chess master that you regularly met in the club where you played,

What could I say?

It had already happened to you.

Should I protest?

You should still have these two gifts as a sign of my affection. It was over, but in a way, still not over. Strangely, it was a date, a beginning. Two adult products from a young, insecure man to a slightly more mature lady. Two products to beautify the most beautiful that I wanted to make even a little more beautiful.

It was weird.

After a forgettable meal, we stood outside the entrance to the café. You were close to me. You were hesitant, questioning. You looked up at me from below, wrapped in your coat; it was September and a little chilly, no rain.

I did not know what to do.

We touched each other. We held hands and shared a hug. But nothing more.

It took time. It was unfinished. It hung in the air. There were no words.

You went.

I saw you walking the last metres of Parliament Street in the direction of the park surrounding the royal castle. I stood still, did not go anywhere, but stood still and looked after you.

I remember it was a very sorrowful moment.

I remember wondering why you went, where you were going.

Slowly, lightly, fluidly.

The same way of walking I noticed the very first day.

You did not look back.

It was the last time I saw you, and it was unbelievably sad.

The image is still vividly on my retina.

Then and now and in all the years in between, it has been infinitely sad.

Exactly this grief, from this day and these minutes. The feeling I had when I stood and looked after you. It has not changed in the slightest. I can call it out at any time, like now when I write – right now when I write – now.

I'm still mourning, and it hurts just as much.

Because you are like me.

You are the only one I have met in my whole life to whom I feel related.

There is no other.

We have the same injury, and we are both survivors.

It is incomprehensible.

For you, it is probably incomprehensible that it can be so for me.

It is incomprehensible to me that it can be so for you.

I do not get it.

Can you come back?

Can I get back that point in time, the time that does not exist but is an illusion? Can I get that point back and do something else with it?

See you truer.

Run after you.

Can I bend spacetime into a sphere and go one more round?

All this again?

The exact same way again?

Except for that very last, utterly incomprehensible point in time when it went so horribly wrong?

Then everything would be different.

Can things happen again?

Maybe we will meet again when we are dust, after the dust has settled, in another place where there is no dust.

I know this to be true. It's part of the knowledge that is conveyed in part two of this book.

I did not understand then that she was the love of my life. My soulmate.

I did not understand that we are so rare. I have looked into a person who is very special. She is the only one I have recognised.

Sunday, September 7, 1986, at 5 pm, she was gone.

In 1992, six years after the parting, she called.

«Would you like a coffee for old friendships?» she asked?

In the meantime, I had gotten married and had a girl who was now two years old.

I writhed on the sofa, lowered my voice on the handset and explained that the timing was terrible, hoping that the child's mother would not overhear the conversation from the kitchen upstairs.

«It must be later, another time, not now,» I said somewhat hectically.

No, I didn't say that. Instead, I said this:

«In a week, I will be dad to another girl!»

«Alma, I'm sorry, I can not!»

That day in 1992, I said, between the lines, that all hope of something more between us was gone.

I couldn't tell her how important she was and still is to me.

What else could I do?