young woman wasn’t stupid. No—not at all.
It’s just that she couldn’t read or write German and she gave up trying since
it gave her anxiety—a cold feeling that would form at the bottom of her
stomach, climbing like a feverish smoke to her lungs, then pushing against the
walls of her throat. Her eyes would get watery and her palms soiled with sweat.
Mr. Schneider would notice that it was happening again and would scratch his
head and tell her, “It’s okay, let’s stop for today.” Then he would take her to
breakfast or lunch. If they met in the evenings, he would invite her to dinner.
particular evening, he recognized that there was something auspicious about the
frail student. He noticed that she used her knife and fork at dinner like some
of the women he danced with in his earlier years in Berlin. They were high
class women—almost from a different age—long necks, tiny waists, wide hips, and
caramel legs that were eaten up by long Anglo-saxon skirts. They ordered the
lightest meals on the menu—leafy salads that crunched and folded between their
forks. Like the women in Berlin, she drank wine too, but slow and carefully, so
not to get drunk or do nothing stupid. Slow enough to giggle a little, and when
she did, her eyes lit up and teeth glistened like theirs did. These were the
women, whom the men of Berlin binged their accounts for. The same type of men
whom the Germans opened jewelry stores for in Frankfurt.
didn’t speak much either, and this made her a great listener. Mr. Schneider
shared stories with her about all his travels to big cities across the water.
Places like New York City and its neoclassical Statute of Liberty monument, gifted
by the French. Then there were stories about the bushy jungles in South America
where certain groups still pinched their food with their fingers, carrying it
to their mouths, and sucking the tips of their fingers to bring the event to
completion. She gleamed amidst those stories and would sometimes nod her head and
say, “Yes. Like with my ancestors.”
and then, he spoke about Peru too—strange mysteries of the city of ghosts, and then
captivating fables of blue-eyed mummies wrapped in layers of wool. Children of the Gods, is what he
referred to them as. It is only when he spoke about the mummies that he was
able to seduce the young student into a gripping climax. She held her breath,
her eyes widened, and pupils dilated as though one of those golden-hair mummies
were sitting erect, directly in front of her. The towering image, was only Mr.
Schneider, however. His golden hair parted to the right, resting above his
eyebrows and squared to the sides. His eyes a silvery grey, and his neck
projecting upwards through broad shoulders. She rested her eyes on a beautiful
Adam’s apple that serenaded his masculinity.
evening, she had asked so many questions about the Children of the Gods, the
shape of their eyes, the color of their hair, Mr. Schneider had loosened his
tie to get more comfortable, calling for a bottle of wine, directing the server
to select a brand that came specifically from the famous Rüdesheimer Berg vineyard. The server, who spoke German
awkwardly, a queer boy who called himself Atil, took the order with a faint
They sat and spoke until the musician who had mellowed the
guests under the sound of his violin had finally packed his instrument into a
black case and stepped off into the night. They even carried on until the quiet
couple behind them had retracted their chuckles, quietly leaving the
restaurant, and until the rain that had been pelleting on the German side walk had
finally eased back. By then, Atil had grown agitated with the odd pair, and
hoped they would leave. When he’d checked on them for the dozenth time, he placed
down the bill in front of Mr. Schneider and kindly waited for a payment.
This didn’t stop Schneider from talking either. He retrieved
his wallet, placed down 70 euros and thanked Atil for his service and guided Olu
through the door, grateful she had been spared the scorn of the German women
who earlier had turned up their nose at her for sitting in her own skin at the
table. Olu thought she understood the German people very well. She didn’t know
their language, but her sense of discernment gave her more of an understanding
than a foreign language instructor could ever teach. To them she was a
foreigner. And not just any foreigner, but an African—a refugee at that. And
she was not welcomed.
Are you still listening, Olu?” He waved his hand in front of
her face as they strolled down the side walk.
“Yes, yes,” she assured him.
but it is not the people alone who are a wander, Olu,” he assured her.
liked the way her name rolled off of his tongue.
entire place is a mystery. Once you got rid of the heavy jungle pulling at your
ear drums, you soon realize how quiet and peaceful. So quiet, I thought it was
only the moon and me present at nights.”
sound of swift feet hitting the pavement concerned them both and he was
watchful and protective as they turned the corner onto a side walk on Locke
Street, only to find that it was only an elderly man, picking up his speed to
get out of the cold. Perhaps he lived in one of the golden brick buildings a block
now my lady,” he was determined to finish up his story.
night, I had just finished a bottle of whisky when I looked up at the moon and
it called me.”
moon called you?” she chuckled.
it did,” he said, waving his index finger at her. And she knew to listen closer
and without mocking him.
one was hanging around the resort at that hour. The maids had gone home to
their young children and grumpy husbands, the tourists were soundly sleeping,
and the concierge had settled into their newspapers, or had taken their naps.
That’s when the moon called me and led me through a path where each step was
made of round stone. It told me it wanted me to meet someone.”
Who told you that?” she was puzzled.
moon!” He reassured her that she had heard him right.
Olu. The moon!”
was only autumn, but the high winds carried a sharp chill. Without giving it a
second thought, he pulled her frail body into his. So close, she could smell
the faint cologne that he wore. That and a leathery scent mixed with moth
balls, indicating that he might’ve just pulled this coat out of a box of other
winter coats. She wondered about what his home looked like. Whether or not he
kept it neat like his class room desk. If he watched German Television
stations, if he cared about the war in her country that drove her to Germany in
the first place. She thought about his bedroom, if he made his bed up in the
mornings, and if he entertained guests at night.
you listening to me, Olu?” He stopped and turned to her.
Yessir,” she smiled.
Just making sure.”
so, I followed the moon through this, this path until I came up on the sand,”
he pointed ahead as if the German streets would transform right before her
eyes widened too as she tried to imagine what it looked like.
there the moon was, dancing. The points of its toes moving across the surface
of the ocean.”
laughed and stood on her the tips of her toes, wiggled out of his arms, and
danced around him.
this?” She giggled as her skirt flared around in the wind, exposing her long
blue-berry legs. He’d never seen her this giddy and it gave him life.
where’d you learn to dance like that?” He smiled until it creased the sides of
my country,” she eased off of the tips of her toes and stood on her feet. Next
to herbs, dancing is healing…The sound of the music…The vibrations.”
there was no music just now, my lady.”
you’re wrong, sir. There’s music all around us. Life itself, is a sound.”
thought for a few seconds about what she said and she was still skipping around
should get you home, we’ve been out for quite a while,” he interrupted her.
stood at the curb from where he hailed a cab for her, and when the cab pulled
up, he reached into his pocket, handed the driver some money, and asked him to
take the young lady home safely.
shall see you tomorrow then,” he said to young damsel, kissing her on her
stood in front of him, thought for a second, then in a small voice explained,
“I think I know the language already, sir.”
made him laugh, but it wasn’t until he had settled in at home, next to his cold
German wife that he understood Olu. German was not a language to be learned by
words alone. Not only that, but the foreigners understood it more fluently than
a German teacher could spell it out. Even he had been a student of the German
language before. Only to be starved with it and not have an opportunity to
speak it, even with his German wife, Anne. She could’ve very well been a mute,
for she didn’t speak much. Only gave body language here and there. Shrugs of
the shoulder when he asked her about her day. Tossing dishes around the sink in
the evenings, and slapping moist and dripping eggs onto his plate in the
morning. At nights, she gave a cold shoulder. She was one of the women he
danced around with in Berlin. But they never did speak. German was a language
to learn and keep to yourself, anyway, he thought. Then he hoped Olu would show
up for class the next morning, needing breakfast. It would give him an
opportunity to tell more stories about his travels.