Jurgen gazes furtively at his journal, which has rested atop his dresser for the past three weeks, gathering dust. The tattered bundle of paper is virtually his last sanctuary, and the fact that he has not found reason to roam the cavernous halls of expression is troubling him. His heart sinks into the pit of his stomach, a brick of lead straining heavy upon a tarp of silk. He has not seen his unwitting captor for as long, and has since lost hope of ever seeing her again. This, despite whatever pretension may be made to the contrary, is the true reason for his angst.
“Hey prince,” pipes up one of his fellow cadets, using the moniker he is now singularly known as amongst his comrades, “What’s been with you recently? You seem so distant lately… HEY! What’s so interesting about that goddamn wall?”
Jurgen jerks to attention, as if awakened from a deep sleep, “What’s that? Oh, I’m just under the weather. That’s all. There is that rash of influenza that’s been hitting the barracks hard after all.”
“Yeah, influenza. Right. Well, whatever it is, it would be better for all of us if you would snap out of it. You’ve forgotten your duties as squad leader three times in the past week, and I really do not want to spend the night scrubbing boots as withered as my grandfather’s ass.”
Jurgen flares, his breathing heavy, his eyes warning. The boy quickly adjusts his tone.” It’s time for you to meet the commander. That’s all. I’m not trying to be an prick about the whole business. You’ve been an amazing leader, and I respect you for that, but you can’t be late to see him. We will all be waste deep, scrubbing the latrines with our own toothbrushes if you are.”
Jurgen betrays himself with a slight smile at his comrade’s melodrama. “I understand Friedrich, I really do. I assure you that it will not come to that. Tell the guys that they do not have to worry any more.”
With that, Friedrich nods and withdraws back to his bed, satisfied with the diplomatic conclusion to what could have been a violent clash of wills and, for that matter, fists. Jurgen follows him, casting one final glance at his journal, as if longing for a reason, even the slightest breeze of inspiration, to stir the dust from it’s neglected pages. Nothing. With a dejected sigh, he exits the barrack.
A churlish midsummer night pours over him, lapping at the edges of his consciousness with a warm, consoling tide. Crickets chirp sporadically throughout the surrounding hills, their shrill compositions melting into a melodic choir of primitive longing. The stars gaze down at him like eyes in the night, their spectacles slightly clouded with the occasional passing fog. They wink lazily at him, as if assuring him that nights like this are far too good to be wasted on unfulfilled love.
Whistling softly to himself, he treads down the path beaten into the resilient weeds, gasping in the heavy night air with strong, deliberate gulps. Despite the staleness that has devoured his heart, he has never felt more alive. The night pulses to a rhythm of its own design, a rhythm Jurgen shares to a cellular level. The pale face of the moon peers out from behind the passing wisp, guiding her wayward son on his journey. It would not be a stretch to say that Jurgen is a man lost, both in body and in spirit. Nothing short of a cliff could impede upon his absent wandering.
A short while passes, as does a few hundred meters of featureless wooded terrain, before a sharp crack shoots out of the darkness, not unlike the report of a small caliber gun. Jurgen stops in his tracks, the exploration of his dreamscape abruptly cut short, and peers about nervously. Again, though much less distinct, a pop emanates from behind him, followed by an unintelligible voice cursing softly in the breeze. He turns and calls out, “Who’s there?” in the deepest, most authoritative voice he could muster. His words echo hollowly, escaping into the night, eluding the grasp of the man who regretted letting them free the moment he said them.
A sparsely wooded outcropping meets his gaze, the contours of the earth rising to touch the face of the heavens. All seems to be in order, save a nonchalant cloaked figure breaking the soft, graduated slope. Diminutive in stature, the cloaked figure seems little than an apparition, out for a stroll in the moonlit forest. Remembering the Pagan lore of ages past, Jurgen smiles, musing that perhaps all of the nonsense about fairies and spirits were true. Maybe, on a midsummer night, when absurdity and reality blurred their already obsure boundary, witches and fairies truly do venture out into the air, searching for the unwitting traveler to cast their spells on.
Shoving this bit of nonsense from his head, he beckons to the specter, recalling his booming address from before,”Who are you? In the name of the fuhrer I command you to speak quickly, because you are trespassing on restricted grounds!” The figure wavers slightly , as though contemplating a response, before it throws back the hood of its cloak. From under the oppressive restraints of the draconian attire falls a cascade of jet black hair, its sleek brilliance enhanced by the moon’s luminescence. Jurgen’s heart, so long drowning in the pit of his stomach, lurches, and finds itself straining the back of his throat. Could it be her? The girl he has spent so long pining for, the free spirit, his first infatuation?
Although he had never so much as spoke a word to her before, he was never more certain about anything in his life than his need to speak to this mysterious girl. Girl? The word hardly described her. She is a woman, in nearly every sense of the term, and yet, even this term does not do her semantic justice. It is stunning how there has been over one hundred-thousand years of linguistic evolution, and yet the human race has yet to invent a word evocative of this woman’s flawless beauty, Jurgen pondered. Before Jurgen can progress any further in thought, her gaze turns upwards until her eyes meet his, her felinesque features sparkling in the now copious moonlight. The woman begins to walk forward, the slight, deliberate sway of her hips not lost upon Jurgen. Her eyes remain locked on the sedentary young man before her as a tigress views her prey. And yet, there is a certain tenderness to her stare.
Jurgen’s heart begins to thrash against the walls of its prison, desperately attempting to meet the object of its infatuation and break away from its frigid sentence of isolation. No matter the intensity it meted out upon its cage, it could not break free from the shackles that bind it rigidly in place. However, the futility of this endeavor certainly did not stop it from attempting to do so. Thus Jurgen, pallid Jurgen, with his palms sweaty and his heart dancing, sands rooted to the spot, witnessing the object of his most fervent desire saunter ever so ever so daintily to him. As she approaches, her feet seem to never touch the ground. Rather, the heels of her feet almost glide over the reaching grass, so that only the outstretched fingertips of the blades had the chance to brush her feet. It seems as though all the world holds its breath in these waning moments of anticipation, the status quo disrupted by a moment that happens quite seldom in one’s life.
Finally, after what seems to have been an eternity, she arrives before him, a look of inquisition betraying itself on her delicate features. She speaks, her voice articulate but slightly accented with an Oriental flavor.
“Finally Jurgen, we meet. Yes, I know who you are. How could I not wonder who you were, with the way you looked at me all that while ago in the rain? I had to at least know your name. That isn’t all that much to ask. I get so bored locked away in my room most of the time.”
“Was I really that obvious?” countered Jurgen with a lighthearted laugh, his nerves calming considerably. “And I suppose you would. Your father does not seem like the type who would do much in the way of fun.”
“He is certainly devoted to his career, and all of the trappings and persona that accompany it, if that’s what you mean.” She says this with a slight distaste not lost upon Jurgen. “He is the reason I am here. He could not bear to leave his one and only child alone in Tokyo, so he demanded that I accompany him.”
“It sounds quite harsh for him to expect you to uproot your entire life and move halfway across the globe,” Jurgen observes. She nods in agreement, while Jurgen continues, offering his hand,”However now that you are here, why don’t you accompany me on this fine night? I promise I will not make you travel as far as your father has. There shouldn’t be any major life trauma imposed here.” She smiles and grasps Jurgen’s hand, her warm palm clasping around his with a firm grip, and stares deep into his eyes. “My name is Keiko, by the way. It is nice to finally meet you properly.”
“Likewise,” Jurgen replies with a matching smile. “Let’s go.” Without much further consideration, they stride happily down the trail, lost deep in amazement at the happenstance and coincidence that lead up to this moment. “So what brings you out here at this time of night?” Jurgen asks, breaking the brief moment of silence. “I snuck out, as I do every night. If I did not get my nightly dosage of fresh air, I would lose my mind locked away in my father’s quarters every hour of the day. Besides, the night is peaceful. There is something about the night that is innocent, and at the same time, dangerous. You just cannot find the feel of it elsewhere. The creatures of the night come to life and revel in the world they inherit for the short length of twilight. I am but one of their kinsfolk.”
Keiko gives a teasing smile as she finishes, her dark, tear drop shaped eyes sparkling like two radiant coals alight with the fires of indomitable passion. Passion for adventure, the obscure, the mundane, and the quirky. Most of all, passion for the inebriating absinthe of life, and of love. With a simple smile, she exudes all the youthful exuberance of one who still holds a relatively untainted view of the world, and still expects much from it. Jurgen chuckles to himself, intrigued more and more by the eccentricities of this certainly unique girl.
“All of this seems much too surreal to be happening right here, deep in this wooded cove of eastern Germany. When one truly comprehends the hundreds of millions of events that led up to the two of us strolling down this path together, one cannot help but marvel. This is an insane life we live.”
“It is.” Keiko agrees dreamily. ” I wonder what my father would think if he saw me with you at this instant.”
“I think he would kill me, fuhrer’s son or not.” Jurgen responds thoughtfully.
“I wouldn’t doubt it. He once challenged a fellow officer to a dual over the way in which he mispronounced our family name. I am not sure if the gaffe was intentional or not, but that instance sums up my father well.”
“That sounds harsh. Did the man accept?” Jurgen inquired, casting a sideways glance at his moonlit companion.
Keiko sighs audibly before responding,” He did. I remember my father coming home that night. I was just a young girl. It was a cold, rainy night. I was asleep when I heard a crash and loud voices coming from our dining area. Leaving my bed, I crept down the hallway, holding my breath in just in case my parents could hear, though I knew they couldn’t, listening all the while to my parents heatedly argue. Although my mother was free spirited, she never instigated arguments with my father. He would threaten to beat her like some of the other men would their wives, but when she defiantly stood her ground, he would wither as he did with nothing else. He loved her too much to lay a hand on her. Anyway, as I drew nearer, I saw my father sitting down, his face ashen as the clouds above, being tended to and sternly lectured by my mother. He had a serious wound on his hip, and judging by the heap of blood-soaked rags beside my mother, it was still quite serious. I still remember the tone of her voice when she asked him how her and I would survive if he went off and got killed as he almost did that night. He didn’t have an answer for her. He knew as well as she did that we were only a heartbeat away from starvation, so there was nothing he really could say. He merely looked tenderly at my mother, as if caressing her with his eyes, and planted a gentle kiss upon the top of her head, holding his lips there for a few seconds. It proved to be one of the last nights I would ever see them together. Roughly a week later, as she was crossing the street st the marketplace, my mother was struck by a truck. They rushed her to the nearest hospital, but there was nothing they could do. They buried her a few days later.” As she finishes, her dark eyes glisten with the rain of an emotional tempest, her pain still quite fresh and lucid in her mind.
Jurgen hugs her closer,” I’m sorry. I really am. I suppose I see why your father is the way he is.”
“It is okay. I am over my mother’s death, but I cannot speak for my father. I always thought that as my mother’s corpse wasted away, my father rotted with her. He became more gaunt and withered with each progressing day, as though he were possessed by a great hunger. Yet, he could not eat. The fruits of life were but ashes in his ravenous mouth. Try as he might, nothing could fill the void left by my mother. He threw himself at his career, rising meteorically from lieutenant major to general in the course of nine years. He served in Manchuria, and fought at the battle and occupation of Nanking, something still to this day he refuses to speak of. With the same ruthless drive, he also encapsulated my life, isolating me from the outside world. I suppose he thinks that if he smothers me, I will never truly draw in the breath of life, and therefore remain dead like him. Perhaps that is truly what he wants, to not be alone in his suffering.”
She looks over at Jurgen, taking in the upset look on his face. “I’m sorry for going in so deep, I just don’t talk to people I can trust that often. When I do manage to find an outlet, I’m ashamed to say I pour everything I have into it.”
Jurgen shakes his head, dismissing her apology,”No, no, it’s perfectly understandable to feel that way. It’s not often that I can find someone to share my genuine feelings with either. I completely understand where you are coming from. My mother died giving birth to me, the ultimate sacrifice for a loved one I suppose. I was raised by an old couple in the Rhineland until I was nine, when my Nanna, the old woman who cared for me, was brutally murdered by a roving band of political terrorists. No doubt attempting to be the instigators of the next Kapp Putsch. I never knew the old man though. He died of a stroke when I was very young.”
“I see that you do not speak much of your father. You must not be very close to him at all,” Keiko observes with an air of incredulity.
“I really do not view him so much as my father as I do my benefactor. He pays my way, but that is where he ceases to be my father. I suppose it is too inconvenient for the leader of a new order to be troubled by the triflings of paternal responsibility and affection.” Jurgen’s brilliantly blue eyes shine, two frozen caverns resisting the humid night air. “When I was young, he would dole me off to one of his cronies so I could be babysat. Now, the military establishment cares for me, to make me the ideal soldier and such. I would go so far as to say that my drill instructor has become more of a father to me than that man ever was.”
Keiko interrupts,”That sounds terrible! Isn’t there anyone who genuinely cares about you? In terms of affection?”
“No, the only person who for me in that respect died over eight years ago now.” It was his turn to respond to the other’s facial expression. “No, really, it is not all that bad. I’ve learned to take care of myself. I’ve learned that people are unreliable, selfish creatures, and it does you a lot of good to see that from the periphery. Yes, the water may be frigid at my end of the lake, but it is also crisp and clear. After all, a man can only become strong through sacrifice and pain, all else is but an illusion. It can get quite unbearable though, with nobody to confide in or talk to on a personal level. Sometimes I just want to be able to have somebody to tell the mundane to, to share everything with. Someone who will at least convincingly pretend to care about the happenings in my life. Just because I am free to roam does not mean that I am not lonely. Even liberal freedoms can become the most sinister of prisons if left to fester and spoil with nobody to share them with.
Keiko gives a faint smile, the type that exudes a genuine radiance from every pore. “I would like to be the one that will show you just how wrong you are. Not everybody is a selfish creature like what you described.” She grips Jurgens hand tighter, planting a kiss on his cheek as she does so. “Although we come from opposite faces of the world and foreign walks of life, we aren’t so different, you and I. It’s curious how we can have such radically different lives and still end up understanding each other so well and feeling the same inside. As foolish as it sounds, perhaps it truly was fate that brought us together. What if you had never looked up in the rain, or I take a different path out of the hundreds I choose from. If but one thing went differently , we may not be here right now, together. I don’t understand how a bond cast in iron can be built on a foundation of sand.”
Jurgens grows emboldened, no longer feeling the need to sequester is long broiling passions. “Love is a curio… Surreal thing. Surreal. It seems so weak a word to describe what two lovers feel. How can one describe love? It’s something that makes every fiber of your being, from the tip of your toes to the crest of your scalp buzz with the energy of a thousand hives. How can one describe the tempestuous beating of a lovesick heart, or the soothing blanket of warmth provided by your lover’s twilight embrace? Love is unique out of all of our emotions. It is so primal, yet so elegant. It arrives at parties dressed in silk, then proceeds to dine with its hands. It is the sinister wolf in sheepskin, yet it also doubles as the tender lamb of the flock. It is perhaps man’s greatest fear and weakness, yet it is also his sweetest and most cherished triumph. Only love can be the bandage that properly heals a bleeding heart, just as it is the dagger that so effectively pierces it.”
They pass he next few moments in contemplative silence. Not awkward, rather content, as their minds struggle to truly grasp the presence of the other. Their minds run free with speculation. Is this truly happening? Tell me I am not dreaming. If so, why must I tantalize myself so?
They clench each others hands tighter still, locking the only assurance they have that the other is not merely a figment of an overactive, wishful imagination.
He must be real. Feel his warm, calloused hands, the strength that is inherent in his grasp, Keiko assures herself. As they round the final bend in the trail, and approach a small, water filled dip, Jurgen does the same. Surely the way the moonlight reflects from those gorgeous eyes, the scent that overwhelms my defenses and permeates my most inner sanctum is true? Surely I cannot manufacture beauty such as this? She cannot be a fairy of mind, like those I imagined earlier. If she is, it just gives me all the more cause to clasp her even tighter, to prevent her from fluttering away into the heavens above.
They slow their pace now, approaching the edge of the water. Silently, they remove their shoes and dip their tired feet into the cool, languid water. They lay back on the beach, arm in arm, and turn their gaze skyward, marveling at the celestial tapestry above. They lay there for a few seconds before Keiko sighs and explains,”It’d beautiful, isn’t it? I spend most of my day waiting until the time I can sneak out arrives so I can just gaze at the stars. It reminds me of how small I am, and how much else there is. I always wonder whether the particular star I’m looking at has a planet with life, and on that planet is something like me, looking back at us and wondering the same. If anything, it keeps my mind from dwelling over my worldly troubles for a little while.”
Jurgen reaches and places his arms around her soft, warm torso, and hugs her tight. She snuggles closer to him, and they enjoy the feel of the contours of each others bodies; him her smooth, unblemished skin, so immaculate to the touch. Her, the broadness of his hard body, and the sure, yet delicate nature of his embrace. “In terms of an overhead view, the Sistine Chapel has nothing on this.” She giggles in agreement, and they spend a few more minutes in silence, gazing up at the heavens with inexhaustible curiosity, contented more however by who they are with than what they are witnessing. Jurgen passes the time by lightly running his fingers across the breadth of her lower back, forming a small circle of tickling sensation. Keiko, not wanting to be outdone, softly breathes on the nape of his neck, leaving whispering kisses as the occasional reminder that she has not left.
“Tell me a story,” she breathes, her voice distant and dreamy with the rigors of the day finally taking their due. Jurgen ponders this for a moment, his fatigued mind lazily mustering a response. “I don’t know. I don’t have a.. Wait. I got one. It’s slightly foolish, but it’s the best I have. Once, when I was very young, I thought it would be smart to lock my Nanna out in the cold when she went to get firewood. No matter what she said, I just sat there and shrieked with amusement. Finally I suppose she had enough of trying to reason with me, and knowing my mentality, strode off to town, leaving me quite alone. After a few minutes, I realized that she was not coming back, so I panicked and ran out into the snow after her. I had nothing on but a pair of underwear bottoms on. At any rate, I ran all the way to town, barefoot and nearly naked, before I caught up with her in amidst a crowd of amused townspeople. I suppose you know who won that one”
Keiko laughs and presses her face into Jurgen’s chest, inhaling deeply. “I hope this comes off the way I want it to, because we have only know each other so little a time, even though it feels like a lifetime, but… I think I love you Jurgen.”
Her voice seemed so uncertain and slightly fearful of rejection, that Jurgen smiled, not a sinister smile, but a smile of kindred spirit, as he felt the same. “I love you too, Keiko.”
They say nothing more, but that is fine, because there is nothing more that needs to be said. The pair could conceivably go mute for the remainder of their lives, and, so long as the remain locked in each other’s passionate embrace, they would be content and fulfilled in doing so. Almost involuntarily, as if through sheer force of nature, their lips meet in a groping, heartfelt kiss. It feels as if their lips are meant to meet, to unite in this moment of eternal love. All of their insecurities and sorrows melt away, the mighty glaciers thawed by the pristine flame of fervent desire. Horribly anxious, and yet driven by an urge older than the species itself, the two lovers explore the scrumptious features of the other’s body, leaving nothing unturned or neglected.
With hearts racing and limbs shaking, they slowly, almost methodically begin to undress each other, fixating on each new piece of bare skin with a roving tongue or fingertip. The intoxication of the moment swirls around them like a ubiquitous gas, to be inhaled as a tangible measure of their mutual desire. This act, so variously portrayed throughout the centuries and cultures, is merely the culmination of their intimate bond as partners. it is so much more than just a hedonistic release inspired by a lone act of lust. It is an hour where two become one, where the finite boundaries of the conscious self blur, and the two lovers, for that fleeting time, become a single entity, a single force. Nothing else on this Earth can claim to forge a bond like this in such a convincing fashion. After an hour of inexplicable sensation, the inferno of forbidden fruits finally tamper down to a lazy blaze, slowly flickering yet robustly burning in the late night air. The coals, the bedrock of their relationship, glow more brightly than ever before. It is only the lack of fuel that finally calms the great furnace of love. The two lovers, now physically spent but still emotionally exuberant, lie clasped in the gentle embrace of the other, feeding off of the warm aura, enveloping the duo, defiantly casting off the night air with the remnants of flame. Slowly, but inevitably, the two lovers gradually drift away from the shore of consciousness, casting off to explore the limitless ocean of nocturnal tranquility. This time, however, the will not be traveling alone.