To Erich from Walther

Born December 30, 1903, and died
April 4, 1978

"I Still Dream of My Erich Sometimes"
by Walther Roeber
of Germany

I was just 21 years old and had started to study economics at the university. On weekends, I was a commuter between the University City and my hometown, which is a spa for heart disease and for asthma. On a Saturday afternoon, after studying some books, I needed fresh air and took a walk through our beautiful park. On the way back home, I passed by a coffeehouse and felt a strong appetite for coffee and pastry. Of course, on a Saturday afternoon it was very crowded with spa guests and with visitors, too, because the place was not far from the railway station.

There were no vacant tables. Unlike the United States, where patrons often are seated by a host, in Germany one usually seats oneself. I looked around and spotted a free seat at a table for two. The second place was occupied by a man of whom I could see only his broad shoulders and the back of his head with its long grey hair. I walked over and asked if the empty seat was taken. I became quite excited looking at close range into his bright blue eyes. "Why, yes, just at this very moment...by you!" was the answer I got, along with a a smile that made me blush.

Sitting, I ordered coffee and a pastry and covertly studied him. The stunning blue eyes dominated a fleshy face. In keeping with the fashion of 1970, he had long, whiskered sideburns and wore a shirt which was a tad too tight around the chest and belly. His trousers were nicely filled. Not only did he boast very strong legs, but he also showed a big bulge at the crotch, which I could see through the plate glass table. The shirt was open. Grey hair covered his chest.. He was not wearing an undershirt, so his big nipples strained against the fabric barely held together by buttons holding tight against his ample belly.

My coffee and pastry were served, and we sipped at our coffee almost simultaneously. He had big hands with one ring on each, a small diamond on the left one and a huge red-brown gemstone on the right. He saw my puzzled look and told me that it was a carnelian which he got as a gift 50 years before. I had a little knowledge about gems and jewelry, and we fell into lively conversation. After that, he asked me how a young man like me came to the coffeehouse and chose to sit next to an old man of 67? He smiled. I blushed again. He did not pursue that point, but started to tell me that he visited 'an old friend' who stayed at a home for elderly people with asthma. He came by train from Frankfurt once or twice a week. I told him about my studies and my expectations. Time went by until, suddenly, he said that he was going to miss his train, waved to the waitress and paid the bill for both of us in spite of my weak protest. I asked if I could accompany him to the railway station. "Of course," he said, giving me his phone card, "please call me. It was such a nice conversation! We should continue." We strolled to the railway station, shook hands, and off he went.

I felt dizzy and walked around for about an hour. I knew that he would be at home within that time. I called him and asked, stuttering, if he got home safe and sound. He told me that there was no problem, and he repeated how much he enjoyed the conversation. I asked when we could continue. "Not this evening," he replied, laughing, "but if you can come to my place tomorrow, Sunday, before you go to your university, I would be delighted." I went to his home the following evening, and we talked all night long. We did not have sex. We hugged and kissed, but not more.

At sunrise, we finished telling each other our histories, and during our second pot of coffee he announced that he was leaving Frankfurt! I sat frozen in place. Was this, the beginning, also to be the end? Seeing my frightened face, he smiled and went on: "I will move in 3 months...to your town!" I could not hide my joy over hearing these words. "I need to be closer to my asthmatic friend. He is old. He will never leave that hospital there. My wild years are gone. I have my books, my TV, and I had just begun to think of looking for someone to share some time with me. I think I have found you!"

He had found me, indeed. Thus began a great and wonderful love which lasted until he died of a massive stroke. I shall never forget that last day, April 4, 1978, when I found him sitting in his corner of the couch, where he liked to watch TV. I called his name. No answer. I leaned down to pick up the TV program which had fallen to the floor. As I arose, I looked into his beautiful face. He was gone...peacefully, but gone. I was in a panic, but my mother was a great help in the next hours and days. "He was an honest man, and he was happy with you!" she insisted, and rightly. I survived the funeral and the burial of the casket calmly, but afterward I broke down and was near to committing suicide. There was no one with whom to share my grief, but I got over it. I am still alive.

That has been more than twenty years ago, but still I dream of my Erich sometimes. For a long time, April 4 remained a black day, a day of death for me, but no more. It became a day of rebirth into a great new love many years later, when I met the wonderful man with whom I now share a joyful life.

Yes, April 4 is a dual anniversary for me: the day of Erich's passing in 1978 and the date of my beginning with yet another silverfox. Is it fate, or is it coincidence?

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