November 10, 1989, Antibes, France
Raven had gone to walk the beach. I let her go alone, sensing that she wanted it that way. I had things to think about anyway.
In mid-August, the Austrian-Hungarian border had opened and all those East Germans had made their way to West Germany by the long way around. I missed it; I was in ICU when it happened.
In late September, more escaping East Germans made their circuitous way to the West German embassy in Prague, and from there to West Germany. I followed their flight in the newspapers, in an outpatient center in Bergen while waiting to find out if I was going to be tried for murder, or released on self-defense.
Then last night, the Berlin wall fell. Just like that.
It would be years before all of the confusions, clumsiness, and accidents of that event were fully understood, but in today’s newspaper it was clear that it had all happened in one night. There were pictures of young men and women with sledge hammers, breaking down the concrete barriers and walking away with souvenirs.
They built the wall the year I was born, and now it was history. All across eastern Europe, vast changes were taking place, and I was chafing to get in on the action.
* * *
November can be a cruel month, even on the Riviera. By two o’clock a chill wind drove Raven up from the beach. Her bikini was more conservative than the one she had inherited on the Wahini, but not by much, and her smile was radiant as she came up the stairs to the balcony.
I followed her into the apartment and went to our bedroom for clothing. As I passed the mirror, I checked my reflection. Sun and exercise were beginning to put me back together again. My torso and legs were honey colored with new tan. My left side was a mass of jagged, interconnecting scars where the Norwegian doctors had probed for broken rib fragments. There were perfect coins of untanned scar tissue on the front and back of my left thigh where the other bullet had passed cleanly through.
In the kitchen, Raven set out food on the tiny iron table by the picture window. The Mediterranean beyond was that same wine dark sea that Homer had sung of millennia ago. Raven had slipped a shawl around her shoulders. I kissed her, and held her for a long time before we sat down. Later, when the meal was done, she said, “We need to talk.”
“I don’t like the sound of that.”
She patted my hand, and said, “It’ll be okay.”
“Are you going to marry me?”
“Wait. Let’s talk first. Do you remember the note I left you in Paris?”
I would forget my own name before I forgot that note.
I am not like most people. You surely know that by now. Every day with you has been an adventure, and I thank you for all of them. But love can be bondage, for a person like me. Lately, I have been afraid that I was falling in love with you, and last night I proved to myself that I was. For someone else, that would be cause for happiness. Not for me. It would spell the end of all I have tried to become. Maybe we will meet again some day, and we will no longer be enthralled with one another. Then I can explain. I can’t explain now. The explanation would also tie me to you. I’m sorry. More sorry than you can ever know.
“The central fact of our lives,” I said, “is that I love you and you love me.” more tomorrow