The benevolent wife
Sarah is listening to her husband in their studio in Eylauerstraße. Julian is talking of his discoveries, the turkish market on Maybachufer, the secret corners of the park, the Serbian barber, his new gym. It has been two months since Sarah’s last visit: her business has taken her almost everywhere in Europe, except here, in Berlin. Now she’s taking a break.
The morning sun invades their lounge. Soft jazz floats through the cool air: far away street noises can be heard, soft and unobtrusive. Julian’s now talking about his new friend: the ‘golden girl’. He’s unsure about what it means, new fantasy – or something deeper. Melissa has been true to her word: she’s discrete, and has respected his privacy, as far as he can tell. Once a week they go running, or for a swim in the nearby pool.
Sarah’s unworried, and rather pleased her husband has found a new friend. What she’s not telling Julian is that she knows all about the ‘new’ Melissa. On a previous visit she surprised the girl taking pictures of their balcony, and she challenged her. They too talked, and got friendly, and have since communicated, all the time Julian and Melissa have been seeing each other. Wiser and more experienced, Sarah understood the young woman’s crush on her husband. She advised her caution, and explained what to do, or not. Melissa quickly proved herself a listening and obedient pupil.
Sarah and Julian decide to go for a walk, and they cross the park toward the Yorckstraße. When they reach the Ostpark playground they stop at the little café. “Are you interested in her?” asks Sarah, as she and Julian watch the young children playing in the nearby field.
“I don’t really know,” replies her husband, “I am not interested in her sexually, however cute she is, but I am probably intrigued, by her own interest, which I cannot explain.” Sarah thinks that such things need no explanation: the girl’s infatuation, if it is what it is, may disappear just as quickly. What she really meant to ask, and decided not to, at least for now, was: “Does she remind you of the other girl?” They smile at the children’s games, look up at the new city landscape being raised from the ruins around them.
“Do you know where she comes from?” she asks Julian after a pause. Julian does not know, but thinks she’s local, though not from the city, probably some small place nearby. Sarah knows: Melissa’s accent is from Köpenick, to the south-east of the city.
They continue their walk, cross Julian’s beloved Landwehr canal, and soon reach the Potsdamer Platz. For a moment they enjoy the crowd of strangers, visitors of many tongues and colours, and the low traffic hum of the city centre. They talk art and the music scene in the city. Julian wants to take Sarah to a small modern art gallery, hidden in a deep bunker, north of the Mitte. Sarah says she will be here for a week, perhaps longer: they have time. Julian smiles, kisses his wife, for long seconds, standing. Now she wants to reassert her ownership, her dominance. They go home, this time taking the U-Bahn. The City soon surrounds them in her calm embrace.
Later Sarah says, during one of those instants of delight when she knows for certain nothing has changed in her husband’s devotion to her: “Why don’t you invite your new friend for drinks, sometime while I am here?”