It was a long week-end, the real start of Summer in the city. Crowds of young people were walking and singing along the streets from mid morning, a rare sight on a Saturday. Julian took his camera and went out for a spell of street photography. A few days before, Sarah had told him she had arranged with Melissa for him to take a series of nude shots of the young woman. Sarah’s instructions were precise, and Melissa had been thoroughly briefed. She came to Julian’s studio, and lent herself to a couple hours shooting, in good humour, flirting a little with Julian, without pretension.
Now Melissa had gone to her mother in Köpenick, and Julian had the weekend to himself. Kreuzberg, at the time of Carnival, was a wonderful place where to be: the streets were alive, musicians everywhere, food and drinks stalls, acrobats, thousands of people enjoying themselves in the sunshine. He decided to walk up Linden Straße, up to the Jewish museum, perhaps even as far as the Berlinische Galerie, and back towards the canal through the smaller streets, and on to the Treptower Park, along the Maybachufer. On the way he would take pictures of places and people, the kind of photography he enjoyed most. The air was full of laughter and joyous songs. His mind still full of images of her young naked body, Julian thought of Melissa. She had become a permanent companion, discrete, helpful, always charming. Julian did not doubt that she was entirely under Sarah’s spell. They cooked together, played games, listened to jazz and rock and roll, sometimes, late at night, to classical music which often made Melissa cry.
He was surprised as to how quickly he had accepted her presence in his life, and trusted her. Until the shoot, he had seen her in briefs, or her running shorts, at times without much else (she had asked him if she could go about bra-less in the studio, and he had agreed). During the shoot she had surprised him with her modest demeanour, following, with good grace and charm, Sarah’s orders, that led her to reveal everything to Julian. He had felt very protective, a feeling that was, above all, made of his sense of responsibility for her.
Seeing the camera and guessing at his interest, a group of young people, sitting on the terrace of one of the fashionable cafés, asked him to take a group picture: Julian obliged, taking several shots, and a few more for some of the girls who asked for a personal pic. Then he had to make notes of email addresses to send the pictures, and he felt really on a holiday.
He crossed the Böckler Park, full of couples and children playing, and soon was at the Kottbusser bridge. Eons ago, Sarah, himself, and another woman he could not recognise in his memories, had stood on this bridge, he thought, before running to the Hasenheide. He paused and let the image dilutes in the warm air.
Those pictures of Melissa. He posted them, as instructed, on a private web site Sarah had given him access to. There were pictures of his sister Jane there too. Julian had been a little surprised, but was not in the habit of questioning his wife’s projects.
He was now following the footpath along Maybachufer, one of his and Melissa’s favourite running tracks, together with Tempelhof and the Tiergarten. The Landwehr canal had its summer suite on: the water greener and deeper than ever, both banks alive with families and couples, the trees smiling to them. There was hardly any traffic noise, the city was moving effortlessly into carnival mood. He headed toward the river and the Puschkinallee. Sarah and him had followed the same route at his first visit to the Treptower Park, and since then he had been many times, flanked by loyal Melissa. He wondered if he was beginning to miss her when she was not with him.
He took several pictures of the wonderful murals along Puschkinallee. There was little traffic there either, with crowds of pedestrians occupying the whole street. As he was approaching the entrance to the park, his phone rang. Hesitantly he took the call: the tune was that he had set for Melissa, if she needed help. Her voice was low and quiet, incredibly young:
“I hope not to disrupt your walk, Julian, I just wanted you to know, I love you and I miss you, terribly.” He was silent, seconds passed, he could hear her breathing, almost sense her being there, attentive, nervous. “I love you too Melissa: please don’t worry about anything, I am here, will always be here for you…” “I was afraid you were angry with me for posing nude for you…” “Of course not, Sarah wanted this, and you are beautiful, very beautiful.” More seconds passed, then she asked in one breath: “Would you like me to join you tonight?” He could hear her heartbeat, hesitated again; then made his move: “I thought you wanted to have time with your mum, but if she had enough of you, then, yes, pop in when you want, but after six…”
He resumed his walk, his mind floating. The park was already full of children and young adults, but the long alleys lined by the ancient elms were welcoming and shady. In the hours that followed he took more pictures of strangers, of trees, and walking back toward Kreuzberg, of bridges, and smiling girls pretending to pose for him. At the corner grocery, back on Eylauer Straße, he picked up a few bottles of Melissa’s favourite Trento wine, and a few beers for himself. He would cook risotto, dance with her, show her what a gentle lover he could be.