Wednesday, August 5, 2015

GENE

The churches in Hamburg are the identifying marks that tell you where you are. So does the train station. What happens inside these places tells you who you are. The sharing of dark rye with sweet butter and bitter coffee with a young airman with us on the night train to Copenhagen. I was 18 and this boy had thick Italian hair, cloud lips, and exotic cigarette breath. The butterflies in my stomach I wouldn't understand until years later were the exquisite sense that neither of us had any perception on that trip devoid of the other. We went to Tivoli Gardens. We caused the whole place to light up and sparkle for 48 hours. It was understood in the kingdom of Tivoli that Gene was the Prince of the Realm and I was his Princess. The night train back to Mannheim gradually gave leave to the subjects of our Realm, our streamers withered and ran soggy, but a tiny sparkle remained in the cool Monday light of the southern German station. I took Gene on with me that summer, to England, Wales, and France. I took him straight on into my college experience, then, medical education. He has remained forever with me, through marriage, motherhood, a career, divorce, illness, separations, a tangible remembrance that, during even the most sordid, unlivable moments of my life, the hope of pure love burns as a candle that only the death of me can kill.

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