Nine rows of Elite-class passengers queued up behind me like anxious school kids, blocking potential poachers with no-look shoulder feints into the aisle. Glancing back, I saw Ted by the cockpit door, talking to the sleek-haired flight attendant who had plied him with mimosas all the way from Amsterdam. My theory proved once again, that the beautiful people were always seated in the first few Elite rows, thoroughbreds assured of never having to make pained conversation with lesser beings. I had endured the flight in the last row, next to a fat Dutchman with an unconquerable need to pick his neck acne.
The line started to move, the Dutchman shuffling ahead, a Burberry scarf swathing his scabby neck. I hoisted my carry-on bag over my shoulder, glancing back at Ted again. It would be very European to have an affair. My plan was to impress him at the Frankfurt train station, smoothly buying our tickets to Marburg. I had a sick premonition, though, that I was going to mangle the German and the Bundesbahn clerks would laugh at me—or worse, speak English. The Germans were like that, or at least they were ten years ago. They laughed. They practiced their English.
I didn't need any more humiliation. Over the past three days, the Amsterdam branch, slender, serious-browed beings in gray suits, had refused to approve the new fee structure, or even sign off on the annual meeting minutes. My boss had been reluctant to approve an international trip. 'Sorry, Helena,' she'd said, 'budget cuts.' Then Baxter had stuck his head in, asking if she wanted a ride to the leadership luncheon at Union Grill. 'You guys going to share the chateaubriand again?' I'd asked bitterly. The next day, Baxter signed off on my travel. Sadly, the meetings couldn't have gone worse if the company had sent the Three Stooges in our place.
Waiting on the jetway for Ted, I tucked away my airline goody bag of L'Occitane toiletries. He strode up, tall, husky-chested. His ruddy complexion always seemed on the verge of blushing.
"All set?" I asked, and he yawned an answer.
Last night he'd told me he hated to travel. Liked sleeping in his own bed. We were having consolation drinks at a bar on Spuistrasse.
"Then living in Philly and contracting in Seattle makes perfect sense," I'd said.
"Just give me my own bed," he'd repeated, grinning and hazy-faced, and I'd kissed him, tasting beer on his lips. Later, he lurched back to the hotel for a conference call, and I went shopping, buying a giant Toblerone and a hundred euros' worth of underwear.
I'd be dumber than a rock to fish off the company pier, but I worked too much, traveled too much—stultifying hops to Bakersfield and Bend—for a real social life. I did a little fooling around on the road: drinks on the corporate tab, mini-bar-fueled makeout sessions. Ted visited the Seattle office once a quarter, and lusting after him had become a pleasant preoccupation, an aide to whiling away boring conference calls.
"You're on the red-eye tonight?" I asked, as we strode into the Frankfurt airport.
"Yep, midnight. Straight back to Philly."
There was the Philadelphia accent, broad and hard, sticking in his mouth like a bite of food. So far, neither of us had mentioned last night's kiss. And he'd been giving the flight attendant the same goony drunk-eyes.
"You sure you still want to go all the way up to Marburg? I wouldn't want you to miss your flight tonight."
"What else am I going to do on my layover? Go eat sauerkraut somewhere?"
"Actually, they don't eat sauerkraut much. The Germans." Hurrying to match his long-legged pace, I was a little out of breath.
"Helena, you promised me sauerkraut." He grinned at me with a captain-of-the-lacrosse-team smile. A practiced smile, but still, it gave my stomach a roller coaster dip.
When my host-mother Franke drove me home from the Marburg train station that first day (I was twenty-two and tearily jet-lagged), she asked me in chirpy English questions about my school, my family, my boyfriends.
My answers—undeclared major, brothers, just friends—were lost on her, because while Franke excelled at reciting English phrases, she comprehended almost nothing. It was like talking to a radio. One that asked a lot of questions.
"Welcome," was the extent of Heinrich's English, I discovered on arrival at the Gleich's tidy stone house. Franke's husband was a timid Jack Sprat, hiding behind glasses and an overhang of black bangs and jutting eyebrows. At dinner, I met the boys—Martin and Peter, identical twins imminently off to college, and the baby, sixteen-year-old Richard, teen-idol handsome with thick blond hair and heavily-lashed blue eyes.
I was sticky and sweaty that first night, like a half-sucked lollipop. My college German eluded me as the Gleichs spoke in ever-slower, ever-louder voices. Soon we were reduced to getting out the atlas and pointing out the many inches between Marburg and the United States of America, six uncomfortably grinning mimes.
Each day then, when I came home from my classes at the language college, Richard would holler from his slouch on the living room sofa. "Helena, wie war es?
How was it, I'd repeat, closing the front door and shaking my head. I didn't have the words to explain how awful it all was. Despite two years of German classes, I couldn't even understand when a stranger asked me the time; I blurted, Excuse me, in English, as I pushed my way off the bus; and I understood little of the movies that Franke watched with her feet in Heinrich's lap, American films starring Meg Ryan and Bruce Willis, dubbed into incomprehensible German.
"Versuch' mal," was Richard's daily mantra. Try.
"Richard," I whined, at the start of my second week. We were camped out on the living room couch, eating ginger cookies and chocolate pudding.
"Richard," he corrected, with the German pronunciation. Rrreesh-ardt.
"Richard, Rrreeschardt. Whatever."
"Nein, nicht, 'Whatever.'" He held my gaze with his beautiful eyes. "Why do you speak English? You're in Germany." Du bist ja in Deutschland, Helena.
Stupid Germans, I thought miserably. Maybe in time I'd get used to Lutheran soap operas, bad teeth, and chain-flush toilets. But I understood it now, why cultural differences persisted in the world, despite the ubiquity of McDonald's and Cheers re-runs. Because in the end, you wanted what you were accustomed to.
Train tickets were purchased from kiosks now. The moment I inserted my Amex into the ticket machine at the Frankfurt station, the entire transaction was carried out in English. Disappointing, after all my mental gearing up to impress Ted.
"Can't we catch an earlier train?" He was looking over my shoulder.
"Yes, but it leaves way out on Gleis 21. It's another zip code out there."
"Fine," I said. "You know all about the German train system."
He took off at a brisk jog, pulling my roller bag. My plans for a cozy coffee, intimacies exchanged in the gentle congeniality of aimless waiting, evaporated like mist on a window. Behind him, I hurried past newspaper venders and snack counters and kiosks that sold ties and Asterix comics. The airy, steel-girded Frankfurter Bahnhof churned around me, echoing with a thousand murmurs. As I rounded the corner to Gleis 21, the conductor was briskly waving Ted aboard.
In the doorway of our compartment, I panted like an emphysema patient. "Told you we'd make it," Ted said, hoisting my bag up to the luggage rack.
"Yes, and Franke's expecting us on the later train." I mopped my sweating face with a tissue, hating him.
He sat down and crossed his legs circumspectly, opening his notebook. "Get a little grumpy when plans go haywire, do we?"
"Oh, I love it," I said testily. "I'll bet you feel fabulous about Amsterdam."
"Well, it's not like it was my fault, or your fault—" he hesitated.
My jaw fell open. I didn't like the way the emphasis felt on your fault. "No, no," I said. "I'm the flunky here, and don't you forget it."
"Don't worry, Baxter will get his trip report." He paused at a photo tucked inside the notebook. Even upside down, his fiancée was gorgeous. Per office scuttle, a former Miss Idaho, worked with deaf kids, probable boob job. I made a pillow from my cardigan. The rhythm of the train on the tracks was soporific. One minute I was reliving last night's kiss; the next, I was waking up, the side of my face wet with drool.
Franke was waiting for us on the platform. "Helena, you've gained weight," she said cheerfully, hugging me. Du bist dicker geworden. She was a petite lady in her early sixties, fit and capable looking, her gray hair in a youthful bowl cut.
"Er ist Ted." The German was heavy and awkward on my tongue.
"Hier ist der Ted," she corrected, looking him over with an appreciative smile. She liked men, talking quite openly at home about how she'd like to go to bed with Bruce Willis. "Nice to meet you, Ted," she said to him, in her parroty English.
"I thought she didn't speak English," he said accusingly in my ear, as we headed to the parking lot.
Franke popped open the Audi's trunk and we stood by as Ted loaded up my bags. "How did you know we'd be early?" I hoped she would let my poor accent and grammatical mistakes slide.
She smiled. "I had a feeling. Helena, was ist? Are you married? Any Kinder?"
"No," I said flatly. Somehow, I'd forgotten how nosy she was. As the train glided into town, the sight of the Marburg castle, its cold, remote stone tower set deep in the green hillside, gave me a pang. Hadn't I learned anything in the past decade? Not enough, apparently, to keep me from coming back to Marburg.
I met Michel at a birthday party one Sunday night in the school's back parlor. The birthday girl, Paola, a gorgeous Italian with high cheekbones and a trunkful of Gucci scarves, was darting around the cavernous room lighting candles and pouring tart Chianti into water glasses. Someone put on a Prince album.
As Paola refilled my glass, she said, "Later we go to a disco, si?"
"Si," I yelled, over the throbbing music. "I mean, Jawohl."
"Jawohl," Paola yelled back. Her German always sounded slightly jokey.
"Ciao, ciao." A blond girl squeezed by, flipping long blond hair over one shoulder. Catherine, a Quebecois, always flirting with the literature instructor.
I turned away from her, and there was Michel, smoking, one hand in his jeans pocket, his lips pinched with boredom. He was in my cultural studies class, a French boy with sufficient German to argue with our instructor over the strenuous subjunctive-tense articles she forced us to read from the Franfurter Allgemeine.
Michel looked at me with a flicker of interest. "Na, was denkst Du?"
"Guten Abend," I said, stiffly, trying to think of a response. "Ich denke—uh—"
"Oh, hell," he said. "Forget about German."
I hesitated. I'd been trying to avoid speaking English with my classmates. But it would feel good to rattle off some fast idiomatic American English and confuse this guy. "Sure," I said, with a cool smile.
"So, what do you think?" he repeated in English.
"About what?" Sipping the Chianti, I saw how slender he was, his wrists narrower than mine. Despite my bold lipstick and new German boots, he'd probably suss me out as a fellow nerd, honors student and secretary of the university German club.
"What do you think about Germany?"
"I love Germany. It's gorgeous. It's German I can't stand," I joked.
"Let me guess. You love the castles, the cathedrals, and the cobblestone streets." His English had a lovely soft French curve to it.
How could anyone not love the castles, the cathedrals, and the cobblestone streets? Even in my worst moments I could see how venerable and lovely Marburg was. I felt the history of the old city when I walked through every afternoon to my bus stop, admiring the traditional Fachwerk, the black wood against the white plaster, the beautiful stone and mortar walls and foundations. In the States, my family lived in a house built in 1972, and considered it Stonehengian ancient.
"I'll tell you this." Michel leaned closer. He smelled of smoke, and a piney scent. "In a month, you'll be sick of it."
"You think so," I said flatly. I looked out over the crowded smoky parlor for anyone I knew, an avenue of escape.
"You will." He fiddled with the scarf at his neck. Every day he came to class in pressed Levi's and odd, liver-colored sneakers. At home, he would have been beaten up, or elected president of the linguistics society.
"Whatever." By the door, I saw Natasha, a Slovenian art student. I waved.
Michel echoed me—Whatever—but in a studied way, as though he were memorizing something.
Natasha came over, and I had to shout my greeting over "Three Chains of Gold." When I turned back to Michel, he was slipping away. "Hey—" I called, but he kept going, shoulders hunched, not looking back.
After that, we were friends. We drank bitter coffee together during breaks, complaining about our instructors ("dumb eff's," Michel pronounced), grammar homework ("effing impossible"), and the German weather ("stupid effing cold").
"You can say, 'fuck,'" I laughed one morning. We shivered on the stone landing outside, so that Michel could smoke.
He looked down his nose at me—lumpy and ill-formed, surrounded by a pale narrow face, eyes the color of motor oil and thin, disapproving lips. "No. It isn't proper."
"You think I'm worried about propriety?" That wasn't exactly flattering.
Hugging his sweater to his shoulders, he said, "I know Americans, Helena. You are like babies in the world. What is the word—Puritan. Puritanical."
Nearly every European I'd met felt free to beat up on naïve Americans, and while I didn't blame them, sometimes it got old. Grumpily, I said, "Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck."
"Say eff all you want, but I know that it is unnatural for you."
"Thanks for letting me in on the secret," I shot back, starting up the steps. Michel reached for the door, but I leaned past him to open it myself.
"You can ride shotgun," Ted offered.
"You go ahead," I said. Franke was driving us straight to the Altstadt, the old city, for Kaffekuchen, and I wanted to freshen up with the L'Occitane toiletries.
He was already sliding into the back seat next to me. "I'm not moving."
"I'm not moving." We looked at each other steadily. This was how I should have behaved in Amsterdam, I thought. But I hadn't wanted to be a hardass. Why did the woman always have to be a bitch? I worried about what Baxter would say if we screwed things up, came home with no agreements. Well, I'd find out soon enough.
While Franke tried out her dictionary-English on Ted, I smoothed the wrinkles in my gray Ann Taylor slacks and massaged the L'Occitane moisturizer into my hands. At a stoplight, Franke looked at me in the rearview mirror, her smile reaching from one ladybug earring to the other. "Helena, are you two. . .?"
"Ach, nee!" I exclaimed. Somehow the slang for nein came back to me.
"Nay!" Mocking me, Ted turned it into a whinny. I elbowed him, and he caught my arm, holding it between his own. "Mine now."
I asked, "Franke, how are your boys?" As she brought me up to date—the twins married, Richard in the Peace Corps in Haiti—I watched the passing Mercedes taxis and the queues at the Imbiss sausage carts on the sidewalks.
Ted kept hold of my arm. His possessiveness annoyed me. Men like him—men like him, was I really thinking this?—were accustomed to going after what they wanted. But that wasn't interesting. Men getting what they wanted had been done and done to death.
At Café Vetter, we claimed a table overlooking the Lahn River. Ted drank two steins of golden beer, declining the plum cake we ordered. Then we wandered the cobblestoned Altstadt, Ted snapping a photo of Franke and me on the very spot where the Reformation had started in the 1500's. I wondered if Miss Idaho would ask about us.
Later, at the house, Franke started an early dinner, banishing us to the living room with a bottle of chilled Riesling. Ted stretched out on the carpet, his head lolling against the familiar brown couch, just inches from my knee. I yawned, sleepy from jet lag and wine. Sunlight streamed in from the windows overlooking the garden. The house smelled of oranges, and something spicy. I had sat in this living room so many times, under so many circumstances, the only constant a tugging undertow of homesickness, the growing sense that I was waiting to leave.
"Marburg is so amazing," Ted was saying. "It's like going back in time."
I sipped my wine. Typical American. Rode a train, drank some beer, thought he knew Germany.
"Helena, let's stay here," he said, sounding half-serious.
I could see our reflection in the blank television screen across the room, my crossed legs, Ted's sprawl, our blurry features. I got up. "Come on, I'll show you my old room." He followed me down the hallway, his expression slack, lacking its usual vitality. His freckled hands clenched his wineglass.
"Voila." A big sewing machine sat on my former desk. My bed had been replaced with a dusty stationary bicycle. The only thing that seemed familiar was the ceiling crack by the window, and the smell of musty lavender. I had passed four months in this room—sleeping, studying, masturbating, reading. I was different now, a working woman in a gray Ann Taylor suit, traveling the world with a handsome contractor and a corporate charge card. I was unrecognizable. And this time, I didn't have to stay.
Closing the bedroom door, Ted stood over me. The force of his kiss pushed my head against the door with a little thump. His mouth was firm, his lips searching. When I pushed him away so I could catch a breath, I felt the sponginess of his chest hair underneath the crisp white dress shirt.
He spoke into my ear. "When you travel, do you imagine yourself staying?"
"Sometimes." I felt tented by him, his jaw brushing my forehead. Miss Idaho was probably beauty-contestant tall. He probably couldn't tent her.
"I can imagine staying here," he breathed. "Drinking beer, living the life."
"You get tired of cobblestones and castles after awhile." I remembered how awful men in lust looked. As though they were about to be sick.
He looked down at me with eyes the color of old pennies. "But it's all so old, so full of history."
"Sometimes the history is the problem." I grabbed his glass and drained the too-sweet wine. Distantly, Franke was calling, "Hoo-hoo!" I heard the front door bang closed, and an answering, "Hoo-hoo!" Heinrich was home.
Franke had planned a girls' trip to Berlin on Michel's last weekend in Germany. I turned the situation over and over in my mind, trying to think of ways to delay the trip. A sudden illness. A test. Maybe I could invite Michel along. Franke teased me about him when he called the house, and quizzed me relentlessly when I came in late from a night out at Café Barfuss. We talked, I always said, and unfortunately, it was the truth.
Our proper relationship was driving me crazy. I longed to kiss his thin lips, to visit his dorm room and try on his funny sweaters. He held my hand, ruffled my hair, called me his American girl, but things never went any farther. All strangely prudish for a European, I fretted. For a Frenchman. He was the one acting like a Puritan.
The night before the Berlin trip, we sat at our usual corner table at Barfuss, trying to ignore the grunting band onstage. "Don't go to effing Berlin," Michel begged.
It pleased me that he was miserable. He looked awful, his dark eyes sunken, twin spots of color along his narrow cheekbones. Resting my head on his thin shoulder, I nuzzled his neck. He sat very still. "Kiss me good-bye," I challenged.
"No," he said decidedly. "You are cruel to leave me."
I pulled away. What was wrong with him? Often now, I caught myself imagining our future—Michel visiting me at school, my friends thrilled and intrigued with my pale, gallant Frenchman. Me going to France, lounging together on striped towels on a sun-drenched Riviera beach, making passionate love on a linen-draped bed.
A group swept into Barfuss, laughing loudly enough to be heard over the café din. Catherine, the Quebecois, and some of her British friends—girls in bright lipstick, their boobs hanging out. So obvious. I saw Michel glance at the newcomers. At Catherine, in a fur-lined black ski jacket.
"You're a cruel bastard," I said.
He covered my hand with his. "My little Helena, go have fun in Berlin. Go have your fill of monuments and museums."
"Actually, we're going to a sex club," I said tartly, tired of being patronized. Looking at my watch, I got up. The last bus left in five minutes. If I missed it, I'd have to walk, forty-five minutes through the dark, hilly suburbs.
Michel saw me off at the café door with a long but chaste hug. "Bis Wednesday," he called, his voice anxious, and I waved without turning around.
The next morning, as I sat in a train compartment with Franke and her hamper of food, I thought I might be ill. My stomach hurt. My chest ached. I didn't feel like eating. All I could think about was Michel lying in bed, his skinny pale body wrapped in rough dormitory sheets, his thin fingers lighting a cigarette. This was love, I realized. I had never imagined it would be so similar to the flu.
During the stop in Eisenach, Franke tripped and fell on the train platform and broke her ankle. It took us most of the day to get home—X-rays, a cast, Heinrich fetching us in the Audi. At home, as Franke limped off to bed, I phoned the college dorm, but the line rang and rang and no one picked up.
Saturday morning early, I caught the first bus into town, arriving at the dormitory sweating and breathless, the sun a suggestive glow behind the surrounding hills. The dorm's heavy front doors were locked, so I sat down on a bench opposite to wait, munching on red wine cake from Franke's provisions basket.
Finally, a Polish student wheeled her bicycle outside the dormitory. I sprang up, electrified, and bounded up the stairs to the third floor.
At Michel's door, I hesitated, pressing my ear to the wood. Would he be angry if I woke him so early? But this was love. I was high, enervated, on the lip of exhaustion. As I stood there, his door opened, and out came Catherine wearing only a white t-shirt, her nipples poking out as if in greeting.
"Hey," she yawned, shuffling along the corridor past me.
Inside, there was Michel sitting on the edge of the bed, his chest bare and bony. I backed away and ran down the stairs, skipping some. In my stomach, there was a yawning emptiness, the sick sure feeling of being unfortunately and completely wrong. Above me, Michel's voice cracked. "Helena! Wait!"
He caught up as I stomped back through town, dodging the shopkeepers sweeping sidewalks and unrolling awnings. I had never seen him like this, in a mis-buttoned shirt and wrinkled jeans, his hair awry. "Helena." His voice was low, urgent.
I kept walking. I was crying, almost routinely: fat hot tears, no sound.
"Please, I want to talk to you."
"Talk to Catherine," I snapped. At the corner, traffic forced me to slow down.
Michel took my arm. "All right, I effed her. Is that what you want to hear?"
"You effed her?" The euphemism was so inadequate, that just hearing it stranded me halfway between laughing and crying.
"Helena, I don't even like her. You don't understand."
I spat, "You would never even kiss me, Michel, and you slept with that slut. I can't believe it."
"That's why." His voice was strangled. His wet eyelashes were stuck together. "With her it doesn't mean anything. With you—you mean something to me."
"Sure," I said bitterly, but as I waited for a truck to pass, I saw that in a way it could make sense. In an anachronistic, European way, if I were a nubile virgin princess and Michel the worldly duke, our marriage a parentally-arranged political alliance. He waited, his palms mashing his temples. I shook my head and wordlessly pushed past him to cross the street.
At the Gleichs, I found Richard watching cartoons in his bathrobe, his hairy feet encased in Garfield slippers. I told him what had happened, my anger wiping out any fear of messing up the German. When I didn't know the right word, I substituted English words, fuckbastardass, words he surely knew from American movies. When I finished, he said admiringly, Du kannst ja deutsch, Helena, laughing so hard that tears popped out of his beautiful eyes.
Having an affair would be very cosmopolitan. Everybody had affairs. Only Americans got worked up about it.
But maybe now I wouldn't. The whole thing was dragging on, Ted with his appreciative traveler routine, as though he were Columbus and Magellan all rolled into one. I prickled with annoyance. When he praised the plump bratwursts and the buttery potatoes, I translated in a mocking tone. His leg brushed mine, and I leaned away.
"And you said Germans don't eat sauerkraut anymore," he teased, helping himself to more. Franke had worked her usual magic, adding chopped apple and Schmaltz to complement the pungent cabbage.
"Eat up. We need to get you on the nine o'clock train," I said calmly, but underneath pulsed my desire, the urge to crush the crisp white shirt like a paper towel, so that when he left he smelled of Secret and Chanel No.5 and my sweat.
Franke was doing her best to eavesdrop. "Auf deutsch," she reminded me sharply.
I felt a tickle of guilt. "Sorry. We're talking about going to the Bahnhof."
"Of course, I'll drive you!"
Heinrich was popping open another brown bottle of beer. "Mutti," he scolded. "Let Helena take the car. They might have business to discuss."
As they bickered, I advised Ted, "Heinrich wants to lend us the car."
He smiled with greasy lips. "You and me, alone in the car? Why, Helena."
After dinner, Heinrich took us out to the garage, extracting a key from the pocket of his vest. Behind him, Franke's expression resembled a simmering stew pot. It was going to kill her nosy self not to accompany us to the Bahnhof. "Wow, danke schoen," I said, to Heinrich.
"Wow, bitte schoen," Franke mocked me, saying Vow instead of Wow.
Ted echoed her. "Vow! God, I love these people!" Franke laughed unwittingly, along with Ted, her pal.
In the car, I busied myself with my seatbelt as Ted said his good-byes. My head ached. I was tired. My instincts had been off this whole trip. It would feel good to get home. Ten years ago, it had finally occurred to me that while I liked the idea of living in Germany, I could never get used to the fact of it, to eggs on pizza or fig-flavored yogurt, to men carrying purses and banks closing for two hours at lunch. Going home, broad streets and Ruffles potato chips had never seemed quite so wonderful.
"You O.K. to drive?" Ted hopped into the car. His breath was warm and alcoholic, his face flushed and open and warm, like a half-made bed..
I backed the Audi out of the driveway. The route to the train station was well marked. I'd have to be a moron to get lost, but it could happen, I supposed.
His hand cupped my elbow. "Their English was pretty good."
"Their English was terrible!" I chanced a look at him, at his handsome profile. "Franke can jabber English phrases for hours, but she doesn't understand a word of it."
"Wow, six hours in Germany and you're all European and dark," he said.
"I'm not dark," I insisted, but it sounded strained. "Franke can't speak English, and she's been correcting my German all day, but you don't speak German so you don't know that."
"Whatever," Ted said. The jokiness was gone from his voice.
The air in the car seemed to have cooled. I shrugged his hand away, reaching over to make sure that my window wasn't down. Stupidly, all I could think about was Baxter. The whole company knew about his affairs with his assistants, laughed about it at the Christmas party every year when his wife showed up with yet another honking big piece of jewelry. I didn't want to be a cliché. One never thought one was.
Behind us, a horn beeped, and I threw the car into gear, gunning through the intersection. Ted cleared his throat.
"So, how much longer are you staying?"
"Just long enough to mutilate the language some more," I said.
Stopping in the drop-off zone, I wished him a good trip. We hugged good-bye, a little longer than people who were ordinary colleagues might hug. "Talk to you next week, Sauerkraut," he said, closing the car door. My teeth were still bared in a polite grin as I pulled away from the station.
Copyright © Elise Davis 2005. Title graphic: "Travelescape" Copyright © The Summerset Review 2005.