A book must make you think. It must change your view on life.”
It’s a little after nine in the evening. I’m sitting at the window of a small house on the Beach in Normandy. The sun bathes the thunderstorm sky in a diffuse grey. Thunder rolls in like a heavily loaded freight train. Lightning whips down, pricks into the foaming waves as I read the sentence from Stefan Brij’s novel “Post für Mrs. Bromley” quoted above.
The words strike me like lightning, resounding thunderously.
Part of the novel sets in London. The other part is pretty much where I am right now – however, over a hundred years ago, when the blood of young men colored the Somme red, and again a few decades later, when the bunkers on the beach were the last refuge for the soldiers in Hitler’s great war. Today children play there; families look for cooling in the shade of the concrete blocks. The blood of thousands of young men has long since been washed away by the Atlantic. The great wars are history.
Rain whips against the window. The wind is pulling at the house. An immense flash of lightning tears up the almost night-black sky.
Sometimes it’s not the lightning or books we read that hits us. Sometimes it’s their ideas. Thoughts. Humans. We meet thousands, most of them without face and contour. Sometimes, only sometimes, a glimpse becomes a conversation. A frequent, still fleeting and tender idea. A gentle understanding from which, perhaps, something unique, something strong grows.
Or, per contra, the human lightning frightens us off. They say that the chemistry must be right between two people. Sometimes it isn’t right at all. What follows is a declaration of war, whether it is spoken out loud bringing suffering to millions, or whether it is to be carried out tacitly.
My chemistry-spill is “She.”
“She” appeared one day at the sandbox in the kindergarten. A single glance was enough, and we were both in a thunderstorm mood. Shovels, small molds, sand and fists flew. For three years the educators, who at that time were still called “Auntie suchandsuch,” had their hands full with us fighting chickens.
Then primary school came. For four wonderful years, I had peace and quiet. “She” went to another institute. Only the way to high school brought us together again. In the same class, of course. A classroom like this can be tiny if you want to get out of one another’s way. So damn small. We ignored each other. Until the high school prom night. I disappeared into everyday editorial work and “she” from my life.
Many years later, I was strolling around the Christmas market. My mood was excellent thanks to mulled wine and cookies. I hummed a Christmas tune. And then I saw “her.” “She” stood behind a stand selling homemade pinecone wreaths. My inner weather changed from sun to hurricane in no time at all. My first impulse was to put one of those green things over her head. “She” was lucky. My girlfriend moved me on.
By the time we got home, the hurricane had become a tornado. Inside me, fist-sized hailstones were shooting around. I raged. I screamed. A plate flew against the wall. Followed by a cup. Too bad there was any coffee left in it. It got even dumber yet, because I hit a white wall.
A glass shattered on a brown spot.
Then I felt better.
When I was cleaning, I cursed “her.” It was her fault I had to paint the wallpaper. Who else could it be? Her flashing glances. Her thunderous silence. “That” and the chemistry between us would blow up any lab. I hope I won’t meet “her” again so soon because I don’t own that much crockery.
She probably feels the same way. Probably she too raced home angrily like an ice-cold north wind. I’d like to know what damage she makes me accountable for at her home? Shredded pillows, perhaps?
But there are also the sun people. Those I want to see. Listen. Laugh, talk, argue with them. They are the people who don’t have all the cups in the board. But they have room for ideas and visions. For feelings. For flashes of insight. Such People touch me like a good novel.
Outside, the storm`s gone. On the beach, two dogs romp on wet pebbles. The Dog-masters put their heads together. One gesticulates wildly. The other one laughs. Their air pressure gauge is set on sunshine. I’m sure, today their dishes‘ll keep intact.
Silke Porath lives together with her French husband in their home of choice in Balingen, on the border of the swabian Alps. Born in 1971, the mother of three children works as a freelance Journalist and Writing teacher. Trained as both an editor and PR consultant, she is a member of the “42erAutoren”, the association of German writers and the Group of 48.