Beneath the Surface
I don’t know why I’m waiting here in front of the supermarket with my half-filled jute bag in my hand. The few things I need for today have been bought; there is no reason to stand around any longer. A small red car drives up the steep ramp to the upper parking deck, the sliding doors of the entrance flit silently to the side in front of a large woman who comes trudging up with her empty shopping cart like a chariot. Somewhere, a child is crying.
That’s when she comes out, the woman whom I asked to get a can of corn from one of the top shelves inside the market. She was wearing jeans, a T-shirt, a blue windbreaker. She was quite small, had short dark hair with little curls and a narrow face and does not look very pretty, she is not my type. There are only a few things in her cart, packed cheese, a butcher’s bag, razor blades for a lady razor, two milk bags, and a loaf of bread. Our eyes meet for a short moment and like spotlights her big caramel brown eyes sparkle at me, as if they wanted to illuminate me and also immerse the darkest corners of my soul in bright light. She immediately turns away from me again, it‘s almost over when she suddenly pauses.
A second time her eyes light me up and her voice sounds clear through my breathless silence. “You waited for me?”
Oh! She seemed to have a very direct nature. It’s not my style. Helplessly I shrug my arms, shake my head and nod half-heartedly, all at the same time; I feel like an idiot.
A fine smile surrounds her narrow lips. Although she’s probably a little younger than me, in her mid-twenties, I guess, she seems mature and serene. “It’s all right…” Challengingly, she stretches her chin forward. “Same time tomorrow, you’ll be back here!” It doesn’t sound like a suggestion or a request, no, it sounds like an order.
Without realizing it, she’s blocking the entire entrance. A man in craftsman’s clothes slips past her into the market, a woman who wants to come out with a shopping cart but finds no gap and has to stop and gives her an annoyed look, which she does not register. Or maybe she does? Anyway, she’s moving on now, leaving a smile behind for me.
I also go out and see her pushing her cart into the elevator that takes you to the upper floor of the parking lot. My way leads me to the four-lane street and there at the nearby pedestrian light to the tram stop, which is in the middle of the lanes. Bumper to bumper, innumerable cars are forcing their way out of the city, illuminated by the mild autumn evening sun. What in heaven’s name was that? Tomorrow at the same time again there in the supermarket? What the hell is she doing? She’s clearly acting bossy. What about me? Have I been submissive? Well, when she suddenly approached me so decisively, it caused a strange tingling sensation in me. Oh, nothing will happen, because she won’t be there! And I probably won’t either.
Several lines lead from here to the main station, so that one never must wait long for a tram. A very lively, jam-packed tram always comes around this time. Fortunately, the trip takes only a few minutes. Four stations and I have reached the city centre and must go from the stop at most a hundred meters to my apartment. This is located a little off the beaten track of the pedestrian zone on the first floor of an old, three-storey apartment building. It is directly above a baby shop, which I have no business with. When I arrive at the top, I make a cup of coffee and try to forget the strange encounter with the strange dark-haired woman…
The next day in the office, in a quiet moment, my thoughts wander now and then to this woman whom I will never see again. And I can’t see her again. Yes, it had been delightful to risk a moment’s glimpse into that hidden corner of my soul, which I usually keep well closed. What takes place there is something for the imagination, not for reality. Because things like submissiveness and obedience do not belong to a man, nor to a woman for that matter, they do not fit the demands that our Western modern world places on the individual. You must be self-confident, strong, self-sufficient, and individualistic. Not submissive. Paradoxical only that the recognition of a tendency to devotion would be an expression of individuality, but this is a thought that I prefer not to hang on to, because it gets too complicated there. Then I must think of Ilona, my girlfriend, who has nothing to do with such things and would fall out of the clouds knowing about my subliminal desires. It’s time to focus on work…
As is so often the case, the punctual end of the working day will once again be a thing of the past. I still have some customer inquiries to answer. One wants to know, what happens, if less than the estimated three thousand litres of fuel oil fit into the tanks, whether then the price changes or a small quantity surcharge becomes due. I e-mail him that it is not a problem if the difference is not more than five hundred litres, and I hope when sending the e-mail that it will perhaps calm the good man down.
It’s just before six when I finally leave the office. My colleagues have already left, but the boss and owner of the shop is still here, as almost always. She doesn’t leave until the last of our six trucks comes back. As I cross the large courtyard, one of them, our smallest, a seven and a half tonner, drives in and it is suitable for supplying houses in narrow alleyways. The gray-haired older driver Matt waves to me. I’m glad I don’t have his job, crawling around in dusty basements, always dirty and reeking of oil. Although, on the other hand, there are probably advantages to not sitting in an office all day.
The supermarket is located on the other side of the four-lane road that separates the industrial area from a residential area. When I reached it, I pulled the Smartphone out of my jacket pocket like a mechanic and saw that it was exactly six o’clock. What am I doing here? I don’t need anything. As expected, the dark-haired one didn’t come. But while I’m here, I could pick up a bottle of whiskey.
The entrance door flits to the side in front of me and inside the front of the second door I move away from a guy who advertises for a regional electricity provider at a blue-painted stand. Then I explain to the blonde woman at the stand opposite that I don’t want paid television and a Bundesliga subscription, because television itself, as well as football, are pretty annoying. Why can’t one go shopping without being bothered by the dubious achievements of our strange civilization? Slightly irritated, I turn away from the blonde.
Here she comes! The dark-haired one! Well, yes. Was I secretly hoping for this? She is again dressed in jeans, T-shirt and her blue wind jacket. She approaches me with a small delighted smile. She stops right in front of me, pushes her shopping cart aside so as not to block the way, and looks me in the eye. “There you are. Good boy.”
I’m not really a boy anymore at twenty-eight years old, but it feels good, that’s what I’m feeling through and through. I don’t know how to respond, I suddenly feel completely helpless under the gaze of her shining spotlight eyes, and I have trouble not to lower gaze in front of her.
She smiles understandingly, “I know you like that. – Do you know the Café Triller downtown?”
I nod and this time I can think of some words. “It’s not far from my apartment.”
“Good. We’ll meet there Monday night at eight o’clock. Then we can talk about everything.” Without waiting for confirmation, she rolls the shopping trolley in front of the second entrance door, which obediently moves to the side in front of her, and puts a piece of paper into one of the back jeans pockets, presumably the shopping list. She’s about to vanish from my sight.
I don’t need any whiskey I decide and leave the supermarket, steel eyed by the blonde as I go. Who apparently listened to our short conversation, instead of chatting to passing customers obtrusively from the side. I pretend I don’t see her.
Friday is All Saints Day, a holiday and a long weekend I spend with Ilona. She lives about twenty kilometres from the city in a small village, which is difficult to reach by train. I have no choice but to make the three-quarter of an hour journey with two transfers because I don’t have a car and don’t need one here in the city.
Anyway, it’s worth the trouble. Ilona picks me up at the little train station. She’s very pretty, half-length page-haired wheat blonde, chubby soft face with full lips that are almost always without lipstick, and a curvy figure mostly squeezed into jeans and covered by a feminine top. She is a computer scientist, just finished her studies, and started a job in a medium-sized software company a quarter of a year ago. We’ve been together for almost a whole year, and now she shines at me with her blue eyes, I sometimes am a little irritated that she seems to love me so deeply. Of course, I love her too, but I must confess that I am hardly in a position to be so intimate.
On Saturday evening, we drive in her small blue car into the city to a party of some acquaintances of hers. All yuppies, smart, neat, with cultivated small talk, not quite my world. After all, there is good red wine, which makes it possible to drink the evening away beautifully. And on top of that, there is the prospect of something longed for…