Destiny Game

Achim Amme
Destiny Game
I remember the day as though it were yesterday. It was summer and I was working as a young temporary employee in a clothing store. Suddenly he was standing in front of the large front window looking at me. I knew it at once: “That's him!”
I blew him a kiss and went back into the office room at the rear. He must have felt like he had fallen out of the sky, at any rate he entered the store and asked for me. But the lady clerk was busy and not really listening. The words of this young man sounded too confusing for her ears. And I, I was not going to let myself be seen. I was blown away. But I knew that we would see each other again.

That same day I met my girl-friends in the park. I was bubbling over with happiness, raving about how romantic it all was and that we would certainly meet each other again. All I had to do was to trust my destiny. My friends said that a telephone number would also not be a bad thing to have. But I couldn't deliver that. They were talking about the necessity of chance. But I entirely gave myself up to my destiny.
Meanwhile, he had met up with his best friend somewhere. I can imagine it all. His friend surely wasn’t as interested in the story as my friends were. I was so glad and proud to have such good friends!

Of course I saw him again the next day. It all happened as it had to. My path led me past a church. From a distance I saw him walking over on the sidewalk. Before our paths crossed, I pretended that I had not noticed him. I used the opportunity to lure him into the church. As soon as he recognized me, he snuck in after me.
It was fun to play the secretive one with him, to confuse him and then to observe what hap-pened. I wanted to see how he dealt with it all – with his increasing yearning …
In front of the altar, I sat down on the bare tiles, right there where the sun fell through the stained glass windows. Dust hovered in the rays of sun. Perhaps it looked like I had a halo. At any rate, he had to screw his eyes closed; either he was blinded or he had to make sure he was not in a dream. Quickly I used the opportunity to sneak away. Before I did that, though, I deftly removed my necklace with the red heart over my head and left it in the pool of light in the nave as a souvenir. And then I was gone.
My friends thought I was crazy. By now we should have traded telephone numbers. But I gave myself over entirely to my destiny. It would take care that we would meet again.
I saw the next scene clearly – his best friend reacting coldly to the continuation of the story. He covertly looked at his watch while my chosen one opened up his heart to him.

A week later we met at the harbour. Destiny had wanted it – as always – to be as such. He was wearing my chain around his neck: as a sign of eternal connectedness. We sat beside one another, let our legs hang over the quay wall and watched the in- and outgoing boats. I was happy as never before! We didn't even know each others' names.
Nearby stood a full trash can. An empty bottle leaned against it. The cork lay beside it. And also nearby was a kiosk. Suddenly I had an idea.
“Wait!” I called.

Head over heels I ran to the store to buy paper and pen. On the way back I picked up the bottle with the cork and brought them all back.
He was playing with my, now his, chain as I sat beside him again and swore: “I will write my name and my telephone number on this paper, put it into the bottle, cork it up and throw it into the Elbe. And if you want to find out who I am and what my name is, you will find this bottled message.”
If the power of destiny truly wanted to bring us together forever, then it would also pass this last test. I was certain that he would find the bottle. And then we would be a true couple – not only as a game. The final evidence that we belonged together!
Afterwards, my friends claimed I had really gone nuts: “You really don't believe that that will work do you ...”

But I couldn't be talked out of it. True love had to show itself other than through a telephone number. I wrote my name and everything important on the paper, slipped it into the bottle and corked it shut. Then I threw it into the Elbe.
Together we watched as it bobbed up and down in the restless water in the distance. Soon it disappeared as a tiny point in the waves. The heavens gave us its most brilliant blue as we parted.

We never saw each other again. That was nearly 60 years ago. Oh, what would I give if I could have this moment back. I would undo everything. But destiny wanted it that way. The message in the bottle that we entrusted to the river remained lost forever. And so did we lose each other. Out of sight, but not out of mind. The window of memory stood always open.

With that the dignified old lady ended her story. A young nurse pushed the retired woman from the balcony back into her room. The friendly neighbour, an old man who had been quietly and at-tentively listening the entire time, braced himself on his walker. Slowly and shakily, but still on his own two feet, he went back from the shared balcony into his own living room.
With difficulty he made his way to the shelf on the wall where in his safe he kept his valuable keep-sakes. Carefully he opened an old cardboard box and took out a chain with a red heart attached to it. Gently he weighed the jewellery in his hand. A smile spread over his face.

Translated from German by Shan Wardell

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