Renate Gottschewski
… so, once an Austrian business friend invited me for a weekend to Schloss Fuschl – an incredibly elegant and large hotel direct on Lake Fuschl near Salzburg. We were to attend the Salzburg Festival – naturally see Don Giovanni, play some golf and enjoy an inspiring time together. In addition to his wife, the only other in our round was a distinguished man who seemed very clever. I will name him Sir from Perchtoldsdorff. Sir from Pertoldsdorff and I arrived nearly punctual at the very same time. The castle lay majestically in the late afternoon sun and an exhilarating atmosphere ensued. The receptionist in his perfectly fitting armour greeted us professionally, yet with the air of a long awaited epiphany that brought a serious tone into the room. He had something tragic to say. Our common business friend – he spoke with such a dry humour that it made me cough over the dining table due to its unimaginable commentary – along with his wife would not be able to meet us due to a sudden death in the immediate family that occurred only several hours previously. They would remain by their close family. Our host was deeply sorry for the inconvenience.

“Oje,” sighed Sir from Perchtoldsdorff, “surely his father has died. He has been bedridden for some time.” My heart also became heavy – lingering illness is pretty much the only thing which I fear. Both of us sensed that this would cancel the entire weekend. “Of course not,” replied the receptionist delivering a subsequent embassy of glad tidings, “the weekend continues as planned.” “That is what I call sovereign style, I doff my hat,” acknowledged Sir from Perchtoldsdorff. As much as we regretted the absence of our guest, there was still a stimulating feeling to recognize that I would be spending the weekend with him who sat across from me. An hour later we were sitting on the terrace, toasting with champagne and relaxing with the gorgeous view of the lake and its mountainous backdrop. A thin crescent of moon rose slowly but surely as our conversation pearled timelessly along. After an espresso, I rose, “Good night – will we meet at breakfast?” “Of course, sleep well.” “You, too.”

Sir from Perchtoldsdorff and I got along famously together and became friends for life. Albeit we did have divergent views about how to spend the weekend. He was nearly obsessed with not leaving out any of the sights which our host had planned out most meticulously for us. Consequently, he was somewhat groggy at the Opera after our day's excursion. I felt in contrast as fresh as a trout in a cool stream. However, I firmly declined to accompany Sir from Perchtoldsdorff on his cultural exhibition. “Oh – the past – it's all past – and not nearly so thrilling.” Instead, I went swimming, sizzled in the sun, made my note book happy and sat in the Buschenschank. On the way, I watched with fascination for a long time several hand-workers removing the roof of an apartment house; as though moved by an invisible hand they guided the pieces only by short, exact calls with rhythmical precision into a container on the street like a choreographed ballet. “What?” Sir said with nearly a severe expression, “You gave your festival ticket to our waitress from yesterday, that I would not be alone? Good – I did say that she looked very nice – I find your saucy upper lip to be very charming, by the way - “ “Dear Friend,” I replied calmly, “the waitress was very please with my offer – do not ruin it! And we will meet directly afterwards here at the bar, okay?” “But of course...”

Shortly before midnight, Sir from Perchtoldsdorff entered the bar alone. He wanted to order something and drew a deep breath before preparing to launch into his own personal, and certainly extraordinarily clever criticism of Don Giovanni. “No,” he said, then hummed “la ci darem la mano,” followed by “We will take a cognac with us to my suite, agreed?” Sir from Perchtoldsdorff hardly lifted an eyebrow. I noticed immediately that this man cannot say “No” – which was utterly irrelevant to our current companionship – yet it was entirely decisive in the sense that we had indeed meet one another at all. Nevertheless, with a hidden sceptical look he followed me into my suite.

The view left nothing to be desired. I scrolled through the play list on the stereo and hit the jackpot with “Moon River.” Relaxed, he lowered himself into a deck chair and sipped his Remy Martin, opening his eyes not to miss any star. I reached for a pipe fertilized with some grass and offered it to him. “I don't smoke. You surprise me.” “Then surprise me back and smoke with me.” He had to laugh then while loosening his bow tie and inhaling. “I haven't done that in years.” “Me neither.” The effect was to be expected. At some point, we found ourselves stretched out across the length of the terrace. “When a Man Loves a Woman” sang Otis Redding. Everything was turning, the earth pushed the waves and the stars changed their positions more gracefully than ever before. We giggled. “How nice,” sighed Sir from Perchtoldsdorff, “How beautiful it is when everything is beautiful. Let us dance. You have an extraordinary taste for music!” I could hardly hold myself back from laughing. All we could do was lie there and giggle – standing up, let alone dancing, was completely out of the question. So we stayed there, laying on the terrace, holding hands and laughing.

“I must say,” reported Sir from Perchtoldsdorff as we took our leave from one another, “I have never had such a wonderful time together with another person as this one which I have spent with you. I only regret that our host was not able to be with us.” “Ah, that pleases me a thousands times more than listening to an opera sitting on narrow seats or being amazed by dead stones or ...” “You are a real Epicurean, yes you are,” Sir from Perchtoldsdorff's voice trailed off. “What did you say?” “Oh, nothing.” “I thought you said something.” And he whispered, “Oh, that was just the wind singing a tale ...”
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