It has been a while since I last did a story of the month, I know. Not because I didn’t write any, mostly because there was something or other I wanted to fix on each of these stories before posting it. Sometimes because only half the story is on the computer, the other half I wrote into a notebook. And then there’s this one story that might turn into a novel – 18,000 words into it it has barely begun.
This one I wrote not for the monthly meeting of our writer’s group but for something called an Anti-Slam. I was quite nervous beforehand. We had a time limit, not more than 10 minutes of reading, I didn’t quite know who would be there, and how they would respond to my stuff. And then there’s always the strangeness of being a German who writes stories in English. That made me insecure as well. I was the last to read that evening. I usually like to go first. So there’s nothing to compare me to, and I get it over with. But not this time.
I met her in a class on the peoples and cultures of Nigeria. It was one of those classes that are always full to the brim at the beginning of the semester, with only three students left at the end. I don’t really know if she stayed. She was sitting next to a friend, tall, dressed in khaki pants and a tight tee, her skin tanned and smooth, and her hair – dark blonde and very short. She seemed calm, and strong, and competent – all things that I longed to become. One day.
I did meet her again, at university big band. Me, sitting in the back with half a dozen other singers while the band played one instrumental after the other, and her, standing in line with the other saxophone players, most of them male. She wasn’t bad, not bad at all, a woman who managed to look elegant and graceful in wide pants and sneakers.
So we met twice a week for half a year at least, maybe longer. I don’t recall for how long exactly, this was back in the days when I was young and naive, only a few years out of school. She had a nice smile but she didn’t talk much – unlike me – and she had this sparkle in her eyes.
Back then, I was living from drama to drama, a budding jazz singer drifting from boyfriend to boyfriend. There was always the love of my life, just out of reach.
Though we talked here and there, we never had coffee. I would have liked to know her better but she was always with a friend, and always on her way to somewhere else.
The class on Nigeria went on. The following semester she wasn’t there anymore. Asked about it she said that she didn’t study cultural anthropology anymore. She still came to band rehearsals. Then she didn’t. My life changed, and it didn’t, always drama, always upheaval, always the elusive boyfriend, and always singing jazz.
I met her again, one night, at the jazz club. That jazz club, you know. Apparently she was working there at that time. She sat at the entrance, selling tickets, and we talked a bit. There wasn’t time, much, because of the other people behind us.
I don’t remember who went with me that night. Or which band played. It might have been that one time that weird New York hard bop band was playing. Or not.
Later that night she served drinks. Once she had a little break she sat down at our table. We talked. She was looking as stunning as ever. „I’m going to Linz to study jazz.“ she said. I asked her about the earring she was wearing on the left. „That’s Hekate’s double axe.“ she said, „It’s a feminist symbol.“ And she smiled, that charming smile of hers. Looking at me with a kind of sparkle in her eyes.
„Oh, feminist. I like that.“ I said.
I didn’t get it at that time. In fact it took me years. You know, that double axe is not really a feminist symbol alone.
I was young and naive. That’s my excuse.
These days that I’m neither. I wonder.