An exchange of letters between a man and a woman who had an intense relationship two decades ago, and have not seen each other since; by Phil Slattery.
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60 Bis 2232
La Plata, Buenos Aires
Hamburg 22453 BRD
It has been quite a while since I last saw you at the camp. I miss you more each day. I cannot forget those piercing eyes and that beautiful flowing blonde hair when I first saw you get off the train. I remember that day distinctly.
As you no doubt recall, today is the twentieth anniversary of the closing of the camp where we met. I have hated that day for all these years, but I treasure the relationship we have developed since then, and I thought I would recount my memories of those precious days together. Let’s see if we can put our minds together and recall those heady days of young love, tragic though they came to be later, your memory filling the gaps in mine and vice versa. What more romantic way could we celebrate our love, especially now that we are worlds apart?
I remember from the first moment I saw you, that I could not take my eyes off you. You had that beaten, leather suitcase in which you carried your valuables and only a few changes of clothes. As I have mentioned in my previous letters, I wanted to desperately come over to you and greet you in person, but my supervisor had other ideas, and had me escort some young men to their quarters.
I don’t think I have ever told you, or anyone for that matter, that during those weeks between your arrival and our meeting, I took every opportunity to get as close as I could to you, in hopes of being able to catch your attention and maybe catch a few seconds of what I came later to discover is a voice the angels in heaven must envy. Sometimes, I watched you and your friends set about your day as I headed up the crew cleaning out the showers in the morning; or finish your day as I supervised the crew cleaning the ovens in the evening. Those were anxious times for me as I had so many worries about my career and my family and our future. I had hoped that I would be able to spend my future with you, but it was not to be.
I thank God every day for that day when my supervisor told me to escort you and your friends to offices on the far side of camp where you would be preparing the meals for the staff. I was so happy to see you get that job! It meant that I would be escorting you and your friends across the camp every day.
Do you remember that first time I spoke to you? I had to muster considerable courage to overcome my nervousness. I so wanted you to like me. I was hurt when I asked your name and you answered curtly. I did not want to do you harm then or ever, but I understood the situation. You were new to the camp still and surrounded by strangers. You had to be careful about what you said. You couldn’t go around handing out personal information about yourself to every stranger that you met. But I hoped that if I persisted, I would eventually earn your trust, which I don’t think I ever did completely. The more we talked, I think the more relaxed you became around me, but stealing that kiss from you put you back on your guard. You were always very cautious and rightfully so.
Then one day, I realized that you, like all women, must have a weakness for chocolate, which was in short supply at the camp, even for the staff. So one evening, I managed to steal a chocolate bar from the staff refrigerator. You thought I had bought that in town, didn’t you? No, I would have been in a lot of trouble had I been caught. I was elated the next day when I was assigned to supervise your crew as they cleaned the staff restrooms and showers.
Do you remember how happy you were when I pulled you aside and into the closet to give it to you? Of course, you were very apprehensive when I asked you to step into the closet with me. Who wouldn’t be? But I had to do that. The other girls would have envied you terribly if they had seen me giving you the chocolate, and then it might have gotten to my supervisor and he would have reasoned out that it was I who stole the chocolate. I couldn’t have that. But I remember distinctly how you smiled when you saw the chocolate bar, and that made all my fears worthwhile.
Then I surprised you with a quick kiss. You were still very apprehensive but you allowed me that. Then I kissed you again and again. It was the most wonderful day of my life. I remember each second of that encounter. Then kisses turned into making love and, though I enjoyed the sex intensely, knowing that I had your trust and maybe even love was what I truly cherished.
I have never told you this, but the rest of my time at the camp was the best time in my life. I would give you chocolate bars in secret whenever I could and you would give yourself to me body and soul. How delightful were those days!
It broke my heart the day they closed the camp. Two days before, I had been assigned to help move the files to another city, and while I was away I found out the camp had been closed. I couldn’t return there. I knew I would never see you again.
But through some strange twist of fate, several years later, I heard from a friend who heard it from one of his friends that you were living in Hamburg, my hometown! But you were married by then and so was I. Even worse than that, I was living in South America then. I could not imagine how I could ever meet you again, but out of desperation, I started sending these letters. Then you started replying and my life was renewed. I know I will never look at the world the same way again. In spite of our distance and years apart, you have made my life worth living every time I open one of our letters. I just want you to know that, no matter what, I will always love you passionately and as deeply as that day we first made sweet, sweet love.
Now that my wife has passed away and I finally have a safe and secure home, I can give you my address so that you can write directly to me, instead of to those constantly changing addresses I was forced to use. I look forward to hearing from you.
60 Bis 2232
La Plata, Buenos Aires
Postal code 7210001 PO box 16
You have no idea how delighted I was to hear on the news this morning that you are now in custody in an Israeli prison. God bless the Mossad. Now those damned letters will stop. I did not believe that you would be such a fool as to send me your actual address, which, of course, went immediately to the proper authorities in Germany and Israel, as well to Simon Wiesenthal, the Nazi-hunter.
The years have obviously addled your drunken mind. You speak of Auschwitz as if it were a summer camp and as if I ever had any affection for you. No, I never loved you. I detested you, but I did what I must in order to survive, including selling myself for chocolate bars. Those moments you took me in the closet I despised with every fiber of my soul. You always stank of beer and schnapps. You were constantly drunk, as were most of the guards. I am surprised you remember anything at all.
But thank you for writing to me on the 27th of January, the day the Soviets liberated the camp, the greatest day of my life until now. I wish I could be there when you drop from the gallows, just so that the last thing you ever see is me making an obscene gesture.
May you burn in hell.