This work was captured a couple years ago, and I’ve reworked it using newer techniques in advance of exhibiting it in an upcoming show …
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She loved her roses. Even though she considered them dangerous. She wore the thickest gloves she could get away with and still feel her fingers to prune and nurture them. She loved the colors of the various Old-World varieties she grew. She loved the way her seven plants were framed against the short, white fence next to the sidewalk. She loved how they made her modest home seem rich and lush, manifestations of the cultured people who lived there. Mostly, though, she loved them because her husband did. And he loved them because they were dangerous.
Summer evenings when he returned home from the machine shop he liked to take a beer onto the front porch and look at them as he sat, appreciative of how immaculate she kept them. She might join him there for a minute or two if she could get away from the stove while dinner cooked, and he would always compliment her. “Did a thorn catch you today, my dear,” he might ask in his German accent, and he would kiss her exact finger that had been jabbed if one had. “Such beautiful and dangerous flowers,” he might say, “And my sweet must contend with such hazards to bring forth their beauty.” He was always so kind to her. Music from the little record player would be wafting through the screen door, always Beethoven or Bach or sometimes Wagner. ‘What a rich life,’ she might think to herself. No children had come in the fifteen years since their marriage in 1947, since he’d seemed to appear from nowhere once the war had ended. Still grieving and empty over her brother, killed on a Pacific atoll, and he mourning the loss of all he had known in the bombings; his parents, his home, his country, fleeing to an America with only the clothes on his back. Now, she felt, they were both so full and happy. He treated her like his most precious rose, and she treated her roses like children.
One evening as she stood with him she noticed a man in a fedora and a tan raincoat walking pleasantly along the sidewalk across the street. “Do you know who that is?” her husband asked her. She had not seen him before and said so. “I’ve seen him walking there the past three nights,” he said.
“Perhaps he has moved in up the street,” she suggested.
“Perhaps,” he said. Then after a moment, “Does he look Jewish to you?”
Every now and again her husband had brought up something Jewish in just that sort of noncommittal way; never anything bad, never ranting. Just flagging it, catching her off guard a little. “I can’t tell,” she told him, which she’d actually told him when he’d brought it up before.
He shook his head slightly. “How can you not.” But that was the end of it.
The following morning as she knelt over the roses she glanced up to see the man in the fedora approaching up the sidewalk, smiling broadly. “Good morning,” he said to her. I’ve been noticing you have lovely roses. Do the thorns ever stick you?” He had his own German accent, she noted, and ruddy cheeks weathered by life. He had stopped just across the fence and she stood to meet him.
“You are German,” she said. My husband is German.”
He removed his fedora. “Austrian, actually, but, you know, I am acquainted with your husband.”
“Really!” she smiled, very interested.
“Yes,” he said, “Horst and I met during the war.”
“Oh dear,” she shook her head. “I’m afraid you are mistaken. My husband’s name is Miles. He came to this country just after the war, fleeing the destruction.”
“Really!?” the man said and studied her reaction for a moment. “I could have sworn I knew him.”
She shook her head. “Miles and I met through church after he fled. He told me the war had destroyed everything. So horrible.”
“Huh.” He said and placed the fedora back on his head. “Well, my mistake, then. I’m sure you know who you married. Good day to you, madam,” then strolled off.
She thought nothing more of it and might have mentioned it to her husband as they sat on the porch again that evening had he strolled past again. Instead, a long black sedan pulled to the curb in front of their house and the ruddy man in the fedora got out of the back seat. “Good evening, Horst,” he called out happily as three other stern men in dark suits got out of the car with him. “Do you remember me?”
Her husband's expression darkened. He said, “I am Miles Neumann, and I have never seen you before.”
“Oh?” the man said, and swung the gate open and moved closer, his three companions following.
“I never invited you in,” her husband threatened, his voice rising.
The man approached and said, “Captain Horst Richter of the SS and late of Dachau,” he held his arm up and pulled up the sleeve of his coat, revealing on his forearm the blackspot discoloring of numbers that identified him, “Maybe you remember now. Or am I just a blur to you?”
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BTW: The photo art and prose included in any given post are separate creations and rarely have anything to do with each other. Duality and such …
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.