Auf dem Kies

Slinking about the town we stick to the edges like rats, we climb the old stone walls sideways. The old stone walls that bulge beneath the fachwerk, that flank the village to the north and south. The village that has always been here, this house now 500 years old where we lay our heads. And in the morning climb down the hill to the Aldi for our still water and bread chips and apple sauce. Like kids high on acid giggling our way through the stores we can’t make sense of our coins or what’s due. We think we go unseen, forever out of our skin, immigrants, tourists, forever unclean.

And we marinate for 10 hours on a plane full of sick people coughing, sneezing, crying, but no one, not one of us, is able to sleep. Then pass through Customs to the baggage claim area and wait. Then on to the fernbahnhof following signs for the ICE, the intercontinental express. To fern 5 and the 18:51 to München, stopping at Stuttgart. The 18:51 now 19:07 getting us in at 20:20 with an hourlong layover on this, 12-20-22, what should be the shortest day of the year feels like the longest.

And then to our last stop where Eberhard is on the platform greeting us, and we are swallowed by a dozen Turkish teenaged boys pushing and cajoling us but we are too tired to even care. And there is cigarette smoke and grime, and Christmas lights and the old village as it always was. And candles and a small heater with a fan at Oma’s old house, where we will stay for a week.

Mom has gotten the aspirin and checked the best-by date and funny, it says 12-20-2022, that’s today! And it makes me think of the medicine John gave me one time, I have to tell the story of the J Collis Browne mixture, the one he got on safari in Africa. It was Christmas then too, early 2000s, the mixture had expired in 1994. But it didn’t matter, it was morphine based and you took it with a spoon, it knocked you sideways. I was so sick from undercooked shellfish and alcohol poisoning and spiced cheese curds I wanted to die. The old bed and breakfast by the river on the other side of Pennsylvania, the New Jersey side. Dawn and I on a romantic getaway but I squandered it all with too much drink, and when dinner came it was a seafood pasta thing with something that looked like a little finger twitching through the noodles, uncooked, and rather than send it back I drunkenly stabbed it with my spoon and just slopped it up, followed our meal and a bottle of wine with something called a B&B, a hot drink of brandy and Benedictine—the same drink Dawn had at the end of a long shift when she worked on a boat in Alaska, possibly the only time it would make sense to drink something like that. So sick the next day John offered me the J Collis Browne mixture, and I lay my head down to a myriad voices breaking out of the bubbles in the water fountain, giggling, teasing, maddening sounds. That old medicine famously abused by John Cale of the Velvet Underground, and I now understood why.

We have taken our pills and climbed into bed on this, the longest night of the year. And the house settles around us as I fall asleep to the sound of my wife’s soft breathing. And it falls off as the waves clap the rocks softer and softer as the tide stretches out once more. And we are nine hours ahead, passing from Tuesday into Mittwoch. And the old church bells toll, the metal echoes down the stones, claps the old walls that hold this house, our beds, what little time we have together here. We are cradled by it as we lay in the dark with our dreams and our pasts, bound by this place, by all we will never know.

Categories: prose, travel, writing

Tags: , ,

15 replies

  1. And when you wake, you wake to a longer, hopefully better and more enjoyable day.
    What we go through for Christmas, eh?
    Nice bit of writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the exquisite, wriggling, velvety strangeness of the atmosphere you’ve created in this one, Bill!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ll just chime in to say ditto to DD & Stacey’s comments, reading this imparted a strange sliding sensation, given the season and setting, a nice glide I should say. Best wishes for the new year & etc. RPT

    Liked by 1 person

  4. EBERHARD! Hope to hear more of him.
    What a picture you present of your well-earned misery. I feel queasy just reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love the waves of mood that flow through and around this lovely piece, Bill. There is a fever dream aspect, not just from from the medication but also that displaced consciousness of international travel. And that hint of threat; as traveller, as visitor, as alien. Right there in the first word and resurfacing with the Turkish teens, the food poisoning, the bell (for whom does it toll?). Then the gentleness at the end.

    Thank you for a wonderful trip.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Displaced consciousness is right, that’s what I was trying to nab I think, what a frenetic feeling. And it’s a feeling of not fitting in for sure, the threat in that too. You’re mighty perceptive, you! Thanks for the nice reflection and kind note.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. There you go slinking about town again. Love to read your musings on your adventures in Germany, and all that summons and displaces in your/our collective consciousness. And of course Eberhard.

    Liked by 1 person

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