Elberfeld (short story)

She struggled with the bedcover, as she tried to reach for the alarm clock. His semen trickled out of her, and was starting to cool on the bed beneath her. Irritated she stood up and kicked the nightstand, which did not appear to contain her alarm clock. He was propped up on an elbow and read a magazine. He always brought them and then he left them at her apartment, leaving it to her to discard them. At first she kept them, neatly stacked in an empty corner, but he never asked for them so she started to dispose of them, so as not to clutter her apartment needlessly. It was bad enough as it was, books strewn all over the floor where she had last opened them, cups and dishes, too. Once a month he swept all of them up and he washed and dried them and put them in her cupboard. He was good that way. Impossible to talk to, however. Not that he wasn’t a good listener, he was, he was like a dog, lying by her side as she mumbled about a story she was writing or a poem she considered reworking into a sonnet, nodding and making friendly noises but he couldn’t contribute anything, of course. He was such a nice boy, if it wasn’t for him no one would cook around here and she would be even thinner than she was already. Her mother stopped nagging about her weight half a year ago, thanks to his efforts. That’s something, isn’t it? When he wasn’t there, he called about five times a day and every other time she took his call. She wasn’t sure whether he would come if she took every call and was nicer to him, he might feel smothered, she’d read something in one of his magazines. As it was it was fine. It worked. The sex was ok, she guessed, they’d tried role-playing, but he was too much of an idiot for that, so now they did just the usual. He started to rub against her, in what he probably considered a seductive way, letting her know of his erection and with a sigh she let him do his routine. Come to think of it, she was surprised that that sigh had never turned him off. Maybe he was used to women sighing. The alarm clock was still gone and the idiot was still reading. Supportive as he was, he never helped her when she needed his assistance badly, he’d merely establish a help routine of sorts, cooking and cleaning at regular intervals. Why wasn’t he using condoms? That sticky fluid on the bed was annoying. A few months ago she’d tried to get him to have sex only on the floor where she could wipe it away easily, or rather he could, and it did not bother her. This, however, interfered with his rubbing come-ons, so they had a week or two of infrequent, awkward sex, which was made worse by the fact that doing it on the floor hurt her knees, which was too much, really. She looked at him, raising an eyebrow. He was good looking, that much was true, but she sure was glad he did not live in her town. He lived in Münster, and she lived in Wuppertal, and it was a one hour’s drive from here to there, the perfect distance. Wuppertal was an old working-class city, with a long tradition of art, industrialism and Nazis. No, really, as she used to explain to her friends, it was always worthwhile to parse German history for those who quickly embraced National Socialism before the majority jumped on the bandwagon. Wuppertal was especially eager to become a Nazi center, with a short-lived concentration camp soon established, one of the first in the Reich. Before it was destroyed, one of the most famous regional Jewish temples was located in Elberfeld, the distict she was currently living in. Quite a rocky history, but try telling that to him. When she moved here and found out about all this, she’d tried to get him to visit the memorials but he didn’t want to. He started to talk about the Holocaust Industry and at that point she’d left the room. She gave up looking for the alarm clock now and went out of the bedroom and walked to a window in the living room. She sat down on the bare floor and picked up a book, absentmindedly. Some German writer, she started to read it until her eyes glazed over. The floor wasn’t cold at all, for a brief moment she wondered about this before she falling asleep right there. As she woke in the morning, he lay next to her, cuddled against her back, with a blanket draped over both of them, but largely over her. He shivered a bit, it was always cold in her apartment in the morning, she didn’t know why. She extricated herself from his embrace, brought the second blanket from the bedroom, covered him with it, wrapped herself in the other blanket and lay down again beside him, not sleeping. She wondered whether this might make a poem.

3 thoughts on “Elberfeld (short story)

  1. ‘Maybe he was used to women sighing.’

    That line there somehow contains many books in it. Well done!

    I like what you’ve done here. I think it could do with being extended in some form, but as you will.

    Are you against paragraph breaks on principle?

  2. Thank you. No, I use paragraphs as they are offered to me. Other stories have lots of them. I write very few prose as I don’t like any of it after a week of finishing it so I have lots of started and unrevised and unfinished projects.

    Thank you for your comment.

  3. Are you more interested in writing poetry than prose? I have a friend who is, but who turns out the occasional short story that leaves me with a serious case of envy.

    I like the way this story has larger implications very quietly inserted. It’s hard for me to write anything that explicitly engages with Indian history or politics in any way, I admire the way you’ve been able to touch on your country’s political past and present without overturning the story.

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