Tuesday, June 16, 2015


The heat has subsided, the sun is low in the sky.  A gentle breeze is waving in from the balcony.  I turn off the stereo, put the book aside, close the AirBook, then measure the length of the silent room with pointless steps.  The room hasn't changed much.  The in-laws are sitting downstairs, staying in contact with home while nothing is happening here.  Flucha's in a car somewhere, driving to the store for groceries and drinks, three days overdue.  My beer is getting warm.

The months leading up to this weekend were eventful at work and quiet otherwise.  Biology took its course without drama or complications, shaping up a belly where there was none before and rounding it into a fine sphere of just the right size.  Periodic poking from inside gives evidence of new life – which does not want to materialize.

I've lived on the edge these last few weeks, a bag with all necessities with me at all times, always ready to leave at a phone call or text.  There was little rest, but the weekly journeys home and rare work-related travels occurred at a level of peace I had not known before.  I tend to get pangs of alarm when the train starts moving or I hop onto a bus.  Do I have my ticket, my wallet, passport, keys?  With everything in place in the bag, traveling was relaxed and joyful.

Last Friday, I returned to Heidelberg with the tranquility of the seasoned traveler.  There was no rush, no phone call to precipitate panic, not even the need to leave work early, and my travel wallet held all the necessary documents.  I leaned back on the train, had a beer and a soup, and read a few sections of an abandoned newspaper until the journey was over.  I arrived as always, and everything was as always.

The weekend that followed, a.k.a. due date and day plus one, we spent hiking the Odenwald – as much as that's possible with a party that includes two retirees and a woman ready to pop.  An hour on the Philosophers' Way and a hike down from Königstuhl are more than what old wives will tell you brings about labor, but Flucha, her belly bopping sideways, enjoyed the action and didn't slow down once.

The doctor didn't have anything helpful to say this morning.  Things are going all right, but they're not going anywhere, or at least not anywhere soon.  We were given a grace period of a week before more drastic action is considered.  I'm wondering what to do now.  I could go back to work to save my vacation days, at the cost of fretting so much that I couldn't work and risking a mad dash back to Heidelberg, possibly missing the delivery.  Or I stay here and fret without work to distract me until the inevitable happens.  Whenever it happens.

Monday, June 01, 2015


The other day in the stairwell, the neighbor approached me with turmoil in her eyes.  "Is your girlfriend pregnant?" she asked.  "Yes", I said, climbing the stairs past her.  What a weird question, I thought.  It's only two weeks to go and there's no way to hide it.  But the neighbor wasn't done.  "Please keep it quiet in the evenings", she said.  "I need to get up early.  I work a lot."

What an odd request.  It's not like we're throwing a party.  But the neighbor is one for odd requests.  Sometime I think she's got mental issues, and if she doesn't take her pills, all sorts of weirdness spill out of her.  She's rung our bell and knocked the door in the middle of the night as if the house were on fire, while we were one floor higher, quietly watching TV.  When I answered the door, she'd repaired to her flat.  She gets worked up about flushed toilets and the extractor fan in our bathroom.  We try to keep things to a minimum to avoid unnecessarily bothering her, but some things need to be done.  Loud crying, for example, needs to be done when you're a baby.

I turned around and looked the neighbor in the eyes.  "Have you made plans yet?" I asked.  "It's going to be a nightmare, unbearable, World War III."  This last one quoted her from an earlier discussion.  "Your peace is gone, I'm afraid.  The screaming will pierce your ears.  You can forget about sleep for months."  Her look turned frantic; she gaped at me.  "I'm lucky I don't live here", I continued.  "You'd better find someplace else too."

The conversation could have transpired just like this.  She's the kind of person that kills all pity and empathy in me.  But she's also an entirely different kind of person.

The other day, when Flucha was ankle-deep in disaster after the washing machine flooded the basement with black suds, she came down with rags and a bucket to help, on her own volition, concerned and friendly like the perfect neighbor.  The baby wasn't mentioned.