Here’s another five star review for TWO JOURNEYS, this one is by “St. Louis Cards”. You can find it here at amazon.com: LINK.
Here’s the full text by this reader
Book Review: Two Journeys
Author: Clemens P. Suter
Publication Date: April 1, 2012 (NetGalley Archive Date: August 30, 2019)
Review Date: August 21, 2019
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
From the blurb:
“During a routine business trip to Tokyo, Alan finds himself to be the sole survivor of a global pandemic. A viral disease wipes away all of humanity… and Alan’s past life. Fearing injury, sickness and hunger, he sets out to travel back to his family in Berlin, straight across Asia and 10,000 miles of hardship and adventure.
Suter combines post-apocalyptic elements with an adventurous road novel in this book about a man left alone on earth. The hardships and landscapes (the Gobi desert, Siberia) are described in all ferocity. A few other humans have survived as well, some eager to use the disaster for their own advantage. Electrifying chapters describe the encounter with Somerset, a charming yet psychotic warlord, who is assembling an army to conquer Moscow, if not the entire world.”
This is a first-class apocalyptic thriller. I find most self-published books to be absolutely dreadful. The exception is often science fiction/apocalyptic thrillers and other books of this type category.
Two Journeys is no exception. What a fantastic book! Better than I expected. It is written in the first person, and I often felt that I was reading a memoir of events that actually happened. Suter’s style is very easy to read; I couldn’t put the book down.
A caveat: it is a fairly long book, 551 pages. It took me 3-4 days on nonstop reading, which is much longer than it usually takes me to read a book.
The character of Alan, the protagonist, is well built, as well as the few other characters encountered during his journey. The plot is perfect; I appreciate how slowly Suter built up the story and all the details of the journey he included. The settings were well written and an important part of the book, as horrifying as they often were.
There were a few mysterious elements that added to the depth of the story.
I highly, highly recommend this book, 5 stars! The author has written a couple of sequels to this book that are available as Kindle books, for only $1.99 each, so I plan to finish out the series.
Peter came home at eight p.m., determined to solve the issue once and for all. All day long, the voices that he had been hearing over the last weeks had been on his mind, and now he was going to put an end to it.
He placed his keys and wallet on the kitchen table and walked into the garden. It looked inconspicuously enough. About 60 feet deep and 40 feet wide, on the south side bordered by his house (the kitchen to be precise) and on the other three sides by the gardens of his three neighbors. He had inherited the place at a relatively young age, his parents had unexpectedly died in a car crash on the New Jersey turnpike; actually just a few miles away.
At the end of his garden was a small shed in which Peter stored some gardening tools, but he knew the voices didn’t originate from there. He could stand with his back against the shed, or the kitchen, and in both cases he could, with almost absolute certainty, pinpoint the origin of the voices to the center of his plot of land. They either came from beneath the ground… or from his imagination. Had he been living alone for too long, he wondered? Was he going insane?
It was cold out; winter had come early. He could see his breath. Stars speckled the dark sky.
He walked over to the shed, retrieved a spade and carried it to the center of his plot. He listened, but all was quiet. Yesterday evening he had heard the voices: two men talking to one another. Like always he hadn’t been able to understand the words; but they had been there, in deep conversation. One voice seemed to belong to a curious young fellow, asking a lot of questions. There was some uncertainty in his voice. The other sounded elderly, and more experienced, providing answers.
Peter grimaced. It was all too ridiculous! Where could these voices come from? He was smack in the middle of a suburban area; the houses of his neighbors were at least a hundred feet away. He hesitated. Should he return the spade to the shed and make an appointment with a psychologist? Or go to the police? Ha! They would only laugh at him. Peter scowled, and the spade entered the wet soil. He lifted the first load of wet, dark earth and threw it to the side. Another followed, and another and one more. He kept on digging and digging. He didn’t find anything; it was just earth. Soon he was standing in a 3 feet deep hole.
“Ahem,” said the voice of his neighbor, Mr. Schaper. Peter looked up, and saw his neighbor standing on the other side of the fence. “Digging a hole, are we?”
“Well yes,” said Peter. He didn’t interrupt his work and kept on digging.
“Going to make a pool?” asked Mr. Schaper.
“That’s the plan,” said Peter, deciding that this was as good an excuse as any.
“Do you have a permit?” asked Mr. Schaper. Just what was to be expected. The nitpicking Mr. Schaper immediately homed in on a possible complication. Peter hesitated. He didn’t know whether a permit was a prerequisite for digging a pool. He cleared his throat. “Uhum. Well, not yet naturally. I am first checking whether it makes sense to create a pool in this spot. You know, whether the ground allows it.” He realized this didn’t sound very convincing, and as he glanced at Mr. Schaper’s face he could recognize skepticism. He continued digging, but Mr. Schaper didn’t give up. “You will need a permit, that’s for sure. And that must be passed by the neighbors, we have a say into this as well, just that you know it. Anyway, why do this in the dark? You can’t see a damned thing!”
Peter kept on digging, hoping that Mr. Schaper would simply turn around and go inside. Sometimes he did just that, if ignored, but not this time. After a few more minutes, Peter paused and wiped the sweat from his brow. “I say, you could do me a big favor. If you have a spade and some boots, you could perhaps help?”
Mr. Schaper’s face darkened. “No way, old man. No way! I have a hernia, not allowed to do that kind of thing.” With that, Mr. Schaper turned around and went back inside his house.
Peter’s spade went into the ground. Clang! He hid something, a piece of metal, located at the side of the hole. What was it? Peter used his spade to free up the object. It was a metal tube, perhaps 2 inches wide, and it came almost to ground level. He freed it further and could see that it went straight down into the ground. At the top was a bend and some sort of mesh, preventing the earth from falling in. Was this the origin of the voices? Peter moved his ear to the mesh and listened. Nothing, no sound. He scratched the back of his head. Perhaps his father had attempted to drill a well, and this was the remnant? To looked inconspicuously enough. Still, this tube was the only tangible possibility for the origin of the voices. Peter decided to carry on. He glanced suspiciously at the houses around him, but all his neighbors appeared to be inside. One, two, three; he removed the earth around the tube. The digging was heavy work, and soon he was sweating hard. He took off his sweater and threw it on the grass. Deeper and deeper he went, and after half an hour or so he had laid bare about seven feet. It seemed to consist of pieces of about three feet each, welded together.
He estimated that he had been digging for about three hours. Should he continue? He had to get up early tomorrow morning, it was a regular workday at the physics lab. He decided to press on. Another hour passed, and one more. The hole was deep by now and the walls very steep; Peter concentrated on freeing as much as possible of the tube, without making the hole overly wide. Again, he paused briefly, and listened. No sounds, no voices. He couldn’t see the houses anymore, only the sky above, littered with stars. It was cold and he scrambled up to get his sweater. He put it on and jumped back into the hole. The ground gave away and he slipped down into the earth. In panic he threw his arms around and hit the tube with his left hand. Ouch! He cursed and slipped further. He feared that he would be buried alive and tried to get a hold of the tube. Earth fell on top of him as the hole collapsed, and the mountains of earth that he had created on the surface slipped in and blocked the hole from above.
A few minutes later, Mr. Schaper came into the garden. With chagrin on his face, he looked over the fence and at the hole. “Building a pool indeed! He doesn’t even manage to dig a decent hole. Glad he decided to go to bed. Young fool.” Mr. Schaper disappeared into his house and turned off the lights. The entire village seemed to sleep. Far away, in the center of town, the church bell clanged the first notes of the star-spangled banner.
Peter dropped through the ground and fell onto a concrete floor. He almost twisted his ankle in the process and limped around in a circle. “Damn, ouch, damn!” Some dirt trickled on his back, but the ceiling seemed to hold. Peter stopped and stared. He found himself in a brightly lid corridor, about five-foot-wide and seven high. The walls were made from concrete, painted white, with a grey stripe three feet from the floor. The corridor turned to the right twenty or so feet away and was joined by another corridor that came from the left. The ceiling consisted of netting and concrete slabs but wasn’t very massive in appearance. Peter closed his mouth slowly. In his mind he tried to connect his house, his neighborhood with this underground tunnel system, but he couldn’t. He had never heard that a subway passed through this American village or that the military had build any facility in the area. There was no heavy industry for miles around!
It was quiet, but he could hear the echo of his own movements resonating in the distance. What to do now? As became obvious after a quick inspection, there was no turning back. The ceiling was too high to reach, and even if he could have reached it, there was a great risk that he would be buried alive underneath his own garden…or the entire neighborhood. He found the metal tube; it entered the corridor along the left wall, made a 90 degree turn and followed the wall for 30 feet, and then disappeared into it, out of sight. Peter speculated that the voices had been carried by that tube to his garden; the voices had most likely not even originated from the spot where he was standing now.
It didn’t make any sense to stay here, he had to return to the surface some way. He could go left or right; he decided on the latter. Quickly, and as silently as possible, he started walking down the tunnel. It didn’t go straight; it had bends and weak curves, sometimes to one side, then to the other. He could never see farther than a few hundred feet. Overall, it did seem to go in a single direction, east he thought. And it went very slowly down.
There were strong lightbulbs overhead, and occasionally he passed doors, all painted grey and locked, without number or any distinguishing marks. Taken together, the tunnel looked very purpose-made, without any frills. This went on for three quarters of an hour, when suddenly, voices became audible. He stopped and listened. Undoubtedly: two men. Peter moved forward, soundlessly. The tunnel curved again, and he entered a large space. It was an intersection of multiple tunnels, four, five, running off in different directions, some going down, others going up. The conversation continued but frustratingly he could not determine from which tunnel it came; it seemed to come from everywhere. He entered one tunnel and followed it for a while: the voices disappeared. He returned to the intersection and tried the next tunnel, with the same effect.
He couldn’t understand what the men were discussing, it could have been some foreign language. Suddenly the voices became more aggressive. The two men seemed to have entered an argument. Soon they started shouting at each other, and then a struggle seemed to ensue. Gasping, grappling, muffled cries. Peter listened, his anxiety increasing. One of the men seemed to have broken free, his feet pounding on the floor as he started running. The other man started to chase him, cursing. A shot ran out!
To his shock, Peter realized that the sounds were increasing in volume: the men were coming in his direction. Another shot sounded, and loud cursing and hollering. Peter stood in the middle of the intersection, quickly weighing his options. He realized that waiting was not an option. He had to move away from the men, and by choosing any of the five tunnels, he realized that he had a good chance of doing so. He decided to take the tunnel to his left as it ran slightly upwards. He dashed into it, never minding the noise that he made. After about a hundred feet he realized that he had made a terrible mistake, as the tunnel suddenly started to drop down steeply. But he couldn’t turn back; the voices of the men had changed. For a few seconds they stopped running and didn’t shout at one another anymore. Peter guessed that they had heard his movements. And yes, they seemed to orchestrate their actions again, rapidly conversing with one other. Then they ran again, without speaking. No doubt they were in pursuit!
Peter increased his speed, at the same attempting to reduce the sound that he made. Nevertheless, the feet behind him could be hear without interruption and he realized that they had by now entered his tunnel. Peter thanked his guardian angel that he went jogging so often, as at least he could keep this tempo up for some time. If only there would be another intersection! Instead, after about 15 minutes of running, Peter entered a hallway. There was a small platform in the middle, and next to it was a small-track railway, on which stood a low locomotive connected to several train wagons. He now had two options: he could continue running down the corridor or attempt to figure out how the locomotive worked. Peter bent down and looked at the controls: a key in the ignition, what looked like a single handle to adjust speed, and a possible brake pedal; that was it. Quickly he lowered himself into the driver seat and turned the ignition key. Immediately the train lurched forward, and he fell back, hitting his head on the back of the seat. Not a moment too early: a loud bang sounded, and bullet whizzed by, leaving a hole in the side window. The train shot into a dark tunnel that almost immediately started to drop down. The acceleration pulled at his stomach. The ceiling of the tunnel was just above the train, obviously the two had been designed in conjunction. Faster and faster the train went. Wind came in from the sides; but Peter figured out how to pull close the sliding door. It was almost quiet now, although some noise came in through the hole in the window. There was a small light in the front of the locomotive, and he could see the tracks whizzing by.
He didn’t attempt to control the speed. The further he got away from those two maniacs, the better. Besides, he was certain that this dark and straight tunnel would very soon turn towards the surface and reach its destination and would enable him to return home.
But the train traveled on and on, and down and down, by now at a terrific speed. He tried to relax. After a while he got out of his seat. The locomotive had a low flat roof and he had to crawl on all fours towards the back. He opened the door and stared into the next compartment. On the left were cans of food, on the right bottles of mineral water. He couldn’t continue; the stored goods blocked his way. He returned to his seat and investigated the controls. Or the absence of controls: there was no transmitter, no speedometer, or any other indicators. No clock; he had no idea what time it was. Peter sighed. After a while he became tired and his eyes started to close. He fell asleep.
He woke up with a shock. He was certain that he had slept long and deep. He felt hungry. The train continued its path, uninterrupted and at neck breaking speed. He went to the back and got some food and a bottle of water. He inspected the train again: it was spotlessly clean, and futuristic looking. Although; that was the wrong phrase: it looked different and unusual, with its curved surfaces and beige plastic. No design that he had seen resembled this. Time went by. Without anything to do, he just sat in his chair and slept a little. At some point he considered to try the brake but decided against it. The narrow tunnel was just wide enough for the train. He didn’t see any exits, the walls of the tunnel appeared uninterrupted. If the train stopped, where could he go? He shuddered at the thought of being stuck in this seemingly endless and claustrophobic tube and being forced to continue on foot. Where to? He fell asleep and had a nightmare: he felt as if he was submerged in liquid, his lungs filling with water. Shoals of fish chased him, and a kraken tried to catch and crush him with its giant tentacles.
Time and place merged, his brain grew more and more confused. Then, at some time, he noticed a difference. The train appeared to be climbing – or was it just his confused mind? Oh, Peter, he said to himself, oh Peter, why can’t you never develop a plan – or do something drastic? But in his delirious state, the thought slipped away, and never returned. He slept some more and had some food. There was a small toilet behind his seat that he used. He freshened up by throwing some water in his face.
Then, much later, a loud screeching! Suddenly, the train decelerated. The force pushed him forward, he had to hold on to the chair. Finally, the locomotive came to a halt. Peter listened for a few seconds, and when he heard nothing but silence, he opened the door. The lights of the train dimmed, then went out. He let himself slip into the darkness and down to the ground. With his hands outstretched he took a few steps. Slowly his eyes became adjusted to the dark. He was at a small station, but not the same one as where he had started out. He searched the platform with his hands, it was wet and slippery, sawdust and an oily substance. After a while he found a box. He rummaged through it. Some cloths, some tools. He got hold of a lighter, pulled it out and flicked it on. The light didn’t reach the walls; the hall was apparently very large. He inspected the contents of the box: no electric torch alas. But he found a metal bar, and some oil. He sat down on the ground and tore some of the rags to pieces and twisted them around the bar. He poured the oil over the rags and ignited them. Now he had enough light to investigate the hall. It was mostly empty, a few crates in a corner.
He didn’t know how it happened, but some sparks from the flame must have fallen on the ground, as suddenly the sawdust and oily residue caught fire. Peter cursed. The flames spread at a very disturbing speed: either somebody had spilled some highly ignitable substance between the crates, or a container had leaked. Peter pulled away from the hungry flames, and they chased him towards a corner. The flames licked at his clothing and suddenly his trousers started burning. He ripped them off and pulled his burning shirt over his head. By the light of the flames he could recognize a man-high tunnel in the opposite wall. He jumped across the fire, the flames liking at his naked body. He entered the tunnel and ran forward. His biggest fear was to suffocate in the smoke; the main risk of any fire. He hurried on for several minutes. Smoke started to fill the passage.
It was dark, and unexpectedly he ran into a wall. He groped around and fell a metal ladder, embedded in the wall. He got a hold of the bars and started climbing up, as quickly as he could. It was hard work. He climbed and climbed, bar after bar. The metal started hurting his hands and bare feet, but he was so afraid for the fire overtaking him that he pressed on.
Then: sounds! He could hear voices above him, and cars, traffic. He climbed faster. Suddenly he hit his head against a solid object above him. It dizzied him for a second and he almost let go of the bars. He rested a moment, trying to catch his breath. Then, with his last power, he slung his arms over a bar and pulled himself up. With one hand he felt above him. On the sides: concrete, but just above him a circle of cool, heavy metal. Peter climbed up one more bar and pushed against the metal with his shoulder. Yes, it was a lid, a duct cover! He was able to push it up. Bright daylight gushed into the hole, blinding his eyes. With his last remaining power, Peter climbed out of the hole and onto the pavement of a busy street, naked. Pedestrians looked at him in shock, but continued their way, passing by, staring back at him. The street was lined by sycamore trees, and shops and cafes with red canopies. In the distance: the Eiffel tower. This was Paris.
Here’s a story that I heard many, many years ago. I don’t know the source, perhaps any of you readers know?
A long time ago, a baker living in Warsaw, suffered from a reoccurring dream. Every night the poor man would dream of a great treasure of gold coins, to be found beneath a bridge, in an unknown city. This went on for many weeks, until the baker decided that this couldn’t go on. He packed his bags, with the purpose to locate the bridge and to find the treasure. As his dream only provided the flimsiest of details, he had to search and travel for many weeks, and one day ended up in Prague. Behold: there was the bridge that had plagued his nightly rest.
However, he encountered his next challenge, as the bridge lead to a castle and was heavily guarded. He could neither cross the bridge nor reach the banks of the river beneath it, there were soldiers and policemen everywhere. Impatiently he waited and observed the bridge for several days and nights, and time and time again he came very close to giving up the entire endeavor. However, he decided to stay on, partially because he didn’t want the dream to start reoccurring again, but also as by now he had developed considerable appetite for the gold. So he decided to stay and wait for a good opportunity to get underneath the bridge.
This opportunity arrived a few days later. One dark and moonless night there was a rainstorm, which became worse and worse, and in the very early morning hours he took his chance. He slid down the banks of the river and found his way through the dark and wet to the bridge.
But alas ! Almost immediately soldiers jumped from the bushes and quickly he was arrested. The men brought the baker to the police station, where he wasn’t treated in a friendly way at all. Without further ado, he was locked up in a cell. Shivering and wet he fell asleep.
The next morning, the sun was shining, and the door of his cell was opened. The arresting officer entered and looked down at the baker.
“Well! I hope you had a good night!”
“As best as possible, my lord.”
“Tell me, what were you doing underneath the bridge? Were you trying to enter the castle illegally? And what for? The judges in Prague are not friendly towards thieves and terrorists! Tell the truth!”
The baker grew pale and decided to tell his story. The officer looked at him with great surprise and started laughing.
“My god, man! You came to Prague because you dreamed a treasure was buried underneath the bridge?! Are you really so stupid to follow dreams?”
The baker looked at the ground in shame. The officer continued: “There is no truth in dreams, every child knows that! I mean, a few days ago I had a very similar dream as yours. I dreamed of an old bakery in Warsaw, I saw it in my dream as clearly as I see you now.” He described the bakery in some detail. “And you know what? I walked into the bakery, and pulled the big iron stove forward, and this huge treasure of gold coins became visible. But does that mean that I am so stupid to travel to Warsaw to dig out this presumed ‘treasure’, whereas I can expect to only find soot and dirt? Certainly not! Now off you go! I will be lenient with you, but only because you are such an ignorant fool.”
The baker quickly left the police station and Prague, and traveled home.
He arrived home late at night. He entered his bakery and with all his strength pulled the old stove forward. And there he found a treasure beyond his wildest dream, a large chest filled with gold coins.
There are a couple of messages hidden in this tale. The most obvious one being that you “should follow your dreams”. The baker does so, but the guardman obviously not. Another message that I see is that the greatest treasure may be right in front of you, without you knowing. Or that the path to your personal treasure may be crooked and full of hardship. Do you see any additional messages?
It was around the time that everybody stopped reading literature and switched to reading crime and mystery, when Samuel S. made his terrible decision. Crime and mystery stories had been around for a hundred years, and the genre had experienced its ups and downs, but around 2017 it became obvious that nobody was going to read anything else anymore. Anybody with anything to communicate had to wrap it into a whodunnit format, or take the risk to be completely and utterly ignored, and this was not just true for authors, but also for any socialite or politician, in fact for any public or private person.
Surely this is my biased view on the subject.
I think I met Samuel S. for the first time at a party. A barbecue at Barry Leon‘s place in San Diego, wasn’t it? An awkward affair, as on the one hand, Ken Griffin has been there, and Ken had formerly been a colleague of ours, but now he was Barry’s boss, as a result of which Barry had danced about all evening like a subservient ballerina, trying to please his new manager. Very awkward to witness. On the other hand, Barry’s buddy had been absent, I have forgotten his name, a colleague who was twenty years Barry’s senior, but who was inseparably connected to him at work, the two were like Siamese twins. On all emails to the one, the other was at least on CC. Being bad at names, I am actually not sure whether it was Barry Leon or Leon Barry, I usually called him Leon in my mind, which might be due to my Spanish heritage. To add even more confusion: did I actually meet Samuel S. at this party at all? Or was it at a similar affair in San Francisco that I had attended around that time? I recall the typical Californian evening light, but not much else. I have attended many such social and business events, in or close to Silicon Valley. We had seen a a hummingbird visiting our barbecue, that I recall with absolute certainty, as Samuel S. provided some pertinent facts about the hummingbird family Trochilidae to enlighten or entertain us. With Samuel S. you could never tell which; infotainment was his forte.
No matter. Samuel S. was short, shorter than I am, but he looked fit and in control of things, which makes it even more shocking that he ultimately arrived at this strange idea of his, with which he firmly shot himself in the foot; figuratively speaking off course, he was far too intelligent to own a gun.
Samuel S. and I developed a good rapport. We agreed on the pros and cons of the current and previous president. And the respective flotuses too. We both found the previous one more attractive. We agreed on Flaubert, Paul Auster’s best book and the beauty of orientalist paintings. Samuel S. was one of few individuals that went by their full first names, which I highly appreciated. Too many Michaels go by the name of Mike, too many Zebedeuses are reduced to Zebs, and too many Josephs are amputated to Joes. However, Samuel S. did read crime and mystery; I once met him in a bar where he dropped his keys, phone and such a sordid paperback onto the table. He also mentioned some popular mystery stories a few times in conversations at parties that we frequented. I won’t hold that against him. Like I said, this was the time when bookstores were virtually bulging with crime and mystery, and people started mistaking Shakespeare for Sherlock Holmes, Berlioz for Poirot and Truman Capote for Al Capone. For all his erudite ways and obvious flirting with intelligentsia and semi-revolutionary political ideas, it came as a surprise when he admitted to have frequented a prostitute. He hinted at this on two or three occasions, and not just to me but in a greater round. It didn’t sound like bravado, and adds some surprising color to his character.
He was married to Doreen, a retired physician and fifteen years his senior. She was an extraordinary woman, taller than Samuel S., skinny, gray-haired, and I have to say, stunningly beautiful. She had a look that few elderly women carry: you could recognize a much younger Doreen in her face and stature. Some women grow old and simply look old, but others continue to carry a young girl within, if you know what I mean. It’s in their smile and in the spring in their step. Shirley McClain comes to mind, or Michelle Yeoh. But not Charlotte Rampling, not Judy Dench, although they are impressive women in their own right.
Doreen smelled of green tea. Or her perfume did. I don’t drink the stuff, the tea I mean, but I like the fragrance. She didn’t read crime or mystery, I’m happy to say. Befitting, she read books about Buddha, gardening, art and lifestyle, and the occasional novel. Unlike her husband, she didn’t travel much, but had visited India a few times. She enjoyed tending her garden and had a small greenhouse with cacti. I visited her on occasion, in the summertime, during that particular time.
Intellectually, these years were dire straights, and it was hard to find equally minded people for conversation. I was member of a group of half a dozen regulars and ten to fifteen satellites. Frustratingly, populism was on the rise, and people were either talking about perceived crises, ignoring the greatness of their lives, which was shouting into their bloated and stuffed faces – or they were shaking their heads in disbelief at the madness of it all and the way democracy and the environment happily bounced towards the abyss. Or they had already given up on the world altogether; and, you may guess it by now, had turned to reading crime and mystery novels. I had reached a stage where the flood of bad news started to trickle down my skin as if I had been dunked in Teflon. In this light, I found the mere existence of Samuel S. a relief, as he seemed to be less obsessed by current affairs, and could quickly switch a discussion about the devastation of the Amazons to the usage of curare for the hunt by the endogenous people of said delta. And with considerable and generally compelling detail too. He had a fine sense of humor and tended to tell the truth, which was refreshing. He was thus an enrichment of the circle of friends that I was part of, and all our lives might have just continued on and on, had it not been for the silly fact that Samuel S. decided that he wanted to divorce Doreen.
The two hadn’t even been married that long. Samuel S. had been single for most of his life, but Doreen has been married before, to an engineer. She showed me a picture once, of a fat bald guy. I had a hard time imagining them together in one room. She had three children from that marriage, all three had left home and were wandering the globe. In New Jersey. Samuel S. didn’t have any children of his own.
One afternoon, out of the blue, he told me about his plan. He would leave Doreen and start anew. Usually, he was a suave, confident person, but now his eyes flickered nervously and his tongue darted over his lips. He talked on and on, I couldn’t get a word in sideways. He didn’t give any clear reason, at least not in any way that was obvious to me, and I didn’t dare ask. At the end he was exhausted and frustrated, which surprised me. Most people that separate are at least a bit happy, but not Samuel S.. Afterwards he must have told someone else about his plan too, as the rumor went through our group like wildfire. In contrast to what some may say, the rumor didn’t come from me, let me assure you. The foolish man, I had the impression that he wanted us, yes: me, to guess what the underlying reason was. I was in the dark, and said so to anyone who asked. As if life is one of these stupid mystery story where we have to collect clues to come to some cheap thrill or fulfillment or insight. Whatever.
Strangely enough, his decision had great effect on the dynamics of our circle. Over the following weeks, changes started to occur, and for some reason they impacted me a great deal. Was it because I had introduced Samuel S. into our group? In any case, I started to notice that I was excluded from invites, or sidelined during conversation. On one or two occasions, people even turned their backs to me, or didn’t greet me.
To be honest, by that time I couldn’t really be bothered, as I had in the preceding weeks, become rather close with an individual that I highly respected. A person where everything just felt right. Yes, I had found love. I had been in relationships on and off, but none had stuck. Yes, I am a picky person, also when it comes to finding a partner, and I was therefore very happy indeed that I had met someone whom I really could trust. It felt as if we were like yin and yang. And the beauty of it all was that my counterpart felt exactly the same way. I could thus happily continue with my job during the daytime, while looking forward to slightly secretive nightly encounters, as we had decided to take our budding relationship step by step.
I hadn’t seen Samuel S. for weeks, when one evening he called and asked whether I would be interested in having a drink. I hesitated. I had already started to move on. Things that happened that year were now part of the past. But for old times sake I agreed.
We met in a coffee place of Main, where they serve a hundred types of latte, and a bookshelf with used paperbacks, mostly crime and mystery, occupies a corner.
He didn’t look good. His hair was unkempt and he had rings under his eyes. We talked. I asked him whether he still wanted to leave Doreen. I asked: Why? Why Samuel?
He looked down at the table. Can you really be so blind? I told you didn’t I? I did more than hinting. I think I said it to you straight. Why can’t you acknowledge it?
I looked at Samuel S. in absolute confusion. No, I couldn’t understand. What was he talking about?
Samuel, what have you told me?
Oh you fool! He blurted it out, and the other patrons lifted their heads in reaction to his loud voice. Don’t you understand, Susanne? I love you! That’s why I have left Doreen. I love you! Can you be so blind?
I stared at his face in shock. I was speechless. For a full minute my mind seemed to have stopped in its tracks. Then, slowly, I started to recount some of the conversations that I had with Samuel S., and some of the comments our mutual friends had made to me. Finally, the penny dropped. This man, this poor fool, had fallen for me, and in his sophisticated and round-about way, had been completely incapable of telling me straight to my face. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I would have refused him, surely. Ironically, through his confused action he had opened opportunities that he himself wasn’t even aware of.
I got up and looked down at him. His face was contorted by emotion. I said: I’m sorry Samuel. There isn’t anything else that I can add. We are not made for one another.
I walked out without turning back. Yes, this was the time that every bookstore, every internet shop, every library was literally exploding with crime and mystery. I’ve never been a fan. But if it’s mystery that the people want: so be it. And that included, alas, Samuel S.. I drove around for a while and after that I sat in my car at a Walmart, until sunset. Finally, I longed for home and bed and comfort and love. I drove to my place and unlocked the door. I threw my keys on the table in the hallway.
The lights were on.
Is it you? Called Doreen.
Yes love, it’s me.
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Here’s a story that I picked up a while ago. It fits well to some of the world news that we are continuously confronted with.
Many, many years ago, the Truth and the Lie went for a walk in the forest. The Truth was slightly nervous, after all, could the Lie be trusted? But the Lie seemed quite happy and exchanged pleasantries as they strolled along. Presently the two came upon a beautiful, silent pond, surrounded by wild trees, and they decided to go for a swim. The Truth undressed and dived into the silent lake, and swam away from the shore. But soon, the Truth noticed that the Lie hadn’t followed; instead, the Lie made off with the Truth’s clothing.
The Truth climbed out of the water and chased the Lie, shouting “Help! Help, hold the thief!” But as always, the Lie was faster, and the Truth couldn’t catch up. The Truth came upon a human and asked: “Have you seen the Lie, that stole my clothing?” The human turned away in disgust and said: “Bah! You are completely naked! Disgusting! Go away, go back to the pond and hide in the water! I don’t want to have anything to do with the Naked Truth.”
And so the Naked Truth had to withdraw into the forest and spent its time submersed in the pond. The Lie on the other hand, roamed the world dressed up as the Truth, receiving considerable respect and love from the human.