New Year's Eve

Snow flakes fall down silently.
Children already drew 2003 in the thin snow layer on the cars.
The kiosk at the corner lightens the Art Nouveau facades.
No one around.
She likes this atmosphere.
What she doesn't like is to dip into a group of happy couples.

„But you can't stay at home alone!“ the hostess almost had whined through the earphone.
In this moment she had laughed.
But suddenly doubts rose and yesterday she gave in.

Her high heels rhythmically break the silence. She identifies the correct entrance by the squeaking gateway. Jazz chops gently through the stairwell.
Four stories and one extra.
Everytime she thinks that she has arrived, she finds that she has further to go.

Three couples and her, who sometimes is a couple and sometimes not.
And a night lasting at least until midnight.

„Hi Carina, adornment of our night.“ the host smiles.
She keeps standing indeterminedly in the dusky hallway while the host stores her coat in the wardrobe.
The women are busy in the narrow kitchen.
Mumble and laugther comes out of the brightened room.
She's relieved that no other person would fit in there.

She sleeks her halfopened blouse and resolutely enters the living room.
„Hello, I'm Carina.“
„Frank“. The taller one shakes her hand energetically. His eyes scan her neckline for a second. What could have stayed unnoticed if it wouldn't result in a small smile.

„And my name is Udo.“
A clammy hand keeps lying in hers.
Disgust rises.
And a picture of uncontrolled body hairiness.

While Frank reminds of his existence with a joke, her eyes are forced into Udos collar.
And there they are: long black hair growing out of milky white skin.
When rising his glas a shiny gold ring sparkles.
Some women stop at nothing she wonders.

Frank opens with the typical Frankfurt questions:
„For which bank to you work? None? Then you're consultant! Let me guess: McKinsey? Would fit you!“
He regards this as a compliment.
„Aaaah.“ Enthusiams enters his face.
„So you're a flight attendant. Tall, blond...“

He takes her rosen eyebrow as an invitation to go on babbling.
She's tired of explaining to guys like him that an airline offers a lot of other jobs, too.

„Darling, can you help me in the kitchen?“
A threatening flattering female voice nears from behind.
„I'm Manon.“
The attractive blond directly fixes her eyes. „His wife.“
Calm down, Carina thinks, and smiles back.
Will she also will react like this in some years when more wrinkles than men populate her life?

The hostess, an investment banker, shows up in the doorframe and asks to take a seat.
A big belly follows carried by a midsize woman. The hand holding the salad bowl is marked by a new gold ring.
So that's her. The woman married with the hairy man.
And obviously also has sex.

The table is squarish. For three couples and her.
When Frank enters the place beside her with demonstrative uninvolved face she senses the others' views.
Suddenly she wishes to have a partner, too.
For the symmetry and more.
Maybe these are the situations that make people stay a couple.
„We haven't been introduced yet.“ she says to the pregnant woman. „I'm Carina.“
„I'm Sybille and he doesn't have a name yet.“
She tips on the huge belly that expands the clear white shirt.

„How long to go?“
„I'm in the 35th week.“
Carina smiles.
The weekly count keeps a mystery to her. But she's not in the mood to ask again.

Quickly she reaches for the salad and offers it to Sybille.
Sybille meanwhile examines Carinas slim waistline and sees the male eyes following it.
Long time ago she also has been good-looking.

Now she sees into neutral eyes only.
These damn neutral eyes!
Men look at her as if she would be a traffic sign.
Even her husband avoids to break into the aura of motherhood.
Just once he had dared to. 35 weeks ago.
She started to feel more and more lonely. What did she expect of an own family?

She tries to catch her husbands eyes, but he frowns to Frank and Carina, who vividly talk about travelling to Africa.

Manon sits beside them in silence. Her high cheeks, blushed by Chanel powder, flatter.
With little contempt in her face she grabs the bowl with tiramisu.

„Probably you're just too thin“, the fatherly gynaecologist had answered her desperate question.
„When I'm fat, my husband won't sleep with me. That will result in the same.“, she snarled at him.

The mushy coffee-cream fills her mouth.
She needs a while to force herself to swallow, so that the muddy clump already is warm, when it squeezes through her gullet.

„Why is she already making such a face again“, Frank thinks after a short side glance to his wife.
„I can't stand her jealousy anymore.“
Defiantly he turns back to Carina.
She had used the pause to disappear to the bathroom.
He takes a mouthful of the Chablis.

The lady's man, the host thinks witnessing Frank. I never dared to hit on girls. But why? It's nice with her. Even after eleven years.“
He lays back in his chair and satisfied watches his partner.
Her long brown hair hugs her open face. She feels his eyes on her.
„Did I still forget something in the kitchen?“

The hours go by. The six unpack their schooldays memories.
Cheap mopeds grow to Harleys, Aldi wine to Vodka.
With their smalltown-revolution in mind they prepare for the pop of champagne corks.

„Wow, we've been quite wild“, Frank closes his stories and absent-mindedly pets the edge of his wine glass.

When the couples hug each other at midnight, Carina doesn't know if she envies them.
She doesn't know what she wants at all.
Just getting rid of the emptiness in her heart.
Unrestingly she hovers through the years, trying to find the missing puzzle-peace in her soul.
Sometimes with the warmth of another body close to her she senses what's missing.

At the table they talk about house-savings and that town houses in Hattersheim have a better connection to the Kindergarten.

Carina doesn't listen anymore.
She desires to be alone.
To lay on the big wooden bed between fresh white sheets.
To browse through magazines until the first light of the new year enters the room.

The imagination to be able to do all this without being forced to explain, causes euphoria.
Poor people, she thinks and looks into faces with engraved compromises.

„Please don't be angry, but I'm leaving now.“
Six pair of eyes become astonished.
„But you can't go home now! The party just begins to rock!“
She smiles and tries to make her sorrow sound believable.

„Poor Carina“, Sybille says to the investment banker and touches her belly. „Has to go home alone.“
Both nod and carry the dirty plates into the kitchen.
With a lot of noise they not only wash the dishes, but also try to wipe away their yearning.

On the street Carina takes a deep breath.
Cold air flows freshly into every litte corner of her breast.
A lightened sign of the subway guides her through the night.
And while her heels crash the last ice-crystals a warm feeling rises up in her body.

Sure - again a New Year's Eve and she doesn't know her future.
Maybe she will be a seeker all life long.
But one thing she knows for sure and she turns her head for a short look back: 
this definitely is not what she wants.

And supported by the salving knowledge never to be forced to, a big smile enters her face and she begins to run towards the lights.

Translation of the short story Silvester that I won a regional award for literature for in 2007

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