Kurt Simon and the Kurtish Smile

Brasserie De Bademeester 19.4. (3) Ausschnitt

The Kurtish Smile

 We met 30 years ago. I was 35 then and Kurt was 70. My husband and I were travelling in the South Seas. On the island of Tongatapu we went to a French restaurant featuring chairs and tables on the sands of a lonely beach, set before a background of two or three huts covered with palm leaves and a rusty open air shower for the guests. The cook came from Alsace, so he offered us a fine lobster with garlic butter and real French bread, accompanied by a bottle of Edelzwicker. We had a nice talk about Strasbourg, restaurants in France and the life in the Kingdom of Tonga and while my husband went into details, I went down to the waterfront. It was low tide so I started to collect seashells.

Far out on the reef I could make out the figure of a thin man against the low sun. His frame reminded me of Cervantes’ Don Quixote. He now headed toward the rock where I was sitting and finally stopped right in front of me with a smile. I didn’t know what to say, so I stretched out my hand with one of the shells and asked him, “What is this?” He knew a lot about shells and the South Pacific and the restaurant above where he stayed in one of the huts, and about Los Angeles where he lived. When he introduced himself, he very proudly told me that he was already 70 years old, like a boy who is proud to be old enough for school. He asked me a lot of questions and we talked about Germany and Essen where he came from and about Frankfurt where we lived.

All of a sudden the sun was down and night fell. It was pitch dark apart from the faint shine of candle light from the restaurant above. When I said I had to return to my husband he replied he would go up with me and added, putting his hand on my arm, “But what are we going to tell him?” In the dark I could feel his kurtish smile.

Ulrike Eisenträger
Frankfurt am Main
December 3, 2012

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