No signs of more such gangs in the Platz, so Gauthier soon lost himself in the Bannführer’s schlick, schlicks and contemplation of the day’s event and, in particular, the strange quietness of this metropolis; a stillness that could never occur in Paris at any given hour of the night – until the Germans came on their horses and installed the evening curfews…and re-routed with little notice the flow of pedestrians, liberty, happenstance.
Sad, this city. David told him that Berlin was, in the ‘20s, an “opened city”, much like Paris. His Jewish friend was a brilliant photographer and draftsman. Yet History, Gauthier always knew, was David’s true calling. Discussion on Berlin was ignited the very same evening Gauthier and David learned details of the Petain-Hitler armistice agreement that, David claimed, effectively put “targets on the backs of Jews”. The assertion was all too impossible for Gauthier to believe. That sort of stupidity would not take in Paris. David said nothing more that night on the issue, but Gauthier knew it concerned his friend – and him – once evidence grew of more restrictions on Jews. He threw down the newspaper in the middle of the table one evening at the cafe, complaining of the latest restrictions. Jews could not join the army, he mumbled, but raised his voice, “Nor can I hold important industry positions within the region?”
Even so, Gauthier insisted, with weak backing from Horatio, “So, tell my military friend; when were you ever going to join the army?” No response. “Hello? You must be aware, too, that you are a student of art and not some industry-bound auto assembler!”
What did it matter in the real world, Horatio seemed to ask everyone at the table except David. "How we worry ourselves like women."
And, like a fool, Gauthier believed his own words, until in September, the Statut des Juifs effectively made his friend a second class citizen of France. “Besides, David; what property do you own that you can no longer sell?” He forced himself to ask, as if he could keep David fooled by reality.
“Kindly, my dear. Shut up.” Was David’s sigh.
The Bannführer abruptly looked back at Gauthier; perhaps to reassure himself that Gauthier walked like a German. As always, Gauthier ignored the Bannführer’s patrolling eyes, easily returned to his thoughts on David and the cold concrete that is Berlin and how, Gauthier asked himself: How could such a solid city as Berlin ever have been anything fluid as was Paris? Where the love between men, David had insisted, was seen as “an unspoken normality” more so than our Paris?
“Yes, Gauthier; it is true. Very true. It is all due to the gas that leaks from the city’s swamps.”
Ha! David was adamant and shamelessly precise in that strange assessment. Berlin was known for its “…sensuous gases – and everyone knows that historical fact but you, my dear.”
A gas? Honestly, it seemed far-fetched. Clubs were everywhere, David had claimed, for Inverts, TaTas, and Sapphics alike. How silly. How silly of his friend to think such things.
Gauthier tripped on his own feet and nearly fell. The Bannführer looked over his shoulder, paused and certainly scowled, but moved on. Gauthier, again, ignored the Bannführer’s abysmal expression. And apparently we Berliners never lose our step. Only Frenchmen do that.
Gauthier looked back at the bank building he had passed earlier. Something caught his eye. He could still see the love words to Tresa in the dusk. The clever ruffian must have painted over his message in lumogen, the luminescent paint the Berliners used to light the walkways and roads at night in place of lamps. Oddly, there was a vagrant lighting up a cigarette under the scrawl. How did he get it? Cigar shops were notoriously and perpetually ‘sold out’. Many among the older HJ complained about it. And here there was a vagrant, burning up to nothingness such a precious commodity.