Outside the cabin the wind blew through the dark woods. I had never been here before – father had always forbidden me during our rambles. But as the new forester I got over that and wrestled myself through the dense brushwood, searching for dangerous loose branches, due to the upcoming storm. When I heard some sort of rattling, I first thought it was precisely that, but it appeared to be the sound of loose shutters of this neglected forest cabin. Not only the shutters were loose and crooked, some roofing tiles were gone and I saw the chimney was all clogged up with autumn leaves. Grimy net curtains were fluttering through the broken windows – like a peacesign begging to the badgering winds.
I thought it a terrible waist of what had once been an idyllic refuge. It was surrounded by wild rose bushes – now in the early autumn with faded flowers. Moss and mushrooms overgrew the front door. “Visiting Hans and Gretl of Little Red Riding Hood’s Granny”, I joked by myself. I wanted to shelter from the rising wind and the first drops of rain I felt specking my skin. The door squeaked haughtily and opened with difficulty – apparently something blocked the door on the inside. With my shoulders I forced it open and tumbled headfirst. A penetrating smell found its way into my nostrils – a mixture of decayed food, rotten leaves and suffocated lifelessness. Piles of newspapers, filled garbage bags and all kinds of indefinable trash formed the barricade. An enormous rain-shower started pouring down and since I did not feel like getting wet, I hesitantly stepped over the heaps of trash and went in.
Once used to the twilight indoors, I was overwhelmed by a beautiful set table in the midst of the chaos. A nostalgic island in a sea of rubble, with a round table in the centre. It was covered with a damask tablecloth, once white but now drenched with mouse-pee, slug-trails and fungus. A luring track of rose-petals went to the back of the cabin, probably to the bedroom. I became curious, who had this lay out like this? The door of the concerning room was ajar and peeking through the doorpost I gave a cry of horror: on the bed was the body of a woman! I instantly knew she was no longer alive – her bare legs and arms, folded around a pillow as if she embraced it – were so white it must have been impossible any blood could stream through her veins. She could not have been dead for long – I didn’t see any signs of decay.
Her strawberry-blond hair was just one big clotted tangle – I could even see little twigs in it. Black dirt disgraced her crumbled fingernails. She wore something that resembled a negligee, but since it was horribly covered with urine stains and dried menstrual blood, I could hardly tell. My urge to vomit only diminished when I saw her pale face gleaming through her entangled hair. In between the black smudges on her cheeks ran white furrows of tears. Her clean-cried skin was of such whiteness – so smooth! The glance of that little hint of angel-like skin defeated my aversion and with the tip of a pen I carefully brushed away her hair, baring her bright green eyes. She was clearly looking at something and following her perpendicular stare I saw a little notebook on the clenched pillow. The cover was of threadbare and well-thumbed velvet. Irresistibly attracted I picked up the little book and opened it. On the first page a saw a delicate handwriting, the paper was without lines but the text was dead straight and the pages were densely written, making use of even the tiniest space. Breathless I read the first few words:
‘My love, I waited for you the whole evening. Where were you? Couldn’t you leave home? After all these years I know how things are, but it was terrible anyway. I dressed myself up for you, cooked you chicken-a-la-orange and played Handels ‘Ariodante’. The whole day I have been thinking about you. How you would grab me after coming in, how you would kiss me and tell me where you’d take me, how I would go down on my knees to take you into my mouth. I fantasized how your hands would disappear under my white negligee and caress my languishing lips down there. But you weren’t here. I forgive you. I will wait for you, as always.’
The carefully written letters resonated in my chest, my blood pressure shot up by shame of my breach of her privacy...but I couldn’t put it down, her elegant writing pulled me into her memories.
‘I cried myself to sleep. I know you will come here as soon as you are able to, so I will stay here. I will not give up on 25 years, never! Nobody else made love to me but you. No other man’s skin has caressed me, no fingers other than yours have touched me. Oh, your hands, your beautiful rough hands. They are so strong and so manly. I dream of them my love. How they fondle me, how they open up my skin, how they force themselves between my legs and make me come, moaning and wet. God knows how much I long for you – even though it’s a sin.’
I continued to browse through the pages, with my cheeks reddened. Such love, such passion! And all that in an extramarital relationship that lasted for over 25 years…
‘My beautifull man. Yes, I call you My man. For even we do not wear rings, you are my man right from the start, without doubt. That’s why I desided to stay here. I wait for you, although no one waits for me. I know you won’t forget me en you will return to our haven of lust and love eventually, here in the dark woods. I fill my days with our memories. Remember how you took me the first time you found me here? How you shut my impudent mouth with your kisses, how turned me around, pulled up my skirt and threw my behind on the edge of the bed? I still think about it often – how you climaxed inside me, how you taught me how to satisfy myself. You taught me to Love. We were both starving, you because of a marriage without sex after your son was born, me because I had been a virgin for too long. I will never forget it, in my head I play that scene over and over, sitting here in the spring sun waiting for you, caressing myself with the thought of you.’
It hurt to read this, I couldn’t believe this tragic beauty had been waiting on him for a year. How could any sensible man leave such a stunning woman after 25 years, with such cruelty, without letting her know? I wanted to know the end, what she had written last. The date was yesterdays, exactly one year after her first entry.
‘I feel the magic threads of our lives become thinner, until they will be blown away by the wind like a delicate cobweb. I am sure we will love each other again in heaven. Goodbye, my Johan.’
Johan, the name I carried, given to me by my father, as was his job as a forester. Yesterday was the day of his death, exactly one year ago.