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The Radio Operator by Ulla Lenze

The Radio Operator by Ulla Lenze

Author:Ulla Lenze [Lenze, Ulla]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: HarperVia
Published: 2021-03-16T00:00:00+00:00


19

New York, May 1939

SHE DIDN’T SEEM THE LEAST BIT SELF-CONSCIOUS. HE ASKED himself if that bothered him, if he didn’t prefer a little female nervousness. Or was this really only about the radio? His street was plain—boring redbrick tenements, a tire shop, an auto repair shop—but here too Lauren directed her keen, alert gaze at all of it. He thought of her home: A hotel with many rooms. Forty rooms. Five suites and two cottages in the garden. He saw Lauren going in and out, laughing and making conversation with families, with married couples, with honeymooners. She saw pajamas wrinkled with sleep, toothbrushes with crooked bristles. She saw the traces of strangers’ love lives; she said hello and goodbye and thank you; she spoke her friendly lines as daughter of the house. Was this the reason she could follow a man she barely knew into the lobby of his building and act like it was the most natural thing in the world? Meanwhile he was looking around to see which of the neighbors were at their windows, ready to poke fun.

On the top step he asked her to wait for a moment. Her face vanished as the light in the stairwell went out, but he could still see her nod. Since the two German agents had started coming around, the apartment was tidy in a way it had never been before. He always got rid of everything, even the cigarette butts, and washed the cups and glasses. The only exception was his bed, which was unmade, the imprint of his body visible on the sheet. He closed the door. It was unlikely that Lauren would enter this room today.

“You can come in. The coast is clear.”

She kept a firm grip on herself, her hands crossed on her shoulders, while she inspected the apartment. Princess sniffed at her legs.

“This is unbelievable!” she cried every now and then. “The way you live! I’ve never seen anything like it!”

A girl. No, a woman. A young woman, who, after she’d taken off her shoes, was the same height as he.

She looked around, clearly intent on trying to understand something about him based on his apartment. “You live very simply,” she said finally. “You don’t even have pictures on the walls. How come you don’t have any books?”

He pulled Thoreau out from under a stack of amateur radio magazines and heard a long sigh. He didn’t dare ask what it meant—appreciation?

“My mother idolizes him.”

“There was a time when he was very important to me,” he said, attempting to play down the fact that he actually had nothing here but Thoreau.

“Gandhi got his ideas from Thoreau,” Lauren said pensively. And then shook her head. “That might work in India maybe.”

“Isn’t Gandhi in prison?”

“Not at the moment. But he was just fasting again. With success. Then they do everything he wants.”

“You don’t seem to like him.”

“He suggested to the Jews in Germany that they should practice nonviolent resistance. Some people think their idea of reality is more real than reality itself.



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