Tell a Woman She is Beautiful and She is Yours for Life
Her name was Elise, and she was a traveller like me. She taught German at the State University, and we had both been in Stuttgart in the spring, bicycling through the vineyards and weathering a summer storm. Imagine my surprise when we ended up at the same university! She was slender, with dark hair and green eyes and dimpled knees. For the rest, what can I tell you? I was her student.
German was a language she knew as well as English, French, and Italian. Also she was a lover of classical and romantic music, a love we both shared, particularly the compositions of Beethoven, Schubert and the Hungarian Franz Liszt. I knew she played piano and violin.I used to see her at the noon concerts at the university, where we both sat dazzled by the gifted faculty from the School of Music. In the coffee shops she often sat alone. I would go up and say hello, no more, being naturally bashful, quiet and shy.
I used to watch her walking across the campus, her long clinging skirts and neat little jackets, a scarf or umbrella on her head to chase away the wind and rain. Carrying books in a case, and sometimes a violin.
One day I followed her home. She drove an Audi and lived in a beautiful building, framed by beech trees and flower gardens filled with lilac and hydrangea, hyacinths and lily of the valley. An outside fountain showered a fine mist over a tiny lake. The apartment building was white stucco, with arched windows and an inner courtyard, and all the units had nice balconies.
I was too shy to ring her bell. What would she have thought of me? But it was consoling to know where she lived. In fact, I secretly followed her Audi many times
Elise was constantly in my thoughts and in my dreams. I sent her flowers on Valentine’s Day (but only to her office). The card read, “From a friend.” When I saw her in class, I thought she looked pleased…
Unfortunately I wasn’t doing well in German, so I made an appointment to see her. Her office was tiny, one of many on each side of a long hall. It felt intimate, but of course I knew better than to behave less than perfectly. I saw the flowers sitting on her desk –pink roses, delphiniums, sweet peas.
“Don’t forget to capitalize your nouns,” she told me.
As if that was my only problem! I also had trouble with the grammar, especially genders, word order and pronunciation. Elise was patient with me, but my mind seemed to freeze every time she looked at me, and I had trouble talking, I was so tongue- tied.
On the office wall were two pictures, one of a big cliff overlooking a river, the other of an ancient castle. I decided to ask her about them.
“Well,” she said, “that’s a medieval castle in West Germany, the Burg Katz. They call it that because, you see, close by is the Burg Maus.”
I tried to laugh. “And the other picture?”
“That is the Lorelei, a high stone cliff over the Rhine River, just a few miles south of the Burg Katz. You can see the Castle Katz from the lookout there. Do you know the story of Lorelei?”
I shook my head.
“According to legend, a woman sits there combing her hair, and lures sailors to their destruction.”
Elise laughed, an alluring laugh.
“Those are beautiful flowers,” I told her.
“Yes,” she said. “I wish I knew where they came from!”
I had played the piano as a child and took it up again, taking a lesson or two and renting a practice room in the music hall. I was playing for Elise. I had an idea she would come in one day and compliment me on my beautiful playing, but that never happened – just some irate students who told me I had overplayed my practise time.
During German lectures, I sometimes had the feeling that Elise looked at me in a special way, that she was smiling at me and following me with her brilliant green eyes.
One day towards the end of term, I steeled myself. I got in my car and drove quickly through the streets until I reached her place, and ran in.
In the entrance hall, there was a large tropical prayer plant and an antique mirror. I rang her doorbell, and then walked up a flight of stairs.
Elise appeared, her head wrapped in a towel. She said, “Oh, hello. Why are you here?”
I was confused, but kept on.
“Elise. I’m sorry, Elise. I just wanted to tell you – “you are so beautiful!”
“Thank you,” she said, and laughed a little, touching her head. She backed up from the door. “How did you know where I lived?”
“I’ve known for a long time. I’ve been following you home.”
”Following me home?” Elise said. “But you don’t even know me.” She was still
smiling, but looked a little alarmed
“Oh, but I do know you, Elise. Actually I love you.”
She frowned. “You love me.”
“This situation isn’t right…”
At that moment I realized that Elise thought I wanted to hurt her. Imagine my chagrin. That had not been my intent at all! Ì had imagined she loved me, or at least was attracted to me…
“Elise,” I said. “Elise, I thought you might love me…”
“You have to go now,” she said. “We are not friends, actually. Please leave right now.”
She shut the door, and I heard the bolt slide. Maybe she thought I was stalking her! Well, she might have called it stalking. I call it love…
I hammered on the door. I admit I was angry.
“You German girls!” I cried. “You are all alike!”
What happened after that, I can’t quite remember. I stopped going to class, but she got the police to put out a restraining order against me anyway.
I am going to therapy now, where I’m told I’m either an erotomaniac, or just plain obsessional. It’s true I still think about her – as a matter of fact she is all I think about. Her face, framed by that towel! Elise, the only truly beautiful woman I have ever met. This tale is for you. Fur Elise.