Forlorn in a Strange Land


A young woman stopped a few feet from where I sat at an outdoor café in Trier, Germany. Had she been well groomed, she would have been stunningly beautiful. However, her jeans and T-shirt looked as though she had worn them day and night for several weeks, and her hair hadn’t been combed or brushed for at least that long. Tears seemed ready to burst from her eyes at any moment.

I sensed that she wanted to ask for something but was too timid, and perhaps embarrassed to do so.

Something about her touched me. I felt drawn to her. I don’t know why. I smiled and said, “Bitte, wollen Sie etwas fragen?” (Please, do you wish to ask something?)

The tears broke free. Her lips trembled, and she swallowed. With a barely audible voice she asked, “Do, do you speak English?”

“Ah, another American. Welcome. Please join me.”

The sound of my very American English seemed to give her courage. She stepped closer and said, “I’m sorry to bother you, but I’m so desperate, and so hungry.”

“Please, Miss. Sit down. I’ll order some food for you, and you can tell me why you are desperate.”

She hesitated. Then, I’m sure out of desperation, she sat across the table from me. “Thank you, sir.”

“Don’t mention it. By the way, my name is Lange Hardon. I’m a writer and am here doing research for a series of travel pieces that I’ve promised to an editor with whom I work at home.”

“I’m Elizabeth Kingford. My friends call me Beth.”

“Elizabeth is a nice name, but I hope you’ll accept me as a friend so that I can call you Beth.”

That brought a glimmer of a smile to her face. “Thank you. Please do call me Beth.”

I looked again at Beth’s face and saw pain and embarrassment there. Something in her eyes told me that, her present unkempt appearance bothered her. It was something she wished to change. I needed to learn more. To break the ice and get her talking, I asked if she would like something to eat.

“I’d love to have something, but I can’t. I have no money.”

“Then, please be my guest.” I handed her the menu that was beneath the salt and pepper shakers on the table.

“Thank you, but I can’t read German. I have no idea what anything on that menu is.”

“Okay. Then let’s start with you telling me what you would like to eat. I’ll look at the menu and see how close we can get to what you want.”

“I don’t know what I want. I’m so hungry; anything would taste good.”

“Well, it’s almost too late for breakfast and too early for lunch, but there is one thing that I see on the menu that can pass for either.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a Strammer Max.”

“A Strammer what? What is it? I’ve never heard of such a dish.”

“Strammer Max: it’s an open face sandwich of ham and cheese on farmer’s bread, and is topped with a fried egg. It’s really quite good. In fact, thinking about it has made me so hungry that I’m going to have one. Would you like one too?”

“Oh, please.”

I looked around until I spotted the girl who had served my coffee earlier and motioned for her to come over.

“Möchten Sie etwas mehr?”

„Ja bitte. Wir möchten zwei Strammer Max. Moment, bitte.” I looked at Beth and asked, “What would you like to drink: coffee, cappuccino, a juice of somekind?”

“Coffee would be fine.”

I again turned to the waitress and said, „Gut, bringen Sie uns auch eine Kanne Kaffee und eine Tasse für meine Freundin.”

“It’s going to be a little while before our food gets here. Why don’t you tell me what’s wrong.”

Beth sniffed and wiped her eyes. Her lips trembled as she fought back tears. “I hardly know where to start.”

“Well, there are two places where a story can begin. It can begin at sometime in the near past before something bad happened and then work toward that something, or it can begin with the unpleasant event, and can then flash back to the earlier time to put the unpleasantness in context and perspective.”

I could see a glimmer of perception and it brought a faint smile to Beth’s lips. “You sound just like Mr. Gormley, my English teacher at Belleville Township High School.”

“Belleville Township High School – Belleville, Illinois?”

“You know it?”

“My dear I was a student there from 1946 until 1948.”

“Well I just graduated from there six weeks ago. I came here with some kids I thought were my friends for our final fling before we either went off to college, or in my case to work.”

“You said you thought these kids were your friends. I take it they did something to prove otherwise, something that left you in your present predicament. Tell me about them and what they did.”

“Karl and Lisa are twins. Their father is an Air Force doctor in the flight surgeon’s office at Scott Air Force Base. He married Karl and Lisa’s mother while stationed at the Air Force hospital in Wiesbaden back in the 1980s. Mrs. White was a German nurse working there. She had been married to a German officer who was killed in a helicopter accident during joint maneuvers with the American sarıyer escort Army. She still has a mother and sister living in a small town just outside of Wiesbaden. We went to visit Mrs. White’s mother and sister the day after we got to Germany. Both Karl and Lisa speak German; their mother taught them, and they also studied it at school.”

“Did just the three of you come here, or were there others?”

“My brother Steve came with us. Steve’s a year older than I am, but we graduated together. He had to take the twelfth grade twice.”

Before we could continue this conversation, our server arrived and placed our food in front of us. She wished us a good appetite, and I thanked her.

“Ummm, this looks delicious, but there’s so much. I don’t know if I can eat all of it.”

“You don’t have to eat all of it. Take your time and enjoy it.”

We ate in silence for the next five minutes. Beth was obviously famished. She ate everything on her plate.

“Would you like something more?” I asked.

“No. No thank you. That was scrumptious, but I think I’ve had enough.”

“Then, shall we continue with your story?”

“Well, when we arrived at Karl and Lisa’s grandmother’s home their grandmother didn’t seem very happy to see them. Major White is a black man, and both Karl and Lisa are black too. Their grandmother was still angry at her daughter for having married a black American.”

“I see. What happened then?”

“We didn’t even go inside. When Karl saw we weren’t welcome he said, “Come on, we’re not wanted here.” He grabbed Lisa’s hand and pulled her away from the door. Steve and I couldn’t do anything but follow.”

“Not a pleasant way to start a European adventure.”

“No. It wasn’t, and it got worse.”

“Karl took us back to Wiesbaden and asked around until he found out where the youth hostel was. We went there and checked in. The place was solidly booked. We had to sleep in the open dormitories. There were forty-eight other girls in the one Lisa and I were in. Steve told me the men’s dorm was even more crowded.”

“So, you got an early taste of the way young Germans travel on the cheap.”

“Yeah. It only cost us an Euro each.”

“What happened next?”

“Karl took us all to the train station and bought coach tickets to here. He said he new a guy whose father was stationed at Spangdahlem Air Base near Bitburg, and he was sure that Larry’s dad could help us find a place to stay. Until then, however, we’d have to stay in a youth hostel in either Trier or Bitburg.

“Lisa and I weren’t comfortable with so many strange girls so while on the train here we told Karl we wanted him to find a better place than a youth hostel, some place where we’d feel safer and have more privacy. He grumbled about how much it would cost, but finally gave in. When we got to Trier, we found our way to the tourist information office and got the addresses of a couple of bed and breakfast type places.”

“Did you find one you were comfortable with?”

“Not really. Every place was full. We finally found one that had one vacant room with two double beds in it. I didn’t like the idea of sleeping in the same room with Steve and Karl, but it didn’t seem to bother Lisa. In fact she seemed pleased about it. That night I found out why.”

The frown on Beth’s face told me more about Lisa than her words had.

Over the next half hour, Beth told me how that instead of she and Lisa sharing one bed and Steve and Karl sharing the other, Karl and Steve insisted that their sisters sleep with them. Beth had objected, but Lisa liked the idea and voted with the boys.

That night Beth awoke to find her brother sucking one of her nipples and rubbing her vulva. It wasn’t his touch, however, that had awakened her. She thought she was merely having an erotic dream until she was fully awake and could hear Karl and Lisa fucking like bunnies (Beth’s words) in the other bed.

When Steve realized Beth was awake, he tried to talk her into doing with him what Karl and Lisa were doing. She had refused, and to make sure he understood that she meant no when she said no, she grabbed his testicles and squeezed them hard enough to get his attention and then said, “Steve, if you ever try to have sex with me again, I’ll crush these,” and then gave them another hefty squeeze.

The next morning Lisa and Karl made no apologies for their incestuous coupling, and in fact Lisa seemed surprised that Beth had not allowed Steve to fuck her. She also told Beth that while she and Karl were having intercourse, Karl had told her he wanted to watch Steve and her get it on while he screwed Beth.

That revelation was too much for Beth. She packed her backpack and stormed out of the pension. Steve had tried to call her back, but she had ignored him. Now, she was alone in Trier with no money, and not knowing where to turn for help.

I had listened to her story without making any comment, or suggestions beyond those esenyurt escort necessary to keep her talking. Finally, when I thought I knew enough, I said, “Beth, I think I can help you. It may take a few days, but I’m sure we can arrange for you to get home none the worse for your experience here.”

A wan smile crossed her lips, but her eyes continued to show sorrow and doubt. “Unless you’d like more to eat, or some more coffee, why don’t we go to the tourist information office next to the Porta Nigra and see if someone there can tell us where the American Consulate, or an Attaché’s office is.”

“Why do you want to know that?”

“Well, you’re an American citizen. You are stuck here, through no fault of your own, without money and without a way to get home. I’m sure that someone at the Consulate, if there is one here in Trier, can arrange a loan and perhaps arrange a flight home for you. If nothing else, they can let you use a phone so that you can call your parents and have them wire money and plane tickets to you.”

“Oh! I would never have thought of that.”

“I wouldn’t expect you to. This is the first time you’ve traveled alone outside the US. You learn these things with experience.”

At the tourist office we got the address and phone number of the American Consulate in Frankfurt, and those of the Attaché in Trier. I called the Attaché’s office but was told that the office was closed until Monday, and would only be open then for a few hours during the morning. I explained why I was calling and asked whom to see when Beth and I got there Monday morning. When I finished the phone conversation, I turned to Beth and said, “My dear, it looks like we can do little before Monday. If you don’t mind the company of an old man, let me show you something of this fascinating city.”

“That sounds wonderful, but I, I really need to call my parents.”

I looked at my watch; it was 11:45 AM. “Beth, it’s about 4:45 in the morning in Belleville. We can call your parents, but I suspect that an international phone call at this hour would give your mother a heart attack. If we wait until 12:30 tonight, we’ll be able to talk to them at a time when they’re less likely to panic.”

“Thank you. You’re right. Mama would really flip out if I woke her up in the middle of the night. She’s going to be sure something terrible has happened, no matter when I call, but it will be easier for her to deal with later.”

“Okay. Now, are you up to playing tourist?”

“I would be if I weren’t so dirty and smelling so bad. I haven’t been able to bathe or change clothes in three days.”

“Yes, I can see that you must be feeling grungy. Come with me to my hotel. I’ll see if Maggie has a vacant room that you can stay in until we can get you a flight home.”

“But, I have no money for a room.”

“Young lady, right now you are my guest. If later your parents want to reimburse me, that will be fine, but until then I’m taking care of your needs.”

Beth looked shocked. I had spoken to her as a parent would speak to a stubborn child, and she hadn’t expected it. Then she beamed, through her arms around my neck, and said, “Thank you.”

I was staying at the Hotel am Sauer in Minden, a small village on the Sauer River which forms part of the border between Germany and Luxembourg. It is about a thirty minute drive from Trier to the hotel, and while it’s a bit out of the way, I enjoy staying there, as opposed to a hotel in Trier, because of the quiet rural setting.

On the way to the hotel, I told Beth a little about my life and why I was in Germany. When we got to the hotel, I found Maggie, the affable, rather rotund young woman who manages the place and asked if she had room for Beth.

Maggie replied,”Nein. Leider nicht.”

It was the height of the tourist season and the hotel was full of tourists from Luxembourg, Belgium, and Holland. I asked if Maggie knew of another hotel in Minden or one of the nearby villages where Beth could find a room, and was told no – that all of the hotels in the area were full.

Beth couldn’t understand what Maggie and I had said, but from the tone of the conversation she was able to tell that what Maggie had said was not good news for her. She was in near tears when I turned to tell her what I had learned. Instead of telling her we’d have to go back to Trier, or perhaps into Bitburg to find her a place to stay, I said, “Don’t look so down. It’s not that bad. For now, come up to my room. I’ll show you where the bath is and you can bathe and put on some clean clothes. Then we can try to find a place for you to stay.”

Beth sniffed. I took her by the hand and led her up the stairs to my room.

When we got to the room, I unlocked the door, took Beth inside and gave her a clean bath towel and washrag and a bottle of body soap. I then took her down the hall and showed her the community bathrooms. One contained only a toilet and a hand sink, the other only a shower, and the other a bathtub, toilet, and hand avrupa yakası escort sink.

Beth was somewhat surprised that there was no bathroom as a part of my room, but I explained to her that the hotel had been built during the 1870s when such luxuries were unknown, and that retrofitting the hotel was not feasible.

She didn’t demure long before choosing the bathroom with the tub. I left her and returned to my room to read. Forty-five minutes later Beth tapped on the door and then came in. Her hair was still damp, but she looked like a new person. The jeans and T-shirt she was wearing were wrinkled from having been in her pack, but were clean and showed that she had a flair for things chic. I complimented her on her transformation from ‘drowned cat’ to ‘sleek kitten.’ She smiled and thanked me. She then looked around the room taking in its size and furnishings. It was barely large enough for the double bed, a small table and straight back chair, a chest of drawers that was about three feet wide, eighteen inches deep and four feet tall. There was also a hand sink and a towel rack.

“I can’t believe it. This is as bad as what we lived in as Girl Scout camp. You don’t even have a TV or a radio.”

“Well, it’s all this old man needs. I’m more than comfortable here. Thirty Euro a day for room and breakfast is reasonable enough that I can milk an extra couple of weeks out of my travel budget, and the company in the dining room and bar more than makes up for the lack of a TV, and I do have a little Walkman radio that I listen to with ear phones.”

“Mr. Hardon, you amaze me. You really do like this, don’t you.”

“Oh yes. I learned a long time ago that if you can’t have everything you would like, you must like everything you have. If you can do that, you can be happy with very few of the things many people feel are absolute necessities.”

“And, by the way – call me Lange. It makes me feel ancient when people call me Mr. Hardon. Just because I’m old enough to be your grandfather doesn’t mean I’m a museum piece.”

That made her smile. “Okay, Lange it is.”

“Now, if we’re going to find a place for you to hang your hat for several days, we’d better get going. Do you want to go back to Trier, or would you prefer that we try Welschbillig or Bitburg.”

Beth’s face clouded. “I, I’m afraid, Lange. I don’t speak German. I can’t even order something to eat.”

“Hon, you’ll find that most Germans, at least the younger ones, speak at least some English. You’ll be fine.”

“But, I was hoping you’d be where I could see you every day.”

“I’m sorry, Beth. I was hoping Maggie would have a room for you here too, but…”

“Lange, please don’t think bad of me when I ask you this. Please, let me stay here in this room with you.”

I must have looked like I had been hit between the eyes by a foul ball. Beth blushed, and then began to cry. “I’m sorry Lange. I, I don’t know anyone else here. You’ve been so kind to me, and you’ve been a perfect gentleman. I’d feel safe with you – even sleeping in the same bed with you.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond to what she was telling me. I was both flattered and troubled. As I had told her, I was old enough to be her grandfather, but I was still a man – a horny old man, and she was an amazingly beautiful young woman.

“Beth, darling; I’m flattered that you feel safe with me. And I’m honored that you think it would be safe to share a bed with me, but – well – I usually sleep nude. I don’t even own a pair of pajamas.”

Beth blushed again and stammered, “Oh, oh wow! I usually sleep nude too, at home anyway.” Then she swallowed, blushed some more and turned to face away from me.

With a barely audible voice she said, “Lange, I’m not a virgin. I’ve had sex with a couple of the guys I dated last year. I didn’t run away from the others because I was a shocked innocent. It’s just that I didn’t want to have sex with my own brother, and I didn’t want to have sex with an audience in the room.”

“I want to stay here with you. I want to share this bed with you. We can even both sleep nude. I know you won’t take advantage of me. You are too kind and good to do that.”

I stammered, “Beth, are you sure you know what you are suggesting?”

“Yes.” There was no hesitation or fear in her voice this time. “Yes,” she repeated. “I know it sounds terrible; my mother would say it sounds sinful, but I’d rather sleep nude with you that to sleep alone in a hotel room where I can’t even ask for help if I need something.”

“Okay. I’ll talk to Maggie and tell her you’re staying with me. She’ll raise my rent a little to cover your breakfast and the extra towels you’ll use, but that’s okay.”

“Won’t she be shocked and angry because you have a young, unmarried woman in your room?”

“I doubt it. The Germans are more realistic when it comes to such things than we Americans are.”

Beth was obviously tired so I suggested that she lie down and take a nap while I went to tell Maggie what we had decided. I deliberately stayed in the bar for an hour drinking a couple of Bitburger pilsner beers and talking to a couple of the regular customers. When I got back to the room, Beth was still asleep. I let her sleep for another hour and then woke her to see if she wanted to go to dinner. She did. She excused herself to go to the bathroom and to comb her hair.

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