Sometimes you suffocate when you think of the past; of a life that never was, flashing up in sepia. Memory which is creamy-yellow, cracked; composed of protogallic acid, protosulphate of iron, potassium cyanide. Let’s not get too technical. Not right now. It makes for too much exposure. Still, in the dark, you remember that in Shanghai they used to wrap tomatoes in tissue paper. Like this story. Like the way everything in history is wrapped in a tissue; of words, of memories, of lies.
…At home they tried to quarrel over tea, though it had all been said already, and then she mentioned his projected trip to Bad Homberg, and he started shouting again, and in reply she shouted back and went into the bedroom - he locked himself in his study, but later came to kiss her goodnight - a nightly habit, especially after a quarrel or disagreement - the gentle awakening to caress or kiss her, because she was his and within his power was her happiness or misery - his awareness of total power over this ingenue, playing with her at will, was probably like the feeling which I have towards sleek young dogs who, at the sight of a hand stretched out for a stroke, wag their tails in a nervous, pleading way, flatten themselves against the ground and begin to tremble - it began with the kiss, then his lips on her breasts, then the swimming began - swimming with large strokes, thrusting their arms in unison from the water to take great gulps of air into their lungs, further and further from the shore, towards the deep-blue arch of the sea - but inevitably he found he was swept into counter-currents bearing him away at an angle, almost back on himself, and he could not keep up, as her arms continued to thrust from the water, still in rhythm, to vanish into the distance - and he felt that he no longer swam but floundered about in the water, his feet reaching for the bottom - and strangely this current, bearing him away, preventing him from moving with her, seemed to turn into the yellow eyes of the commandant with dilated predator pupils and into the rushed unbuttoning of his convict’s jacket in order to prostrate himself over the low oak table in the centre of the guard-house polished by thousands of bodies, and into the groans he could not suppress when the blows of the birch rods rained down, as if someone tightened a red-hot wire across his muscles and bones, and into the spasms of pain which began after the beating, and into the mocking or pitying faces of the onlookers, and into the satisfied smile of the commandant as he ordered the doctor to be summoned, turning sharply on his heels to march out of the guard-room - and the same thing happened with other women because, like Anya, they had all been invisible witnesses, peering through the metal grilled windows, or through the guard-house door, as they struggled to enter to plead on his behalf, but they were barred - all witnesses of his humiliation, and he hated them for that because it denied him experience of the full flight of his feelings - and today as well was added the insulting impudent look of that waiter and the face of the Saxon officer, so like that of the commandant.
Leonid Tsypkin, Summer in Baden-Baden