Thursday, August 3, 2017

Why Don't You Smile, Angela Merkel?

Sitting in her housecoat, the drapes drawn for privacy from the young neighbors who always seemed to be in their lounge staring, Penelope pored over her favorite read, the local tabloid.

"Why does Angela Merkel look so glum on her holiday? She's in the mountains of Italy, for goodness sake. Her husband looks like Ian McKellen."

Walter shrugged, deep in the rugby section. As if he could last one second on the field these days, she thought to herself, staring at the shelf of belly on which his paper was perched.

"I wonder if they've had a row," she wonders, her tone suggesting she had it on good information this was not an unfamiliar situation for the Merkel-Sauers. "Look at him, he can't even bear to look at her."

From out of the corner of her eye Penelope thought she saw Walter's eyes roll. She stopped, looked at him closer. Nothing. Honestly, it was hard to tell if he was even alive sometime.

She turned the page. Prince Philip was retiring from public life, after seventy years at the Queen's side. She'd always liked the cut of his chin. And even now he had the trim figure of a soldier.

She sighed, staring into his watery blue eyes. Thinking how much he would be missed. But also--really, what was Angela Merkel's problem?

She turned back to her photo, holding hiking poles and staring out as though into some distance. Really it was Ian who seemed cross, as though he'd just found out about another infuriating thing Angela had done. "The way she dumped all those refugees on her country like that? I'd be furious too."

Walter looked up. Really looked at her. She'd never liked his brown eyes. They had no luster; they reminded her of the eyes of a rag doll made in China. And not even a human rag doll, some kind of big dog. Walter -- her big, dull mutt.

"What?" For a moment it looked like he was about to say something. Then he shook his head and returned to his paper.

Did my oaf of a husband just dismiss her, she wondered with shock. I think not.

She said it again, no longer a question but a command. "What?"

He looked back at her, looked a long time, really considering her up and down. And his face -- what was that strange look he had on it? She couldn't quite say, but it was making her furious.

"When it comes right down to it, most of the time we're each just lost and alone."

What an incredible thing to say! And he said it with such warmth. She realized what his look was -- it was pity.

(Actually it was kindness, but for her that was a distinction without difference.)

She stood, as shocked as if he'd slapped her. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?" He looked at her one moment more, as though sending a last message of hope out into the darkness before the signal faded. Then he shrugged and returned to his box scores.

Still Penelope just stood there. Stood so long it felt like the sun moved while she was standing. (In fact she was only standing for ninety three seconds.)

Finally she sat back down and returned to her paper.

She stared at the photo and sipped her tea. Angela did look lost. And sad.

She snorted and turned the page.

"Well Theresa May is staying nearby. And apparently she's just fine."