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If your under 18, go away! What did I just tell you?

Alone in Berlin, by Lucinda Gavin


"Chris? It's Meg, Meg Kruger," I felt my heart beat quickly as I waited
for the voice on the other end of the line to respond.

"Meg? Hi... Where are you?"

I let out a rush of air, I could hear myself talking too quickly.
"I'm in Berlin. I fly out tomorrow, early, so I took the train in
today. Then it's Berlin to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Dulles, and Dulles
to home. You know the joke that if you're going to Hell, you have to
stop in Chicago? I suppose Europeans say you have to stop in
Frankfurt. I'm at the Hotel Ibis," I hear myself laugh, but it sounds
forced. "Hotel Ee-bis here, not eye-bis."

"Oh... I hope it's not in the combat zone..."

"No, but it's a little funky here, lots of immigrants and young intellectuals," The words poured out, was I making sense? "It's a
little rough around the edges, one building will be beautifully
restored and the others dingy and covered in graffiti. On street
level you see tacky, crowded store fronts; it reminds me of parts of
Chicago that way. On the other hand, like Chicago, you can tell real
people live here. If you look higher, above the ground floor, there
are all these flower boxes on the ledges and... if you look closely,
there are lace curtains in all the windows. It's a neat place,
really." Stop. Take a breath, I told myself, "But it's weird, walking
down a street knowing you're completely alone in a foreign city..."

"That explains the phone call, but I know what you mean..."

Yes, he understood... My fear that he'd think I was a freak for
calling him may have been unfounded.

"Yeah... I hope your collaboration is going well... "

"Yeah, but don't let our hosts' gracious demeanor you saw fool you,
they had me chained to my desk after you all left. No more
sightseeing for me," Chris laughed softly.

I laughed, a little too loud. "When are you supposed to go home?"

"I'll be leaving this Saturday, I'll take the train to Berlin Friday
night... I'm surprised you didn't call your boyfriend..."

So was I.

"Time change... He'll be at work, our moods won't match... It's nice
to talk to someone who is in the same time zone, you know?"

In more ways than one...

"It's nice just to hear English, at least you know some German..."

He was making conversation, he wasn't blowing me off, that was a good
sign. Maybe he was actually glad I called.

"Yeah, but I'm afraid to use it. If you ask a question in German,
they answer in German, that's the problem!"

Chris laughed softly. God, what was I doing? This was crossing so
many boundaries...

"You don't mind, do you? Me calling like this?"

"No, I don't mind... Don't have anyone at home to call... Except maybe
my dog..."

Yes, Chris had made it clear all week just how single he was.

"You've got that seminar tomorrow, don't you? You need to prepare for

Give him an out, remind him that business comes before pleasure.

"I got that ready yesterday, once I didn't have you and Gordy and
Sacha around to distract me..." I could hear the smile in his voice.
If voices could be described by colors or textures, my boyfriend
Tommy's resonant baritone would be a highly polished bronze, but Chris
had a voice that was smoky blue, with a gentle, reedy quality, like a
softly played saxophone. It was different than I was used to, and I
was surprised that I liked it. I liked it a lot. Over the phone, I
couldn't see that blinding grin, I could only hear Chris' relaxed,
friendly voice.

"Oh, yeah, we really had to twist your arm..."

"You're a corrupting influence, Meg, admit it."

Yes! He was teasing me, maybe even flirting...

"Yes, I forced you to visit that castle..."

"Yes! The castle, and the tavern, and the disco..."

"Well, isn't that what conferences are about?"

"Apparently the sharing of scientific discoveries within the
international community is not a priority with you..."

"During the day, of course it's a priority! After dinner... well...
you saw me talking to Korlov at least..."

"He was trying to pick you up! And then you go and have a date with

"It was not a date! The man's in his sixties at least!"

"Consider yourself lucky, you were able to discuss your work with him.
Minovitz wouldn't give me the time of day until I was made permanent
staff. Tell me this, did he pay for your drinks?"


"Then it was a date."

"Argghh!! It would have been rude to refuse. Can I help it if some
men like to be gallant around a woman? Would you rather I pretend
that I'm 'one of the guys?'"

"It doesn't matter what I prefer, you should do what you feel is

"Exactly, and I'm going to behave like a woman, whatever that means.
If, as a result, some men won't take my work seriously, oh well. I
doubt they would take me seriously if I tried to behave like a man."

"Good point, I hadn't thought of that. Although I don't know exactly
how we got there."

"Yeah, well, it's a little hard for me to avoid thinking about it." I
realized Chris might get defensive at this, most reasonable men would,
"Actually, now that I've worked through it, being true to myself in a
male dominated field and all that, I've been feeling a lot more
confident, with respect to work."

"I see..."

"I'm rambling aren't I?"

"Well, Meg, I wasn't going to say anything..."

"Yeah, well, now you know... I tend to go off on tangents... It makes
me very creative but..."

"But it's something I should keep in mind if I want to hire you."

"Well, Chris, I wasn't going to say anything..."

The voice on the phone laughed again. God, what was I doing? Did he
think I'm trying to sleep my way into a job? The truth was, Chris was
incredibly sexy, but I needed to get to know him better. He was still
so much of a mystery. Chris was handsome, charming, sophisticated...
and reserved. He didn't talk much about himself. The fact that he
was still single made me wonder if he was gay. On the other hand, he
could have just been hurt very badly. Sacha, short for Alexandra, and
I speculated about that. Didn't he say his parents were divorced? I
definitely got the heterosexual vibe from him. He had a way of
approaching me and flirting, then backing off. I never pressed it, I
let him take the initiative, until tonight. Why was I doing this?
See, I also wanted to work for him. Chris was very well respected in
the field, I couldn't go wrong having him as a boss. The smart thing
would be to stay cool, keep it professional. If I did end up working
for him, or even at the same lab, the romance could happen eventually,
if it was meant to be. Otherwise, I could blow my reputation entirely.

"So what does your boyfriend do?"

Shit! Tommy! I was mentally running off with a man I've known for a
week. What was happening to me? It was perceptive of him to turn the
conversation in that direction.

"He's a network manager, for the electrical engineering department at
the university."

"Really? A very portable job, I see..."

"You noticed, huh?"

"I'm well acquainted with the two-body problem, let's just leave it at

The two-body problem. Academics live the life of gypsies in the early
part of their career, asking spouses to pull up stakes after grad
school, the first post-doc, and maybe the second post-doc, before even
thinking of settling in as a staff scientist or as a member of a
faculty somewhere. Tommy had the type of training that could get him
a job anywhere, if the need arose. Not necessarily a reason to start
a relationship, but definitely a factor in keeping one alive.

"You and ... Tommy are engaged, right?"

"No..." I knew he was going to ask if Tommy was willing to follow me
once my post-doc was up next May.

"But you're living together..."


"Have you two discussed the future?"

"Not really..."

"Meg..." His voice had that gentle scolding quality, the one you hear
when a male friend is about to give you the 'Men are pigs' speech.

"Do you want to marry him?" he asked.

I hesitated. If he had asked me the week before I would have said...
Christ, I didn't know what I would have said. That was the question
wasn't it?

"I don't know."

"That pretty much answers it, if you don't know."

"No! It's not like that. I just haven't thought about the future,
because... because..."


"I wasn't ready to ask him to follow me, and I didn't know how he felt
about getting married again after his divorce... and..."

"There's more?"

"I don't know if he's ... the one."

Chris was quiet on the other end of the line. What could he have
said, really?

"I guess Tommy and I need to talk some."

"Can I ask one question? If you weren't sure this guy was 'the one,'
why did you move in with him?"

"For the obvious reasons, I guess, and I feel comfortable with Tommy.
He's like the guys I used to hang out with in high school. Maybe I
thought this was as close to 'the one' as I was going to get, I'm
still not sure that he isn't. This trip is messing with my head."

Why was I talking like this? What was I trying to accomplish?

"If you have doubts when you two are apart, that sounds like something
you should pay attention to."

"It's not doubts, I don't think. It's just that when you're in a
relationship, you slip into roles. One's the sensitive one and the
other is the rational one, for example. So when I am away from him,
I'm forced to be a whole person. I remember what it's like to be
independent... It was a nice feeling."

"You can't be a whole person with your boyfriend?"

"I guess I haven't been... I suppose that's asking a lot, huh? To be
a whole person and still give yourself to a relationship. This
afternoon, I took a walk in this old church yard... well not that old,
the cemetery seemed to have it's heyday in the 20's and 30's with all
these Art Deco monuments and the newest markers are in the 60's. Most
of them say, "Hier ruht mein lieber Mann." Here rests my beloved
husband. It was quite moving. I guess I want that, too... I want to
find the real thing, whatever that is."

Chris laughed, "I'm sorry, but I just realized that I'm getting used
to your meanderings. You did get to the point eventually."

I laughed, too, "Why, thank you. I have my moments."

Chris didn't respond, but I heard him move and stretch on the other
end of the line.

"I'm sorry, if you have things to do, I can let you go. I've
monopolized the conversation with my favorite subject.. me."

I was relieved to hear him chuckle a bit, taking my joke as it was
intended, "Well, I do need to visit the bathroom."

"Then I'll let you go."

"Wait, give me your number and I'll call you back in a sec."

"Are you sure?"

"What else do I have to do except watch tv with German dubbing, which
I don't understand, or turn to the porn channel and try to decipher
the action with a blackout over the middle of the screen... It doesn't
cover everything..." Once again I could here the grin in his voice.
He was ready to change the subject... but to what?

"You could just pay, you know..."

"I've never had to pay for it before..." he said mischieviously.

"Oh, really?" I could have feigned outrage, but instead I encouraged
him, curious how he would react.

Chris paused, "Um, I'll call you back in a sec. Give me your number."

I gave him my number and I put down the receiver. I decided to get
into my robe and I brought a pillow over to the desk by the window.
The sun had gone down and I watched the city lights. I turned off the
lamp in my room so no one could see in while I reclined against the
window. I sat for a moment, aware of the feel of the terry cloth
against my skin. I wondered if it would be a good idea to slip my
hand inside my robe. Instead, I turned on the television while I
waited. It was 'X-files' and through the dubbing, Scully just didn't
seem right without the inflections Gillian Anderson put in her voice.
All of her vulnerability was in her voice.

The phone rang.


"Meg? It's Chris... Now where were we?"

"Something about paying for it, I think." I slid down on the ledge
so that I was lying on my back. The lower half of my robe fell open
and I felt goose bumps rise on my thigh where it touched the cold

"Yeah... Well, I meant before that."

"Well, we pretty much established that I don't know what to do about
Tommy, thank you very much."

"What did I do?"

"Fine, go ahead and feign innocence. See if I care... No really, I'm
just going to have to think about that, I guess I've been putting it
off. It's never been easy for me to decide what I want." My hand
rested on my covered belly. As long as I didn't tell him, and I could
still enjoy his smoky voice, what was harm if I...

"Maybe we should talk about something else."

"Like what?"

"Something lighter I suppose, this has been a rather intense
conversation. Any suggestions?"

I slipped my hand under the robe, exposing one breast to the
conflicting sensations of the chill air and my warm hand. "We could
talk about the weather... or talk shop..."

"Okay, we'll talk about the weather. What does it look like in

I looked out the window, starting to roll the nipple between my fingers.
I wanted to gasp a little, but with effort, I kept my breathing steady.
"It's dark, with scattered bits of light."

"You can see the stars?"

"No, just the city lights." I pinched the tightening flesh and the
muscles between my legs twinged, I began squeezing them in rhythm
with my fingers. I had to be careful to continue breathing
naturally. "It looks much better at night. Right outside my window I
can see this god-awful tower with this globe thing impaled on it. I
think it's some sort of landmark, but there's all these radio and
microwave thingy's on it that it spoils whatever charm it may have

"Thingy, dazzling me with those highly technical terms, huh?"

"Bite me, Chris."

It was out before I could take it back. My voice was tight, and I
heard myself say this more as an urgent plea than as a curse. I
could only hope he would ignore it. He didn't answer right away.

"You'd like that, wouldn't you."

I abruptly ceased my surreptitious explorations. "Maybe... among
other things... but... I won't go into that... "

"Oh please, 'go into that', I'm curious."

I thrilled at the impish curl I heard. My clitoris reawoke in gleeful
anticipation. I ran my thumb over the warm, smooth flesh I cradled in
my hand. For the moment, Chris was unaware of my actions.

"I don't think we should go there."

"Go where?"

"You know..."

"No, I don't know, why don't you tell me?"

Shit, the game men must learn from the cradle. Making it seem like it
was all the woman's idea. Well, might as well get it over with.
"Talking about sex, you do remember sex, don't you?"

"I don't think I do remember, could you describe it to me?"

I grasped the soft breast and kneaded it, rolling and teasing the
nipple again. I imagined that grin of his, if only he knew. "Well,
yes I could. I could describe it quite well, in fact." I stopped. I
heard a soft, clear, sensible tone, "But I don't think that would be
a good idea..."

"I suppose you're right, you have a boyfriend, after all..." I heard
a curl from burning incense belie the words and beckon me into some
hazy, heady chamber.

"And we're colleagues..."

"And we're colleagues..." he replied, suddenly as hard and grey as
pewter. "Maybe that's a good thing, though. Can I ask you something?"

"I guess..."

There was a pause. The facts diffused in the moonless night. "Do you
feel like a whole person right now?"

Yes, I did. That was it, wasn't it? The reason I pursued this man against all my better judgment. I felt that I could explore all of
myself, without the fear of excluding him or leaving him behind.

"Yes... What about you?"

"To tell you the truth, I don't know," Chris offered cautiously. "I
haven't thought about it as much as you have. Maybe, you're not the
only one who's been avoiding the future."

"So if something happened tonight, nothing would be resolved." I felt
my body withdraw, or perhaps merely hesitate.

"We wouldn't be alone."

I paused a moment. Why had I called in the first place? Because I
was alone. Put this in perspective, Meg. Life is short, I thought.


"Okay? Meg, you mean that?"


"Well, then," suddenly Chris was silent.

We were starting from scratch. Now what? "Cat got your tongue?"

Chris let out a burst of nervous laughter, "Heh-heh, she said tongue."

I let my voice drop a little, adding some huskiness to it, "Yes, I

"Oh wow, I like your voice like that... it sounds like..."

"The voice of your car? 'The door is ajar,'" I said, with a deep, even

Chris chuckled in recognition, "Yes... You've done this before,
haven't you?"

"Mmm hmm," I hummed in wordless affirmation, "Are you comfortable?"

"Uh... for the most part, I'm on my bed, and you?"

"No, I'm sitting by the window. The lights are off so no one can see

"Aw, not an exhibitionist?"

"Oh, I can be, but that would take the focus away from you."

Chris laughed again, but it seemed more relaxed, "How thoughtful of

"I do my best."

"Hmmm... really? What are you wearing?"

"My bathrobe, do you want me to take it off?"

"Not yet. Are you wearing anything underneath?"


"Are you touching yourself?"

"I have one hand under the robe, cradling my breast."

"Just cradling it?"

"Well, I could do more if you'd like...'

"Yes, I would like."

"I'm taking the nipple between my fingers and rolling it, pinching it
a little. It's a bit cold in here, so they both feel nice and tight.
Mmmm... I'm getting a bit of reaction down below."

"Down below? You think you could be more specific?"

"Sorry... I usually don't have a problem saying those words, it's just
that... Well, you're different."

"It's okay, you have my permission to say 'pussy.'"

"Umm... I feel my pussy beginning to twinge again..."


"Yeah.. well... I was doing this before... right when you called me

Chris let out a short grunt, "Oh man, so you're telling me that all
this time... hold on a sec, I'm going to have to get rid of the jeans."

I heard the rustle of fabric. "Okay, I'm back. Wow, you were
touching yourself while we talking, huh? Well, that little piece of
information got quite a reaction... Please, tell me more."

"I'm glad you're ... um ... responding. I'm rubbing my thumb in
circles around the areola, now. I'm becoming more aroused, especially
since I know that I've had an effect on you. I'm going to slip my
hand between my legs. First, I slide it down my belly, warming the
cool skin. I've gotten to my ... uh... pussy and I separate the folds
with my fingers. I've become very wet, my fingers are covered in the
warm, slippery fluid... How are you doing?"

"I am very well, thank you," he replied from an insubstantial haze. I
listened for indications of his arousal, the shortness of breath,
urgency in his voice.

"What are you doing?"

"I've got my hand around my cock, and I'm stroking it slowly.
Listening to you please yourself."

"Okay, I return to my pussy and begin pressing on my clitoris in small
circles. It's slick from the wetness and that makes the tingling more
intense. I can feel the tension building..."

"Meg, I've got this picture of you lying on your back with your robe
half open and the city lights behind you. I can just imagine you
arching your back... I'd walk over and watch you get more and more

I used his image, seeing Chris stand over me. I continued rubbing
myself, frequently pressing two fingers along the valley between my
inner lips and into my depths. All the while, describing it to the
other voice. I opened my robe and let the cool air nip at my skin,
opening myself to the sensual experiences available to me. My flesh
and my voice both felt tight and swollen and I needed more...

"Chris, I need you to talk to me, please..."

He told me how he wanted to taste me and cover me with his own body.
He wanted me to feel him in order to bring me closer to the edge, but
I needed only to hear him speak of his desires. His voice had
thickened into grey-blue storm clouds, and in my mind I stood facing
the wind, awaiting the downpour. Chris' once placid timber now
possessed me, gusts of arousal buffeting and twirling around. The
words were secondary to the thundering passion.

"I have you up against the wall, and I lift up one thigh around me,"
he huffed. "I press my cock against your entrance and drive myself in.
Sorry, Meg, but I'm just going to take you now, thumping you hard
against the wall.

"I grab your ass and press my hips against yours. I feel you cock rub
inside of me as I clamp down on it. Uh... Please, keep talking...
I'm almost there..."

I looked outside at the lights, imagining that some trick of lighting
displayed my legs and my robe spread open for all to see. I began
squeezing my pelvis, pushing down with all my strength. My own moans
were like the wind over an old house, keening and shuddering under the
assault. I pressed my feet into the wall as I squeezed and sweat. My
hand rubbed urgently between my legs as lightning struck, heat and
electricity searing my flesh. I trembled and slid to the floor,
listening to Chris' own distant tempest.

"I'm done baby..." I panted, "Thank you... What can I do for you now?"

There was only a heavy stillness, evoking images of dripping trees and
a lightening sky... "I kind of figured that, that you were done. You
don't need to do anything, that last part put me over, when I heard
you. Thank you..."

The wind had died down and the storm had run its course. I looked
outside to see the moon appear from behind the clouds.

"I wish I could hold you, Meg. I wish I could have seen you." Chris'
said in periwinkle tones. His tenderness curled up next to me as I
slipped into bed.

"Yes, I know, but it was lovely hearing your voice..."

"I'm about to fall asleep, Meg. We should talk when we get the

"Yeah, go to sleep. We can talk later."

"Night, Meg."

"Good night, Chris."

I kept the curtains open and watched the few stars that could be seen
over the city lights. The clouds had passed and it was a clear night.
I didn't know if I would stay with Tommy or pursue something with
Chris, but I knew I didn't feel alone anymore.

I felt whole.


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