He told me his story one cold Friday night at my favourite oasis, 'Charlie's Hangout.' I had noticed him a few times, but you could nowhere say he was a regular. I had noticed him because he always looked a bit gloomy, and the few times I had seen him he had finished his last beer at about quarter to twelve, and then he left.
This Friday night he was there when I entered at about half past nine. Sitting at his table with his beerglass almost empty. As I passed him on my way to the bar I said: "See you're running dry. Can I bring you another?"
"Yeah, thank you."
At the bar I dealt my usual nods and 'hello's, got my two Carlsberg draughts and returned to his table.
"There you are. I'm Peter, by the way. May I sit down?"
"Sure. I'm Alfred."
"I've seen you a few times, but you're not a regular."
"No. I only come here about once a month."
"Yes, that figures. You don't seem to have much fun, though."
"Can't say that I do. I don't come here to have fun, only to pass the evening and to get a little drunk."
"Oh, is that so? How come?"
"Aaww, that's a long and strange story, it wouldn't interest you."
"On the contrary. Long and strange stories interest me very much, especially if it's a story which explains why a guy, who looks to have made it, is so gloomy."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you're a pretty handsome man, your clothes, your watch, your language and your behaviour don't tell of a looser."
"You could say that. I'm not a looser, and then, I am in a way. That's the strange story."
"If you want to tell it, I'm very interested. I'm a good listener, and I love long and strange stories."
"I don't know why I trust you to keep it a secret, but I do, and I have to say that I'd like to get it off my chest."
"You can trust me in that department. I'd never tell your secret to anyone."
"OK, then. Let me get us a refill, before I start."
He got up, and returned from the bar with two pints of draught.
"You see, it started way back, in college. I had only ten months left before I'd qualify as an electronic engineer. Then I met my fate at a party. Her name was Carla."
He lifted his glass and saluted me. We took a sip, and he continued:
"I was infatuated from minute one. My attention was drawn to her at first because of her extraordinary beauty, but I quickly found out that she was very bright, sensitive, had a lot of humour, and she was an excellent dancer. Contrary to my expectations, but very much in line with my hopes, we ended up in bed at my place. Neither of us was a virgin, and we really went to town. At four o'clock in the morning we had finally reached a level of exhaustion where we simply had to go to sleep, only to wake up seven hours later to continue where we left. She was not only beautiful, she was a randy, uninhibited and wicked lover. Sunday at brunch we talked about where to go in the afternoon. I had had my mind set on an opera matinee, and when her first proposal was that we went to an opera matinee, if I in any way could stand opera, I was lost."
His face had lost a lot of its gloom while he recounted this first meeting. We took another sip of our beers, and Alfred continued:
"Over the next two months my infatuation gradually changed into a deep and sincere love. A little worm kept nagging me: Why had this wonderful woman not yet been spoken for? On the other hand, I was free on the market too, so what? Our graduation was getting closer. Carla had studied French and American literature. Graduation usually meant getting a job, wherever one was to be found, and the possibility of us being separated was very close to my mind. When we had known each other for seven months I felt absolutely sure, that if ever I was to get married, Carla was to be the woman. I started dropping little hints in that direction, and at first she seemed not to notice. Two months before graduation I brought up the subject again, getting as close to a proposal as possible, without crossing the line. This made her look at me with love in her eyes, but also with a sudden sadness, I couldn't understand. "Oh, oh," she said, "here we go."
At this point Alfred stopped. He grabbed his glass and drained it, and then he looked at me: "I think I'll need another beer before I can go on with this." So I drained my glass too, and went to the bar for another two pints.
"Carla had this love and sadness in her eyes when she told me, that she had never loved anybody as much as she loved me, but it was impossible for her to marry me. It was none of my fault, she said, it was all hers. Of course I wanted to know why, but she said she wasn't so sure I'd like to know. And of course I pressed her, and at last she said: "All right, Alfred, let's get it out. Open a bottle of wine, and let's sit down. This is going to take some time." And then she started telling me a long story, much in the same way I'm telling you mine right now."
Alfred looked up at me and raised his glass. "Cheerio, mate. And brace yourself." We sipped our beer in silence for a little while, and then he started talking again.
"She told me she had this 'kink', 'quirk', 'perversion', or whatever I'd like to call it. "And don't you think I haven't tried to fight it." She had seen a shrink for over two years, she'd tried to withdraw, but she said that much like men who have to dress up in women's clothes sometimes, you can only fight it for so long, and then you just have to give in, no matter the consequences. She told me she tried to withdraw again about four months ago, when she had realised that she was falling seriously in love with me, but it didn't help. She certainly had my attention at that point. I mean, I knew about most of the human perversions, and a lot of them I could live with easily. What the hell was so terrible that she couldn't marry me?"
"She was very reluctant, but finally she blurted out: "All right, Alfred, there's only one way to tell you: The hard and honest way. I get this intolerable craving about once a month: I have to go and get myself fucked silly by two or three black guys who use and abuse me. There, now it's out." I tell you, I was stunned, and I was silent for several minutes, trying to digest this, one way or another. My first inclination was to get up and kick her out and never to see her again. What do you think? How would you have handled it?"
He looked up at me again, but this time his eyes did not reveal much.
"I really don't know, Alfred. I just don't know. You see, perhaps I'm not the right person to ask that question. The last five years before my wife died, we had a 'kink' of a similar kind: I enjoyed sharing my wife now and then, with a complete stranger. But then, I had known her for many years, and I knew it would not endanger our marriage, and I was the one who took the initiative."
"Well, at least you can understand me, kind of. You see, when the first waves of despair had died down, I was left with two strong emotions: I was terribly sad, I was devastated, that I was going to lose her, but in a strange way it excited me,... the thought of a woman in that situation. But I knew it would be a chest of explosives to use for foundation of a marriage. I know it wasn't the most masculine thing to do, but I couldn't prevent my tears from rolling down my cheeks. And that's what we did for a while, we held each other and we cried a lot."
"Before you tell me more, let me go and get us another couple of beers. I need one, and so must you." Alfred grinned at me and nodded, and when I returned to our table he only looked halfway as gloomy.
"Phew, it was good to get half of it off my chest," he smiled at me, "but the worst parts are yet to come. But anyway, thanks. This is the first time half of my waiting time has passed so fast." He lifted his glass, and we saluted each other. "What happened more, that evening?" I asked.
"Well, I had experienced a couple of times before, that it's often easier to talk and tell the truth, when one is driving through the night, so I suggested that we got into my car and took a long drive down the coast. And in a way it helped at lot, at least it did clarify a lot of things. But on the other hand I have often wished, that I'd kicked her out that evening. At least my life wouldn't have become this roller coaster ride from despair to excitement, from love to contempt."
"Well, as I drove the car through the dark night, at first our crying died down, and then, of course, I wanted to know why. But she couldn't tell, because she didn't know. "It has absolutely nothing to do with you, like you being inadequate, or something," she said, "on the contrary, you're the best lover ever. It's all inside myself." She said I was the first man she'd ever wanted to spend her life with, and that was why she was so sad. She had learned to accept herself and her perversion, and that was the only benefit she had had out of psychoanalysis, even if she'd spent a fortune on shrinks. But she also knew, that she was unable to promise me that she'd stop, and that it was such a horrendous demand to put to any man. We didn't reach any conclusions that night, but at least, when the sun rose over the Atlantic on our way back, we had decided not to end our relationship there and then, and that I'd need to digest what I'd just learned. But she did convince me, though, that she had no greater wish than to become my wife, and that the decision was up to me."
.... There is more of this story ...