Sunday, September 12, 2010

I am Mr. Adolf Kerber

It is a cold December morning in Portland, Oregon.

Lu is in town from New York for the holidays. We attended a sorority alumnae Christmas party last night, and are curled up in my queen sized bed, nursing cups of coffee to calm our vodka-soda induced headaches.

The floor-to-ceiling mirrors reflect and amplify the crisp gray light that floods in from the panoramic window, framing the skeletons of winter trees, buildings and river beyond.

She opens her Christmas gift from me- a mustard colored, alligator textured belt from Nordstrom.

"Ohh, I love it, it's perfect. Thank you!" she says sincerely. "But hurry up and open mine- I am too excited. It's so good." She shakes her head, smiling. "So good."

The first gift is a pair of stud earrings - little nude pink rosettes.
"Ahhh! I love them!" I gush.
"I found them at the Chelsea craft fair," she says excitedly. "You would love it. You could totally sell your jewelry there. But I saw these and thought they were so you - let me see. Yes. They go PERFECTLY with your hair and skin tone. Okay. Open the other one."

She hands me a yellowed envelope, brittle with the years it has weathered.

It is addressed, in simple courier typeface, to a Mr. Adolf Kerber, who appears to have resided in Louisville, Kentucky.
I glance at the postmark: 1945.

The envelope is torn neatly along one end, and the edges of a letter are visible. I pull it out, unfold it, and read it:

November 26, 1945

Dear Adolf Kerber:

I have your letter and note all you say. I am mindful of what Mr. Berkowitz asked me to do for you. To try to advise you is almost impossible. It is strictly a gamble and you have to come prepared to take the good with the bad. You might be lucky and get a job right away and you might have to wait for months. However, I will give you every assistance that I can, if you decide to come on to New York.

Every best wish.

Kindest regards and best wishes.

Sincerely yours,

(unintelligible man's signature here)

I have to read the last few lines a few times before I can finish, as I've gotten choked up and my vision is swimming.

I look at Lu, pull a face, and reach for her in a hug.

And now, here I am. In her apartment on E 53rd and 3rd Ave in New York City, using her bathroom, refrigerator, 2 dresser drawers, pantry shelf, and house keys. I have two suitcases with me that we've artfully squashed into two corners of the apartment (which, I should add, she shares with two other girls), and she took the day off on Thursday to spend time with me as I acclimated and caught my breath.

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