I tell her, I too am from the States – Chicago to be precise. The two of us making the most unlikely samples of America, still we feel a certain sense of belonging.  I end up inviting her to the house warming party I am having at my brand new apartment. She is delighted and so am I at  having accidentally landed a date with this exotic beauty.

Her name is Ann. Ann Unruh Stevens. She is a mélange of Japanese mother and American father of German descent, a Sergeant Major – an army brat. Born in Okinawa, Japan, she has grown up in Hawaii.  She is unpretentiously pretty and looks striking in her petite frame. And something about her is quite mysterious. The way she talks in whispers and the way she looks at you with kind and friendly way, somehow makes you feel special. I feel a certain spell unfurl and fall upon me through her gentle gaze. I am thrilled at the prospects of seeing her again. And I find myself already building sand castles in the air.

She is on the phone a day or two before the party. She tells me how she is excited and how very much she is looking forward to coming to my party, thanking me profusely for inviting her. It makes me happy that she lingers on the phone, just making idle chat.

‘I was wondering if I could bring “my man” to the party?’ She asks in a voice that is hesitant  and barely audible. My sand castles suddenly crumbling and all my enthusiasm deflated, I am thinking: shit, why would I want “your man” at the party? Weren’t you supposed to be my date? That is like kebab main haddi – literally, a bone in kebab. Nothing can sour more the silky smooth savor of juicy minced lamb delicacy.

What am I supposed to say? ‘Of course, by all means! What’s his name?’

Mark  (Stevens).  I really appreciate it. I’m sure you two would like each other.’

Like? To Ann’s chagrin, we hit it off right away. And how?

If I had to profile Jesus Christ, I would describe Mark. A tall, handsome, permanently tanned Californian with shoulder length wavy blonde locks, carefully  trimmed beard and the eyes as blue as coral, filled to the brim with and intelligent kid’s curiosity of the universe. His easy smiles and warm friendly demeanor has me absolutely disarmed.

Fast forward to four years. I am now living closer to them in California. While Ann is at work in the evening, Mark and I hang out frequently. When finished working, Ann would meet up with us, mostly at their place or mine and find us two twirling our snifters filled with Remy Martin, blowing clouds from our cigars and lost deep into whatever it is that we are talking – totally oblivious of her arrival. Probably talking women.  Soon as we hear her footsteps coming closer, we would abruptly  shut up – communicating only with our eyes, holding back our amazement with expressions on our faces like that of two cats just having swallowed the canaries.  Ann, shifting her gaze back and forth, feeling left out and alienated. I remember that one time when she must have felt so humiliated and frustrated that she focuses her gaze sharply on Mark and furiously stamps her foot on the ground: But he is my friend!!!

●●●

But let’s rewind back to Munich. Like a whole bunch of other young Americans, Mark and Ann too are doing their stint in the old world. Along with Gary and Michelle, Dieter and Monika and Kamal, they too become a part of my intimate circle.  Just hanging out, sweating out pores in the sauna, go swimming and then sitting around on the floor, some times sin ropas, drinking beer and wine, them also smoking pot, with candles flickering and the wisps of incense in the air – feeling mellow, we form a permanent bond which would eventually bring me to Santa Barbara, California, and into the living room of their funky farm house, calling ourselves  feel good brothers and a sister.

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