The Patch Of Recognition

Haresh Shah


As I hurriedly cross the Maximilianstrasse at the intersection of Residenzstrasse, to go back to the office, I walk past a couple of young and pretty fräuleins. I can’t help but stop in the middle of the street and take a double take to look back. I think I recognize the brunette with the tanned skin, but can’t quite place her. Could be attractive, but she looks a bit disheveled and distracted. The other, your all German blonde with milky skin and rosy cheeks, and I presume blue eyes looks quite attractive, despite a couple of popped up pimples on her face. A possible Playmate even. Quite a turn on. From the other side of the street, I stop briefly to look back again. I see them cross Max Josephplatz and entering the restaurant Zur Kanne. One of my most favorites  in Munich. At the time I am in the phase of hunting Playmates for the German edition. But I am late for a meeting and  control the urge of turning around and following them.

Soon, I promptly forget all about them, until the last week, when I am having a lunch at Zur Kanne, with Heinz (Nellissen). He has come in from Essen with the first proofs of the next issue for us to work on. We are sitting at the corner table at the farthest end of the room when I see the door open and the same two girls entering the restaurant – this time accompanied by a young man. They are seated diagonally opposite from us. I have a clear view of the two women. This time, my impression of them is quite the contrary. Though the blonde is attractive, not attractive enough to be a Playmate. Up front, she looks puffy and a bit plump even. Other than the zits, her  skin looks sort of sandpapery. While her brunette companion is slender and her face looks more streamlined. She possesses silky smooth skin with the well rounded figure distributed proportionately over her skinny frame. She certainly is a possible Playmate material. The more I look at her, the more I am convinced of her prospectus.

And then there is that feeling that I have seen her some place. Not just in passing, but up front, may even have had a conversation with her. When and where, totally escapes me. While talking with Heinz, I can’t help but steal glances at the brunette. The young man sitting next to her looks as if cut somewhat in her image. Probably siblings. Even though the brunette and I make a couple of perfunctory eye contacts, there isn’t anything that indicates us recognizing each other. She too is probably thinking that she has seen me somewhere, but not quite be able to put her finger on when and where, or if at all.

On our way out, I stop at their table and ignoring the other two, approach the brunette. Singling out someone like that in a group is always a hard thing to do, especially if there is another woman sitting right next to her. There is always that small moment of discomfort and a feeling of being rebuffed for the other, but then it fades away. I fish out my business card and hand it to her.

‘I was wondering if you would ever be interested in posing for Playboy?’

A smile crosses her lips.

‘Interesting, you’re the second person to ask me in a week’s time.’

‘You mean someone else beat me to it?’

‘I am afraid so!’ And she allows herself a self-conscious smile.

Susi (Pletz), our photo editor perhaps?’

‘No, it was man. A photographer. He said he often works for the magazine. Peter something.’

‘Could it be Peter Brüchmann?’

Ja, that’s him.’

I don’t think I have ever met Peter. May have said hello to him in Susi’s office but honestly can’t quite place him. After I did Barbara’s test shoot, even though I arranged for her centerfold to be shot in Chicago by Pompeo Posar, Susi had assigned Peter to do her story pictures around the city and also some additional nudes. Curious how you cross paths with someone not only once, but twice, and yet never really cross them.

‘Yes he does. Then you’re in good hands. Are you going to do it?’

‘I don’t know. He said he will call me.’

‘I’m sure he will. Just in case, you have my card if you ever need to contact us.’

‘I’ll’, she says.

And I walk out of the place with Heinz. The name she gives me is Marion Jaspers. It rings the bell, but the more I try to conjure up the memory of when and where I may have heard it or to confirm that nagging feeling that I have seen her some place, the more I am lost.


Couldn’t have been that long. Probably a couple of weeks or so later, I am sitting in our apartment complex’s communal sauna, sweating all the toxins off my pores – having reached my maximum tolerance for the heat and the steam, and am about to rush out of there and under the ice cold shower when I see Marion walking in with the young man. Sure we both must have thought what are the odds of running into someone three times in a short span of  a few weeks? If it were a fiction, I would have attributed it to the author’s lack of imagination. After all, Munich isn’t that small a town. It’s a big German city with a population of more than a million. We simultaneously smile the smiles of a certain familiarity. But I am boiling and must get out of there immediately. I exit with a hurried excuse and throw myself under the ice cold shower and then clutching my towel, rest on the bench outside to catch my breath.

When I re-enter the steam filled sauna a few minutes later and settle myself again, with them seating on my right of the C shape sauna benches, and take in her gorgeous naked body, almost flawless silky smooth skin, her slender but curvaceous and tall frame with long legs parted slightly to the air and propped up above the lower stoop of the benches, her firm and conical breasts and dark tuft of pubic, not your untended big bush of sprouty curls grown out in each every direction, but a carefully groomed and manicured slim black patch laid down like a narrow runway, did I have a sudden déjà vu.

Must have been over a year or even two ago, perhaps not too long after I had moved into my apartment complex when I frequented sauna on a regular basis that I had encountered three women entering the cabin, of what I perceived to be three generations. Still pretty and dignified, the oldest one must have been in her late fifties or even well preserved early sixties, with still firm breasts, if drooping ever so slightly, flat stomach and her pubic area not so shiny and smooth, but dry and brittle like dark saffron. Sitting next to her was Marion. The youngest one I thought to be possibly her daughter first, turns out to be her older sister’s daughter. The girl in her early puberty with mosquito bite of breasts and just a furry fuzz between her legs. The image I have never forgotten. A classic study in the generational evolution of the human female anatomy. I was amazed at how natural and comfortable they were in their nudity and unconscious sitting there together in the middle of mix company. I remember even having had a conversation with them, and the oldest one having introduced herself along with her daughter and the grand daughter. And I remembered the name Marion Jaspers.

No wonder it rang the bell. But for the life of me, since the earlier encounter while crossing the street, I just couldn’t remember where and when I had seen her. But now that she sat there in direct line of my vision, that slender body, the conical breasts and a long strip of pubic confirmed that it was the same Marion Jaspers I had met and talked to. For some reason, neither of us mention the encounter of a year or two a go. She tells me that the young man with her is her brother, and that it’s their sister who lives here in Munich but they are actually from Holland and are just visiting. That answered her permanent and natural tan and that of rest of her family’s. Probably the result of some frolicking between the Dutch and the colonial Indonesians of some generations past.

© Haresh Shah 2014

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks     



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