August comes and goes like a midlife crisis. First, it ushers in along with the stale air of July, and a wedding. Brown cartons bearing decades-old memories, scribbled on paper, and baby clothes.
August is when you chase for a short home alone moment of sex, and then, hurriedly, you consume it with two legs and only one hand because the other one holds the phone (how multitasking skills come handy).
August is when you have to wake up at midnight to get the aubergines in the oven, or to gaze at the shooting stars, naked.
After so many Augusts, this one I’ve opened the oldest carton resting on the topmost shelve in the farthest corner of the garage. A box of relics! And hobbies from another age, when innocence felt guilty, when shame and fear were the quotidian norm, when a schoolgirl had but two ways to escape her mind: reading books or immersing herself into the silver screen. But how about the schoolboy? He assembled model kits (boys come to reading later, likewise in numerous other aspects of life).
Together, we’ve managed to bring the late ’70s and early ’80s to light. Talking about the time when most of these scale models were glued piece by piece. Not being good at remembering ‘boys stuff’ (even if hearing it for eons), I’ve asked him to romance a bit, to find associations or coincidences that would bring ‘girlie stuff’ into this UHU play of memories (yes, his fingers were UHU-ed as he had to fix a wheel, or an aileron that had dropped to the bottom of the carton).
He started with the North American B-25 Mitchell bomber (the dark green model atop the Soviet Ilyushin Il-62, says he) of which they’ve used actual planes in 1979 when filming “Hanover Street.” Couple of days before, embraced on the sofa (no sticky fingers so he could caress my hair) we watched it again. With different eyes. Wondering if, after the end of the war, and if they’d made it (the characters), Paul Sellinger (Christopher Plummer) – the suave, pleasant, but fairly dull British spy, would have been committing to a ménage à trois with Lt. David Halloran (Harrison Ford) – the American pilot who saved his live in occupied France, and Margaret Sellinger (Lesley-Anne Down) – the scared wife. What a sequel, oh dear, oh dear!
Dreaming with my eyes open, I asked for the name of the black bird with white crosses on its wings (the one resembling the Mitchell): “Dornier DO 217 N-1 Nachtjäger,” comes the answer (how can he remember the name of a dusted garage toy so well, but never the names of my churchmates?). Oh yes, this ugly bird was raining fire upon London, turning glorious buildings into crumbling facades, as the scared wife embraced and passionately delivered herself into the manly safety (apparent) of a perfect stranger. Death, fire and romance.
How about the ugliest, and biggest, bird of your collection? That one with a red star on its tail, taking half the space under the cupola. “Ah, that one! Hard to miss. It’s a Tupolev Tu-20, later known as Tu-95. The ‘Bear.’ A four-engine turboprop (designed by a German team of ex-Junkers prisoner-engineers under Ferdinand Brandner) Soviet nuclear strategic bomber. First flight in 1952 and the Russians still use it as a scarecrow today. Last month, on Fourth of July, two such things (the real ones) paid a visit to the Californian Coast.” You don’t say? “Yeah, just to say hello to America. The old and ugly chess games of the late century.” Well, can we blame the Cold War or maybe the unchecked testosterone? Or both?
But that tiny silver cutie with the DDR flag on it? “Antonov An-2, utility/agricultural aircraft. Totally trivial. But this photo makes it all romantic, all at once.”
Another love story, this time it begins in East Berlin, late ’80s. Jens and Marion, two students consumed by the desire to be free, to think free, to fly and take photos, to rebel against the system and ultimately to be themselves. Many like them wished to flee East Germany, no shocker. All but them escaped Westwards. Jens, however, decided to take the other road: Poland, the Soviet Union, Mongolia, China. His companion and lover Marion followed him, up to the end, almost. Read the English version of their adventurous escapades across half the world and imagine a film that was never made. Think of how much value the presence of man, and woman, brings to places. Adventure, freedom and romance.
So does August, like young romance, it comes uphill and goes downhill. Now it rains, like a warm November.