The Melancholy Geraniums
Die traurigen Geranien
By Wolfgang Borchert
Translated by Reed McGrew
She looked up and noticed it was dark. She had invited him and he was here. She pointed out to him her apartment—the table clothes, the furniture and the plates and forks she had. But as the first bright rays of daylight shone on her appearance, just then, he saw her nose.
The nose looks as if it were sown on, he thought. And it doesn’t look like other noses at all… more like a vegetable. My Lord, and those nostrils! They’re completely unsymmetrical. They lack the smallest bit of harmony with one another—the one is narrow and oval-shaped. But the other! It gapes open like an abyss—dark and round and hideous. He grabbed for his handkerchief and wiped his forehead.
“It’s so warm, don’t you think?” she began.
“Oh yes,” he said as he glanced at her nose. It must be sown on, he thought again. It looks so foreign on a face and it has a different complexion than the rest of her skin—far more intensive. The nostrils really have no harmony at all. Or maybe a new kind of harmony—it occurred to him—like Picasso.
“Yes,” he began again, “wouldn’t you agree Picasso has the right idea?”
“Who?” she asked. “Pi-ca--?”
“No, then not…” he sighed and then said without preamble, “You’ve had an accident?”
“How so?” she asked.
“Well yes,” he added helplessly.
“Oh, because of the nose?”
“Yes, because of that.”
“No…. it’s just like that.” She said it so guiltily: it’s just like that.
Oh my gosh! He nearly said it aloud. But he only said “Oh really?”
“And because of that I’m an exceptionally harmonious person,” she whispered. “And how I love symmetry! Just look at my two geraniums in the
window. One on the left and one on the right—totally symmetrical. No, believe me, inside I’m totally different. Totally different.”
At this she laid her hand on his knee and he felt her horrible deep-set eyes pierce through to the back of his head.
“I’m also absolutely for marriage, for sharing a life with someone,” she said quietly and somewhat bashfully.
“Because of the symmetry?” he asked.
“Harmony,” she corrected him kindly, “because of the harmony.”
“Of course,” he said. “Because of the harmony.”
He stood up
“Oh, you’re leaving?”
She took him to the door.
“Inside I’m so much different,” she began again.
Oh come on—he thought—your nose is too much to ask of me—an unreasonable demand. A stitched-on unreasonable demand. And then he said aloud, “Inside you’re just like those Geraniums, you mean? Totally symmetrical, isn’t that right?”
Then he went down the steps leading from her apartment door without looking around.
She stood in the window and watched him. She saw him as he stood at the bottom of the steps and wiped his forehead with his handkerchief. Once, twice. And then another time. But she didn’t see the relieved expression on his face. She didn’t see, because her eyes were filled with tears. And the geraniums, they were just as cheerless. Or at least they smelled so.