My First Loves

My First Loves

My First Loves

My First Loves


"The voice [in these stories] is clear and intelligent and brave. Mr. Klima has climbed the mast." New York Times


My father's cousin was celebrating her engagement. Aunt Sylvia was short, had a large nose, and was suntanned and loquacious. Before the war she'd been a clerk in a bank; now she'd become a gardener, while her intended--originally a lawyer--was employed in the food supply office. Quite what his job there was I didn't know, but Father had promised us that there'd be a surprise at the party and he'd smacked his lips meaningfully, which aroused enthusiastic interest in my brother and me.

My aunt lived in the same barracks as us, in a tiny little room with a small window giving on to the corridor. The room was so small that I couldn't imagine what it had ever been intended for. Probably as a store for small items such as horseshoes, whips (the place used to be a cavalry barracks) or spurs. In that little room my aunt had a bed, and a small table made from two suitcases. Over the top suitcase she had now spread a tablecloth and laid out some open sandwiches on a few plates cut out of cardboard. They were genuine open sandwiches covered with pieces of salami, sardines, liver pâté, raw turnips, cucumbers and real cheese. Auntie had even prepared some small cakes with beet jam. I noticed my brother swallowing noisily as his mouth began to water. He hadn't learned to control himself yet. He'd never been to school. I had, and I was already reading about wily Ulysses and forgetful Paganel, so I knew something about gods and the virtues of men.

This was the first time I saw the fiancé. He was a young man with curly hair and round cheeks which bore no trace whatever of wartime hardships.

So we met in that little room with its blacked-out window.

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