Little House on the Heide
Dry Aged

In the paper bag I’m holding there are two dry-aged sausages.

Across the fence, Herr Left points to Frau Left with his thumb, and says, “Seventeen when I first saw her!” We know this already. He repeats himself.

“Her too,” M says, pointing at me and catching my eye. He knows that under normal circumstances I would bristle to be so objectified. I shoot him a smile, agreeing that it’s all part of the plan. We are good at playing the roles of man and wife. Our performance is calculated but not without real warmth. We know the Lefts will feel at ease seeing their own version of normal. Our version of normal looks similar but is so different from theirs. Of course, this belief might be the bedrock of all romantic relationships.

The sausages are from northern Hessen, like my husband. For some reason this seemed like an appropriate gesture, but now I’m not so sure. Should we have brought something American? Or maybe wine or cake? I imagine the Lefts trying to chew through the peel of the sausage the way I did the first time I tried it.

“You have to remove the casing,” I say.

“Oh, I know,” Herr Left says, grinning through straight teeth that have been ground down to stubs. He jabs a finger at his own chest and adds, “I was a butcher!”

Frau Left says demurely, “I don’t know if we can accept – I don’t think we can ever repay the kindness.” She slipped and fell over the winter and walks cautiously now.

“Nonsense – no need to,” I say, feeling the guilt percolate. Today we’ll say nothing about the vacant lot because what could we say? Here’s your sausage, now can we have that land? But that is, essentially, the plan. And we have to act soon; they’re both over eighty and who knows how long Herr Left will still remember that Frau Left was seventeen when they fell in love?

I hand over the sausages with a heartfelt smile, wondering if, when we finally pop the question, she will think back to this moment and doubt my sincerity. I hope not. I like them, this old couple that has stuck it out together on this piece of land for so long. But I am afraid to become them, afraid I’ll lose my mind or my balance out here, afraid I’ll be trapped by a marriage or a little town. I need to be able to disappear back into the city.