She wanted to see him. She did and she didn’t. He at once answered her letter. And then he worried and worried that her husband might get his hands on it. He knew almost nothing about Pauline’s husband, nothing about his temperament. She had rarely spoken of him and nothing of substance. It was possible that she also loved her husband, genuinely loved him the same as she loved each man. Something like that would explain how she could seem so sincere with each of them. Frederick thought of her being with his friend Herr Lippert, now his enemy: had she told him that she loved him too? Thinking about them having sex filled him with rage. But if he saw her he knew that he couldn’t control himself and he could see himself giving the game away. There was an easy solution. If only he could forget her…go somewhere…go somewhere where he could get his mind off of her. He considered Salzburg, but it didn’t seem far enough away or exotic enough. “Does she think I’m made of stone?” he asked himself. This line of thinking led him to feeling like Pauline had seduced and then decapitated him. At times he could strangle her.
But as soon as he saw her again, all of his anger faded away, and he forgave her. She was as affectionate as ever. And what was amazing was that she seemed even more uninhibited. When he was with her it didn’t seem to matter to him that she was married. But when they were separated loneliness and pain returned. In her arms he felt strengthened by her love; only then to have the cruelties and the lack of peace and security overwhelm him. But then he began…with Pauline as she waited for him…to use indifference as a weapon. But there was no need for it. There was, so to speak, no way that he could change her. No game or ploy would make a difference.
Yet the spell she had over him didn’t break, as Frederick spent even more time walking the
streets of Vienna, and when he did he felt even more sad and alone. It could’ve been the excuse he was looking for, if he were looking for one, the excuse he needed for picking up another prostitute. Frederick didn’t want to listen to reason and never considered looking elsewhere for what Pauline wouldn’t give him. He loved the woman, and he’d tell himself that over and over again. He’d hear her voice, her beautiful voice, especially at night when she wasn’t around. On his walks, he’d think that he’d seen her…he knew her walk, loved the way she walked, so how could he have been fooled? She always got lost and relied on him. Now he kept her waiting. Arriving late gave him a sense of power, and her vulnerability made him feel protective. It was easier then to see through her, and he was tender then when he otherwise wouldn’t have been, and there was nothing mechanical about their lovemaking.
He remembered the fast time they kissed…at the door of her flat before she invited him in. She told him that she lived alone. He knew she did. He said, “I believe you.” And it was true, and he had no reason then not to believe her, and things progressed from there very much to his satisfaction. To this he could add his own brand of truth and falsehood. She tried to tell him her story. She said, “I’m always honest.” That evening he didn’t see any evidence of another man (though he didn’t look in her closet or dresser). “I have to tell you that I’ve been married.” And there was no mention of children. And then she told Frederick, “I’m afraid, I’m not very conventional. You’ll have to accept it. It should be easy for you. If you’re a true socialist. You must accept it. Blame it on the war. We’ve made great strides since the war.” He pursued her then with relish and to his surprise she returned the favor, and when they were finished they both wanted more. He said to Pauline then, “You’ve won.”
“But I didn’t know we were involved in combat.”
He then encouraged Pauline to talk, when he really didn’t give a shit about her ideas. He tried to understand her point of view without realizing that there lay between them a deep philosophical chasm. Soon, from what she said, he began to understand that she not only was “once” married but that she missed her husband. Frederick thought, “Does she just see me then as a substitute?” But he pushed that idea out of his mind.
That was when she first spoke of her guilt. She always wanted to have the freedom of a man. Instead she ended up married, became a mother, and resented it. They lived an ordinary life then, and she waited for it to change. And like ordinary people, they settled down. She insisted that they hire a nanny and yet hated to admit that she rather enjoyed breast feeding her babies. She wanted to cry. She wanted to breast feed her babies, and it was frowned upon. She hated her body, and yet wanted to breast feed babies. It made good sense to her. But it didn’t make any sense to Frederick and that she’d tell him this. None of it made any sense to him. Frederick said, “I think I understand.”