9. Karl

I’m fighting back tears in a Vienna restaurant. A guy sitting at the table next to me is sharing tidbits of local history with visiting out-of-towners. He’s telling them about the Soviet soldiers who liberated Vienna in 1945. Thoughts about Karl have been percolating since I arrived in Vienna. We worked together for 8 years in Canada. I may have shared a story or two about him on FB. He’s one of the most influential people on my life. We spent months at a time, often just the two us, living in a tent way up in the north. He was the closest person in my life, and I was in his, but so much was unsaid. I was transferred to Denver. Karl got laid off. The last time we met was in New York. He was staying in a dumpy hotel across from Madison Square Gardens. We washed down a dozen amphetamines with a bottle of whiskey. He told me about being in the same room while Soviet soldiers raped his mother - and then they raped him - during the liberation of Vienna. He also said that he was in love with me. It seemed to slip out. I didn’t know how to respond. I was struggling with my own repressed sexual abuse experience. Karl committed suicide several months later. It’s been 40 years and I still haven’t processed what It all means. Karl was camera shy. This photograph of me and Karl in the Grand Canyon was taken by Ruth Watson in 1981. Dear Nina, thanks for bringing me to Vienna. I love you Karl.


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