It’s often a matter of dispute,
Which year it was that changed the course of history, for better or for worse,
Argument after well-structured argument, perspective after historian’s perspective,
And how silly they all are; how naïve, how gullible,
To turn a blind eye to the fact that history takes a different course for everyone,
7.7 billion human beings on this planet, and yet, you have the audacity to spit your opinion into each stony face,
“Oh, Mr. Sharma, historically speaking, this year changed the course of all our lives, and this year did not. I know, Mr. Sharma, you lost your only daughter on this day, but historically speaking, you absolutely must be happy on 15th August 1947. Historically speaking, of course.”
This is a tale about 2 blue-eyed boys in Nazi Germany,
The year was 1938 – a good year for Germany, historically speaking, of course,
United with Austria, a long-lost brother,
Germany continued to bend and stretch and thwart the clauses of the Treaty that had stolen its pride and confined it to the cold, ruthless white hands of the West.
But a good year, it was not,
Not for Hans and Rudy,
And not for the men whose cold flesh they carved pretty wounds into,
A good year it was not,
For every night, Rudy shuddered as he tasted the gunpowder on Hans’s lips,
But remained silent,
Too afraid to ask Hans how many lives he’d stolen that day,
Too afraid to find out if he’d exceeded his own count.
A peculiar combination they were,
Hans – tall, muscular and gruff, with sunken eyes and shrivelled lips,
And Rudy, oh Rudy! Playful Rudy with his teasing eyes and an impish smile,
His smile – the only thing that softened Hans’s steely blue eyes,
And when they kissed, it tasted like sin – but the best kind,
Together, they were beautiful,
But beautiful things always die fast,
Crashing, faltering, stumbling under the influence of their own allure.
When the sun rose each day,
A pale sphere of corn and cheese,
Hans and Rudy marched alongside the SS,
Hitler’s paramilitary force – united by their hatred for the Antisocials,
The Jews, the homosexuals, the communists, the Gypsies,
The misfits with paper skin and empty eyes.
When the sun shone overhead,
They sharpened their blades, and cocked their guns,
Ready to spill their brothers’ blood,
And Hans and Rudy did the same,
Silently – but with a hint of defiance,
Defiance, so subtle, a trained eye could overlook it
A rebellion against the ideology the SS forcefully indoctrinated,
A mutiny against the toothbrush-moustached man who forced knives into their hands, and their hands into the hearts of men,
A passive subversion of the norms which said that boys couldn’t kiss boys, couldn’t taste boys, couldn’t love boys, couldn’t be a freak, couldn’t ruin the purity of the Aryan race, couldn’t, couldn’t, couldn’t.
Too scared of persecution, too scared of facing the plight of the Antisocials,
Hans and Rudy played along – played the Nazis’ favourite game,
Captured the Jews,
Killed the communists,
Tortured the homosexuals,
Guffawed about it with the other soldiers.
What a silly, silly game it was.
What a fun little game it was.
Their secret tucked deep within their skin, under a layer of fat and connective tissue,
Where no one would think to look.
And when the dust swallowed the sun, and the stars appeared,
Polite and self-conscious,
Hans and Rudy lay in each other’s arms,
Shivering, quaking, questioning,
What are we doing? Why are we doing this? Do we even belong?
Kissing, sucking, tasting,
What if they find out? Will this be the last time?
Regretting, regretting, regretting,
How could we? How could we kill one of our own? Only another man who dared to love?
Gently, Hans traced his finger across Rudy’s stubble,
Over the crests and troughs of his uneven skin,
Over his grey, blood-stained lips,
And over the veins in his neck,
They exchanged not an I love you or any other endearments,
They didn’t need to,
It was enough to stare into the other’s eyes, not blinking, not looking away,
The warmth of their entangled bodies melting their trauma away.
And when dawn stretched and yawned,
The two intertwined bodies wordlessly transitioned from lovers to heartless monsters,
Butchering, massacring, mutilating, humiliating fiends.
An endless life of hiding, role-playing, foreboding, dreading, perturbation, not knowing,
Not knowing if you’ll ever kiss his lips again,
Not knowing if the creases and crevices at the back of his neck will someday be too cold to touch,
Not knowing if it’s worth the midnight kisses, the stolen glances, the salt-rimmed eyes.
And that’s how Hans and Rudy lived a secret life,
A complex web of entangled lies,
But dear, oh dear, their tale doesn’t quite end there,
For one stormy night, as the wind thrashed and howled,
An assertion of dominance over the thundering rain,
Hans was awoken by flashing lights, the flapping of dull-hued fabric against his face,
And shouts of Raid! Raid! Raid!
Dragged out of his slumber, onto weak, bloodless knees,
The echoes of a thousand muttered profanities rang against the thick tissue of his cerebellum,
As he was heaved out of the barrack by the SS army, knives pressed against his neck,
Arschloch! Schwein! Homosexuell!
A nightmare come true.
And the sudden realization that Rudy was nowhere to be seen.
Where was Rudy?
His lungs shrank to the size of a pea- his body, a sprawling oak,
And there was not enough oxygen to breathe,
Gasping, spluttering, choking against the mixture of air and water and blood and panic that filled his throat,
He retched, squeezing out the syllables as saline water dripped out of his eyes,
“R-U-D-Y. Where is Rudy? Rudy. Ru-“
A stinging sensation spread across his cheek, as a giant palm smothered his mouth,
“Halt dein dreckiges Maul,” a soldier grunted. Shut your dirty mouth.
The crowd of soldiers and the single Antisocial were headed towards the Holocaust trains.
A buzz of conversation broke out as the soldiers exchanged glances and sly smirks,
Did you know?
No, did you?
They didn’t seem like they were fucking, did they? Imagine fucking in the barracks, with mud and hay freely entering your genitals.
Laughter. Loud and raucous.
Bundled into a Holocaust train that night,
Hans took the familiar journey to a concentration camp,
As thousands of his brothers had, before him
Cramped, suffocated against a hundred lifeless bodies of men who lay littered around him like bread crumbs, he murmured the golden-haired boy’s name,
A million times – until it sounded like poetry,
Until he forgot what it meant,
What was he muttering?
Why was he muttering it?
Who was Rudy?
Why was he here in this train tonight?
Dawn approached – the sky, a pastel canvas of childish smears,
As the misfits were escorted out by SS soldiers brandishing guns,
Hans recognized a familiar face,
Chiselled jaw and button eyes, Leon. Leon, from the barrack next door,
Threatening, tormenting, barking orders at the Antisocials as they alighted from the train and formed a queue.
Caught in an empty limbo – one which didn’t allow them to be friends but hindered them from being enemies, Leon would always at Hans and Rudy,
An acknowledgement of what they shared.
An agreement, that he disagreed, but would leave them alone.
As the misfits were herded out of the train in lines,
Hans whispered to Leon as he passed by him,
Leon, where is my lover? Where is my Rudy? Where, where, where.
Leon paused, his lips pursed, unsure of whether he wanted to reply.
Finally, after a surreptitious glance to the left and to the right, he whispered back,
Unwilling to make eye contact,
Unwilling to acknowledge his acknowledgement,
Unwilling to display sorrow, unwilling to not,
“Rudy informed us that we have a homosexual in our army. He told us it was you.
And a grand, grand prize he’s received – for being our informant. Poor kid – he said he needed the money.”
1938 was the year Hans Schneider tasted betrayal for the first and the last time.
Like poison, it corrupted his lungs, his heart, his gut, his soul,
Scientifically speaking, he succumbed to a heart attack.
Extreme shock, a doctor would call it,
But his heart died a little before the rest of his body collapsed,
His veins – a disintegrating mess of blood and tissue,
And the Antisocials besides him, in queue, claimed that he muttered a final phrase before he collapsed, a nonsensical, unintelligible string of words that knotted their eyebrows and clouded their eyeballs,
“I want to see your smile again, one last time.”
He said tightly,
Before he fell to the dirt that would soon swallow him whole; frothing at the mouth.
1938 – It was the year a love story crumbled into slippery dust,
A greedy lover, a stolen life,
A playful traitor, a naïve stoic.
Whilst Germany had ridden itself off one more mutation,
one more impurity,
just another godforsaken Antisocial.
And what a good year it had been –
historically speaking, of course