Sunday, March 27, 2005

My Beautiful Wife

Some months ago, a woman who lives in our apartment complex encountered my wife and recognized her as "the person married to that foreigner." What the woman particularly wanted to know was:

"Why did he marry you? You're not beautiful."

I suppose that there's always a story to tell . . . I met my wife in Germany, on a train. I hadn't noticed her standing on the platform before boarding, but she had already observed me, perceived the danger, and kept her distance.

Despite her effort to avoid me, I happened to sit down beside her. Pure chance -- it was the only empty seat. (My wife says fate.)

"Hello," I said, noticing her for the first time, and liking what I saw.

"Hello," she responded, in a low, wary, but husky and thereby enticing voice.

"I'm Jeff Hodges," I told her.

"I'm Sun-Ae," she told me.

"What does your name mean?" I asked.

"Good Love," she revealed.

I took it as a sign and decided to marry her. But I had to win her heart. So, I asked her what she was studying.

"Robert Musil," she said, still wary.

Now, I don't know that "Musil" derives from "muse," and it may be just a variant of "mueseli," but I took him as my inspiration:

"Oh," I noted, "The Man Without Qualities."

By chance (or was it fate?), I had recently begun reading that novel.

In German.

In fact, the entire conversation with this unexpected love of my life was taking place in German.

I am terrible at foreign languages, not particularly eloquent in my own, and was having to woo in a tongue suited less to expressing passionate love than to explaining the mechanical workings of an internal combustion engine. Even the German title of Musil's book sounds mechanical: Der Man ohne Eigenschaften.

Rather like a piston, isn't it: Ei-gen-shaft-en. Ei-gen-shaft-en. Ei-gen-shaft-en. Ei-gen-shaft-en. Ei-gen-shaft-en . . .

She, however, was impressed. Especially when I related the opening story, which introduces the main character, Ulrich, who meets a beautiful, mysterious woman through a series of unfortunate events and accidentally wins her heart.

This introductory part of the novel ends with the dry observation that:

"One week later, she was already seven days his beloved."

Which I quoted.

I may not have won her heart with that, but I caught her attention. And over poetry the following evening, I captured her heart.

When I took her to my Ozark home to meet my family, everyone was impressed with her but also baffled. My youngest brother put it succinctly:

"How did Jeff ever get such a beautiful girlfriend?"

How indeed. I owe it all to a man without qualities.


At 12:30 AM, Blogger Dennis Mangan said...

Thanks, Jeff. A beautiful story to go with your beautiful wife.

At 6:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a romantic story. I hope I can have a chance to meet my fate on a train, and the seat beside him will be empty..^^

At 7:59 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yujin, you have to meet opportunity head on and grab it by the forelock.

The seat won't always be empty, but you'll find other places to sit if the man is really the right one.

At 10:07 PM, Blogger Michael Turton said...

Definitely fate! What a great story!

Yujin, note that while it was luck that his wife sat down there, it took brains to recognize the opportunity. Moral of the story: life sends you many Mr. Rights. In life the most important thing isn't luck, but timing -- not getting opportunities, but recognizing them when they are offered.

At 11:56 AM, Blogger Joel Haas said...

Followed the link from Michael Turton's blog over here for this GREAT story! I had to read this Robert Musil novel years ago for a German lit course--never did That much for me!

At 4:47 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Joel. You know, I never did finish that book. My life was rather full after meeting Sun-Ae.

At 10:09 AM, Blogger Jessica said...

Stumbling across this post long after you wrote it--the moment couldn't have been scripted better.

At 6:16 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Jessica. I actually responded to your comment, but in the recent Blogspot troubles, my response seems to have gone missing.

As for the script, if my wife is right about fate (or providence), it was scripted.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 8:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i can only dream of romance like this...

At 8:31 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Just keep dreaming . . .

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 12:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What can I say? Minus your (sorta?) dissatisfaction with your career, you're living an enviable life.

And you made it happen...


At 7:14 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I got very lucky, Lollabrats.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


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