“Where is Ruben?” Rebekka’s first question was when she entered the empty store that evening.
“Are we perhaps nobody?” Samuel replied as Lilith went silently to the kitchen. It was time to make more tea, or just dodge the question. Something is always to be done somewhere, if one wanted to evade a question.
“Of course not, but it does not matter if he is not there,” Rebekka explained. “Besides, I would ask if you were not here, or even Lilith. Did not I seek you when I did not find you?”
“If you had found me, you would not have had to look for me,” Samuel explained. “Ruben is not there. He has the right to be somewhere else.”
“Of course he has the right,” replied Rebekka, “but he was always here, and it is noticeable, if he is not. That is why I asked. Do not feel so affected.”
“I have not felt anything at all. What you always believe you hear. It would be better if you heard what I say, but you do not do that often enough. That has something to do with politeness, that you listen to the other, or did not your mom teach you?” Samuel said, as aggressive as he was.
“Oh, no, you did not feel attacked, and although I did nothing more than ask a simple question,” Rebekka replied angrily. “And then you must jump into my face like a wildcat. Do you think you’re better?”
“It’ll be time,” Samuel said, leaning back in his chair, clasping his hands demonstratively in front of his chest, “Now finally you show your true face!”
“And you, too,” Rebekka replied, “I always knew that you were only pretending to be so gentle and understanding, and what I know what else, but in fact you are really different. Now finally you drop the mask. “
“Well, you cannot really blame yourself, because you showed from the beginning how bitchy and churlishly you are,” said Samuel unmoved.
And it was the moment when they were no longer content to shoot imaginary arrows at each other, as Lilith stepped between them, as deliberately as possible, placing the cup on the table. She had done this silently, even when she looked at the two of them. First Rebekka. Then Samuel. Silently she stood between them, but she was still unsure.
“You know what you’re doing right now?” Lilith asked softly, her voice full of grief, “Do you really realize you’re on the right track to be at war with one another?”
“But he did …” Rebekka began.
“But she did …” Samuel began as well.
“But nothing did he, did she,” Lilith interrupted them uncomfortably, “If, then you already have both. Always someone has started. No one has ever begun. But always has always who reacts to the beginning. Whereupon the other reacted, and said he had only reacted, while the other one was acting and vice versa. It is completely irrelevant whether someone has started or has not begun, whether someone has responded or did not react, whether someone has acted or not, the result is always the same. Mutual blame assignments, which do not carry us further, and deepen us deeper and deeper, until we no longer know whether there can ever be a way to reunite us. And then you are surprised that there is war in the world. Each one of them has started like this one. “
Silence filled the room. It was not a good silence, but one that was filled with suspense, but also repentance. It was that silence in which everyone wanted to go to the other, but did not know how to do it without losing his face. Honor and pride and self-respect were at stake, and what else there were in terms of ideas and opinions, which were so often in the way of each other as much as they wanted. Anyone who would take the first step would have lost, would be inferior and would be in the wrong. You did not want that.
“Both of you are wrong and you both are right,” Lilith finally broke the silence, “Both of you have contributed to the fact that the disbelief has arisen. Both of you have contributed to the fact that an understanding is no longer possible. So it would be just and equitable that you both now also contribute your part to the fact that peace comes again.”
“And how is that going?” Rebekka asked.
“What if you just start all over again,” Lilith suggested.
“And where did we start?” Rebekka tried to remember.
“You asked where Ruben is, I believe,” Samuel helped her.
“Oh, right, thank you,” Rebekka said, and then there was a smile on her face again, because it suddenly seemed so unreal that she had asked the question the way she asked.
“Gladly,” Samuel replied, accepting the smile because it suddenly seemed so unreal to him that a single question could have brought him to the palm. The most trivial reasons that cause disaffection.
“Ruben is not there, because he said he could not stay,” Lilith explained briefly, “It is important to find out where the place is, where you can stay and where not. For each of us.”
“But I had thought, you two, I mean, now, just before Christmas,” Rebekka began, stiff as if stumbling over her own words.
“It does not matter whether just before Christmas or not, whether now or at another time,” Lilith explained thoughtfully, “We always go home. Some of us find this place earlier, some later. Some also never. Others find it, but are unsure if it is real. Perhaps it just happens to him.”
Timidly the door was opened. Ruben stepped in and stood, his eyes wandering shyly from one to the other before they fell to the ground, as if he had lost something that he had to seek urgently while his hands clasped his hat, which he had taken from his head . Lilith went up to him, took his hat from his hands, to open it and take it into hers.
“I’m sorry …” Ruben started quietly, but Lilith did not let him go any further.
“There’s nothing you need to apologize to, nothing to be sorry for,” she said gently, “it’s good that you’re here.”
And it was the embrace that brought him home. It was the atmosphere of peace and joy and togetherness. As if it had never been different and he had never been away.