Breaking the Silence

What was going on in Lotte’s mind at this point — what her thoughts might have been about her husband, about her unhappy friend — is something I’m almost uncomfortable making any claims about, but, given some knowledge of her personality, I think it’s possible to have at least a rough idea, and I think every one of us has a sensitive, feminine side we can tap into and use to think our way into her head.

This much is certain: she’d made a firm decision to get Werther to leave, whatever it took; and if she hesitated, it was out of a heartfelt, caring desire to spare him, because she knew how hard it would be on him — almost impossible for him, even. But at this point she felt like she had to stop putting it off; her husband was following her lead and not bringing up her relationship with Werther, and that only put more pressure on her to prove through her actions that she deserved that kind of trust from him.

On the same day that Werther wrote the letter to Will that I posted this morning, the Sunday before Christmas, he went to see Lotte in the evening and found her alone. She was busy wrapping a couple of toys that she’d bought as Christmas presents for her younger siblings. He talked about how much fun the kids would have and reminisced about those days when suddenly opening a door and seeing a tree all decorated with Christmas lights, candy-canes, and ornaments was so thrilling.

“Well, you know,” Lotte said, hiding her awkwardness behind a cutesy smile, “you’ll get something nice too, if you behave.”
“What does that mean, ‘behave’?” he exclaimed. “What should I do? How do you want me? Ahh — Lotte!”
“Thursday evening,” she said, “is Christmas Eve, that’s when we’re having the party with the kids and my dad, that’s when everyone gets their presents, so you should come too — but not before then.” Werther froze. “Please,” she went on, “just this one time, I’m asking you for my sake, for my own sanity, this can’t — this can’t go on like this.”
He looked away from her and walked up and down the room and muttered that phrase, “This can’t go on like this,” through his teeth.
Lotte, who could see what a terrible state these words had thrown him into, tried all kinds of questions to sound out what he was thinking, but nothing helped.
“No, Lotte!” he yelled, “I’ll never see you again!”
“What — why not?” she asked back. “Werther, you can totally — you have to see us again, just get a grip on yourself! Oh, why do you have to be so intense, why do you have to latch on so crazy passionately to everything you ever get into? I’m begging you,” she said, taking his hand, “get a grip on yourself! You’re so smart, you know so much about everything, you’re so talented — you have so many ways to be happy! Just — shake it off! Get over this hopeless obsession with someone who can’t do anything for you except feel bad for you.” He ground his teeth and looked at her darkly. She squeezed his hand. “Just think clearly for like a second, Werther!” she said. “Can’t you tell that you’re fooling yourself, that you’re destroying yourself and you know it? Why — why ME, Werther? Me of all people, when I’m TAKEN? Is that why? I worry, I worry it’s just the unavailability, that nothing could ever happen with me, that makes this fantasy so attractive for you.”
He pulled his hand out of hers, looking at her with a hard, defiant stare. “Wise!” he yelled, “so wise! Let me guess, did ALBERT say that? Deep! Oh, that’s deep!”
“Anyone could say it,” she shot back, “and you really think, in the whole world, there’s no one out there who could make you happy? Snap out of it, get out there and look, and I promise, you’ll find someone; ‘cause it really scares me, for your sake and for ours, how much you’ve cut yourself off from everyone this whole time. Snap out of it! A trip will — I mean, it has to take your mind off things. Get out there and find someone who’s worth all this attention, and then come back, and we can finally be happy together as actual friends.”
“That’s great,” he said with a cold laugh, “you should be writing an advice column. Lotte, just, give me a break for a while, it’s all gonna be fine!”
“But seriously, Werther, don’t come back before Christmas Eve!” —

He was about to answer when Albert walked in the room. They all exchanged very frosty “Good evening”s and started fiddling with their phones. Werther launched into some meaningless topic and trailed off pretty fast; Albert did the same, and then suddenly started grilling his wife about some specific chores he’d assigned her, and, when he heard they weren’t done yet, said a few words to her that struck Werther as cold, even hard. He wanted to leave, couldn’t make himself, and hesitated until eight, as his scorn and resentment grew, until they set the table for dinner and he got his coat and boots. Albert invited him to stay, but Werther, taking it as an empty gesture, thanked him coldly and headed out.

He got back to his hotel, almost knocked over the doorman on his way in, went up to his room, wept loudly, talked to himself in fits and starts, paced violently up and down the room and finally threw himself fully dressed onto his bed, where the maid found him the next morning around eleven when she went in to ask whether he wanted the room cleaned. He let her clean up but ordered her not to come in again any other morning until he called the desk.

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