Starting the Note

That morning, Monday, December 21st, he started the following letter to Lotte, by hand, which was found after his death in a sealed envelope on his desk and delivered to her. I’d like to insert various passages from it at certain points where they shed light on the circumstances under which he wrote them.

“Decision’s made, Lotte, I want to die, and I’m writing you this without any romantic exaggeration, detached, on the morning of the day I’m going to see you for the last time. By the time you read this, darling, the cool earth will already cover the stiff corpse of this restless fuckup, who can’t imagine a sweeter way to spend the last moments of his life than talking with you. I had a terrible night, and…weirdly… a soothing night. It’s what put the seal on my decision, locked it in: I want to die! Tearing myself away from you yesterday, in such a horrible blur of anger, everything came rushing in and it hit me so hard, with sickening coldness, just how hopeless and joyless being near you has been — I barely made it to my room, I threw myself, in a frenzy, on my knees, and, oh Lord! You granted me the final unction of the most bitter tears! A thousand options, a thousand outcomes raged through my soul, and finally it stood there, firm, whole, the one final thought: I want to die! — I went to bed, and this morning, in the calm of awakening, it’s still standing firm, still totally strong in my heart: I want to die! — it’s not despair, it’s certainty that my time’s up, and that I’m sacrificing myself for you. Yes, Lotte! Why not be open about it? One of the three of us has to go, and I want it to be me! Oh, my darling! So many times the idea has slithered into this shredded heart — to kill your husband! — you! — me! — all right, then! — when you hike up into the hills, on a lovely summer evening, remember me, the way I always used to come up from the valley, and then look over towards the cemetery at my grave, while the wind rocks the grass back and forth in the glow of the setting sun. — I was calm when I started this… now… now I’m crying like a baby, I can see it all so clearly…”

Around noon, Werther took a shower, got dressed, and started settling his accounts: he called the front desk and told them he’d be leaving on a trip in a few days, started packing all his clothes in his suitcase, texted people asking them to return books he’d lent them, PayPaled the various acquaintances in town he’d borrowed money from, and set up recurring payments to some of the artists and charities he sometimes donated to.

He ordered in for lunch, and after eating he biked over to see the D.A., who turned out not to be home. He walked moodily up and down in the garden, as if he wanted to pile all the pain of remembering onto himself one last time.

The kids didn’t leave him alone for long — they chased after him, jumped up on him, told him how tomorrow, and then tomorrow, and one more day, they’d get Christmas presents from Lotte, and described for him all the most amazing presents their childlike imaginations could dream up. “Tomorrow,” he cried, “and then tomorrow, and one more day!” — and kissed them all tenderly and was about to leave them, when the youngest one said he wanted to whisper something in his ear. He revealed that the older brothers had bought beautiful New Year’s cards, so pretty! And one for Daddy, for Albert, and one for Lotte, and one for Mr. Werther too; they wanted to present them early on New Year’s morning. That was too much for him, he gave each of the kids a bit of money, got on his bike, told them to say hi to their dad for him, and rode away with tears in his eyes.

He got home around 5 pm, turned on all the lights, and continued packing, laying his clothes and books at the bottom of his suitcase and his coats on top. This is also probably when he wrote the following paragraph in that final letter to Lotte:

“You’re not expecting me! You think I’m going to obey you and not see you again until Christmas Eve. Oh, Lotte! It’s now or never. On Christmas Eve you’ll hold this page and your hand will shake and you’ll soak it with your darling tears. I’m going to, I have to! Oh, I feel so good now that I’ve made up my mind.”