She was waiting in her red open sports car. She wanted to drive to the ocean. There was a fine mist, and the wind blew through our hair. We stopped at the edge of the ocean. Luise said, "Across this vast ocean is Europe."
What was she remembering? She was born in Düsseldorf. Her father was a banker. She had a comfortable childhood. She wanted to be an actress. She had the whims of a child, the sudden impulses, the leaping quality, and a wistfulness so deep that one did not dare question the cause of it.
We stood on the beach, looking out to sea, yearning for Europe. Then suddenly we laughed at ourselves. I told her how among ourselves we had sworn never to mention the past again and each time one of us did it we would say: "White Russians!" Paris was full of White Russians who had once lived luxurious lives. It became a cliché, like the hard-luck stories of prostitutes. One knew that every taxi driver was in the past a Russian prince who had lived in a palace and had chauffeurs of his own. They ran all the night clubs, they wore their sumptuous uniforms while performing doormen's duties. They wept and told such stories so frequently that one ceased to believe in them.
I had met an authentic White Russian. She was a quiet, well-bred woman who sewed for a living. When she came to get work from me, she asked if instead of taking it home she might stay and sew in my home, just to breathe again some beauty and grace she had once known in her own home.