The first thing I noticed were the numbers tattooed on his arms. I had read of this in high school, seen the short films, been told horror stories by people never there. "Dachau", he said, paid for his coffee and left. After this, I saw him often. He liked to sit around the fountain in the mall where I worked at the time and watch the children play, to give them pennies to make wishes on. As he came in for coffee more often I was able to lift my eyes and finally look into his. What I saw was not at all what I had expected. There wasn't a look of defeat. there was sadness, yes, but not the look of someone who had endured what he had. "I'm Scottie", he told me and then let me know that he knew my name was Angel. We chatted for a bit about the weather, coffee, types of clouds and then he left. When I left work at 5 that evening, he was still sitting at the fountain. He told me of being liberated, of his son, who was a doctor but lived too far away to visit often. I later learned that his son lived 40 minutes away, but hadn't visited in two years. And then, he told me about Tobi. He told me of her laugh, her dresses that were always a little too long since she was a small lady, of her love of cooking and his of eating and of all the happiness they had shared together.
Then, with a flood of tears, he told me of the day they were separated. She was screaming, he said, and holding to his coat as they were pulled in opposite directions. He was telling her it would be alright and that he would see her soon, even though he knew it wouldn't and that he would not. It felt, he told me, like his soul was being ripped from his body. He likened the feeling to being skinned alive, like something that shouldn't be separate being pulled violently apart. But liberation, as I mentioned, and eventually a new life came to Scottie.
One day, after two days off from work, I noticed he was not in the mall, which was most unusual. I asked a friend of his he often sat with by the fountain to please go check on him. At the apartment complex where Scottie lived, the manager told this other gentleman that Scottie had died two days before--the day after I had seen him last.
I've thought often of Scottie since then and broke down sobbing at the Holocaust Museum in Houston. I loved him. He was a friend...
He taught me so much about moving on. When I first heard my daughter's heartbeat, I thought of everyone I knew, everyone I loved, everyone who was or had ever been in my heart. And my thoughts wandered, as those who know me know they do. I thought of hearts that were stopped too soon, hearts that were broken and hearts that allowed the owners to mend them and I thought of Scottie.
Seven months later, Tobi was born.