My gratitude towards him keeps growing with every year

This report is a detailed letter to the author of the book Heimliche Liebe by Wolf Vogel.

Translated by JUMIMA
Original German text


Dear Wolf,
You invited me to tell you a little about my youth for this book. I am happy to accept your offer. You know that when I was a teenager I started a love affair with a man that lasted for several years. Is what I have to report important enough? Will it be of interest to other people, maybe parents or even young people? I hope so.

However, your offer for anonymizing people and places is inexplicable to me. I do not want this because I stand by my relationship with Werner, I do not want to do without it and in no way feel that I have to hide something “shameful”. I insist on openness, as a kind of conditio sine qua non, because how can you achieve something with your book if you indirectly taboo it? In order to be able to correctly represent the structures of my relationship at the time, I have to say things correctly, describe details, express joys and hurts in words. I do this from the distance of the decades lying in between.

I met my adult friend when I was 16 years old. My parents had a holiday home in northern Italy and I stayed with them during the summer vacation of 1966. Werner was 51 years old at the time and also owned a house nearby that he had bought as a retirement home after many years of work abroad. He was a well-traveled, sophisticated man who had lived in South America for a long time and already met my idea of ​​a cosmopolitan person when I first encountered him. He was educated and got along quite well with my parents – my father was an important judge. So during one of Werner’s visits to my parents, I met him. He invited me to dinner. As a result of my conservative upbringing, I saw in this invitation something extraordinary, but also fascinating.

We dined in a stylish restaurant in a small town at Lago Maggiore, and Werner told me about ancient Greece, Socrates and Plato’s “banquet”, about the ideals of ancient Greek philosophy and about the love of boys. I was thrilled. An adult had never treated me as much as his kind, least of all my father. The world that Werner opened up for me led me far beyond the Greek lessons at school, where Plato was currently a subject of instruction. It would be this dinner that stuck in my memory indelibly, a form of “banquet” that, beyond my adolescent enthusiasm, set the turning point in my mental and spiritual development.

After this summer vacation, Werner and I started writing to each other. He continued to live in his house in Italy, I lived with my parents in Bonn, attended a school run by Redemptorists, and longed for the vastness of Werner’s world in the bourgeois-clerical gully of my Bonn life.

The following summer Werner visited us in Bonn. The first morning he came to my room to see me. He probably thought I was still asleep and I pretended to be asleep. His hand searched for my body under the covers. He caressed me and my heart was pounding with excitement. I had never experienced such a feeling. It may sound crazy, but I had had no previous sexual experience at that point. I was completely underdeveloped in this regard. I had never masturbated before; I simply did not know how to get sexual pleasure with a few simple stokes. Today I wonder about so much naivety, but the conservative middle-class home in connection with the Redemptorist School had left me in sexual ignorance up to the age of 16. That morning, Werner gave me the first orgasm of my life. It was an exhilarating feeling, and certainly I could have enjoyed it more intensely had I not continued to pretend to be asleep.

The following days he came to my room and repeated his body games. From then on, I showed him that I was awake and that I agreed to his stroking. One morning my brother came into the room when Werner was sitting at my bed. We probably just barely managed to make our “morning chat” look harmless.

I don’t think my parents ever found out what had happened in my room in these days. Perhaps my mother suspected something, but said nothing; my father was relatively indifferent to me anyway. My parents were already thinking about divorce at that time.

After Werner’s departure, the period of regular, lusty masturbation began for me. I did not have sexual contacts with boys or girls of the same age, although I desired girls. My environment only promoted sexual abstinence, not physical pleasure. There were no girls at our school anyway. So I often thought of the experiences with Werner. The correspondence between Bonn and Italy continued unabated. I longed for him, for the stimulating conversations with him, for the stories from his life, for the painting that he had taken on since he had retired in Italy.

The more Werner visited us, the more often we wrote to each other, the smaller and more narrow my parents’ house seemed to me. Werner had already said that I could move to Italy with him. His house was big enough for another resident. He also tried to get this idea across to my parents, pointing out that his parents’ holiday home was only a few kilometers away from his apartment. My parents were still hesitant, so I had to make do with the fact that I could only frequently see and love Werner during the holidays.

Two years after meeting Werner for the first time, I made one of the most important decisions for my future. I was 18 years old and had to work the switches of my life. My parents were about to divorce, I had to choose for or against the Bundeswehr [military service]. Werner made his offer to accept me in his house concrete.

At the same time, I came to a point where I felt that I no longer wanted to live in my previous environment. The school had become unbearable, absolutely unbearable. It had colored my life until then in such a negative way. The smell of freedom that Werner had given me and that I loved so much was stronger than my parents’ concerns.

Against my father’s will, I moved to Werner’s house in Italy in September 1968. My mother was able to accept this step a bit because she was in divorce and wanted to settle permanently in their Italian holiday home.

In my new home, Werner opened up a new world for me. He recommended that I visit the Europa School in Varese, a school with international students, with boys and girls. I felt that I was in a completely new world, in which I also found the perspectives and support that my father had not given me. Perhaps Werner was something of a substitute father for me in this phase of life – in the role of an understanding, loving father.

The school was 30 kilometers from Werner’s apartment. That made it necessary to think about hwo to get there. Werner bought me a used car, and anyone who is 18 years old can understand the feeling of freedom that goes with it. I lived in a school that opened my eyes: with internationality, with new languages, with a different culture than that of the stark-clerical Bonn of my early youth. And Werner was the one who made it all possible. Living with him was absolutely unproblematic, more than that: he supported educationally and musically, he did things for me that were inexplicable to me at the time. What motives did a 53-year-old have to make audio-recordings of me playing my guitar for hours? I had not experienced that kind of thing before. Why would a man of his age try to manage my first school band, making contacts to create opportunities for concerts, and more?

But I’d like to come back to the question of how the erotic relationship continued, how my feeling of love was like. I loved Werner in my own way. But this feeling gradually turned into a form of gratitude and the feeling: This is where I am understood by someone.

But differences also became clear. The originally problem-free sexual relationship, which continued to take place on the level of mutual masturbation, became a problem when Werner finally wanted a bit more. In the meantime, two and a half years had passed since we got to know each other. Werner lived in a conflict between his head and his heart. In his head he was attuned to the Greek ideal: the boy alone should be happy, and nothing should happen that the boy does not agree with. For him it was basically a conditio sine qua non that his boy was heterosexual. He also saw that I was getting older and indicated that soon I might not be as sexually attractive to him as before. But in his heart and with his libido, he strove for further sexual activities, which I refused. Not because I rejected him. I just didn’t enjoy it.

Occasionally there were tender acts in which I remained passive, which I did not enjoy very much, but did not feel as uncomfortable. The most pleasant thing for me was when we held our bathing parties or satisfied each other by hand while we had a good bottle of red wine. That was absolutely problem-free for me. I don’t want to attach too much importance to these things, but they did signal a change.

At some point I met a girl at school. Of course, I had had contacts with girls before, for example on vacation trips. Sexual intercourse with a girl has also occurred before, but it was not what you would call love. With that girl from European school I literally fell in love. It was inevitable that I would also tell Werner about Jutta and ask that I be allowed to bring her over the weekend. Jutta had tolerant parents, we could have been intimate together in their apartment. But I preferred to spend the weekend in Werner’s house with Jutta because Jutta was only 15 years old. Werner had no problem with it. The room I lived in was separated from the rest of the apartment by stairs. That also gave me freedom from Werner. And in this room, my room, I had my first sexual experience with a girl that I loved.

Sexual pleasures with girls soon replaced eroticism with Werner. This cooled the relationship with my friend somewhat, but the contact persisted. It only became problematic when my desire to go to Jutta grew stronger, and with the distances to be bridged that meant that I drove away on Saturday afternoon and returned on Sunday evening. And after three or four months that became a problem for Werner.

Today I can understand it. At the time I didn’t understand when Werner signaled: “Martin, I don’t have anything from you anymore.” I saw an obligation to meet Werner’s needs, but I didn’t want to honor them because my emotional attachment to Jutta was stronger. It was no longer the joy of being with Werner, but the feeling that I owed Werner my presence, although I would have preferred to go to Cittiglio to see Jutta.

This condition persisted for several months. In November 1969 Jutta became pregnant. The doctors diagnosed an ectopic pregnancy, which was terminated in a Catholic hospital because the mother’s life was in danger. This situation was also a turning point for Werner, as he now realized that I was no longer the boy I had been, but a man. The time had come for me to make a cut. Werner carried it out in his head, but was still unable to detach himself emotionally from me. So his and my emotional life were subjected to dramatic fluctuations, if only because Werner ate up the problems instead of addressing them openly. For days it felt like a wall between us, a sad, tearful wall. That worried me the most because it brought my sense of gratitude down from the level of voluntariness. The situation escalated to a point where I just left one night at half past two and said to myself: I can’t do this anymore and I don’t want this anymore.

I found a new apartment 30 kilometers away where my mother lived. Werner visited me from time to time, asking to be allowed to spend a few hours with me, which we did. But those sad eyes that expressed his longing and the pain of separation – that was too much for me. I just couldn’t keep up emotionally. I told him that it was OK to have dinner together, but I didn’t want to be sexual with him anymore. Werner was of the opinion that it would be better to break off the contact completely. Eventually, he made a radical cut. It helped me when I moved away a short time later because I had passed my Abitur and wanted to study in Milan.

A few years later I moved to London to live, study and make music professionally. Contact with Werner broke off. I occasionally heard from my family what he was doing and how he was doing. He continued to live in Italy and painted. He even had exhibitions in Germany and received awards.

In the summer of 1977, six and a half years after my separation from Werner, I returned to Italy on vacation with an English friend and spontaneously decided to pay Werner a visit. I took my friend with me, who knew nothing of the relationship to Werner.

Feeling heavy-hearted, I climbed the stairs to his house. He opened, and after the first shock – it was really a shock because he hadn’t expected me at all – he asked us to come inside.

The evening was initially tense, but after a bottle of wine we talked about old times. After this evening we started exchanging letters again. I continued to live in London. Whenever I was in Italy to visit my mother or to reunite with old friends from college, I would also pay a visit to Werner’s. And on those visits it was the way I had hoped it to be like seven years earlier. I felt how nice it was to talk to Werner, I felt the many things we had in common, I felt what he still meant to me.

Werner died in 1980 and left me 15,000 marks in his will. I was supposed to sink his urn - Werner wanted to be cremated - in the Mediterranean, which I did. I had heard that Werner had died when I just had arrived in Italy for an Easter vacation. Werner’s sister had shared the news with me. She had probably found out that I was at my mother’s house.

The news hit me like a bus. At first I thought that I had to have a guilty conscience because I could not or would not fulfill many of his wishes. The death itself was a shock, I hadn’t expected him to die so young. His death meant a loss to me; the loss of a bond of the heart that was not maintained constantly but that you do not want to miss. A friend had died – no, more than a friend.

Today, viewed from a distance, the question naturally arises: What was this more in our friendship? What did this relationship mean for me, for my life? I would like to formulate the answer as follows: Since his death, the understanding of how much Werner gave me and how much he contributed to the fact that I am what I am today, has grown stronger every year.

With every year it becomes clearer to me what I owe him, how he shaped me. My gratitude towards him keeps growing with every year. It is a voluntary gratitude that has nothing to do with the sense of duty of that time when I felt I was obliged to be grateful.

Maybe this is the best way to put it: Werner was a mix between boyfriend and father. What he left me is symbolized by the ring I wear on my finger as a part of him. Werner also taught me that deep relationships can not only exist with one person, but that several equal relationships can exist side by side – an important finding for me. Without him, my professional career would certainly have been different; The mastery of the Italian and English language are the basis of my profession. Without him I would not have played in a professional band, I would not have made recordings.

But I also often have the thought: Would you sometimes have behaved differently towards him if you had today’s overview, the wisdom? Be it as it may, his and my life was like it was and not any different. Overall, I think my decisions were right. If someone asks me who shaped my life, taking into account everything, then I will say: He was number one. There are other people who have had important impact on my life, but Werner has set the course. So, despite painful experiences, I have pleasant memories of this relationship, including the erotic moments, even if the detachment process did not go as I would have liked. But I didn’t experience the eroticism as a problem, except in the last two or three months. I enjoyed it and felt pleasure. And the problem of separation in a relationship is not limited to a man-boy relationship. I had similar anxieties and pains in relationships with women, although the sexual desire for women sometimes continued when the internal separation had already taken place.

I spoke to Uta, my current wife, about the relationship with Werner from the first day since I met her. After all, Uta had just turned 18 when I met her, and I was already 32 at the time. In terms of age structure, one or the other problem could have arisen here. Now we have been together for eleven and a half years, have been married for over four years and have two children, a girl and a boy.

We have often talked about what it would be like if our youngest, Nicolai, ran into a “Werner”. I’ll say it bravely: I would not see such a relationship with hesitation, but with gratitude. The fears that one understandably has as a parent would most likely concern the question: is it a man like Werner, and how do you know right away whether it’s a man like Werner? I mean, you can only try that; and you need a lot of trust in your child.

What do you think?

Greetings, Martin