The foehn wind was a phenomenon I first encountered in Austria. People moaned about its debilitating effects and the migraine headaches it caused. I was fortunately insensitive to it, so was indifferent to the phenomenon until I experienced a foehn wind on a ski slope. It transformed an icy, perfectly prepared ski piste into slush-ridden mush in the space of three hours. The temperature rose from minus 3 to plus 8 degrees in this short time, and I understood why my Austrian friends call it a schnee fresser. The foehn is a type of dry, warm wind that blows down the lee side of a mountain after having dropped all its moisture on the other side.
MOTHER’S DAY IN LEOPOLDSBERG
It was one of those typical foehn-ridden days; a sudden steep rise in temperature and blue skies after so many gray winter days; and she felt an ingrate for resenting the drastic change. What was there to complain about sunny skies? But there was. An oppression in the clear air and she knew the migraine headache was not too far away, announcing its impending arrival by a faint throbbing at the temples. And this evening she’d arranged to meet with Hans at the heurigen. It was simply too bad; whenever she made plans for an evening out with him, something turned up to spoil it.
The little flower shop was crowded with customers as she passed by, the asters, gerbera and the nasturtiums gleaming from behind the plate glass windows with a metallic, freshly-watered wetness. The crowd in the flower shop had spilt out into the street and there were more people impatiently trying to push their way in. There was something odd here, and it took her a couple of minutes to realise what it was. All the customers in the flower shop were men. What on earth? Of course, today was Mother’s Day. Well, didn’t daughters buy their mothers flowers too on mother’s day? Yes, but they probably didn’t leave it till the last moment.
Her eyes blurred with sudden tears as she thought of Hermann. Before he left her for (peroxide) blonder pastures he had never failed to bring her flowers on Mother’s Day. Flowers and a huge, heart-shaped box of schokolade had been his contributions to the preservation of their marriage. She slowed down and examined her image in the steamy window, pretending to admire the flowers. She was pleased with what she saw; a self assured woman in her mid-forties with a touch of dissatisfaction, or was it loneliness? around her eyes. She could imagine the appropriate advertisement in the lonely hearts column of the local newspaper: Attractive woman, slim, chic, mature, financially independent; seeks companionship and emotional security in long-term relationship with kind and thoughtful male.
Hermann had been that kind of male in the beginning, but his head was too quickly turned by the hungry young things that prowled the streets of the city.
There were compensations to living alone. She didn’t have to answer to anyone, not even to Hans, although he was possessive at times. She had accepted his invitation to go to the heurigen that evening. Hans was sweet; although she knew that he enjoyed his freedom and was not prepared to tie himself down into a steady relationship with anyone.
It was a fine day and fine days had been so rare lately that in spite of the premonition of migraine that lowered like an oppressive cloud on the horizon, she walked to work instead of taking the tram. When she passed the fountain on the Michaelerplatz, she noticed that the water had been turned on and the defecating pigeons temporarily used the cobbled platz as a landing field. On an impulse she kicked with a well-shod foot at a pigeon that stood in her path. The bird lazily hopped out of her way, but a little old lady in a green loden coat and the bag of bird feed in her hand scowled at her; the ugly,hate-filled scowl of the passionate bird and animal lover who forgets that humans have their needs and weaknesses too. The scowl was accompanied by low muttered curses aimed at ‘diese junge leut’, and then with a second vicious glance, ‘a’ nimmer mehr so jung.’
The day passed in a blur. The threatened migraine did not materialize, and directly after work she took the 38a upto the Leopoldsberg. It was a pleasant walk from the end station to the heurigen hidden away in a fold between the hills, like a smile on a friendly, wrinkled face, where she’d arranged to meet Hans. There was still plenty of light and the air had that special exhilarating quality of spring, as delicious as a low-calorie dessert you can feel virtuous about having, that she walked longer than expected. Hans was already at the heurigen when she arrived.
He rose to greet her at the entrance to the garden; loose-limbed, long-haired, casually clothed. The momentary panic and love she always felt on seeing him was a constriction in her throat and she had no words of greeting, only dismay, for the black haired young thing hung possessively onto his arm. The young girl flashed a look of nervous defiance, staking her claim at the outset. So Hans too will soon leave me, she thought with a touch of self-pity. But the moment of fear passed and Hans put his comforting, familiar arms around her, thrusting a huge bunch of flowers at her. ‘Happy Mother’s Day, mother,’ he said.