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This SS-Waffen Tuxedo Is Stained with Salty Tears

Pieter Schelte Heerema in SS uniform on his wedding day in 1942 © Wikimedia Commons
Pieter Schelte Heerema in SS uniform on his wedding day in 1942 © Wikimedia Commons

He thought he was at the wrong church; he didn’t recognize anyone in the wedding party. Upon getting closer to the front of the building, he confirmed he didn’t know anyone at all. He searched for the name of the church to make sure he was at the right one. It was the Church of Our Fuhrer Adolph Hitler. It was the right place.

After taking photos with the other groomsmen, where he stood out like a sore thumb despite his rented SS-Waffen style tuxedo, he went and stood outside the church. This was only the second time he’d wore a tuxedo, let alone a Waffen uniform and he didn’t know what to do with his hands. He tried to put his hands in his coat pockets when he realized that it looked funny and it was uncomfortable. He looked at the other men in their pale gray uniforms and Swastika arm bands, paying attention to how they put their hands in their pants pockets, under their jackets or just stood with their hands in front of them. He copied the hands in the pants pocket look and checked his jacket button. He realized he still felt uncomfortable, so instead he took out his cell phone and began to text, but then midway through he saved it to draft.

It was 6 o’clock and the South Florida evening was wrapping itself softly in the mid-February climate. He took out his cell phone again and started to read his inbox text followed by his outbox text. There was a group of three young women standing across from him in the church. He would glance but he didn’t try to get anyone’s attention. When he put his head down to read his text, he felt their eyes on him.

His brother arrived twenty minutes later and he went out to meet him in the parking lot. His two little nephews were in their tuxedos. One was six, and the other three and you could tell they were brothers. The younger one initiated rebellions wherever he went. The older one had found maturity in a way, and just simply watched and commented. He could not stop talking about being the ring bearer.

“Are they here yet?” his brother said.

“No, looks like we’re the first from our family. There’s like eighty people on the groom’s side. We got like what — six?”

“Isn’t that funny?”

“I guess.”

“They thought it was hilarious the other day at the dinner.”

His brother’s wife came around from the other side of the mini van with a small baby bag filled with toys.

“Hey you,” she said. “Are we all ready? Is Gretchen here?”

“Nope,” he said.

“Well let’s go,” she said. “Michael, grab your uncle’s hand.”

He grabbed his nephew’s hand and they walked all together to the church.

Once inside the church, and before the bride arrived, he stood on the side and began to text. The text read:
I’m here. There are hardly any people on the bride’s side. I don’t know anybody.

Five minutes later, a text came back that read: Oh my goodness! That is crazy, but good so you can meet lot’s of ladies!!

He sent back another text that read:
I don’t know why I agreed to do this. I basically got roped in. I’m not even close with Gretchen. I think she asked just because she needed one more person to fill it.

He pressed send and put the cell phone back in his pocket. When the limo arrived he looked for Marcela, the girl he was supposed to walk with in the ceremony. She was the third girl out. They went up to each other and he gave her a kiss on the cheek.

“How are you?” he asked.

“I’m fine,” she said, kissing him on the cheek.

“What do I need to know?”

“Just watch the couple in front of you. When they reach halfway, then we go. And don’t walk too fast. Your nephew stubbed my toe yesterday.”

“Is it bad?”

“No it’s not. But just walk normal – there’s no special walk.”

“Got it.”

She looked at him once more and walked off to talk to the other bridesmaids. He stood next to the other groomsmen, and he couldn’t smile no matter how hard he tried. His nephews were making the flower girls laugh. His brother was over-seeing them. His sister-in-law was chasing around the bride in the special room where they get ready. It seemed that his problem was that he didn’t know what to do with his hands. If he could solve that, then he would be alright and he could make it through the night.

When Mendelssohn’s Wedding March started he stood in his place next to Marcela and ready to walk. She waited until the last minute to place her hand in his arm. When the couple in front of them reached the half way point, they began their walk into oblivion.

Above the groom, he could see a framed photograph of the Fuhrer below the Nazi eagle and Swastika. There were also two huge red banners draped to the right and the left with big, black swastikas. Next to the groom was of course the SS Notary holding a copy of Mein Kempf. Hail Hitler, he said, and with that enthusiastic Nazi salute, the official ceremony began.

He told his brother that he would follow him to the reception. But right before he arrived at the banquet hall, he called him up and told him he was feeling sick and that he was going home. His brother was fine with it and asked him to call him later so he can tell him how it went.

When he made the U-Turn on the main road, he began texting at a red light. The text read:
I’m coming over. What do you want to eat?

A text came back and it read:
Nooooop I just ordered something. I didn’t think you were serious! Stay and enjoy the party!

He quickly started texting back while driving. When he finished and it was sent off that particular message read:
I don’t like those people. They’re assholes. I’ll show u the pictures I took. I didn’t even really want to do this. I’m just gonna hang at the office for a little bit and go home.

Then a text came back which read:
Well, let me rephrase. You can stop by of course, but no need to bring me food, unless you are only stopping by to feed me out of obligation 😉

Then before he could respond, another text came after that one and it read:
I am scared here by myself!!!

He wrote back: I’m on the way 🙂

When he arrived at the empty office building he parked his yellow Volkswagen one space away from the black one. When he got out the car, he made sure to put on the jacket and button it up. He stopped in front of the door and fixed the tie. The parking lot was empty with very little light. The office where he had parked in front of was the only one with the lights on. Through the glass door you could see the entire office. It appeared empty inside. He took out his keys and opened the door and locked it behind him.

“I’m here,” he said.

He walked deep into the office and around a corner to a room with six cubicles. The girl, who was a brunette with dark brown exalting eyes, turned around in her chair.

“You look handsome.”

He took a chair right in front of her cubicle and sat down with the smile still in his face.

“And you smell good.”

“I clean up well.”

“How was the wedding?”

“It was fine. I didn’t wanna be there. I walked the girl and that went as well as expected. She kept telling me to walk slow.”

She looked at his tie.

“She chose the Gray SS-Waffen uniform, well it makes sense since the groom is in the party.”

“Yes,” he said, looking down at his tie. “Do you like it?”

“When I get married I think I want the bridesmaids to wear traditional colors. What color was the groom’s uniform?”

“It was black.”

She turned her head to keep checking at the computer.

“So you ordered food he said,” looking at her shoes.

“Yes, I didn’t really think you were going to come. I thought you were joking with me.”

“I wouldn’t have come just to drop off food anyway, I wanted to see you.”

“So the reception just ended?”

“I didn’t go.”

“You didn’t go? Why?”

“I didn’t want to. I’m not too fond of Nazis. I mean, I don’t know, I really didn’t feel like hanging out with those people. Besides, I have way more fun coming down here to bother you.”

She smiled and he lit up like a light bulb. That’s how much power she  held.

“I can’t believe you. Well, I guess it’s okay if you didn’t really want to be there. I don’t blame you, Nazis are so obnoxious. But did you at least bring the photos?”

He took out his digital camera from his back pocket and switched through the three photos of him and his nephews he took before leaving for the church.

“Cute kids those nephews of yours.”

She smiled and looked at him.

“What did you order?”

“A salad and fried Zucchini. They’re taking long. I’m glad you’re here. I didn’t want the delivery guy to see me alone.”

“Their fried zucchini is good,” he said.

After the food arrived, she shared her fried Zucchini with him. And they sat on her desk and ate and talked some more.

“Did you make your decision?”

“Yes, and don’t be mad.”

“I won’t.”

His chest ached. She smiled brightly.

“I talked to them that I will be leaving.”

“Okay and you’re sure?”

“Yes, pretty sure. We need to take risks in life, you know? And it’s the perfect time. Klaus and I are not married yet. We don’t have any kids. This is the best time for me. It’s either now or never like they say. Are you mad?”

“No, but I’m gonna miss working with you.”

“We’ll still talk and text each other all the time. Are you sad?”

“A little bit. Are you really sure about this? We have job security with the Third Reich. It’s hard to find that again. I know I’m being selfish. I just don’t want you to leave me.”

“I’m sorry I can’t. The Third Reich is a bloated, bureaucratic relic and on the verge of collapse, all the satellite states are breaking away. The Fuhrer is a dying religion, and I already made my decision. But I will still be here for a little longer, I wont be leaving for at least three weeks. You can have my desk.”

She smiled at him.

“Okay, I’ll get your desk,” he said with a half smile.

After eating they watched television. He looked at her while she watched the sitcom. She didn’t take her eyes of the television.

An hour later they stood outside the office under the night sky right in front of their cars. They looked at each other.

“Are you going to eat more when you get home,” she said.

“Maybe. I don’t know. The Zucchini kind of filled me.”

“Are you going out tomorrow?”

“Yes, I don’t know where yet.”

“Are you going out tonight?”

“No, would you like to do something?”

“Not today. I’m tired.”

“Are you going out tomorrow?”

“I rented that Knut Hamsung movie. Becoming Becoming Knut.”

“Tell me how it is.”

“I’ll let you borrow it when I finish watching it. When I first got it, Klaus didn’t want to watch it. So we watched a a wanna be Hollywood cowboy movie set in Berlin.”

“What was it called?”

“Once upon a time in Berlin.”

“Was it good?”

“The beginning was slow but the ending was good.”

At this point, they both looked up at a very bright star in the night sky. After a few seconds, her head came back down to look at him. He was still looking at the star.

“Well, I must be going, Klaus must be wondering where I’m at.”

He didn’t say anything.

They both got in their cars and followed each other out of the parking lot. When they took different exits he stopped looking for her car in his rear view mirror.

As he drove, tears came down his cheeks; those little bobsled tears reached his chin, all the way to the neck of his SS-Waffen tuxedo. He was thinking about what the older gentleman at the Tuxedo Rental said about not charging him the deposit because he had an honest face.

He had to return it tomorrow before noon or be charged extra. He saw himself returning it in the dead of morning explaining to the gentleman that the tuxedo was stained but only with tears.

And the gentleman will say, ‘Excuse me?’

It’s stained with tears.

With what?

This tuxedo is stained with tears.

Tears are fine, they can be washed away, they don’t really stain.

No, you are wrong. Tears do stain, and I’m telling you that this SS-Waffen tuxedo is stained with tears. My tears.

Okay, the gentleman will say. I get it. I get it, you need to relax. Calm down. I understand now. The tuxedo is stained, but with your tears; your tears of deep sorrow. It’s understandable. I get it now. I will not charge you extra.

And his only response will be to put his head down on the glass counter like the simp he was.

So how was the ceremony, the gentleman will say.

About the Author
Fawzy Zablah was born in El Salvador but raised in Miami. Among his works is the short story collection CIAO! MIAMI and the novel RARITY OF THE CENTURY. His fiction has been published widely at Hobart, 3AM Magazine, Acentos Review and Expat Press. His short story, THIS MODERN MAN IS BEAT, was adapted into an award winning short film in 2015 currently playing on Amazon Prime. He is hard at work on a novel about the Arabs and Jews of Latin America with the working title of GITANES.
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