“A Contented Man”

Joachim Hartmann was a contented man. He had gone far in the profession he had dreamed of as long ago as his college days, and he had recently gotten married to a woman who was genuinely supportive of him. His wife Corinna had inherited a considerable fortune, and with this, they purchased one of the single-story, pastel-hued bungalows in Dreipfuhl Park which had been constructed for US officers back in 1956, the park itself being a Nazi-era creation. In keeping with the American suburban ideal, they placed a Porsche Cayenne for her and a Mercedes SLK for him in the driveway, and decided to no longer make do with being content, but to be truly happy.

In other words, Corinna decided this for both of them. She was no longer as young as she had once been, having reached the age of forty-six, and Joachim knew that every one of her previous relationships had ended on a traumatic note. He also knew that she had pinned all her hopes on him. Shortly after they met, he told her he had no plans to ever marry again. It was enough for him to have had this experience once in his lifetime. She had nodded in response, claiming she understood where he was coming from. Yet two years later, he found himself once again standing in the marriage license office, and he once again found that, in principle, it was all the same to him. If you’ve been married once, it’s easy enough to go through it a second time.

Besides that, there seemed to be a lot going for this marriage. For example, they had similar interests: He worked as a drama critic for the arts page of a large daily newspaper, and she was the state director for cultural events in the capital. This meant that both privately and professionally there were always sufficient conversation topics and points of intersection. Recently he had been awarded a fairly prestigious cultural prize, and thanks to Corinna, half of Berlin’s political who’s who had come to the ceremony. Moreover, Corinna was too old to want children, which might have been a problem with a younger woman. Furthermore, he valued her quiet, intellectual ways. And since they both had solid financial support behind them, they could pursue a relaxed, fully equal partnership. Thus, Corinna was happy, and Joachim was content. Until he caught sight of the girl from the Renoir painting in the flesh.