It happened at the rave. I was supposed to cover the event as an unofficial photographer. I jumped at the chance as I had never been to a rave before and hadn’t done much night photography. The rave was in an old castle on the banks of the Rhine beyond Bonn. You entered the grounds, went beyond the main walls to enter a small covered space that was enclosed by the castle walls on three sides and the outer boundary wall on one side. This gave the place the shape of an amphitheater. I saw my friend immediately. He smiled, waved and came over.
“Thanks a lot for coming. I’m very glad you could make it.”
“My pleasure. I hope I’m not too late?”
“No, not at all. We are about to start so you came at the right time. Do you need any help setting up?”
“Thank you but no. I can manage. So what is it exactly that I need to do?”
“Oh, nothing very special or particular. Just take as many photos of as many people as you can. And don’t worry, people won’t mind. If you have a problem just call me. Ok, I gotta rush now, so many things that need to be arranged, you know how it is, so have fun shooting and I’ll see you around the place.”
With that he rushed off.
It didn’t seem to be a big party. There were in fact very few people for a rave. About 100 people I’d say. There seemed to be an equal number of women and men. I was the only non-white there. From the start I felt a little out of place. I don’t like being surrounded by white people. They give me the creeps for some reason especially when I don’t understand the language spoken by them. But I was doing this for a good friend so I suppressed my uneasiness and set up my camera equipment. The light was low and since I do not like using flash I had to use fast glass.
That’s when the music hit me like a bomb blast. The sound was almost on the threshold of pain. It was like a wall of throbbing sound twisting my insides and hitting my heart with the force of a gale wind. It felt as if something was churning my insides and I was being turned inside out. I staggered and became numb for a minute as I adjusted. I did not recognize the music but it sure did slice through bone marrow and make you want to dance. It was a pity I had to concentrate on the job at hand. I was ready to dance the night away!
The music seemed to have been the signal. The lights dimmed and people started gyrating. It was fascinating to watch them. There were perfectly in step to the music. It was as if they were choreographed, which was a bit weird as I had been under the impression that a rave was all about letting go and freaking out. But their movements had a strange beauty to them, a subtle sensual quality that under the dim lighting made the dancing seem mildly erotic. I watched this for a while before I remembered the reason I was there.
I switched on the camera, cranked up the ISO and plunged into the crowd, with great hesitation I must add. I normally do not like photographing strangers as I’m too shy to approach them and being a foreigner doesn’t always help things. But my friend’s words had been reassuring and I guess the dim lighting also helped my confidence. More than anything though, the whole spectacle was too damn interesting to be not captured!
I started clicking away. Nobody seemed to mind. In fact no one even seemed to notice me. They were oblivious to my presence. I felt like a ghost passing through them, bodies slick with sweat sliding past me. I was wading through a human stream. Men and women shook and bounced. The music caromed off the walls. Nerve endings fired. Limbs flailed and clothes billowed. My camera worked tirelessly. I could not even stop to check and see if I was capturing anything. I had to trust my instincts as I was constantly pushed and shoved around. A woman’s elbow dug into my midriff. Another man’s hand hit my head. Through it all I tried to do my job.
Then the music changed. Something slower and mellower. The people changed too. The jackets and coats came off. The dressing had been quite formal for a rave. I had even seen some bow ties. Now the dance was more erotic. Bodies rubbed against each other. Hands groped private parts. Lips were locked.
I remember feeling both turned on and disgusted. I’ve to admit that there was a voyeuristic thrill in watching so many beautiful people engage in such an obvious sexual manner. I was also disgusted because such blatant display of eroticism was offending my puritan soul.
I thought about leaving but I could not find my friend so I continued to shoot. Since enough alcohol had been imbibed by then people started posing for me whenever I photographed them. There was one couple who struck some very athletic poses. The man who looked to be his early thirties lifted the thin woman wearing a sheer black negligee over his head and then slid her down his back and held her there with his big hands cradling her from behind. Fascinated, I reeled off a few shots, smiled and moved on. Conversation was impossible in such a place.
This state of affairs continued for how long I do not know. Time passed differently when you viewed the world through a viewfinder.
After what seemed like an hour the music changed again. The new music was almost hypnotic in its rhythm and slowness. Men and women swayed slowly and smoothly. The flash cards in the cameras were almost full and in any case by then the light was too dim to shoot anything. So I packed up the cameras and went to the bar and got myself a cocktail. A Mojito. It had more lime than rum but still was decent enough to drink. To the side of the bar, by the castle wall there was a grassy knoll. I climbed it and sat on the top. It was a perfectly placed vantage point to see the whole of the dance area. I sipped the drink and settled down to see the crowd dance to the undulating music.
Suddenly, I realized I was not alone on the knoll. There was someone to my left and slightly behind me sitting in the shadows cast by the looming castle walls. I could not tell if it was a man or a woman. At that point the person moved into the light and I realized that it was a woman. From what I could make out she seemed to be in her late thirties. But her age was not the first thing I observed about her. What I observed the instant she moved into the light was that she was buck naked! My mouth actually dropped open and I almost dropped my drink in shock! It is not often that I find naked middle aged women by my side. She noticed me staring at her, mouth still open, like an idiot. She smiled a little and said,
“Don’t look so shocked, I’m not a ghost!”
I slowly recovered my poise and first closed my wide open mouth. Before I could say something intelligent she asked in a half-mocking tone, “Where are your manners young man? Shouldn’t you be introducing yourself?”
I smiled sheepishly and replied, “I’m Linac Derdy. And you are?”
“I’m Catherine Baumeister.”
After we exchanged introductions and pleasantries we settled into a comfortable silence that lasted for a few minutes until she broke it with another question.
“Do you like raves Linac?”
“Well, to be frank, no.”
“And why not?”
Surprising as it may seem no one had ever asked me that question before. Not even the friend who had invited me to the party. He had assumed that I liked raves.
“Mainly because everything seems so forced in a rave.”
“What do you mean by forced?”
“Well, you see I find the whole setting artificial and too big in scale. I do not like huge social gatherings where people congregate with the sole objective of having ‘fun’. I like intimate settings. A small group of people engaged in good conversation. Now, that is something I love.”
“So do you find our little conversation intimate? Is this something you love?”
There was that faintly mocking tone in her voice again. But this time it was more playful. I turned and looked at her. Her eyes were sparkling with mischief. I smiled back and replied, “Yes, in a manner of speaking. I wouldn’t call this intimate as I hardly know you but yes I prefer sitting here talking to you instead of dancing with a hundred others in the crowd over there.”
She smiled briefly and looked at the people still dancing. A thoughtful frown replaced the smile on her face. Her eyes suddenly lost focus as if she was reminded of something. At that point something odd happened. She wavered. It was but for a second and later I could not tell if I had imagined it or not but I distinctly remember her whole body wavering as if she were a projection of some kind. I immediately put it down to a trick played on my eyes by the strobe lights from the party in front of us. She looked at me again, a naughty smile in her eyes, and asked,
“So when do you think we will reach the intimate stage?”
I blushed. Here was a beautiful, naked, and middle aged woman openly flirting with me and all I could do was blush! But what could I do? I never could flirt and especially not with a naked woman whom I had met just ten minutes back. So I did not say anything, smiled shyly and looked back at her.
She held my gaze for a few minutes as if she was searching for something but from the look that soon crossed her face it seemed as if she did not find what she was looking for. She sighed a little and went back to staring at the party.
I sat like that for I don’t know how long, lost in thought, until I looked at my watch. The time was 3:00 am and there was a train to Cologne in about twelve minutes. If I did not get that I’d have to wait for another hour for the next one. So I gathered my stuff and got ready to leave. I turned to say bye to the lady but when I turned to look she was not around! I was mystified. I hadn’t heard her leave but that wouldn’t be hard with the music playing. But more than that I think I was disappointed that she had not said goodbye to me before leaving. She had been quite interesting company and I’d have loved to know more about her. Or perhaps she had just gone to get herself another drink. In any case I could not wait. I had a train to catch.
So I went down the knoll towards the party and luckily found my friend immediately standing next to the DJ. He waved me over and led to me to the gate where it would be easier to talk.
“So Linac, are you leaving? So early at that?”
“Yeah, I’m afraid I’ve to leave. I’ve a train to catch shortly.”
“Ok. Thanks a lot for coming. I’ll call you tomorrow in the evening about the photos but I hope you had lots of fun”
“Sure and oh yes, this has been very nice. In fact, how can I forget? I ran into a most interesting woman on the knoll there.”
“Of you did, did you? Who was it? Anyone I know?”
For some reason I decided not to tell him that the lady I had met had been naked. I still don’t know why I omitted that fact but there it was. Something stopped me.
“I don’t know but she was quite beautiful and very intriguing now that I come to think of it.”
“Sounds real nice. Did you get her name or her phone number you lucky dog?!”
I hated to disappoint him but I could not escape the fact.
“Well, yes and no. I did get her name but she disappeared before I could ask her phone number.”
“Aww Linac, that’s too bad. So what’s her name? Maybe I know her and I can help you out.”, he said and winked.
I laughed and said, “Yeah sure, why not. Her name is Catherine Baumeister.”
As soon as I said the name my friend gave me a strange look. He stared at me for a few moments and asked me in a quiet voice.
“Are you sure she gave you her name as Catherine Baumeister?”
“Yeah, I’m sure. One hundred percent.”
I distinctly remembered her name as it was different from the usual German names I came across. My friend again looked at me strangely and said in an even quieter tone than before.
“Linac, Catherine Baumeister was my great-grandmother and she has been dead for 50 years. She committed suicide by jumping off the walls of this castle onto that knoll there when she was 37 years old.”