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Mark demonstrates that just because you didn't take that crossroad... well, maybe you did.

Uncertainty

By Mark Siegel

Rosen staggered past a park bench, toward two homeless men rummaging in a trash bin at the edge of the street and Leipzig's central park.They were that generic type of bum, homo vagas, aged and ageless, chaotically uniformed, individuals only to themselves.Checking his wound, Rosen zipped up the leather so the blood wouldn't be noticed.He felt bad for its former owner, but he'd simply grabbed for something, as he'd run from the restaurant while the Nazis were beating the waiter who had tried to intercede for him.

They'd have others chasing him now, maybe even the Gestapo.He couldn't go home or to any of his known friends. He needed a moment to think, and the bums offered a reasonable cover for a man none too steady on his feet.Until 1932, when the Jews were expelled from the universities, he would have been startled by the notion of any similarity.But now, in 1939, the only issue was who would be rounded up first, the Jews, the homosexuals, or the vagrants.Vulnerable on all three fronts, ex-professor Rosen smiled to himself; even his desperation seemed academic.

He huddled against the trash bin, his back to the street traffic and the self-congratulatory shouts of Hitler's thugs on their way to and from one atrocity or another.There was something wild, unprecedented in the air tonight, and all the animals felt it, Rosen thought.The bums snarled at him like small dogs, even as they backed away a few steps, but when Rosen made no further move toward them, they went back to the trash bin.With a mumble of triumph, one of them dumped a twined package of newspaper out onto the grass, and the two began pawing at the strings.When Rosen saw the front page of the top paper, he stepped forward, slit the twine with a penknife, and grabbed at the familiar picture.The bums snarled again, snatching up the rest of their insulation and heading deeper into the park to bed down.A light rain had begun to fall.

Werner Heisenberg had won the Nobel Prize for Physics.Of all people, Werner! Not only were they both still relatively young men, but Rosen had always imagined his old scouting friend as a professional musician.He hadn't seen him since that night in Bavaria, had he?Or, at least not since some time shortly thereafter, when the Jews were "officially" banned from the Pathfinders, and even Werner could no longer allow him to remain in his scouting group.In all their years of hiking through the Alps with Gruppe Heisenberg, Werner had never once discussed physics with his young men as they camped under the stars.

When the newspaper article mentioned Geldstrasse, right here in central Leipzig, Rosen made up his mind.While it didn't give an address, Rosen remembered the house, remembered it from years ago. He ruefully smiled, because of all the times he'd walked past the house without getting up the nerve to knock on the door.Now he had that nerve, because he had no choice.If anyone was going to be able to help him escape the camps, it would be Adolf's new fair-haired genius.The Nazis would need their new super-star, someone to repair the damage done by the defection of Schrodinger and Einstein.Rosen dropped the now soggy paper back into the bin and headed off down the street.

An impromptu roadblock had been set up at the mouth of Geldstrasse.The Nazis were checking papers, shuffling people into three lines.The rain was falling more heavily now, and Rosen feared if he settled down in a doorway for any amount of time he might fall asleep, or pass out from the loss of blood.

Geldstrasse was a cul de sac, but from his extensive wanderings on the street, Rosen recalled that access might be obtained over a low stonewall separating the garden at the back of Wernerís house from the adjacent street.He set off in a wide arc designed to bring him back to that spot from a safer approach.The cobblestone streets were still unpaved in this upper class residential district, holding out against the sure onslaught of the macadam the Nazis required for the easy movement of their military transports.

Although he knew he was bleeding, Rosen hadn't really felt the stab wound much until he stretched his arm up to try to climb the stone wall at the back of Heisenbergís garden.Then he fell back, gasping in pain.

A light came on in a house across the street.Rosen cursed, fearing he had only a moment to get out of sight on the other side of the wall. He threw his good arm upwards, over the top, scrambling for purchase with his soaked shoes across the rough stones.He felt himself beginning to slip, and he had no choice but to reach out with the other arm and pull himself up as hard as he could.The pain was excruciating, and, even as Rosen heaved himself over the top, he started to black out.

When he came to, unknown moments later, Rosen found himself lying face down in the mud, having narrowly missed drowning in a puddle and skewering himself on nearby rosebushes.Already soaked through, he lay there, trying to sense how badly he had hurt himself.To his surprise, the pain in his side actually had subsided a bit, perhaps from soaking in the cold rainwater.Struggling to his feet, Rosen wound his way through the little garden to the back of the house.A light shone from the window next to it, and Rosen heard the familiar strains of Bach coming from a piano.That piece!He knew that piece.Abandoning all caution, he began to knock heavily on the door, a broad grin splitting his face.

The piano music stopped.The door opened, and there stood Werner Heisenberg, a little above medium height, still trim and blond, as Rosen had imagined he would be, but dressed in a particularly flamboyant black silk shirt with a red scarf draped around the collar.

"Werner?"

"Iím sorry, youíve caught me at a bad time Ė"

"Werner, itís me, Gerhardt, Gerhardt Rosen."

"Gerhardt, my God, whatís happened to you?Come, come, this way."Heisenberg ushered him through the doorway, but Rosen hesitated, not wanting to soil the sumptuous furnishings with his soaked and filthy presence.Finally he settled for pulling off his shoes and socks, wincing from the pain in his side.Heisenberg asked him again what had happened.

"Iíve been stabbed," Rosen began."The Brown Shirts are chasing me.I donít want to put you in jeopardy, but I didnít know where else to go."

"Of course, of course.Letís get you cleaned up and into some warm clothes."Heisenberg, who appeared to be alone in the house, poured Rosenís bath himself and helped him undress before going upstairs for clean clothes.The wound was seeping, but it seemed less severe than Rosen had imagined when he had been climbing the wall.As he settled carefully into the hot water, Rosen was surprised to see Heisenberg regarding him intently from the doorway."Is the water warm enough?We had a power outage earlier in the evening.I believe the house was struck by lightening."

Again Rosen tried to apologize for putting Heisenberg at risk."But I thought, of all the people I knew, had known --"

"Know," Heisenberg said emphatically.

Rosen felt a rush of relief, and more."I thought your fame might protect you, protect both of us for a few days until I can escape."

"Music does have its consolations," Heisenberg smiled.

Rosen didnít follow exactly, but said, "From the garden, I heard you playing the Bach piece."

"The Chaconne."Now it was Heisenbergís turn to blush.

"It was the piece you played that night in the Bavarian Alps, when the Pathfinders stopped at the inn below the Castle.And then we camped out under the stars, and. . . ."

"I know."The two men stared at each other for a moment, and then Heisenberg bent forward, and gently angled Rosenís head up with one hand as he leaned forward --

They both heard the pounding on the front door at that same instant.They jerked away from each other."The Nazis!" Rosen began.

"It may be only a bunch of drunken musicians," Heisenberg replied uncertainly."Better get dressed in either event."

"I didnít know physicists kept such friends," Rosen said as he rose naked from the water and gingerly reached for a towel.

"Physicists?What are you talking about?" Heisenberg replied with a snort."I gave that up a decade ago when I decided to take my music seriously."

"But the newspaper," Rosen began, only to hear the pounding resume.

"Wait here.If you donít hear a bunch of drunks, take that way into the garden."He unlocked a small door at the back of the bathroom through which servants at one time must have carried their mastersí ablutions out into the garden cesspool.

Rosen had lived among the terrified homosexual community of Germany for long enough to know the real risks.He threw on the clothing.As he was struggling with the sweater Heisenberg had provided, trying not to reopen his wound, Rosen heard the voices at the front door and recognized their tone and, without making out the words, their intent.He heard his friendís voice raised in protest, and the others, several of them, insisting.Rosen slipped out the little door and back into the garden.

The rain was more intense.Thunder cracked, and lightening briefly illuminated the street facing the garden as Rosen huddled less than successfully under the eaves.The bastard in the house across the way must have called the Nazis at the corner.Damn him.If that were it, Rosen figured, heíd better get out of the garden, because theyíd be looking here next.There was a wooden ladder leaning against the garden shed.Rosen quickly climbed the shed, pulling the ladder up after him.Then he braced the ladder on the shed roof, and began to climb toward the roof of his friendís house.He had one hand on the metal gutter when the lightening struck the house.

#

As Rosen regained consciousness, he remembered a moment when he hung weightless in mid-air, falling from one beam of light and reaching out to grasp another.But when he opened his eyes, he was lying face up in the mud, the rain drenching him.Before moving, he inventoried himself again, and, except for a dull pain in his side, exhaustion, general discomfort, depression, fear, and a cold coming on, he felt surprisingly good.He listened, and heard nothing at first.But then the faint strains of the Bach Chaconne started up again inside the house, haltingly, as if the player were struggling to recall what, only a few minutes ago, had come easily.

Rosen picked himself up and carefully moved toward the back door, pausing only briefly, and with a little smile to himself, to pick a rose from his friendís garden.The bathroom door was locked, but, if the Nazis had searched the house, that was to be expected.

The music stopped as he put his foot on the flagstone stoop of the rear-door.There was complete silence.Hadnít the Bach piece been intended as an all-clear signal?Or a come-on?Rosen smiled and knocked quietly on the door.

"Can I help you?" asked a voice behind him.ďYouíve caught me at a bad time.Ē

As Rosen turned his head, he observed the bathroom door was open again.He turned the rest of the way and saw Heisenberg standing behind him.Rosen was surprised he had not recognized his friendís voice, but was even more surprised by his dress.The sharp black SS uniform gleamed like the coat of a hunting carnivore.Wernerís face remained in the shadows; his thoughts represented more by the gloved fists crossed in front of him.He stood framed in the lightening, staring at Rosen.

"Ah, a perfect disguise," Rosen began with a smile, but something in the otherís face stopped him from extending the rose.It wasnít just Heisenbergís look.His entire face seemed subtly altered, leaner, more muscular, less open."Have they gone?" he whispered.When the other continued only to look at him with that predatory cast, he added, "Werner?"

Hearing his name spoken aloud seemed to awaken something in Heisenbergís memory, and the arms slowly unfolded."Rosen?Gerhardt Rosen?"

Confused, but somewhat relieved by this recognition, Rosen extended the flower to Heisenberg.Heisenbergís fist struck him on the side of the head before he even saw it coming.Rosen staggered backwards and tripped over the flagstone and into the mud.

Heisenberg stood over him, smiling from the top of that dark greatcoat."The Fates really are with us.On the very night the cleansing begins in earnest, my old nemesis appears at my door."He extended a hand downward, and, after a moment, Rosen hesitantly accepted the help to his feet.But Heisenberg did not then release the hand."Do you know, you were both the very first homosexual and the first Jew I ever beat?That night in the Bavarian Alps, remember?"

"No --" Rosen began, but the blow to his stomach caught him completely unaware.

Heisenberg released his hand and allowed him to slump gasping to his knees."I confess that, until that night when you attempted to seduce me, I had doubts about myself.I was too ready to accept the unacceptable, at least on a theoretical level, but watching you squirm into my tent with your gaping mouth and girlish eyes suddenly made perversity a real thing for me.I have to thank you for that."He kicked Rosen in the face, sending him sprawling onto his back.

Rosen tried to gasp through his blood but was overwhelmed with confusion.If this was some sort of performance for the Nazis Werner believed to be watching from the house or across the alley, it was all too real.

"It was the night that determined my future, you know? I saw that my dreams of promoting the greater German culture, either through music or physics, would have to wait until the culture itself was cleansed of people like you."He kicked Rosen in the side, right above the knife wound, and Rosen cried out as he rolled over into the mud.

"Youíre welcome."Heisenbergís voice suggested the trace of a smile, but Rosen couldnít look up to find out.The pain in his side was excruciating.The knife wound almost certainly had opened up again.Then someone began pounding at the front door of the house, and Heisenberg paused."Would you mind waiting a moment?I donít imagine this is the first time youíve found yourself face down in shit."Then he kicked again, and Rosen blacked out.

#

Rosen awoke with a shock and realized it was the sound of lightening striking the house again.He was lying face down in the mud, a bitter reminder of Heisenbergís accuracy in supposing it was not the first time he had awoken this way in strange environs.He willed open the cramped fingers of his hand that still clutched the crumpled rose and struggled to his knees.

"Whoís there?" a voice called from a few yards away.

Werner Heisenberg was standing in the open rear door of the house, staring out into the garden, one hand still resting on the door as if he might slam it in self-defense.He was dressed neither in the black greatcoat or the flamboyant silk shirt and scarf, but in respectable woolen pants held up by suspenders and a white shirt open at the collar.

Rosen knew he was going to die if he didnít receive medical attention soon.If he was going to die anyway, he preferred to do it inside, out of the rain and mud."Itís me, Gerhardt Rosen."

Heisenberg made no immediate response."Rosen?" he finally repeated, without releasing the door."Youíve caught me at a bad time.Rosen from the Pathfinders?"

"Yes."

"What are you doing here?"

"Trying to escape reality," Rosen sighed hopelessly.

For some reason this response seemed to interest Heisenberg."Reality?What do you know about reality?"He released the door and stepped out onto the flagstone, to the furthest point where the eaves still protected him from the rain.

"May I come in?" Rosen asked, indicating his sodden and bleeding condition.When Heisenberg nodded hesitantly, Rosen warily refused the outstretched hand and struggled to his feet, trying to keep one arm pressed against his bleeding side.He shed his shoes and sweater on the stoop -- Heisenberg gave no indication that he recognized them as his own -- and stumbled exhausted into the foyer."Would you happen to have a change of clothes I could borrow?"

"What?Oh, of course.Let me show you to the bathroom where you can change."

"I know the way."Rosen indicated it with his head.When Heisenberg looked puzzled, Rosen thought, good, that makes two of us.

There was no offer of a bath, but as Rosen toweled himself off and tried to stanch the bleeding from his side and wipe the now crusted blood from his face, there was a polite knock at the bathroom door.At Rosenís reply to enter, a hand and forearm poked through a foot-wide crack and dropped what had to be Heisenbergís gardening clothes on the floor.The door shut.Rosen shrugged mentally and put them on.Heíd meant to ask for bandages and tape, but if he bled all over Heisenbergís clothing, the man couldnít very well claim it was not partly his own fault.Then he heard the piano, the Bach Chaconne starting up, first hesitantly, and then with more assurance.

When Rosen entered the living room, Heisenberg stopped playing but continued to stare down at the keys."I seem to remember playing that once for . . . the Pathfinders.So long ago.A different lifetime, almost.Before I decided to devote myself seriously to physics."

"I heard you won the Nobel Prize," Rosen suggested slowly.

"Yes," Heisenberg blushed enthusiastically.

"So you gave up your music?"

"One chooses a path."

"Are you involved in other things?Politics seem to pervade everything these days."

Heisenberg frowned.Rosen saw that he looked exhausted, drained to the point of distraction."My entire life has been premised on the segregation of its parts.Physics, music, athletics, they have nothing to do with each other.Ē

ďPolitics?Sexuality?ĒWhen Heisenberg refused to look up, Rosen added, "And now?"

Heisenbergís fingers played absently between the black and white keys.Finally, he shrugged."We choose a path, one of many, and we follow it.The other possibilities die off.Still, one cannot help wondering. . . ."

Rosen saw him glance at a photograph of a young woman prominently displayed on top of the grand piano, and another of Heisenberg shaking the hand of Hitler himself.He didnít recall having seen either earlier."So, no politics?"

Heisenberg shook his head absently."I donít agree with whatís going on, but Planck persuaded me that weíd have more influence if we retained our positions of authority in the German scientific community."

"Thatís what I wanted to talk to you about," Rosen began, but Heisenberg rose from the piano, holding the framed photograph in his hand and obviously following an earlier train of thought.

"My work, do you know what theyíre calling it?`The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.íI am famous for confirming that we may never know both the position and direction of a particle.We will always be uncertain about one or the other.Or, as Schroedinger would have it, nothing exists but possibilities until we will reality to choose among them. This is my fiancť, Elisabeth."He held the photograph toward Rosen.When the other man didnít take it, he placed it back on the piano.

"Werner, can you help me?"

"What I said a moment ago about choosing a path, and thereby killing off all the other possibilities?That idea was the very root of my research.A point of light, of reality that is, is actually a bundle of potential quanta.You are going along in your life, a bundle of potentialities inside you, and you will keep going like that until one day you choose one potentiality to become your reality.. ."Heisenberg seemed hypnotized by his own discourse.

"Werner, Iím gay and Iím a Jew.The Brown Shirts tried to kill me tonight.If they find me, they will kill me or ship me off to the camps."

"The camps?"

Rosen came up to the piano, bent down, and said in a harsh, low voice, "Donít pretend you donít believe they exist.Everyone I know has disappeared into them."

"Donít you see?" Heisenberg squealed."I canít believe in them, because, if I do, it will mean they do exist!Iím having enough trouble not believing in the bomb!"

"What?"

"Never mind.Forget I said that.Iím confused, thatís all. Iím over-worked, and seeing you again after all this time, itís a . . . surprise."Thunder crashed outside, and for a moment the house itself vibrated with a weird harmonic."God, there hasnít been a storm like that since the Bavarian Alps."As soon as the words left his lips, he shot Rosen a guilty look.

"Yes, the Bavarian Alps.Do you remember that night, Werner?"

"Well, vaguely.I mean, nothing really happened.We just talked."

"For a long time."

"OK," Heisenberg conceded, looking away.

"Tell me, Werner, did you want to touch me?"

Heisenberg blushed but didnít answer.

"Did you want to hurt me, because I was a threat to you?"

"No!I mean, thatís something I would never do.Hurt you, I mean, because of my own confusion."

"So instead you . . . chose?"Heisenberg stared at him, and Rosen went on."You didnít want to be a person who beat others, and you were afraid to be a person who. . . ."What could he say?A person who loved a Jewish homosexual?"So you are not a Nazi, and not a bohemian musician, but a physicist, a man who cannot take a position because he is afraid of changing the course of his reality?Who is afraid even to observe closely because that might change something?"

Heisenberg stared at the portrait on the piano, then laid it face down."I have been engaged for years, but cannot seem to force myself to take the final step."Slowly he faced the keyboard and began again to play the Bach Chaconne."I know every note that has come before this one," he thumped a key, then continued to play."And I know every note that will come after, as if in this one privileged moment I am looking out from this single point in time at the entire wave of the piece.If only life were like that, how simple our choices would be."

Lightening crashed and the pounding on the front door began -- again?

"Werner, you have a choice to make now.I need your help."Rosen could see he was awash in uncertainty.The house was like a pool filling up with it.He felt it rising up to embrace his knees, then his chest.The world swam before his eyes.The front door shimmered as if he was seeing it through a liquid, and waves pulsed from it each time the Nazis pounded on the other side.

"What can I do, Gerhardt?I havenít seen you in fifteen years --"

"Sixteen."

"At the least my reputation will be ruined for harboring an illegal, whoever he might be.If I lie to the SS about your being here. . . ."

"Werner," Rosen said, "donít ask me how I know this, but those other yous, the Storm Trooper who hurts people for self-righteous pleasure, the artist who dreams of polymorphous perversity, they still exist.You didnít destroy them simply by choosing once.You have to choose again and again.You have to choose now.If you open that door. . . ."

Heisenberg stared at him."You must think me an incredible coward.From your perspective, that would be a reasonable observation."Then, suddenly, he was advancing as if the doorknob was the single clear point in his vision.As he reached for it, he said to Rosen, "But from the perspective of the physicist, I am a man who opens doors trusting he can deal with what is on the other side, though I donít know what that is. I have made my reputation by leaping over what none of us understands, by accepting the inexplicable as a premise and finding a practical means to proceed beyond.This penchant of mine is as responsible for my Nobel Prize as it was for my remaining in Germany with the belief that, if I accepted Hitler as a given, I could find a way beyond him to make reality produce a strong and glorious Germany that will lead the world to its greatest rather than its darkest moments.Of course, it doesnít always work.Goodbye, Gerhardt.Use the back door.I will deny you ever existed."

As he closed the garden door behind him, the last vision Rosen had was of Heisenberg taking a deep swallow of uncertainty, and beginning to swing the ancient, carved yew on its hinges.At this moment, Rosen thought, we both know who we are, even if we donít know where weíre going.

Lightening crashed overhead, illuminating everything and nothing.