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My brief career as a smoking model

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Wednesday, August 14th, 2019. Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany.

I was at a car park close to my workplace at the University Clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf, trying to cover my hospital scrubs with my much too warm coat while lighting the Camel Blue cigarette I had needed for at least an hour. The hospital management doesn’t want us, the few remaining smokers on staff, to send “wrong signals” by smoking next to the building. And I realize it looks bad to have a nurse like me smoking in front of the hospital cancer center. But what can you do if you’re an addict with a stressful workday?

I recognized Daniel Hartwig’s spectacular, lemon yellow 1970s BMW 2002 Cabriolet immediately. As he passed close by, I noticed the license plate HH-DH 1975 and was completely sure. HH for Hansestadt Hamburg. DH for Daniel Hartwig. 1975 for his year of birth. He had kept the same car and seemed proud of it, judging from its shiny condition and the total lack of rust on a car from half a century ago.

So. Daniel Hartwig was back. I’d been waiting for more than 15 years to get a chance to meet him again. He got out of the car, locked it with a key and started walking in the direction of the cancer center where I work. He must have been 45 at the time. Behind the sunglasses he looked like himself, apart from the potbelly and the bald spot on top of his head that he didn’t have 15 years ago. But we all age, don’t we? I guess I don’t look 19 anymore myself.

I started following Daniel Hartwig discreetly. On the way I realized the smoking cigarette between my fingers. I took a final deep drag and bent down to put it out on the asphalt. My curiousness about Daniel Hartwig had won over my craving to smoke. I put the remains of the cigarette back into the pack, started a new piece of chewing gum and removed my coat to return to my professional persona, 34-year-old nurse Sara Cremers at the Cancer Center of the University Clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf.

Daniel Hartwig entered through the door I had exited minutes before and I followed him into the building, curious about what he wanted here and struck by the thought that he was looking for me. After all these years.

Thursday, May 20th, 2004. Hamburg-Winterhude.

The story had started a couple of kilometers to the south-east of the hospital, on a bench at the north end of the Außenalster Lake. It was the year of my final highschool exams, my Abitur. I was 19 years old and on my daily morning run on the 7.4 kilometer route around the lake. The bench was a fixture on my trip with its view of the water and the millionaires’ villas surrounding the lake.

I was, by most, considered a pretty girl. A meter and seventy-five centimeters tall with long brown hair and brown eyes. I have a… I wouldn’t say “dark complexion”… but I tan easily and I have a cleft chin which is, I know from experience, considered charming by many men. At the time back in May 2004 I had just gotten the very first of the numerous tattoos that adorn my body today, a set of two discreet stars below my right ear.

All sweatty, introvert and thinking about my next oral exam I didn’t notice the guy with the camera until he practically sat down next to me on the bench.

“Water?” he asked, handing me an unopened bottle of Gerolsteiner natural, non-sparkling mineral water.

Without thinking twice I grabbed the bottle, unscrewed the lid and gulped down half its ice-cold content at once.

“Thanks!” I smiled and got a look at the guy who was in his late twenties to early thirties and had put down a large camera bag next to him on the bench. In his hand he held a professional Nikon camera.

“I’m Dieter, by the way,” he said, putting the camera in his lap and extending his right hand with a smile.

“I’m Sara. Sorry about the sweat.”

I shook his hand.

“You live around here, Sara?”

“No. Not here. I live over at St. Georg.”

I pointed south to the eastern bank of the lake in the direction where I was sharing a modest two-room flat with my mother just north of the main railway station, the Hauptbahnhof.

“You live alone?”

“I’m 19. I live with my mum. I’m still in highschool.”

“Oh. You look older.”

At 19 it is not necessarily a bad thing to look older than you are. I more or less took it as a compliment. I took another sip from the bottle as Dieter continued:

“Can I take some pictures of you?”

“What for?”

“Oh… I work for an agency. We’re constantly looking for new models.”

“Models? I’m not a model.”

“Well… You’re young, pretty, sporty. I think your face would be exactly right for an assignment this summer?”

“Really? I don’t think…”

“We’d be going away to Sylt for a week in July. We are going to stay in a house that we’ve rented by the beach. Have you ever been to Sylt?”

“Yeah. Once. As a child. But it’s not a place where I can afford to go.”

“Did you like it there? The beach, the ankara yeni escort dunes, the North Sea, the promenade, the nature, the restaurants…?”

“I think Sylt is very nice. And very expensive.”

“Would you like to go there again? It wouldn’t cost you a cent. We would pay you 2000 € for the job. And your meals. Nice meals. And you would have lots of free time to enjoy the island.”

“And what would I do in return?”

“Just let me take some pictures of you while we’re there. You’ll dress up in some nice clothes and shoes provided by our client and we’ll walk around while I’m taking pictures of you.”

“And what are you going to do with the pictures?”

“They will belong to our client who will use them commercially. In magazines all over Europe and on the internet.”

“And who is that client?”

“That’s confidential.”

“So… is it porn?” I asked sceptically.

Dieter laughed it off.

“Porn? No. It’s serious business. I promise. Your private parts will be covered at all times.”

“And who will be there when you take the pictures?”

“I prefer to work alone. So it’ll just me you and me. But before each shoot there will be a professional stylist to do your hair and make-up.”

“I don’t know… I think I’ve got to run…”

“It’s 2000 €. And it’s Sylt for a week.”

“Yeah…”

“Will you think about it, Sara?”

“Sure.”

“Here’s my card,” he said and handed me a purple card with white letters:

“Dieter Hamann, Commercial Photographer”. There was an email address, a mobile phone number and an address in the inner city close to city hall.

I put his card into my back pocket.

“I’ll think about it,” I said, getting to my feet, feeling the soreness in my legs after sitting down for too long.

“Sara, wait!” he said. “Can I take some snapshots of you now?”

“Now? Why?”

“Just to show to our client. For internal use only. Obviously they need to see your picture before they will pay for our trip to Sylt.”

“But I’m all sweatty.”

“Yes. And that’s why they cant use them for anything. They just need to see your pretty face. I’m sure they will fall for it the way I did when I first saw you.”

“And you promise it’s just for you and your client?”

“Ehrenwort!” Dieter said with a very serious expression.

“Okay then… but I haven’t agreed to come to Sylt with you.”

“I know. But you’ll think about it, right?”

“I’ll think about it, yes.”

“Please sit down again and face me. Let me just get a few close-ups of your face in this beautiful morning light.”

“Okay,” I said and obeyed, letting him photograph me for the next couple of minutes. First a lot of shots on the bench and then standing up and looking sporty with the lake in the background.

“I think this will do,” Dieter finished the session. “I hope to hear from you, Sara!”

“I’ll think about it,” I repeated and handed him my empty bottle. “Bye!”

I turned and ran away from the photographer down the path on the western bank of the Außenalster. Me? A model?

Monday, July 12th, 2004. The Hindenburg Dam.

I don’t know if it was my vanity (Me? A model?), the 2000 €, or the thought of a week on the island of Sylt, the prime holiday getaway for the German elite, that made me call Dieter back the following day.

Anyway, here we were in Dieter’s yellow BMW 2002 on the car train on the dam between the mainland and the island of Sylt in the far northwest corner of Germany. My country has a relatively short coastline in relation to a population of more than 80 million, so the small island of Sylt is an awfully crowded spot. If people could drive in their cars to the island, it would be even more so.

When the dam was built in the 1920s, Germany was almost broke and trains played a significant role in transportation compared to cars at the time. So they didn’t make a road for cars. The relative inaccessability adds an air of exclusivity to Sylt as a tourist destination, reflected in the prices, which I wouldn’t have to worry about now, as Dieter was paying for everything.

The dam is named after Paul von Hindenburg, the man who paved the way for Hitler’s dictatorship in 1933. You wouldn’t name anything after him today. But he was president of Germany in 1927 when the dam was opened. And now I guess we’re stuck with the name. At least it’s not the Hitler Dam.

Anyway, we got off the train and drove north to the village of Wenningstedt where we took possession of a beautiful house with a thatched roof. I got a large bedroom on the first floor with a magnificent view of the dunes, the beach and the North Sea.

Dieter didn’t want to take pictures before Tuesday morning so I had a couple of hours after our arrival by mid-afternoon to settle in and relax in the garden. I took a look at the collection of dresses and shoes that Dieter had brought in the back of the BMW. He still hadn’t told me who his mysterious client was. yenimahalle escort Maybe a company that sold these expensive fashion brands?

I didn’t care at that time. After all Dieter had handed me 20 100 € bills when I got into the car outside our house at St. Georg.

“I’ll leave it to you if you’ll tell the Finanzamt about this,” he’d said with a wink, referring to our tax authority. I was still considering his remark when I was counting the money on my bed in Wenningstedt.

Shortly after six Dieter told me he’d made a reservation at a restaurant in Westerland, the island’s main town, at seven. I got up from my deck chair, took a quick shower and chose a spectacular red summer dress and a pair of black high heel sandals from Dieter’s collection.

Dieter changed into a light khaki summer suit with a shirt and tie. We drove south to Westerland where Dieter parked at a fish restaurant at the beach front. The waiter showed us to one of the restaurant’s most attractive tables on an outdoor terrace facing the sea. The table was set with white tablecloth, tall wine glasses and expensive silver cutlery.

Dieter and the waiter discussed the wine list on a level that was far beyond me. But when our cool white wine arrived, it was wonderful.

We had a full menu of hors d’oevres, main courses and desserts and managed to finish one and start a second bottle of expensive white wine during the course of the meal while we enjoyed the amazing views of the beach, the sea and the sky.

The waiter put down our espressi and left. Then Dieter explained:

“There is something I haven’t told you.”

“What’s that?” I smiled. A bit drunk.

“I don’t know how you’ll feel about it.”

“And you won’t know until you tell me.”

“No. Obviously.”

“So?” I sent him a curious smile.

“It’s our client… The 2000 € that I have you this morning are all yours now…”

“Yes?”

“But the client would like something else.”

“Something else? You mean somebody else? Am I fired?”

“No. Not at all. Our client really likes your face. But they would like you to add a little something.”

“And what would they like me to add?”

“Well, they want you to smoke.”

“To smoke? What do you mean?”

“On the pictures. They want you to smoke on the pictures. And I mean cigarettes. Not weed. Totally legal.”

“But I don’t smoke. I’ve never smoked.”

“Right. You seem like the healthy, sporty, non-smoking kind of girl.”

I smiled:

“I guess so.”

“But I’m afraid we’ll have to change that.”

“Your client wants to force me to smoke?”

“Sara, nobody is forcing you. If you don’t want to, you just tell me and we leave for Hamburg tomorrow morning. And you keep your 2000 € of course.”

“Tomorrow morning? But we were going to start tomorrow…”

“Yes. But our client isn’t going to buy a single picture of you unless you smoke. I’ve had a long debate with them this afternoon and their position is that they don’t want any pictures of you without a cigarette.”

“But why?”

“I don’t know. I guess they think smoking is glamorous.”

“I think it stinks. And it kills. My aunt died of lung cancer.”

“I’m sorry about your aunt. And I’m not saying it’s healthy. I’m just telling you that our client only wants pictures where you smoke. And they’re willing to pay for it. I’m authorized to give you another 2000 € on top of the 2000 I gave you this morning if you’re able to smoke convincingly during the week.”

“Can’t I just pose with a cigarette? Do I have to smoke it?”

“I’m afraid so. You have to inhale. It has to be convincing. You have to look as if you enjoy the cigarettes. And they want video — not just pictures.”

“And they will pay me another 2000 €?”

“Yes. Upon completion. I’m authorized to pay you 500 € cash for the effort right now if you agree to start practicing to smoke in a convincing way. You’ll get the remaining 1500 € at the end of the week if the pictures satisfy our client.”

Dieter dug into the pocket of his suit jacket and produced five green 100 € bills, a pack of Camel Blue cigarettes and a plastic lighter.

“Now?” I asked, taken a bit by surprise. “You want me to start smoking right now? Here?”

“Well, Sara, I don’t want to put you under any kind of pressure. But I really like your face. And so does our client. I think you’re extremely photogenic and I’d hate to have to tell our client that they can’t use the pretty new face I’ve discovered. There’s so much potential in you. If you want to smoke convincingly tomorrow morning, it’s not too early to start practicing. And you’d like the extra 2000 €, right?”

I looked at the money and the cigarettes in front of Dieter.

“So I get to keep the 500 even if I can’t learn to smoke convincingly?”

“Absolutely. You can put them into your little handbag there as soon as you have lit your first cigarette.”

I took the bills between my fingers, rubbing them against each other, while yozgat escort I was contemplating the offer and comparing it to the prospect of having to go back to Hamburg in the morning. Then I made a quick decision, put down the bills, grabbed the Camel pack and slowly removed the plastic wrapping around it.

Dieter smiled and held on to the money with his hand.

Before I had managed to remove a cigarette from the pack, the extemely observant waiter put an ashtray in front of me. I smiled at the waiter and took out a cigarette. Holding the cigarette in my right hand I extended the pack toward Dieter with my left.

“Do you want one?”

“No thanks. I don’t smoke,” Dieter replied politely.

“Oh. I hope my smoke doesn’t bother you then,” I said with a sarcastic smile.

“Not at all.”

Dieter lit the lighter and held the flame in front of my mouth. I placed the cigarette’s yellow-brownish filter between my lips and I was smoking my first ever cigarette. Cautiously I sucked in a bit of smoke and exhaled it immediately, suppressing an urge to cough. The bitter chemical taste was all over my mouth now.

“Can I have some more wine?” I asked, holding out my glass with the hand that was not holding my cigarette.

“Absolutely!”

Dieter emptied the bottle into my glass and I drank it in one large gulp.

Even as I had swallowed the wine, the bitter taste of cigarette smoke remained in my mouth.

“I guess I can take the 500 € now?”I asked, placing my burning cigarette in the ashtray.

“Sure. Please do!”

Dieter lifted his hand from the bills and I hurried to grab them before the slight evening breeze carried them away. Dieter smiled at my sudden move for the money.

I folded the five bills and stuffed them into my handbag.

“I’ll better get at it. This cigarette won’t smoke itself.”

I reached for the cigarette and took it between my fingers, watching the glow.

“Actually it will, if you leave it alone. But then you don’t get your practice.”

“Stimmt!” Right.

I took another drag from the Camel and blew out the smoke right away.

“You’d better learn to inhale. I don’t think our client would be satisfied with what you’re doing now. You don’t look like a smoker.”

“I know. I’m not. I don’t know if I can do this. It tastes awful.”

“Millions of German smokers can’t be wrong, can they? I think you’ll get used to it if you try hard enough. You’d like the money, wouldn’t you.”

“Sure.”

I took a third superficial drag from the cigarette that was already about only about two thirds of its original length, which was encouraging. But I guessed there was about 19 others like it in the pack in front of me.

“You’ve got to inhale,” Dieter commented when I had quickly exhaled my third mouthful of tobacco smoke.

“And what exactly is that? How do I do it?”

“As a non-smoker I’m not the right person to tell you. But I guess it’s about taking the smoke all the way into your lungs. So you should probably take in some smoke, keep it in your mouth for a moment and then breathe in air before you exhale the smoke. That way it’ll get into your lungs.”

I went for my fourth drag, took in some smoke, counted to three in my head and breathed in deeply. My whole system seemed to be filled with smoke to a degree close to suffocation. Water came into my eyes as I exhaled the smoke in coughs.

Dieter asked the attentive waiter for a glass of water that arrived within seconds. I drank half of it and concentrated on my technique.

My fifth drag from a cigarette turned out to be successful in the sense that I managed to inhale the smoke into my lungs and exhale it again without coughing.

“That’s more like it,” Dieter commented.

“Do you think I can satisfy your client now?”

“Well, Sara… You’re not there yet. But I guess we can start taking pictures tomorrow.”

“I’m trying, you know.”

“Yes. I can see.”

Dieter asked for the bill and paid with a card. He pushed my latest possessions, the cigarettes and lighter, toward me and I put them into my bag. We got up and left the restaurant. Outside Dieter suggested a walk along the promenade.

“Sure. Why not.”

As we started walking, Dieter produced a small camera from his pocket.

“Do you mind if I take a few pictures of you? This light is amazing.”

Dieter pointed to the setting sun that was about to take a dive into the North Sea in the far distance.

“Of course not. That’s what you pay me for. What do you want me to do?”

“Just stand there. And light another cigarette.”

Already? I had forgotten that being photographed now also meant smoking. So every time Dieter asked me if he could photograph me, he implicitly told me to smoke.

I dug into my bag and got the Camels and the lighter out.

“Take your time! Do it slowly. Just hold it there and get ready to light it.”

I was happy for every second my smoking was postponed so I really took my time.

“Yes. Look at me. Now put the cigarette between you lips. Like that. Yes. Hold it!”

I stood for seconds with the unlit cigarette in my mouth in the fading light.

“Now… Light the lighter and move the flame toward the cigarette… Slowly.”

Dieter photographed me continuously while I slowly lighted my second cigarette.

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