The club was doing better than ever, with patrons filling up every chair. The alcohol was flowing and everyone left at closing time on wobbly feet. It seemed like bad news in the world, meant good news for the Kit Kat Klub. Everyone wanted some place to forget their worries and no one was better at making people forget than the Emcee.
As the club filled up to the brim, for yet another night, Sally threw her head back and laughed. It was so marvellous, and they all loved her so much. And anyone that made sure that she could perform for another night was a very good thing. She couldn't fathom why he didn't enjoy it as much as she. But no matter what she said or did, she couldn’t get him to laugh. He simply looked over the gathering crowd behind the curtain and frowned.
"Darling, why are you frowning," Sally asked, "more people are a good thing, right?" She touched his shoulder.
He shook his head. "Look at them."
"They look perfectly happy to me, dear," Sally said with a light shrug.
"You're wrong," he said flatly. "They are gasping for air. Drowning."
The drum roll started and he left her side, sauntering out on stage, with his mask firmly in place. She had no idea what he meant.
"Have you read a newspaper lately?" he asked her suddenly, over dinner one night. A dinner of gin, bread and cheese. But mostly gin.
She frowned. "No, of course not." She picked at her nails, as if indifferent. Politics was simply boring, and not really worth her time.
"You should." He lit a cigarette.
"Why ever should I do that?" she asked with a flip of her hair.
"It's the end of the world, Sally Bowles," he said, looking at her through half-lidded eyes. "You should start preparing."
The club was still full, but now it seemed to Sally like there was something in the air. Nothing had notably changed, but the air, the air was full of something.
"Panic," he said, between a sip of wine.
Panic. The word vibrated through her head. Panic. And suddenly it was like a veil was lifted from her eyes and she saw it. Sally saw the smiles that were too wide and she heard the laughs that were simply too loud. The people still came every night, but some people were gone. Now the crowd was more silent in between numbers, so the band played almost non-stop to cover it up.
They said that it was the same on the street. But she rarely went out during the day any more, and it scared her to find out the truth. Sally still believed that it would blow over and didn't really bother to find out what was going on.
But as several of her cabaret friends left or fled, an unknown feeling settled in her stomach. If she had to give it a name, she'd call it... dread.
"You need to go home." His voice was filled with more emotion than she'd heard in a long while.
"Are you kicking me out?" she asked incredulous. The night was still young after all.
"No. You need to go home, to England."
"Why?" she asked, not understanding what he meant. Was he finally sick of her?
He looked at her, clearly not willing to believe that she truly didn't understand why. "Why? Because you can!"
"If it's so important to leave, will you come with me?" Her eyes grew wide.
Shaking his head, he took her hands. "I cannot. I don't have a passport, and in today's Germany, I will not be given one either. Besides, where would I go?"
She frowned. "You'd go with me!"
"No. There's no escape for me. They know who I am, it's only a matter of time." He took a deep gulp of wine, not meeting her eyes.
"But why?" she wailed.
He sighed. "This is why you should try reading a newspaper." He gave her a bitter smile and continued. "Darling, this government hates every single side of me. I'm Jewish, I'm a cabaret artist who likes to wear make-up, and I'm widely known for sleeping with men."
Suddenly, she realized she was crying. He was the only man who could make her cry like this.
"Don't cry for me, Sally Bowles. Just leave! Save yourself." He stubbed out his cigarette and rose from the table, done with the conversation.
One morning she woke up to a packed suitcase, with a train ticket on top of it. The room was so quiet, and sunlight was streaming through the window, and everything seemed focused on the train ticket.
From the doorway she heard; "You are leaving." He stood leaning against the door jamb, wearing only trousers and suspenders, with a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. He looked tired and drawn, but there was a fire in his eyes.
"And you?" she asked in a thin voice, even though she knew he would never come with her.
He shrugged and said nonchalantly, "I'll stay here until they come to erase me."
A tear slipped down her face. "Why are you making me leave?" she sobbed.
He came and wrapped his arms around her. "Because… because if you died here when you could be safe in England, I- I- I…" He stopped. Then: "Well, that would just be stupid, ja?"
Nodding slowly, Sally took a deep breath and said what had been on her mind for days. "Will you try and survive?"
Letting go of her, he sighed and shrugged. "Who knows? Maybe."
"No," she said and jabbed her finger into his skinny chest. "I can't leave unless you say you'll survive."
He gave her a small, slightly pitying smile and said, "I will try to survive."
"Good." Another tear slipped down her cheek. "And-and…" the tears were coming in earnest now. "If-if-if you do survive… Come find me and I'll take care of you, like you once took care of me."
"Okay." He wiped away her tears.
"Promise!" She pulled on the handle of the suitcase. "Promise me."
She moved to the door. "I guess I'm leaving then…?" A helpless look appeared on her face.
He looked so sad, but then he pulled himself together and his face turned to steel as he said, "Good." He was a master of masks and disguises, even now. “Good,” he said again, like he was convincing himself as well.
She nodded and touched his face one last time.
She didn't say good-bye, because she hated good-byes. And she didn't say that she loved him, because she always forgot the men she loved. But she kissed him one last time, and he stroked her hair.
And that was that.