Montag, 12. September 2011

among us (Excerpt)

unter uns, Angelika Reitzer
(Auszug aus dem Roman, Residenzverlag 2010)

The old people are strolling across the field; an unremarkable choreography, effective. Klärchen has latched onto her sister, the two are wearing vests or sweaters of the same colour and it looks like they were at the hairdresser together. They’ve taken off their glasses, and this makes the resemblance especially obvious. Just behind them is the old man with the twins. Long since grown up, but boyish as always. The parts in their hair shine towards her, and already from a distance they are indicating something like a path or a route or at least the light. They walk, hands in the pants’ pockets, as always, in the same stride, as always they give their answers half at the same time. As always they are as always, it’s been like that their whole life. The father treads over the clipped grass, he’s lost a lot of weight and his tummy is now only very large. Deer after a performance slowly emerge from the woods, Clarissa the audience. Satisfied with their efforts, they don’t bother bowing. They gather in a group around the garden furniture, which disappears behind and among them. Uncle Heinz stands behind Klärchen, he’s laid his hand on her purple shoulder. She would call it lilaccoloured, right darling? Lilac.
Clarissa’s driver has switched sides, entered the picture frame, looking for room at the back. But maybe it’s just the other way around, that’s more likely. He only fell out of the picture for a moment, always does what is asked of him, and changes sides, that’s the easiest way. He’s at the ready. Just as Clarissa is getting out of the train, her phone rings. The train was full, and then the platform is full, people streaming towards the exit, pulling their luggage behind them, the entire platform a pushing, noisy throng in which each persists in his lane, which is why they all get in each other’s way, their hurrying slows them down. Clarissa rummages in her bag and moves forward, or rather, is pushed forward. She is carrying her leather travel bag over her shoulder and over the travel bag her handbag, which is unwieldy and makes her walk bent over because the bag is heavy and because she is misshapen and can’t gauge how much room she needs. She would like to act as if this was all just a routine, bothersome but familiar, would like to think about the next appointment, about the people who will be there, about her presentation, and about whether all of her documents are tidy and ready and in the correct order in the cowhide folder. It’s always the same, she can’t find the phone and gets worked up because she already knows who’s calling at this moment. Then she finds the phone, which has stopped ringing, in a book, right at the bottom of the bag, and her premonition is confirmed, naturally, and then her bag slips off her shoulder, she gets even angrier and if the people around her Angelika Reitzer · 231 are wrinkling their brows or looking right past her, she doesn’t want to see it. The caller is on the platform, they haven’t seen each other for at least two years, they greet each other with a handshake. Amazed, he says, you look really good. They drive together to the country inn where the party is to take place. In the car he wants to retract his amazement, but it’s too late now. Clarissa felt good. Somewhat. He doesn’t mean it that way, surely he doesn’t. Her skin feels pimply, she knows exactly where she should apply more cover-up and she can feel a burning on her chin, surely there’s a big red spot there in spite of the make-up. He fiddles with the radio dial, wants to call someone that can’t be reached. He leaves no message. Her hair is stringy even though right before leaving she washed and dried it. Maybe she should have worn a dress. Maybe she should change right after arriving. When Clarissa changes the station without asking, he looks at her for a moment, shocked. Then he grins. He talks about work, the many appointments, responsibility and weight on the shoulders, and as they are getting out, Clarissa suddenly thinks that perhaps he means her work, and that confused her at first, and when she addresses him about it, carefully, as if in passing, he hands her a small folder with information about the area and its modest attractions, a pamphlet with the programme points for the meeting; she’s calm for a moment, as if she were up to speed, as if she knew what was now coming. Clarissa wants to ask him about the list of participants, but doesn’t. Point one (individual arrivals) and Point two (short walk in the nearby pine woods, discovering and re-establishing family relations) are already taken care of. But dinner, boat trip, volleyball game, free time in the indoor pool and sauna are still ahead of her, and her driver now takes her hand and laughs broadly in her direction and their heads bump together. While he still helps, what remains is only a sense of disturbance. Her driver looks at her and earnestly retrieves her bag, now he’s the porter and if she asked him to he would go into the foreign kitchen and fetch bread for her or juice or a piece of cake from the locked display case and so on. He carries her bag upstairs and pulls her behind him, and right away lets go of her hand, and that’s the way it was before, he always did everything for everyone and no one thanked him and he went right ahead doing it and sometimes he reminded someone of some greater deed and then he was the one with the bad conscience. And yet at the same time he can also slight someone and then act as if he didn’t notice it, as if he had not realized that he had just badly insulted someone. He can outfit his broad face with a grin or with complete harmlessness, which is a bit hurtful. It suits him perfectly. Only when he is taking about what he can do well is he serious. When he knows for sure what the other person now wants, that right now he is doing the right thing, then his look, no, his gazing, is truthful. That’s him. He stands on the small balcony of her room and gives a report on the morning, seems cheerful, entirely natural; he himself has already driven twice to the train station and back, she is the third person 232 · Angelika Reitzer he’s picked up. Nobody has ever taken him into consideration, that doesn’t occur to anyone. In the family photos he is often only seen as a blur, or he is covered by someone, he’s always standing at the back, is at every party, but he can’t be made out. Only after having counted several times does somebody say, Hannes, where is Hannes? And yet he is also there. Hannes made an extra trip with a larger car, he’s playing shuttle bus for the grandmas. Or he’s helping to set up and rearrange furniture. He’s sorting out the children’s beds. Setting up the volley ball net, and isn’t he the one in charge of marking off the court lines? Exactly. He picks up the little cousin from the airport. Hannes is always there. Not to be seen and yet perhaps blatantly obvious. Now he’s already gone again, the others have come from the woods and perhaps he has disappeared in it. As if he wanted to catch up on the walk. He speaks briefly with her father, probably to receive a few directives, and doesn’t reappear until he takes Clarissa to the train. For a while she stands on the small balcony, the room smells like fabric softener or cleaning detergent, perhaps both, not unpleasant. The folder is lying on the turned-back bedspread, these are not documents for a seminar, and she’s known the people she’s about to meet since childhood. For most of them she is not the boss’s assistant. But neither can she be for them the girl who has a promising future ahead of her. Clarissa has to laugh. That’s what they want from us: a demonstration of the future; and yes the laughter is brief and silent, and she almost chokes on it. This, said her mother on the phone, should be the last big reunion and after that they want to withdraw from their duties and their family.

(Translated by Jason Blake)

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