What We Inherit

Excerpt from Angelika Reitzer, Wir Erben (Novel, 2014), Translated by Geoffrey C. Howes

They had all been surprised to get the visa for the vacation in Hungary without any trouble, and they left the first week of August. They brought along less clothing and other astuff than on the previous vacations they had taken to Czechslovakia, Hungary, and the Baltic. They had no plans to swim in Lake Balaton, but each of them had packed a swimsuit, just one. A couple of sweaters, short skirts, pants. A basket of food, bottled water. Each of them had a small travel bag or a suitcase (Hedwig). In Prague they talked with a young couple who were going to try to get across the border alone. The situation in the city was scary, with helmeted policemen everywhere. That had been on the eve of the twenty-first anniversary of the day the Prague Spring was put down. A very warm day. They didn’t have the nerve to go to the embassy, and they drove to the border without talking to anyone about it. They had left their house behind as if they would be returning to it in a week: windows closed, flowers and plants amply watered, the beds made. Hedwig’s rubber boots stood by the front door as usual, in addition to a pair of clogs that everybody wore and which were always outside the door. The only person who knew about their departure (had seen them) was their neighbor Martina, who marched past their car just as they were getting in. She had been at the lake and the canals (Little Venice); sometimes she dropped in on the spur of the moment and drank tea with them. Wilhelm said, “We’re just going to Usedom for a couple of days to visit a friend of Hedwig’s,” and he didn’t know where he should be directing his gaze. Looking their friend and neighbor in the eye didn’t work. Martina smiled ambiguously and had her hands in her pants pockets. She either hadn’t noticed or was ignoring Wilhelm’s reflex of wanting to give her a hug and really say goodbye. What answer had Martina given? Probably wished them a nice trip; Wilhelm couldn’t remember now. At first, after he had gotten into the car, she took off, only to stop again when the car drove past her. At the last moment, Siri cast one more glance at the street in front of her house, at the wooden fence, at a bucket of ashes on the neighbor’s property. Martina brushed a strand of hair out of her face and then let her hand disappear again into her pants pocket and slowly walked on. The suggestion of a wave or a natural gesture. Martina was a musician. Her husband had not returned home from a trip to the West and after that she had considered applying for a permanent exit visa and continuing to live with him, but that had been over ten years ago. Eventually her children were able to get their Abitur, and had moved out some time ago. No doubt she had also seen the reports on western television about the GDR citizens in the West German embassy in Prague. During the trip they did not mention Martina. Gina thought about her: Can such a tired woman really be a friend of ours? And if she isn’t our friend, will she inform on us? If they had talked about Martina, Gina would have been able to ask a question like that and both parents, in slightly varying versions, would have answered at length, talking about friendship, about loyalty, about trust and being unfamiliar with the neighbors, and about how you should be able to rely on yourself in any case. Hedwig did not yell at Wilhelm or scold him, in fact, she didn’t even ask him why he had lied, without any need to do so, or whether it had been intentional or a slip-up. This depressed their mood until they were over the Czechoslovakian border.
When Hedwig, Gina, Wilhelm, and Siri got into the water they had only the clothes on their backs, ID cards, and a few deutschmarks. They swam and waded across the border without knowing whether this was actually where the border was. The river meandered along, but they could neither see it clearly nor get a general orientation. It was dark, and they were standing on the riverbank. Hedwig saw the spotlights and the floodlight, and she could see something moving in the guard tower, but it was dark, and the water was not as cold as they had expected, and they made quick progress, and Hedwig never let go of Gina’s hand, and Wilhelm and Siri held each other tight, and nobody said anything. The breathing of the others was audible, and one’s own breathing was too (how a ribcage can go up and down!) as they swam and waded through the water, actually more slogging than swimming. When they climbed out of the water and stopped after a few yards in a cornfield, where there was a crackling like electricity, and when the smell of dried grass and damp wood suddenly mixed with the smell of wet leather, it was dark and quiet all around them, quiet even now. Gina wasn’t wearing shoes because she had been afraid that they would pull her under. Her parents didn’t notice this until she stamped her feet and stifled a cry because the cornstalks and leaves were stabbing her bare heels. The water was dripping off them, Hedwig was crouching on the ground, no one said a word. Siri was the first one to step back out of the cornfield and was amazed, perhaps, that no one was shooting or yelling. Perhaps she was simply amazed by the stillness itself. By the side of the cornfield, muskmelons were growing in rank and file. Wilhelm asked in a whisper whether they might still be in Hungary, because the river made a bend here and they didn’t know exactly where they were. All that was weighing on Siri and Gina was the feeling of freedom on their chests that had spread out when they had climbed out of the water. It was still there. Inconceivable that freedom could be something so heavy. Maybe it was fear as well, but the girls did not want to feel fear. They couldn’t do that to their parents, not on top of everything else. Then a car drove past, close by them, but the driver probably couldn’t see them at all, and only when they set out in the direction of the road did they find out that it was several hundred yards away. On this path they walked farther toward the west, what else? They walked over a field and there was dew on the meadow even though it had been a hot day. The day had begun in the GDR, no, that was another day, that was yesterday. This day had started after just a few hours of sleep in their Wartburg car, in Hungary, a country that in their perception was so much closer to the GDR than it was to Austria, where supposedly they now were. Still, they only saw the silhouettes of trees, felt the high grass, then the damp soil of the forest trail, everything in a no man’s land, and after a while they weren’t even sure anymore whether a car had driven by here or not. The forest trail led to an asphalt path that was just as narrow. After a few minutes a car came toward them. It slowed down, as if the driver was trying to make sure that they were the ones who had asked for the pickup service. The car stopped, and a man first opened the front passenger door and then got out. He looked at the four of them and asked them to get in the car right away. The man spoke a hard dialect that they could hardly understand, and when Wilhelm pointed out that they would get the seats wet, he just waved it off. He took them to the next inn, where someone called the police for them, and where they were served something to eat (soups that they were not familiar with and could hardly get down) and offered beer, coffee, and tea (in that order), and then someone came to pick them up. “I had no idea that pumpkins could smell like that,” Hedwig marvelled, in the boarding house in Vienna, but Siri and Gina were convinced that they had been muskmelons. Which their parents laughed about, only to be amazed later on. None of them had ever seen a muskmelon or a honeydew. Melons in Austria, who would have thought it?

It doesn’t exist

Translated from the German by Kimberly Weinrich

South Main Street. North Main Street. Single-family homes clustered together in well-ordered bunches. Two and three-story building facades downtown, just like the ones in the Western movies of the 1970s. Bowling Green, Ohio: Just how real is the real America? In the middle: three months in the Midwest in a small town in Ohio. This town often tips the scales during elections. The winters are long and hard, they say; we are leaving on the first of February and are packing our down jackets. Ohio is the Buckeye State, and there's a saying that goes: If you don't like the weather around here, just wait five minutes. There are election signs in the front yards, small ones, like the ones marking plants in botanical gardens. There are signs for the security companies guarding the homes, and sometimes signs supporting the local school. Thomas Bernhard and Marlen Haushofer, Martin Kessel and Anna Weidenholzer, and my own work, too: these are going to be the topics of the Wednesday night lectures at the German Department at Bowling Green State University and at a café in Bowling Green. At the end of my stay I will have traveled to around 15 states (some only passing through). I'll have been to Lubbock, Texas, for example, where next to my hotel, a little circle of tents have been set up facing the Bank of America. On the way from the airport to the city, Anita, a professor of German, had already pointed them out. And indeed: Occupy. The posters read "Google NDAA now" and "Banks too big to fail," with the words crossed out like they are on no-parking signs. Owen, a man of around 50, is the only person I find there in the evening. I take a photograph, and he comes right over. He's not a demonstrator, he says. He just wants to relieve the Occupy people. His wife is involved, but he isn't. Drunken college kids had attacked the tents a few days ago. He doesn't really have anything to do with this business at all, he's just a good Christian. I'll have visited Ithaca, in upstate New York: a 50-meter-long pedestrian zone, ethnic restaurants, and small shops in a so-called city center; three arthouse cinemas and several theaters; the art museum designed by I.M. Pei with the sensational 360-degree panorama view of the wooded hills and Cahuga Lake – everything to please the European/urban aesthetic rolled up in one, especially since having arrived via Ohio and Pennsylvania at the birthplace of DFW. DFW: this is what New York intellectuals call David Foster Wallace. Never mind that most of them hardly dare to venture this far out into the provinces (which appear to have especially active triathlete and hippy populations). It's Saturday morning, and the sun is shining. New York only has one arthouse cinema more than Ithaca does, but of course still thinks it's the center of the universe. So I've arrived in the real America, where black managers joke that they best take cover (I better don't move) when a police car passes, where shoppers hand over piles of coupons at the supermarket checkout to save money, and two friendly older people who have never left their own town drive me half across it just to show me the way.

Facades? Backdrops?
Bowling Green lies in the middle of nowhere. South Main Street, North Main Street, and so on. Many small towns look like the drawing in the first edition of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio: single-family homes clustered together in well-ordered bunches, two and three-story building facades downtown, just like the ones in the Western movies of the 1970s. And in fact it is in the hardware stores and gift shops, sometimes even the bookstores and the interior decorating stores, that one still sees a downtown. It's not a stretch to see these facades as backdrops, and the inhabitants as mere set actors. And this perception is enhanced among many visitors to the US in their encounters with Americans. Superficially friendly and warm they are, the Americans. They always wish you a great day, a wonderful evening – but that's it. Yet these niceties say nothing about the people themselves, just that they are friendly. (Where else would a rest-stop attendant invite someone just asking for information to their home directly?) The fact that a credit card company advertises its efforts to keep Main Street alive by supporting small and mediumsized businesses – think what you will. Yet the supermarkets in Bowling Green are not on Main Street, of course, but on the outskirts of town, located in every direction on all the highways going in and out, along with all sorts of fast food restaurants, filling stations, churches, and bowling alleys. I had read, by the way, the correspondence between Sherwood Anderson and Gertrude Stein and the accompanying essays over 15 years before actually discovering Ohio. I was able to find the same picket fences between the houses, the same sheds in Bowling Green and other small towns as on the Main Street of Sherwood's Winesburg. Most of the time a bit of sun makes them appear less foreboding. But when you have gotten used to them, you start to be able to differentiate more, and the charming ones shine out from among the devastated ones. In the middle of nowhere there is an organic market. It smells like the one where I used to buy henna to dye my hair in the eighties. Near the Franciscan Square in Graz, it sold health food, quite a radical alternative at the time. But I am surprised at how limited the selection is here: root vegetables and tubers, potatoes and beets. Of course they carry natural cosmetics, spices, and organic oakmeal. The man at the register has lots of tattoos. He assures me that he can special order the herbal tea I want and it will be here in less than three days, but for me it still smells like 20 years ago. It's heroic to run a coffeehouse in a city of 30,000 people (17,000 of whom are students), and I had heard a lot about it before coming here. When the winds are right the smells from the roasting house waft across the City Park, which also has a public golf course. "Grounds for Thought" in Bowling Green is the site of intellectual and social exchange, a place where you can get good coffee and excellent donuts, but even more, no one forces you to be sociable, and there are second-hand books, records and comics. Not for nothing does it crop up occasionally in the poems and other written works of my predecessors. It was probably just a matter of time until its owner ran as a Democrat for the Ohio House, as he did for the first time in 2012. Thus you quickly and easily get used to the fact that the furniture at "Grounds" reminds you of elementary school in the seventies, and in any case, you start to suspend your memories and comparisons, or at least start to apply them only to things within the US, probably because the country is just so huge and expansive. In the first week another student gives me a coffee cup, several tins of cream (or is it powdered milk? No, it's half and half), and a sponge to wash out the cup. She also gives me a crate full of old tourist brochures: the Great Lakes, Amish Country, Chicago. Campus life. Contact is made primarily during the fire drills at the student dormitory, where we have our apartment. (Nights, sometimes on the weekends.) There's a healthcare center, a very large wellness and recreation center with several pools, there are emergency call boxes, indoor football fields, a football stadium, a huge basketball arena, and so on and so forth. There's even a cinema with 35-millimeter projectors, but they only show DVDs, because there aren't any film students who know how to operate the projectors, and in any case, attendance is weak or mandatory. The city police report is published in the student newspaper, a modern pillory of sorts: mostly, but not only, students who have been caught doing something illegal and/or have been reported to the police (urinating in a public place, minors under the influence of alcohol, rowdiness, vandalism or similar) are listed with their full names and home addresses. Many of the images remind me of ones I've seen before, in books and films. Some are considerably larger and more impressive in real life (the Niagara Falls and the casinos surrounding them); some are less noticeable and less often seen (the American flags in the front yards they like to show on European TV; but on the other hand, being stuck for miles behind a plodding "Ron Paul rEVOLUTION" pickup truck); and some are just plain incomprehensible (Americans' love of chilled soft drinks at all times of the year).

Don't mess with the good things!
I brought my entire daily routine with me and not just the espresso maker for making coffee at home. I go to the office every day just like Kessel's Herr Brecher goes to his agency in the Friedrichstrasse before he loses his job, in order to keep writing a novel. At the supermarket I choose the Cheddar cheese because it's cheaper, and it doesn't taste that different from Swiss cheese anyway. Hot dogs are adapted and included on the family menu. I jog across campus instead of through the botanical gardens of the Belvedere in Vienna. With Molly, a student, I spend several hours discussing Frauen in Vasen and unter uns. It's usually very windy, but summery temperatures are a surprise, and sometimes go on for weeks or days at a time. It's simple to talk about facades of existence. I've become fond of the wooden fences, the sheds, the porches on the small houses which sometimes look like doll houses. But there are few trees in Wood County, Ohio. On my last weekend in Bowling Green a fellow writer relates another common saying: Don't mess with the good things. The author and her husband are going to leave the city as soon as possible to spend their vacation in Italy, as they do every year. While sitting on a bench near the German Department – I like to sit outside when I read – I can hear the sound of children yelling and playing in the Children's Development Center which is located near this garden at Johnston Hall. I can't pick out my son's voice. When he speaks his first few sentences in broad American English, we can hear and see clearly how Twain's Huckleberry Finn and his friend Jim went up the Ohio River towards freedom, the same river that gave this state its name. What will I be able to tell afterwards? Who knows.

First published in: Die Presse (Spectrum), 26 May 2012
© Angelika Reitzer

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)

med nami (odlomek) - unter uns

unter uns
(Roman, Angelika Reitzer, Residenz Verlag 2010;
Auszug; Übersetzung ins Slowenische: Ana Grmek)

Stari se sprehajajo po polju, nevpadljiva postavitev, učinkovito. Klärchen se je pod roko oklenila sestre, oblečeni sta v brezrokavnika ali puloverja enake barve in videti je, kot bi bili skupaj pri frizerju. Sneli sta si očala, podobnost je zdaj še bolj očitna. Tesno za njima stari gospod z dvojčkoma. Že zdavnaj odraslima, a deškima kot vedno. Njuni preči se ji bleščita naproti, že od daleč kažeta nekakšno pot ali smer ali pa vsaj svetlobo. Sprehajata se, z rokami v hlačnih žepih; kot vedno vštric, kot vedno bi odgovarjala na pol sinhrono. Kot vedno sta pač kot vedno, tako je že vse njuno življenje. Oče stopa po pokošeni travi, njegov trebuh ni več tako velik, zelo je shujšal. Srne, ki se po predstavi počasi prikažejo iz gozda, občinstvo je Clarissa. Zadovoljni s prikazanim se odpovejo priklonu. V skupinicah postavajo med vrtnim pohištvom, ki izginja za in pod njimi. Stric Heinz stoji za Klärchen, roko je odložil na njeno vijoličasto ramo. Ona bi rekla: Barve španskega bezga, srček, saj veš? Španskega bezga. Clarissin šofer je zamenjal stran, stopil je v sliko, si poiskal prostor zadaj. Toda morda je prej celo nasprotno, to bo bolj držalo. Za kratek hip je izpadel iz slike, vedno stori, kar mu naložijo, in zamenjati stran, to je od vsega najlažje. Na voljo je. Medtem ko Clarissa stopa z vlaka, ji zazvoni telefon. Vlak je bil poln in takrat je vedno poln tudi peron, ljudje se valijo proti izhodu, za sabo vlečejo kovčke, ves peron je prerivajoča se, glasna množica, v kateri vsi vztrajajo na svoji poti, zato so drug drugemu kar naprej v napoto, zaradi hitenja napredujejo počasneje. Clarissa brska po torbi, gre naprej; to pomeni, pusti se potiskati naprej. Na rami nosi usnjeno potovalno torbo, čez njo še ročno torbico, neudobno je in sili jo, da hodi postrani, ker je torba težka in ona brezoblična in ne more presoditi, koliko prostora potrebuje. Rada bi se pretvarjala, da je to še vedno rutina, zoprna, a znana: razmišljati o naslednjem sestanku, o ljudeh, ki bodo prisotni na pogovorih, o svoji predstavitvi in o tem, da jo vsa dokumentacija, urejena in v pravilnem vrstnem redu, čaka v mapi iz govejega usnja. Vedno je enako, ne najde telefona in se jezi, kajti kdo jo zdaj kliče, to že ve. Najde telefon, ki ne zvoni več, v knjigi, čisto na dnu torbe, in njeno predvidevanje se potrdi, seveda, nato ji torba zdrsne z ramena, še bolj je jezna in sama sebi se zazdi kot lik v burleski. Ali ljudje okoli nje gubajo čelo, se smejijo ali gledajo mimo, tega sploh noče vedeti. Ta, ki je klical, stoji na peronu, dobri dve leti se nista videla, v pozdrav si stisneta roko. Začuden reče: prav dobro si videti. Skupaj se odpeljeta v podeželsko gostilno, kjer bo slavje. V avtu bi začudenje raje preklical, a to ne gre. Clarissa se je dobro počutila. Kolikor toliko. Ne misli tako, prav gotovo ne. Toda na koži takoj začuti mozolje, natanko ve, na katerih mestih je močneje naličena, in po ščemenju na bradi ve, tam je gotovo velika rdeča lisa, ličilu navkljub. Vrti gumb na radiu, hoče priklicati nekoga, ki se mu ne oglasi. Sporočila ne pusti. Lasje so štrenasti, čeprav si jih je umila in posušila tik pred odhodom. Morda bi morala priti v obleki. Morda bi se morala takoj po prihodu preobleči. Ko Clarissa zamenja radijsko postajo, ne da bi ga vprašala, jo za trenutek zgroženo pogleda. Nato se zareži. Govori o službi, o številnih sestankih, o odgovornosti in bremenu, ki ga ima na plečih, in ko izstopita, Clarissa nenadoma pomisli, da je imel v mislih morda njeno delo, in to jo sprva malce zmede, ko pa ga nagovori o tem, previdno, bolj mimogrede, ji pomoli mapico s podatki o okoliški pokrajini in njenih skromnih zanimivostih, zgibanko z glavnimi točkami srečanja; za hip je pomirjena, kot bi vedela, kot bi poznala to, kar bo sledilo. Clarissa ga hoče vprašati po seznamu udeležencev, a se zadrži. Prva točka (posamični prihodi) in druga točka (kratek sprehod v bližnji borov gozdič, odkrivanje in obnovitev družinskih vezi) sta že za njimi. Toda večerja, vožnja z ladjo, odbojka, prosti čas v pokritem bazenu in savni jih še čakajo in šofer jo zdaj prime za roko, se ji široko zasmeji, nato pa njuni glavi trčita. Še vedno je tako, da ti pomaga, toda ostane zgolj občutek, da te je zmotil. Šofer jo pogleda in resno vzame njeno torbo, zdaj je njen portir, in če bi mu rekla, bi šel v tujo kuhinjo in ji prinesel kruh ali sok ali kos peciva iz zaklenjene vitrine in tako naprej. Njeno torbo odnese gor in jo potegne za sabo, takoj spet spusti roko, tudi prej je bilo tako, da je vsem izpolnil vsako željo in se mu ni nihče zahvalil, pa je preprosto nadaljeval in včasih koga opomnil na kakšno večjo uslugo, ta pa, ki je imel nato slabo vest, je bil kar on. Zato pa zna človeka tudi prizadeti, a se delati, da tega sploh ne opazi, kakor bi se mu sploh ne posvetilo, da je nekoga pravkar globoko užalil. Na obraz si lahko nariše širok posmeh ali pa skrajno blagost, to malce boli. Njemu odlično pristaja. Le kadar govori o tem, kar mu gre dobro, je resen. Ko z gotovostjo ve, kaj hočeš od njega, da bo zdaj storil natanko pravo, je njegov pogled, ne, njegovo gledanje resnično. To je on. Stoji na malem balkonu njene sobe in poroča o preteklem dopoldnevu, zdaj je veder, povsem sproščen; že dvakrat se je peljal na postajo in nazaj, ona je tretja, po katero je šel. Nihče se nikoli ne ozira nanj, to nikomur ne pade na pamet. Na družinskih slikah je pogosto zgolj on zabrisan ali pa ga nekdo zakriva, vedno stoji zadaj, na nobenem slavju ne manjka, toda skoraj nikoli ga ni mogoče prepoznati. Šele po večkratnem preštevanju nekdo reče: Hannes, kje je Hannes? Saj je tudi on zraven. Hannes je posebej za to priložnost prišel z večjim vozilom, zdaj igra avtobus za babice. Ali pa pomaga pri premikanju in razvrščanju pohištva. Priskrbi otroške postelje. Namešča mrežo za odbojko, in ali ni on zadolžen za pravilno zamejitev igrišča? Pač. Na letališče gre po malega bratranca. Hannes je vedno zraven. Neviden in morda preočiten. Ga že ni več, drugi so prišli iz gozda, on pa je morda izginil vanj. Kot bi hotel nadoknaditi zamujeni sprehod. Za trenutek govori z njenim očetom, najbrž je prišel po navodila, in se spet pojavi šele, ko je na vrsti Clarissa. Nekaj časa stoji na majhnem balkonu, v sobi diši po mehčalcu ali čistilih, morda po obojem, ni neprijetno. Na odgrnjenem pregrinjalu leži mapa, v njej ni zapiskov za seminar, in ljudi, ki jih bo kmalu srečala, pozna od otroštva. Za večino ni šefova asistentka. Toda ne morejo je imeti več za majhno deklico, ki ima pred sabo obetavno prihodnost. Clarissa se mora nasmehniti. To je vendar, kar hočejo od nas: predstavitev prihodnosti; in ja, smeh je kratek in tih in skoraj se ji zaleti. To bo, tako je rekla njena mama po telefonu, zadnje veliko slavje, nato pa se bosta umaknila iz svojih obveznosti in svoje družine.

Prevedla Ana Grmek

Super 8

She stood under Albert’s balcony (didn’t dare call out to him), in a crammed garden : he would come out sometime. Shrubs and bushes were in flower, hardly a free patch of lawn, there was tall grass growing there and garden furniture, which no one used, bicycles and trailers, a hand cart. The occupants left the garden to its sleep, it appeared to have earned it. She had come from a dinner, at which people said things like : my art is my work is my statement about the world. She should really have talked to someone. (But how do you do it : the stuff with signing on and surviving and then good wine as well?) But she had slunk away, before the others could see, what sort she was now.

She could no longer remember, why she was so attached to him, Albert hardly talked; the pieces of furniture in his rooms were like scaled-down reproductions of real furniture. There was no dust on the book cases with the old books, not a hair anywhere. (They had bathed together a couple of times and once she had washed his hair. His fine hair, which consisted only of peaks, was always dry immediately. Just as if he had never dipped under water.) She went there again and again, stood under his balcony.

The wood lies on the water, as if some boats were not even completed or as if they had already been taken apart again. Albert was talking about boats, they were looking down into the dark garden/undergrowth. But she hadn’t really understood, which city he was talking about, perhaps he hadn’t mentioned it. House boats for sure, and there are cargo ships too. And the containers simply lie around in the water. She had wanted to hear facts or details, but he only said : it’s a while ago. That was in my last life. All at once Albert was someone who had travelled, that was something. Since she had known him, he didn’t want to leave the city. That’s how it was. Now he was talking about living quarters outside the city and on the water, of the maze of wood and metal and huts by the water and on the water and that children clambered around the roofs. Everything keeps on growing, without anything having to be taken away from others. Space, I mean. Then she was the woman on the balcony, she was interested in other facets and finally he talked about a woman, how much he - then she didn’t want to hear any more and asked him, if he had paid her for being with him. He said : yes, perhaps; and because she didn’t know what else to say, she asked him, whether he had also seen dragon boats and Albert said : oh, dragon boats. Yes, he had seen dragon boats too, but they weren’t interesting, and then he talked about the runways by the water, how close the giant machines rose into the air there, and then at last she knew, which city he was talking about.

They had never talked on the phone, Albert didn’t have a phone and she never asked for the number of his friends who lived downstairs/rented the first floor to him. Once the woman from the ground floor came to the railings of the terrace. Said without looking at her: he’s not living there any more. You must have realised that. Then she had left the overgrown garden and pulled the garden gate shut behind her, she found it hard to leave the house, she couldn’t understand it all.

Albert lined up cocaine, which she paid for, because he had no money, she would have liked to have gone to the lake with him, wanted to be in the water. They remained in the bar, he said : isn’t it brilliant, that we can drink as much as we want! She danced and paid for both of them at the bar, she was allowed to take him home (that’s where I’m staying now), they kissed for a long time, didn’t go up together. At a time when several projects had to be taken care of at the same time, she had seen him in the place where glasses of tequila and vodka went round the top of the bar in a circle on a little railway.

She had lots of ideas, and U. liked most of them. He had given her a dictating machine and she dictated. She was responsible for communications and also drew up budgets, when it was necessary. Then she had to look after individual partners, which meant she had to stand beside an information desk like a student. When she locked up, the DJ in the bar next door turned up the volume; she stayed, attached herself to the people from one of the museums and to the artists, then went somewhere else with them and the crew. Once they ended up a long way out on some estate; surrounded by sticky wooden panelling Western or Country music. Albert must have come with the technicians, that didn’t bother her. U. had confused her, when he said : we should always be able to reach you. At first it seemed as if he didn’t care when she worked on the projects, everything merged with everything else, they ate together, he liked going for walks, she went with him, listened to his monologues and tried to translate them. He didn’t pay for her hours after all, he paid for the potential and for success. She took on more and more, personal duties as well, and when the book-keeper said to her : you’re the assistant, she didn’t know, whether that was meant as acknowledgment.

She sat down at the bar beside Albert. She went home with him and could see everything. He was melancholy, he loved electronic music, which covered everything in the room, that was nice, he wanted to talk to her a little, but not too much, he made peppermint tea/they were already high anyway. Now she went to Albert’s house in town, sometimes she left a couple of lines at the door or waited on the stone steps. He would tell her, if he didn’t want to see her any more, she was convinced of that.

Then (again) she climbed up the steps behind Albert to the lighting right at the top. There was everything that summer : opera, theatre, quite unbelievable music; the light changed the sounds, displayed the speakers, showed her the figures, she had not known before, in their glittering existence, obscured some things. She loved the mood of the pieces, she liked Albert’s colleagues, who sometimes only looked at her inquiringly. Once someone talked about him behind his back as about someone, who wouldn’t be there much longer. Then he wasn’t there and she watched the performance without him, felt like a traitor. She spent half the night looking for him. Then helped him up the stairs to his flat, they wanted to sleep with one another, he toppled from the settee, there, where she then lay; everything was wet. It took a while before she understood. Later sometime it would all be cleared up. She was attached to him, yes. She just couldn’t go on without him. She wanted him whatever his state. Sometimes she felt so without limits in her wanting, that she didn’t know how to go on. She always felt these things/which was why she was convinced of the rightness of her feeling : sunbeams wanted to enter the room, the dark heavy curtains prevented most of them from doing so. A layer of him was on everything. His sister lived in the room, who introduced herself tall and slim. Kind-hearted and beautiful as Albert; which he was. She just couldn’t cope with his sorrow. Bottles lay and stood on the floor, there were dishes in the sink, it didn’t smell good. At first, still half asleep, she tried not to move, she didn’t want to feel the wetness on her body, it was already far too late. There’s nothing there, she thought, as she opened and shut her heavy lids. She would remain lying here until he woke up and then he could send her away, then she or he would draw a line, but she couldn’t like the idea. Albert hadn’t told her why he wasn’t going to work any more, it seemed to be final for him. She had told him, what his colleagues said about him, that there wasn’t enough money, she wanted to comfort him, he had pushed her aside. As if she was annoying him. She still saw something free in him or about him. He was a free man.

She could bear it. She could bear him. As their bodies had bent, he was the contour which she wanted to pull behind her with her limbs, stretch so far, that clarity returned. She wanted to, but he didn’t help her. The weight of the last long night burdened the sleeper, what still distinguished him from someone unconscious, who could no longer remember his past days, why did she again and again see this pale grey sterile room around him, as if she had brought in the dirt?

She should let him sleep, she should let him have the peace and quiet that he wanted. Needed. Even now, amidst his refuse, she was the burden. She should be in her own flat, let water run over her shoulders, over her stomach, down her legs and it was still warm; she could wash herself as every morning, she smelled the shampoo, soaped herself, wrapped herself in a big towel and lay down in bed or went out into the day, which should begin now. And then. She couldn’t wipe or wash him away. She felt something, she felt the floor, the cold liquid around her, her spoiled skin. She didn’t lose him, if she lay down to sleep. Her dreams belonged to him, her sleep belonged to him, she wanted to spend her nights with him, wake up together as before, not lying on the cold floor, he wouldn’t stay unconscious, he would regain consciousness, then hers would be there too again. She needed time, and staying power (she had a great deal of all of it).

She couldn’t switch on her telephone now, see if someone had called. She should have been preparing documents, hadn’t been in the office for a couple of days now. Only recently the development had come to a halt, the interactive components in particular were a problem. Then partners had dropped out. She at any rate had done all she could, and more of course, than she would have had to do. Albert didn’t take her commitment seriously, called her a reservist. (We are all human material in a great reserve army.) Once it’s up and running, we’ll expand worldwide. She had been heart and soul for the project and U., the informal and meticulous team leader, who always hinted, that he would find a way, to really express his gratitude to her. She had already been in! She couldn’t exactly understand what had changed. Still not. She had been punctual for the meeting with the investors, but when she came up the stairs to the second floor, she knew that punctual is too late. Then men in dark suits were sitting round U’s living room table, an absurd situation, she felt uncertain, pushed an office chair up to the low table for herself. Suddenly she was the secretary, who was supposed to serve tea and take notes. She felt paralysed, looked down at herself, but everything was OK, there were no toothpaste stains anywhere, there was no dog shit on her shoe, her trousers were not as new and shiny black as the men’s suits, but clean. She forgot about the tea and when she finally brought it, it was undrinkable. She wanted to put on some more, but now no one wanted tea. She went into the kitchen again, which she never wanted to leave. She should. She had to get away from here. But movement wasn’t possible now, she couldn’t weep, shouting wasn’t possible, only waiting. With Albert everything was different.

Once he had given her a book from his collection as a present, an old one.
At the beginning he had said : I’m not good for you, you’ll find that out.
Once they had spent the whole night on his little balcony, she had talked about her dream city.
Nor did she know, what she wanted from him, sometimes she considered, whether she should tell him the truth about him and her.
How relieved she was then, when he disappeared once again.
And each time she was sure, that it was only an inadvertent parting.
She had laughed with Albert. She should laugh at him, that’s how it had started.
She managed it very well.
With Albert everything was different.
He only needed to be there.

She sat in the huge living room on an exercise bike, she pedalled hard and watched a film. The engine of a large vehicle could be heard from the small parking lot in front of the house/the big electric gate closed, it slid between drive and ramp (so at every homecoming, at every departure inside and outside were clearly separated : that’s good, but one might ask, what’s better now, to stay inside or to go out?)

The car door slammed shut, now in a moment the door to the house would be opened . The woman on the exercise bike sometimes imagined how her own shadow fetched the girls out of their beds, after drinking coffee, reading the newspaper etc., while she herself cycles the long way on her racing bike to her happy aunt and clearly feels the wind, that’s the slipstream, it’s to do with the skin, she lets the wheels turn, it’s all downhill on the way to the happy aunt. Because the days for her shadow look similar to hers, but shadows don’t know about exhaustion. How she is simultaneously close and far away and how her happy aunt tells her about her last trip. How she travels the land from north to south in rattling buses, stays where she wants, of delays of many hours and of the anger and the cheerfulness of the people. That she doesn’t need to think about whether a meal is too spicy for the girls, whether they’ve already been sitting too long in the crowded bus, in which bed they’ll all sleep, whether it’s clean enough. And when the happy aunt asks about her companion, she says exuberantly : they change, there are enough. On the exercise bike she should have frowned at such a sentence. She heard herself sigh, immediately looked over her shoulder. No one was catching her out. Recently the woman on the exercise bike could not always decide, whether her husband (Gabriel) was on the trips as well. He had become hard-working, ambitious. When he was there, he was a good father, who hadn’t just given his daughters exotic names; there was a greater seriousness about him, when he was with them. Gabriel was well matched at the side of her shadow.

His happiness was fixed by various co-ordinates : he had lived the whole of a cheerful youth in anticipation of this future, in which everything would be possible. With his parents and his sisters he had inhabited a building kit, which had grown with the children. Over the years new rooms had come into existence, inside, outside and above their apartment. Friends and outcasts were accommodated, relatives lived with them. Balconies were built and behind the old garden another one was laid out. In the cellar of the house were the little room and a room with a round wall, a big desk. Panelled walls, built-in cupboards, a screen (all from another time, another family). Apart from that the boxrooms, they were as big as the small room, only without windows, and the deep shelves were crammed/when she moved into the house, she had no idea, how one could get an overall view of everything. She had often said : please, always close the doors, because chaos pours out, spreads over the whole cellar. A little while before rain water had penetrated the lower storey, no one had noticed, she didn’t want to say anything/she could use everything/after making an inventory of all available memories and now : if the water damage was repaired. (There were ridges in the parquet right under the built in cupboards, since the rain large groups of ants lived there, they roamed around the whole floor, knew the boxrooms, the bathroom and the woman in the cellar, they knew her too. Sometimes she was woken by tickling on her upper arms, shoulders, cheeks. She always showered immediately after getting up, but the ants were always there before her. Washed them away with the thin lukewarm jet. They came again. The spiders were there before the rain, the spiders were there before the people, for sure. Now the soldiers were marching as well. Crowds of them. They filled the cracks. Followed their paths, there were so many places, where the plaster was crumbling a little, that’s where they crawled out, the soil under the lawn will be full of them and one day these rooms too.)

She had always been waiting for someone from earlier projects to call again, that someone enquired, they had never managed without her before. She had done so much work and always tried to absorb the unfamiliar material. The few times, when she hadn’t known exactly what was being talked about at meetings, had scared her stiff, of course. But she hadn’t just caught up. She was good. She was flexible. She was available. The only call from the office was from a woman she didn’t know, and who mailed her a list of questions, some with deadlines, all rather uninspired. As if they didn’t expect, that she would be working for them again. Now she looked at the calendar and was confused, because she hadn’t got herself a new one yet, then again : doesn’t matter; that she could only hear and not feel the wind, that should give her something to think about. She stepped over the narrow triangle of light, that fell on the floor in the hall, as she fetched the box in the little room, which she had saved from Gabriel’s orderliness phase/what does saved mean here. For reasons of space he wanted to dispose of a good or at least old time. Gabriel wanted to change/himself, and the others too. For that he educated himself more and more and small successes were already visible, he worked in a team, he said : pleased to. She had worked her way from bottom to top once, twice, she wanted to assert herself, she always wanted to show what she could do, not rely on the others. The big project would become independent and they would all benefit. First an assistant, then project leader and one day, no idea/no one was interested in titles, one day she would be director of a sector, she had told Gabriel/you know : responsible for all museums. She closed the door, the projector rattled.

The light fell on the screen and the lens could be focussed, in white letters on a grey background she read : BANGKOK. She immediately thought of Studio 14 at the front on the shabby street, the word BANGKOK had also been below that and then FAREAST LOVE. In similar lettering, and the letters weren’t straight there either (they didn’t have to be). In another life Albert had gone travelling and been together with people who later could still drive the dullness from his eyes (for moments at a time). What happened? Were the conditions really so bad? The others worked in similar circumstances. The image was frayed or the opposite : in individual scraggy fringes the blackness reached over the edge of the image; tall plants, leaves and : spreading, plant-covered roofs, which remind her of something (only the light will have been different, for sure). Tour by boat through the khlongs; a woman was standing in the water, washing herself. Water tanks on the roof, antennae; along the canal and on the water rampant greenery, one would like to think : jungle. The journey continued at 18 pictures per second. Window dressing or extras. Simultaneously show and extinguish the faces of fellow-travellers/back-lighting. Temple of Calm and Temple of Dawn and temple guardians of stone, golden and reclining Buddhas and a temple of marble. Everything had scaffolding around it. The roofs. The statues, the altars. Small bells and leaves moved in the wind. Grass on the pediments. The banana trees were scaffolded and the bananas they bore, too. In the street the tourists moved just like tourists; had pushed up their sleeves, some wore shorts, all of them huge sunglasses. She heard the water, the movement of the boats on the canals, or was that rather a memory like the wind passing over the water? Two young guys were concluding a deal at the market, which was not for the curious, certainly not; and everyone immediately looked away (dramatically or discreetly). A big block of ice was being broken up, next to that pussy willows. Men strolled across a square : one dark-skinned and bare-footed and with a handkerchief on his head; another tall and thin, he, too, barefoot/it was elegant or casual; he looked at them and laughed. She first of all recognised his big teeth. She didn’t know the laughter.

Gabriel stood in the hall, listened for sounds (he was searching for sounds, which could have been there : a woman’s voice, talking comfortingly to a child which has just woken up or been startled/a voice on the telephone, music or silence). He felt himself to be loud, because everything was quiet; the door to the children’s room ajar, the kitchen dark, he heard his breath, which was heavy. He saw the car in the parking lot, now the electric gate was in place. He was at home. He looked down the cellar stairs (perhaps), hung up his jacket, reached for the key, he liked walking barefoot through his house, here most things were certain (sometimes it still felt new; then the whole apartment should smell like the interior of a car, in which one has only covered a few miles, only : there was a bit of stale air above the old pieces of furniture, came out of the cracks, it didn’t matter), no light penetrated from downstairs, no sound.

With his wife and the girls he wanted travel round half the world, strangers would meanwhile live in their house, and there were plans, how it could be financed. The woman on the exercise bike could very well imagine this family of strangers : the children refuse the vegetable soufflÈ, wail before going to sleep, they quarrel in the sandbox or over toys, that are scattered across the garden. They let the kitchen get dirty and forget to close the skylight in the dining room. She could almost laugh at the thought of them sleeping with one another on the almost new mattress.

She put out the light (now the garden at last lay in darkness). She switched off the lamps in the huge living room and in the hall. She inspected the front door. Gabriel listened to the breathing of his daughters, then he followed her into the bathroom. Not a word. Water flowed. Towels, clothes on the tiles, similar movements, a familiar touch, a ribbon of light lay on the carpet, next to the bed, her skin didn’t tremble, he turned once/once again, they came close, tender, tired. As if they were whispering : say longing for what’s there. That was. Everything was present between them, the sheet crumpled, the air between the cushions, their thighs, now only skin or the palms of hands. A thrusting, absorbing, now he and she, hold me now/hold.

She saw the women posing on the steps, how the wind caught the silk blouse of one woman, who burst out laughing. She saw these beautiful faces, the smart hairstyles of the young girls, the flat bamboo hats. Then he turned up again, it was him! Albert stood, still barefoot, in a busy street; shops and bars, hot food stalls, travel agencies and massage parlours. Sat under arches on a wall, his feet dangling. His face wasn’t pale, as it had been eventually, the sun did his skin good, the corners of his mouth relaxed, the lines much deeper. She didn’t notice it, suddenly a small, delicate woman could be seen at Albert’s side, arm in arm. It was a completely natural movement or meeting, which she missed (again). Once she had got on his nerves so long, until he finally said the name of the woman, whom he had almost married. Now she tried to remember it and tried out : Nung and Gung and Nuh, but she no longer knew the name and so she called the woman at Albert’s side Malie, which means Jasmine and which she thought suited her, she was sure to smell good.

He was so elegant.
Now Malie couldn’t be seen any more. Perhaps it was because of her, that Albert no longer had any confidence in the future. Nothing more.
Probably all of it had nothing to do with his insecure circumstances and his decline or fall.
He was a different person.
It was of no importance now, what came first : the unfair contracts or Albert’s tendency to fateful arguments.
He was pointing across the park or to a swimming pool.
The tuk-tuks sounding their horns and the cars sounding their horns, the throb of engines, voices of birds and people, the sounds of the heat, of the street and of the buildings, all far away. Albert burst out laughing.
The greenery grew profusely around her, she was standing in front of the house.
Perhaps Albert was like her.
The workers on the scaffolding washed out their brushes.

(Translated by Martin Chalmers)


well : I drink a lot; I write a lot : I’m trying to get the research on this film done and tomorrow I’m meeting someone who wants me as an assistant for some project/or maybe doesn’t. It won’t make any difference money-wise. But he is a fairly well-known director, or at least well-known to insiders, if I ever apply for a real job he’ll certainly put in a good word for me. I meet G. but am not exactly sure if I actually want anything from him. I happen to meet Hans, he played Baby Bester in S.’s last film, and together we did a script reading and ever since I’ve been asking myself : what can be that can be; I’m jobless and there’s no justification for my existence/unfortunately; and in my special case, I can’t even claim potential genius. At the same time I’m annoyed with my lack of radicalism and my friendliness, but the way things are may be good, too. But what is it that keeps you breathing : besides your body/which is hard to get away from. What is it that gets you out of breath : besides your head, which is a very inadequate part, too. I see the summer light and believe in something again. That things will go on. And so on. (So what is this then. Delirium. A fata morgana, because I haven’t slept since the day before yesterday, because I’m crying and laughing at the same time, I haven’t slept, yes, but I can keep the deadline, the story is not as good as it could be, because I can’t give my best under such pressure/which we all feel, come on; once more : I’m trying, I’m going to get it done. I should put on a little rouge, I’m so pale around the hips.) I feel the light, it’s gentle and hurts at the same time. Again I believe things may be fine. I haven’t slept with a man for months. You know : at some point you don’t miss it so much anymore. I see the people around me beginning to break/breaking apart/not so much breaking away or departing. If you remember something that might help me along/get me out of here : tell me. Or tell me now. I’m still dreaming of my own departure. But to where? Back then I had no goal/just one big square to start from. Like in a game, where the entire board is the starting square/your life, and you know. You have to go. Which then means : you roll the dice; you probably don’t even notice the number of eyes and you move, don’t you. We’ve still a long way to go till the finish line. You. You just went. Though the situation here with these people does me good like nothing has in a long time, so in the middle of things, everyone’s doing something, and outside. That’s where life’s lived, and even if it’s only a tram that stops and starts up again. Well, my parents contribute to the rent, there’s support from the job centre, they call it assistance for start-ups, which is what we all are. Start-ups, one two three. Jürgen brought that stylish office furniture with him from his old office after the bankruptcy, and now, when we have official meetings, we no longer go to a café, of course; but impress people in the midst of our designer furniture. Sometimes people come in directly off the street. Though no orders have come in yet, as far as I know. But then again. In the building out the back, you’re most likely to be absorbed by birds’ chirping, which is rather nice and, of course, in a broad sense, has to do with life/according to the motto : birds’ twittering is what life is; though you are always a bit cut off from all that’s not happening outside. And right now, this is where I spend most of my time, with a basic haughtiness and exaggerated opinion of myself, I simply go about writing my Marrakech story, the topic is important now, time is probably pressing, as far as the zeitgeist is concerned, hmm. But now I just act as if I can hold out for another half a year and move at least towards this goal, and eventually get there, too. I can always do some job for S., his business is doing very well, the rent is paid, really shouldn’t talk about it, it’s all so ludicrous, but then again. Just like you said. Life is what it is. I would just like it for once that you would, for me, that you would take me seriously, that I could feel this a bit, too. A little while ago, before you appeared in this odd light, tears were rolling down both my cheeks, as if there was something for us to celebrate here. And I took off an hour ago, because they kept wanting to go on. Sure. The application has to go out before midnight. We’ve done all we could for it. At some point you can’t revise it any more. Why me, I fell asleep over the keyboard, while wanting to add up a few items. Over and over again. Know what I mean. You believe these numbers are trapping you in some kind of purgatory. Having to file this stupid application for all eternity. But you never make it through. Every time, just before the end, when you’re finally ready to add up the last numbers, you slump over. The hellhounds whimpering at the back of your skull, it’s hot and you know, that it will never get any cooler, and you won’t be able to read the figures in the right order. That’s how things are. In any case, I got out of there. They can stick it. Never mind if they don’t pay me my wages for the entire job. I mean. It’s a job. Imagine. And then I meet. I only wanted to drink some coffee and to think about what might happen next. So I’m sitting here, and this guy comes by. From the performance. What is he? A journalist or philosopher, or what. He acts like I’m a poet, as if there might be something to it. No idea what he’s talking about. My first thought, he turned my laptop around and my poems : he wolfed down the poems I sometimes write when I’m depressed/but only sometimes. And he can’t remember where he knows my writing from, and he says, it has something to do with Cage, which in any event makes me suspicious; it gives me a jolt when he says/I understand, yes, I understand it! He’s going to pick up his three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, play with her a little, make dinner, put her to bed and the computer in the kitchen, and tomorrow take her to kindergarten again etcetera. He probably went on and on talking like this, though he just sat down briefly at my table and said something like : at least I know why. Life is what it is, that’s an observation, though it’s only meaningful to the mind, I can’t just accept everything, anything, nothing; naturally, I ask myself, if not acceptance : then what? This inadequacy to be happy or unhappy – but what peaceful/exciting afternoons those were with Gustl and Gusti and the others, weren’t they. First at the Volkspark, then quickly back home with Gusti or through the rain and later everyone together for coffee again, almost always we drank something. Someone usually stayed on and others turned up. And do you still remember that tender bit of momentary intimacy/(as) if someone unexpectedly and with no need for anything to follow, caresses your cheek, in all probability that’s something that makes you breath, at least for the next not entirely nice moments. To live like this means : piecing everything together all the time, and maybe that’s all that’s in it for me. You have to get going. Yeah, sure. You too. You’re sure to do a super job. If I need your help. I’m on to several stories. I’ll get back to you.

Angelika Reitzer
From: Frauen in Vasen. Prosa [Women in Vases. Prose]
Vienna–Innsbruck: Haymon Verlag 2008
Translation: Catherine Kerkhoff-Saxon

Daylight Region

the lime trees in the courtyard have exhausted themselves, as the season requires, the trees have stopped flowering, they are old and thin but can still carry a few scattered leaves, nothing else. Beneath one of the trees is a sandbox with toys in it, which are used regularly and stay outside overnight. Bicycles lean on the walls of the building, at the back there is a pile of rusty spokes, twisted tyres, peeling cycle frames. Plastic and metal tractors and trucks park on the grassless ground, and chairs on thin legs. Garbage containers stand lined up and in front of them one drum has fallen over. For a few months it will be possible to see the bullet holes in the walls of the side wing and the holes – mouths – left in many parts of the crumbling plaster.

the light-beam takes its time, shining so brightly between the trunks. As if it were in no hurry and: as if not a single cloud would hinder it in its path and the sun would never go down again; as if the sun would shine purely alone and of itself and again and again (without waiting for anything). The light spread out widely, touching the trees at the edge of the woods with fire. The shadows of tree-trunks will fall across the fields. Long and thin, the shadows will lie across the narrow path on the fields, the shadows of the trees much longer than their height. Individual branches are sketched on the fields in a narrow script with regular ascenders and descenders, as if with a gigantic pencil. The light draws the shadows with sharp edges. But much faster than the approach of the light a cloud will force itself between sun and trees, stealing the light from the trees and the shadows from me. Slowly the big sheep named Cloud C wanders about the sky, breaks into small groups and comes together again. I try not to miss the moment when the many become one. And suddenly the light is gone again. Before all the light has gone, before the light turns off with clouds, lime-trees, sun-switch, before everything wafts away, I go myself. Take a run-up and fly somewhere.

even after the renovation there are still: the four storeys, with French doors at the back. The wall of the left wing is painted with flowers and trees with birds, children playing ball and a swarm of oversized butterflies. Over that is written how we laughed back then behind the moon with three exclamation marks, and over the passage in the front of the buildings someone has started but not finished in similar writing: Vivian I love you st. The bushes are high, and they are confused, as if they had suddenly grown old, they look scruffy, rundown. It is not precisely clear how much they have to do with each other. A woman (long, dark-brown dreadlocks) in working trousers and heavy shoes, who is too late, didn’t hear the alarm clock, perhaps forgot to turn it on, crosses the courtyard. A Tuesday morning in June. She is in a hurry, stops a moment, leaves the building.

after a few trials we took off the support wheels because you were much less secure on the road with them than without. (The road was precipitous and asphalt only came later.) I go about barefoot and have to avoid sharp stones now and then – jump-in-the-air. The bike looks hesitant in its shapelessness, or ungainly: because it has a thick frame and yet is very little. It radiates bright yellow, which matches your shiny red cheeks. Perspiration plasters your light blonde hair firmly to your head, just a few strands stand out over your ears; the slippery sunlight beams through your crown of hair onto your red ears as if they were something special. We drink juice from Dagmar and Rudi and before you have half-emptied your glass your little head drops to your shoulder, your body bends in the middle and makes a few wrinkles, your eyes have fallen shut, you have fallen asleep. It is cool in Dagmar’s and Rudi’s living room, there are big green plants outside the windows. The brown of the armchair and the brown of your swim-shorts can hardly be distinguished from each other. Above your togs a strip of white skin goes around your body, around your little tummy. Swim-short strips and orange braids on the chairs are sleeping peacefully, all of them exhausted. I yearn for the temperature of that day. Dagmar opens a door in the living-room cupboard; little lamps light up the mirror behind the coloured bottles, which sparkle now. Let them shimmer, go and get ice-cream and a camera. Photograph my little sleeping brother. I stand behind the chair where you are even smaller and more delicate than usual.

I stroke your hair from your wet brow. She presses the release button once more. The sun behind her makes me blink and I have to close my eyes. Orange and yellow threads of colour burning under my eyelids. We talk softly about your progress on your bike. I drink the juice in small swallows. Dagmar adds ice-blocks again and again, which she constantly sucks on, and then she takes a little (sharp) swallow; the little tongs put a few blocks in my glass of juice as well, they glide softly into the orange fluid. I think: silently, slowly, I think there is a filter over Dagmar’s and Rudi’s living room so that you can always go on sleeping.
(From : DAYLIGHT REGION/Taghelle Gegend, Novel 2007, translated by Nelson Wattie)



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