Fragile yet remains our connection, but I have begun to warm to you; I hate to admit it, but I care about you – and this may very well be my downfall. Regardless, I cannot help it, the light in me is too strong to be ignored. I do not know what to either think or say any more because over the years, I have come to call into question the very essence of questions relating to what anyone deserves, holds dear, or values. Metaphors are tempting because they fascinate us by making us think we understand something we do not. They can be beautiful but also misleading, for which reason I shy away from using them in this context. All answers given over the course of human history to questions of value are at best unsatisfactory and at worst useless because they assume that which is called into question: If there are no extrinsic laws and law givers, no one ever deserves anything, regardless of their actions, and their values, regardless of their content, are void – or so it would seem at first sight.
Yet if there are no extrinsic laws and law givers, this still does not prevent us from determining values that apply to us and our lives in a meaningful manner. This, however, requires a lot of informed thinking, the opposite, that is, of traditional ways of ‘knowing’ the world. With respect to this, at least, our constant frenemy, the sceptic, can be repelled by pointing out that we do not need knowledge of everything in every possible respect in order to know what will objectively be good – mostly translating to ‘healthy’ – for us. More people may come to realize this, if ever, when at some possible point in the future, we stop fighting among ourselves over petty matters and would rather improve everyone’s condition instead of causing more suffering than everyone already has to go through.
Returning to you, as I tend to do, I do not care about you in some petty fashion, not in some superficial manner relating to your looks or your wealth or whatever else advantage I may take of you. We connect, not on a ‘deeper level’, as they say, but in a simple yet wonderful way: the way of sentient living beings.
You sang to me a silent tune –
Suspended cry tears through the veil –
A shadow kissed the mountain dune,
Revoked my breath from sails so frail.
We rise to touch the crimson cross
With desperate shivers to emboss
The cloth with naught but broken nail
And leave a mark on borrowed bail.
We sink to drink the muggy mud,
With futile gestures bless the blood
That courses through these veins in vain:
Amongst our midst none sane remain.
You sing to me a silent tune –
A voiceless cry in empty space –
A shadow eats the mountain dune,
Its breath revoked by cold embrace.
Sparrows’ wings across the sky
Bringing on an early night;
Rising where the oceans die,
Driven to untimely flight.
There’s no time and there’s no space,
Neither movement nor escape;
Sparrows picking at my face,
Sounds of ripping, bone and scrape.
Here I suffer, here I sing,
Ripped to shreds down to my spine,
Tears of joy it still would bring
For your hand to rest in mine.
It is not only a shame but outright torture that I must not tell you how I really feel about you. In a perfect world, I could and should without hesitation or second thoughts, yet in this imperfect world, I must refrain from doing so for fear of losing your interest.
Neither am I desperate to be loved, nor am I dissatisfied with my life in general. I just think and, more importantly, feel that you would be the perfect addition to it, the proverbial icing on the cake. I simply wish for us to be able to be together and enjoy being close to each other. It feels a bit as though one liked black tea with milk and honey, but despite having all of the aforementioned in the house, did not combine them because they were kept in different places. For you and I go together like milk and chocolate, peanut and butter, honey and moon, open and air, bow and string, music and Al,tomb and stone, guts and gore, death and decay… Well, I apparently got carried away a little there at the end, but my point stands. To tell a long story short, I do not need you, but I want you.
Unfortunately, you may never get to know this. Just in case I die before you do, I leave this note in a place where someone should find it, so you may receive it. Please do not die before I do.
Death is all around us. It dwells both within the shadows and within the light. It is an essential part of life, and it is our final destination: it is where all paths eventually lead and all roads eventually converge. The dying always go through a struggle before they finally and inevitably return to the nothingness from which they had come. Their consciousness is not preserved, much to the contrary of what many people hope – a questionable hope, for that matter, but let us not delve into this aspect now –, but simply ceases to exist. That which remains is a dead body, nothing else. And the body decomposes till it ceases to be a body.
A person’s death is, however, a problem for the living, not for the dead. For although we know that we and everybody around us is destined to die at some point, nobody ever teaches us how to cope with the inevitable. And the reason for this is that no one knows how to cope with it. It just happens, the same way it has always happened. One cannot be prepared for it, even if a person has suffered from a dignosed terminal illness for some time.
I myself have witnessed more than one death, where in all cases it used to be clear to everyone that the person would die, rather sooner than later – and yet there was no way to be prepared for the final moment, the struggle against death, the final breath, the broken stare of the deceased.
I witnessed the first death of this kind when I was five years old, just shy of turning six. It was 1989, a few months before the end of the German Democratic Republic, when my maternal grandfather had a heart attack. He and I were very close, close as can be at the age of five years. My grandparents used to live upstairs in my parents’ house at the time, and as usual, I would go upstairs to see my grandfather. When I opened the door, both of my grandparents were in the bathroom, my grandfather sitting on the toilet pan, while my grandmother stood in front of him, not realizing that he was having a heart attack. Neither did I realize this, of course, at the time, I did not even know what a heart attack was, but my grandmother told me to notify my mother. From then on, the house kept filling with people. An ambulance came, my father’s working colleagues actually, since my father used to be an ambulance man. Then the local pastor was called, since everybody already knew that my grandfather was going to die. The pastor arrived just in time, almost at the same time as my uncle and his wife. I cannot quite recall whether the latter also brought my cousins then. They were only four, so I suppose they did not bring them. Be that as it may, even though I was only five years old, even I knew what was going on. I could not comprehend it, I did not have a fleshed-out concept of death, but I knew that my grandfather was leaving, so I said, ’Goodbye, grandpa!’, and closed his eyes which had remained open, staring into nothingness. Back then, it took some time for me to realize that this meant he would not be around any more.
My grandmother, whose death I would also witness several years later, could not cope with her husband’s death at all. The ground had been removed beneath her very feet, and she kept falling deeper and deeper into apathy until senile dementia devoured what was left of her personality. Then one day, she had to be taken to the hospital because the main functions of her body had stopped working. She could neither eat nor drink nor defaecate nor urinate. All these natural body functions had to be provided artificially thenceforth, and everyone knew that it was only a question of time till she, too, would die. Again, I was not prepared, even though I had seen it coming. That night, my mother, my brother, and I were visiting my grandmother; her ability to react to us had already shrunken to a barely noticable change of the look in her eyes. She was obviously suffering greatly, as her breathing was heavy and every breath equalled the lifting of a mountain. Intermittances became longer and longer, until she finally stopped breathing altogether. I saw the look in her eyes disappear and give way to the broken stare into nothingness that all dead people share. Once more, only this time in the hospital, the room began to fill with people. This time, my uncle and his wife brought my cousins. And once more, although we all had seen it coming, we were not prepared at all. It had just happened.
I have witnessed more deaths, but it would not serve any purpose to relate them all. Many more people I had known since my early childhood have died these past couple of years, and each time, no one was prepared for it. In some cases we had seen it coming, in others, we were struck by surprise, but we have never been prepared, let alone been able to cope with it.
The point is that everyone may be gone within an instant, the next minute, the next hour, the next day, the next week, the next month, the next year without our ever being able to say goodbye. Instead of setting our hopes on an elusive afterlife where we would be reunited with our deceased beloved ones, I suggest we should rather cherish every moment we have and can share in the here and now. Do not postpone spending time with someone you love thinking, ’We can do it some other time’, for there may not be another time. People may be gone, just like that, and you will have no means of reversing things, filled with regret for ever – or at least till it is your turn to cease to exist.
With this in mind, we often make things far more complicated than they need be. Try being a little less pedantic about someone’s faults and instead concentrating on their merits.
I cannot recall any parting with someone upon good terms; in fact, each parting has left a taste of bitterness and repentence, and there have been moments where I used to crave nothing more than revenge, there have been times when I was convinced that the purity of my contempt must never be comprimised. Even though, however, revenge is, contrary to what people say, one of the sweetest things to have in the world, what would it matter now? All the faces and the names associated with them have faded into obscurity over the years, though still do they linger somewhere in the corners of my memory; they are no longer part of my life, though they keep haunting my dreams. I do not even know where you are right now, how you have been, whether you are even still alive. All I can say is that if you should come across this, I want to thank you for the good times we had and that I forgive you.
With this in mind, here is to us with (one of the many recorded versions of) the notorious Irish traditional:
Her voice had something almost lascivious to it. One could not tell, at whom, exactly, – if at all – that which was said was directed; it might as well have been directed at no one, at no one in particular, at any rate. Perhaps she was just thining out loud, for that which was said neither made sense nor did it seem relevant. The worst thing, however, was that it appeared not to matter to her, she did not care that someone was listening, so that you might as well have been absent or left, without it making a difference. And thus it gained something insulting, condescending – you had to realize that your place on her list of priorities was so low that you could safely assume the entry to be non-existent. She did not care about anything or anyone, for which reason it remained uncertain why she ever did anything whatsoever.
After having reflected upon this for a while, he suddenly felt a hot, helpless anger welling up, accompanied by a discarding resignation, and decided to leave for good and all this time – without goodbye, without return. He reached for the money lying on the table, this table at which they often should have had breakfast together after he had prepared it in agreement with her, just for him to find himself alone because she had changed her mind out of some random mood and disappeared without either a word or a noise. Before his hand reached the money, though, he paused and wiped, with a gesture that did not miss a tragic-comic moment, her vaginal secretion, which had already begun to dry, from his upper lip. If this had only been about some cunt juice in your mouth, it would have been pointless, for that you could have got more or less literally at every corner – but it was not about this. And since the l-word is forbidden or at least disapproved of among the outcast, there was nothing to be talked about. There was no discussion to have, no fight to pick, no duties to be accounted for, and no scene to make. Even if he had wanted to kill her – which he did not want to –, that could barely have succeeded, as she, not out of fear but upon a pure whim or just out of indifference, would have disappeared before.
From a distance he noticed that she was babbling something again, probably again something along the lines of her not caring about him, that he should not take it personally, though, because everything was shit and about to go to hell, anyway; that they could continue to do it, regardless, as you had to pass the time till death with something. During these speeches, her face always showed an expression somewhere between a mocking smile, pale contempt, and cheeky indifference. She might as well have pulled your heart out through your closed chest with a blunt spoon; perhaps it would even have been more pleasant.
To his – and everyone’s – dismay, she seldom showed her other side any more, that side, that is to say, which he had first learnt to identify as her. There had been a time when they had been able to talk to each other, could have serious discussions, followed by light summer rain kisses at midnight, when they laughed together, not at each other. Yet this time had passed by – irrevocably, as it seemed to him.
At first, her mother had come by, now and then, to look after her only child, but she could not bare to watch her daughter’s unstoppable decay, and so she began to turn away by and by – first her visits became fewer, more reluctant; then one day they had ceased altogehter. Her father was only a drunkard who was not good for anything himself, and thus nobody had expected him. In fact, however, he had shown up at her door one late afternoon, completely plastered and driven by a bad conscience, eager but useless, and he had to be removed by police force because he would neither calm down nor leave.
And whoever now expects to hear of the many friends who are always there for you and help you up when you are down, can get in a coffin right away because this never happens in real life (and if it does, then with ulterior motives), and it was not so in this case, either, of course. In fact, the so-called friends played their part in the plight, had brought it about and intensified it, until she became so dull in her head that she could not even get the money for the stuff. And all of a sudden, the many friendships ended, everyone was terribly busy and constantly unable to come and always on the road. Only one admitted readily that he had other, still solvent customers.
Everything had got out of control, and it had not mattered that he had taken countermeasures, she slipped away from him a bit more each day; not even when he was with her, he could stop it.
And as the case was as it was, even his staying power had passed its zenith; in short, he had to leave.
He reached for the money on the table again, paused for a moment once more and listened with his head slightly dented to his shoulder, but there was nothing which would have been worthwhile listening to. This time his hand reached the money and he grabbed it; it would just suffice for a journey into the unknown. He removed his jacket from a chair, opened the flat’s entrance door, and shut it behind him without turning round.
He made it to the train station just in time to get on the next train supposed to get him out of this hell for good. The train’s motion did its part to add to his emotional exhaustion, so that he soon fell asleep after he had closed his eyes. He was sleeping so deep that he rode the train till terminus – the place of the initial departure. He sighed, got off the train and returned to the flat. When he arrived, he habitually threw his jacket over a chair and turned towards the kitchenette in order to prepare a meal. He still had to wash the clothes and air the rooms: he had to take care of her, after all, that was his task.
When he went to the bedroom so as to open the windows to air the room, he stopped dead in his tracks. She was looking at him with half-closed eyes with a broken stare, pale as always, silent as always – but it was different this time. He knew what it meant, but the moment seemed to be lasting for ever, a battle was raging inside him against reality, against the truth, against that which he was seeing, that which he had realized. His eyes wandered to the right in slow motion, and despite its being written in her small, messy hand-writing, he knew what the sheet smeared with her blood said: ‘Why did you leave me?’
Still standing, he collapsed, felt not only his heart, not only his soul, but himself break, felt the shards shatter into an endless void, drifting away, enclosed by an all-comprising black. Trembling in every limb, he bent over her ashen, porcelain face, when suddenly, as he ceased to fight his understanding, hot tears broke from his eyes. Since he did not look at the clock und thus did not know that he had been gone for more than twenty-four hours, he did not notice that when he kissed her forehead wetted by his hot tears, she was already cold.
Ihre Stimme hatte etwas nachgerade Laszives. Man wußte nicht recht, an wen – so überhaupt – sich das Gesagte richtete; es hätte sich ebenso an niemanden richten können, niemanden Bestimmtes jedenfalls. Womöglich dachte sie auch einfach nur laut, denn das Gesagte ergab weder Sinn noch dünkte es relevant. Am schlimmsten jedoch war, daß es ihr gleichviel zu sein schien, sie kümmerte sich nicht darum, daß man zuhörte, so daß man ebenso hätte abwesend sein oder fortgehen hätte können, ohne daß es einen Unterschied gemacht hätte. Und dadurch gewann es etwas Beleidigendes, Herablassendes – man mußte einsehen, daß man auf ihrer Prioritätenliste so weit unten stand, daß man den Eintrag getrost als nicht-existent betrachten durfte. Nichts und niemand kümmerte sie, um weswillen es rätselhaft blieb, warum sie überhaupt jemals irgend etwas tat.
Nachdem er eine Weile darüber reflektiert hatte, spürte er plötzlich eine heiße, hilflose Wut in sich aufsteigen, begleitet von einer wegwerfenden Resignation, und beschloß, diesmal endgültig abzureisen – ohne Abschied, ohne Wiederkehr. Er griff nach dem Geld, das auf dem Tisch lag, diesem Tisch, an dem sie oft gemeinsam hätten frühstücken sollen, nachdem er es in Absprache mit ihr vorbereitet hatte, nur damit er sich allein wiederfände, weil sie aus irgend einer unerfindlichen Laune ihre Meinung geändert hatte und ebenso wortlos als lautlos verschwunden war. Bevor jedoch seine Hand das Geld erreichte, hielt er inne und wischte mit einer Geste, welche ein gewisses Tragisch-Komisches nicht missen ließ, ihr Vaginalsekret, das bereits zu trocknen begonnen hatte, von seiner Oberlippe. Wenn es hier nur um etwas Fotzenschleim in der Fresse gegangen wäre, wäre es bedeutungslos gewesen, denn den hätte man mehr oder minder wörtlich an jeder Ecke bekommen können – aber darum ging es nicht. Und da das L-Wort unter den Aussätzigen verboten oder doch zumindest verpönt ist, gab es nichts zu bereden. Es gab keine Diskussion zu führen, keinen Streit vom Zaun zu brechen, keine Pflichten einzufordern und keine Szene zu machen. Selbst wenn er sie hätte umbringen wollen – was er nicht wollte –, hätte das schwerlich gelingen können, da sie, nicht aus Angst, sondern aus purer Lust und Laune oder einfach nur Gleichgültigkeit, vorher verschwunden wäre.
Aus der Ferne nahm er wahr, daß sie wieder etwas brabbelte, wahrscheinlich wieder etwas davon, daß er ihr nichts bedeute, daß er es aber nicht persönlich nehmen solle, da sowieso alles scheiße sei und den Bach heruntergehen werde; daß sie es trotzdem weiter treiben könnten, denn irgendwie müsse man sich ja die Zeit bis zum Tod vertreiben. Auf ihrem Gesicht zeigte sich während dieser Reden stets ein Ausdruck, der irgendwo zwischen spöttischem Lächeln, fahler Verachtung und rotziger Gleichgültigkeit lag. Sie hätte einem ebensogut mit einem stumpfen Löffel das Herz durch die geschlossene Brust herausziehen können; vielleicht wäre es sogar angenehmer gewesen.
Zu seinem – und jedermannes – Leidwesen, zeigte sie ihre andre Seite, diejenige nämlich, welche er zuerst als sie zu indentifizieren gelernt hatte, kaum noch. Es hatte eine Zeit gegeben, als sie klar war, da war, möchte man sagen, als sie miteinander hatten reden können, ernsthafte Diskussionen führen konnten, gefolgt von leichten Sommerregenküssen bei Mitternacht, als sie gemeinsam lachten, nicht übereinander. Allein diese Zeit war verflogen – unwiderruflich, wie ihm dünkte.
Anfangs hatte ihre Mutter noch vorbeigeschaut, hie und da, um nach ihrem einzigen Kind zu sehen, doch sie ertrug es nicht, den unaufhaltsamen Verfall ihrer Tochter hilflos mitansehen zu müssen, und so begann sie, sich nach und nach abzuwenden – zunächst wurden die Besuche seltener, widerwilliger, dann eines Tages waren sie ganz ausgeblieben. Ihr Vater war nur eine Saufnase, die selbst zu nichts zu gebrauchen war, und somit hatte niemand mit ihm gerechnet. Tatsächlich aber kreuzte er eines späten Nachmittages vor ihrer Tür auf, sturzbetrunken und von Gewissensbissen getrieben, eifrig, aber nutzlos, und man mußte ihn durch polizeiliche Gewalt entfernen lassen, da er sich weder beruhigen noch abwimmeln lassen wollte.
Und wer nun erwartet, von den vielen Freunden zu hören, die immer für einen da sind und einem aufhelfen, wenn man am Boden liegt, der darf sich getrost einsargen lassen, weil das im Leben nie so geschieht (und falls doch, dann mit Hintergedanken), und es war auch in diesem Falle selbstredend nicht so. In der Tat waren die sogenannten Freunde an der Misere beteiligt, hatten sie herbeigeführt und ausgebaut, bis sie dann so trübe im Kopf ward, daß sie nicht einmal mehr das Geld für den Stoff aufbringen konnte. Da hatte es dann schnell ein Ende mit den vielen Freundschaften, die urplötzlich alle furchtbar beschäftigt und ständig verhindert und immer unterwegs waren. Nur einer gestand ohne Umschweif ehrlich, daß er andre, noch zahlungsfähige Kunden habe.
Es war alles außer Kontrolle geraten, und es hatte keine Rolle gespielt, daß er dagegengesteuert hatte, sie entglitt ihm mit jedem Tag mehr; nicht einmal wenn er bei ihr war, konnte er es aufhalten.
Und da die Dinge nun so lagen, wie sie denn einmal lagen, hatte auch sein Durchhaltevermögen seinen Zenit überschritten; kurzum, er mußte gehen.
Er griff wieder nach dem Geld auf dem Tisch, hielt noch einmal inne und lauschte mit leicht angewinkeltem, zur Schulter geneigtem Kopf, doch da war nichts, dessen es zu lauschen sich gelohnt hätte. Diesmal erreichte seine Hand das Geld und er ergriff es; für eine Fahrt ins Ungewisse würde es gerade reichen. Er nahm seine Jacke vom Stuhl, öffnete die Wohnungstür und schloß sie hinter sich, ohne sich noch einmal umzudrehen.
Er gelangte gerade rechtzeitig zum Bahnhof, um in den nächsten Zug zu steigen, der ihn endügltig aus dieser Hölle fortbringen sollte. Die Fahrtbewegung tat ihr übriges zu seiner emotionalen Erschöpfung, so daß er bald, nachdem er die Augen geschlossen hatte, einschlief. Er schlief so tief, daß er bis zur Endstation mitfuhr – dem ursprünglichen Abfahrtsort. Er seufzte, stieg aus dem Zug und kehrte zur Wohnung zurück. Als er dort ankam, warf er seine Jacke gewohnheitsmäßig über den Stuhl und wandte sich der Kochnische zu, um das Essen zuzubereiten. Es galt noch, die Wäsche zu waschen und zu lüften: schließlich mußte er sich um sie kümmern, das war seine Aufgabe.
Als er ins Schlafzimmer ging, um die Fenster zum Lüften zu öffnen, hielt er mitten in der Bewegung inne. Sie sah ihn aus halbgeöffneten Augen mit gebrochenem Blick an, blaß wie immer, still wie immer – aber es war anders als sonst. Er wußte, was es bedeutete, doch der Augenblick schien sich für immer fortzuspinnen, ein Kampf tobte in ihm wider die Realität, wider die Wahrheit, wider das Gesehene, das Erkannte. Seine Augen wanderten in Zeitlupe nach rechts, und wiewohl es in ihrere unordentlichen, kleinen Schrift verfaßt war, wußte er, was auf dem mit ihrem Blut verschmierten Zettel stand: »Warum hast Du mich verlassen?«
Er sank, immer noch stehend, in sich zusammen, fühlte nicht nur sein Herz, nicht nur seine Seele, sondern sich zerbrechen, fühlte die Scherben sich in endlose Leere verteilen, davontreiben, umfaßt von alles erfüllender Schwärze. Am ganzen Leibe zitternd beugte er sich über ihr aschfahles, porzellanes Gesicht, als plötzlich, als er endlich aufhörte, gegen das Verständnis zu kämpfen, heiße Tränen aus seinen Augen brachen. Da er nicht auf die Uhr schaute und somit nicht wußte, daß er über vierundzwanzig Stunden fort gewesen war, bemerkte er nicht, daß, als er ihre von seinen heißen Tränen benetzte Stirn küßte, sie schon längst kalt war.