These foolish things II

Yesterday, tomorrow or right now? Do you feel photogenic? Are you hiding pictures, somewhere? Have you ever been to court? Do you think yourself courteous? Do you still search monsters under your bed? King-Size or Futon? What was the name of your first plush toy? Can you play like a child, forgetting the world around you? Snicker’s or Mars? Does chocolate help? Wheeled suitcases or a worn out backpack? Are you a traveler? What about a journey through time? Back to the roots? How much is too many? What if or now just more than ever? What was your first word? Do you practice last words? Let her go or run after her? Do you mind? What’s in your mind now? Do you sing when you are alone or out loud when going out? Ever danced in the rain? How many umbrellas did you lose? Plastic bag or cotton bag? Do you always have coins in your pockets? Pitch or toss? Are you a sunday’s child? Afraid of Mondays? When did your childhood end? Peter Pan or Batman? Window or Rear seat? Can you sleep with the light on? Afraid of darkness? Would you follow me into the Wild? Can you light a fire? Ever set fire to the rain? Is your heart a fickle thing? Do you have a talisman? Do you believe in miracles? French Fries or Spicy Wedges? Cutlery or finger food? What are the last things you think of before you fall asleep? Do you sleep well? Do you want to win or are you a good loser? What did you lose forever? Do you get agitated by the smell of some perfume? Which? How does it feel be inside a woman? Is there a way out? I never asked you, but I still want to know.

Part One.

 

On the ground

From the underground station to L.’s house its maybe 500 meters but not more than 750 meters to walk. I carry a bouquet of roses in one hand and two big black file folders in the other hand. Even if I can’t see very well, I see when leaving the station that someone lies on the ground. It’s a bright and sunny day, the street is full of people passing by, they carry strollers or café latte, groceries, mobile phones or big black folders as I do. We are in a part of Berlin where the people do not drive only one car but two and most women don’t go to work but looking after the kids. It’s Tuesday morning and approximately  25 people passed by, when I arrive at the person who still lies on the ground. On the ground lies an elderly men, hello say I and can you hear me?, I ask him? He can obviously hear my voice and tries to speak but he can’t. While I search in my bag for my phone, other people pass by, one woman says to her child, who ask her what happened to the man on the ground, that ” he’s scum”. The man on the emergency phone line ask many questions and promises that the ambulance will arrive quickly. I pet the man’s hand, saying that everything will be fine soon. I try not to think of my mother but I can’t help it much, in a bag next to the men are a few bottles, the man takes my hand and grabs inside of his jacket, he pulls a wallet out of his jacket, together we open the wallet, inside is a copy of his passport. His name is a Russian one. I can’t speak any Russian. The only words I remember are djewutschka- girl, kniga-book and krasnaja- red and so I repeat the tree words again and again. A man helps to sit up the man, he tries to zip small amounts of water but then he wants to lie down again-but the ambulance arrives, for the last time I say that things will be fine soon. The man and the ambulance are driving away. I pick up my roses, my bag and the folder and ring at L.’s door. One day later, I am about to leave home with friends, when my phone rings, a man from the police is on the line. Read On, he asks was it you who called the ambulance yesterday morning? Yes, I say and don’t dare to ask anymore if anything went fine. The man says the officer died two hours later, he was not drunk at all, he must have fallen down earlier, fell down so hard at the ground that he died of brain hemorrhage when in hospital. The officer wants to know if I saw someone who was beating the man up, but I just saw the street with all the men and women passing by, walking along the man on the ground. Still today, I hear me saying that things will be fine soon, kniga, djewutschka, krasnaja, on the broad street in a well off part of Berlin, where death was already leaning around the corner, even if the sky was sunny, bright and clear, on a Tuesday morning, around noon. Still today I see the rather pale voice and hear me again and again repeating helplessly that things will be fine after all.

Deep in the sand, a day in Brandenburg

6.04 AM: I wake up. But I don’t want to open my eyes yet. I can’t remember much of last night’s dream but I stood on an empty street and people laughed out loud somewhere near but I couldn’t figure them out and searched for a key that was golden and heavy. Are all my keys where they should be I ask myself and get up to look into my handbag. Of course I forget that I don’t wear my glasses yet and instead of finding my handbag my head finds the door frame and I see the stars I missed yesterday evening beyond all the clouds. At least the keys are where they should be. L. and O. are sleeping, both snoring peacefully and I reach for the glasses and then for a book.

10.15: There is no sun at all, only clouds and wind. I remember why I never liked the landscape of Brandenburg much. Too many pine trees, too much sandy ground and wind, endless wind, sharp and unfriendly like the inhabitants of the villages who wave German flags in their front yards and get drunk in their backyards because of the boredom everywhere around here. But we jump into the lake, the water is cool but still nice and look at the many sailboats with their sails filled proudly racing across the lake. A gray heron passes by, searching for breakfast.

11:00: Breakfast, as we agree with the gray heron would be a nice thing to have and so we carry the table outside to sit on the terrace in the midst of the roaring wind. We have eggs, disgusting cheese which gets even worse when trying to warm it up in the oven, marmalade so old that maybe the Great elector Wilhelm I had tasted it and sand-covered bread, I can’t eat because of my still sore jawbones. O. dreams of strawberries, L. of Stilfser cheese from the market and me of proper tea instead of the sad crumbles left in the tea-tin.

12:15: Heavy rain. L. colors her nails, the nail polish jar tips over, everyone searches for a cloth to clean up, everywhere sticks yellow nail polish. O. reads the obituaries in the newspaper aloud. He estimates when his own death may come and how. O. as we learn as very concrete dates and ways in mind. Better to prepared he mumbles and denies to eat fish, to dangerous he says and looks at us, who have no idea of the deadly horrors coming along with spinier animals.

14:00 M. arrives. M. brings cheese-cake with her but is in a bad mood. Her cousin from Paris came for week-long visit, forcing her to search the perfect backpack. M. describes the horrors of visiting every single available Outdoor gear shop to be found in Berlin and not to buy a backpack. We feel with her deeply and go again for a swim. It starts to rain again but we are wet anyway. We swim till our teeth starts to chatter and M. laughs at my blue lips till she gets stitches in her side.

15:45 O. searches for mushrooms. He finds a whole basket full. But we know only three of them for sure. L., M. and I don’t want to die in Brandenburg. O calls us “sheepish” but we are three and he is all alone. The pine trees sway in the wind, branches are falling down on the roof. We give up and decide to leave, we get soaked wet while running to the car. O. gets wet twice, he forgot the basket with mushrooms. He makes dark prophecies about his soon ending life. We try not to laugh. We fail.

18:45 Back in Berlin. In the Alt Wien  its cosy and warm. L. and M. are eating Viennese Schnitzel with loud Ah and Oh’s followed by even longer Mhmmms. O. eats prime boiled beef with roast potatoes and Savoy cabbage whereas I go for a Kaiserschmarren. Between two bites O. swears to buy a fungal determination book tomorrow morning and by tomorrow evening we will enjoy the most delicious mushroom dinner ever seen. If not, you may read on in next weeks obituaries.

 

The devil of a toothache

Now we will extract says the oral surgeon and puts a blue linen piece over my face.” Are you alright asks me his assistant?” Mrghm mumble I because I am absolutely not well and have a lip as thick as Muhammad Ali after his last fight. Chrrrr-chrrrr-chrrr sounds the dental drill and I try to recite a poem and not to listen too much. But this does not help much either, because soon or better too soon the tooth crackles and the kind and patient oral surgeon surges the gods. But the gods and who knows this for sure, maybe never have had teeth or are just giggling at oral surgeon’s, their assistants and me. Chrrrr-chrrrrr-chrrrr- makes the dental drill again, again and again and more and more pieces of my tooth are buried on a silver tray, they look beaten but also proud. At least they did not went away silent they fought for their twenty- two minutes of eternal fame. The oral surgeon looks at me, at the teeth lying in front of him and sighs deeply. With his hand he wipes beads of sweat from his head and sighs again. Than he drinks a glass of water. Oh dear, he says it’s always the same with your teeth. I nod and feel very guilty and ashamed, too. The assistant writes notes down and I wipe my mouth out. Take care, dear says the oral surgeon and I nod. In the waiting room many other patients wait for their extraction to begin and I wait for a staple of forms to be signed and handed back in later. But when I slowly walk down the road of the little town, where in a large white house built in the late 19th century for a prosperous family with an old weathercock on the rooftop where now the always kind and modest oral surgeon practices, I can’t help to think of poor Thomas Buddenbrook who many years ago wandered through the streets of Lübeck, nearly mad of pain to a dentist who pulled out the tooth forcefully and soon after  Tom fell down on the street and passed away. But I of course don’t but walk home shaky to fall in my bed where I think for a few more minutes of Toni, the silly goose, of the cool violinist Gerda and the sweet flower girl Anna and their almost all unlucky lifes, but then I fell asleep and when I woke up and looked into the mirror I saw a sad French bulldog, claiming it was me. 

It was the nightingale, not the lark

When I opened the door a few days ago, nothing seemed to have changed. The books were the same in the shelves, the street was as quiet as ever. My neighbors children were crying when the time came for them to got to bed. The fir trees in front of the house are still dark green, silent and old. Sometimes a few people walk along the street but they walk fast and silent. the squirrels are still the kings of the woods and hedges, jumping upwards and downwards all day long. The vine branches are entwined along the windows and the windows are creaking as they ever did and always will do. The old black dog is still alive and the cats are as numerous as ever. The sage grows well and the peppermint too. The old piano with its slightly distorted D is still there waiting for my fingers to return. The challah waits to get into the oven as every friday and the neighbor from the house next door still drives a massive Landrover to do her weekend shopping. Everything seems to be the very same. But late in the evenings when the street slept I sat on the balcony with a cup of tea in my hands listening to a nightingale singing so bright, so clear and so full of longing that I could barely hear it for longer than five minutes. But I always listened and waited for her to start her sad and moving song. And so did I when I returned, leaving the doors of the balcony open to ensure I wouldn’t miss her. But the night remained silent, the night became a week and still today it seems that the nightingale has disappeared, sits on another tree, maybe singing another song. But here it is silent and I wish I would know a way to convince her to come back.

When in a fight

 

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My grandmother fought many fights. She fought against comic magazines. She never bought me a very much desired Mickey Mouse. She fought against my German and especially against my French accent. She was a great fighter, never giving up. But she also was a great believer. She believed in the Enlightenment, in literature, in progress and she believed till the last of her life that her family would come back from there. “There” meant the camps. But while she and I waited, there was enough room for fights. She fought against Zionism. “I was born a German Jew”, she shouted and ” I will remain so.” “What does a country in the nowhere mean to me?” “Nothing”, she bristled with anger. Oh, how angry could she become. She would have made a great promoter for the haskala movement, the Jewish enlightenment in the eighteenth century, but all the Jews were gone whereas her anger still remains awake. She never visited a synagogue in her whole life.  But when she was a child many years ago she heard the men singing lai-lai-lai from the neighbored synagogue, her father never sang so, while her mother never ever would wear a wig. “Stetl”, my grandmother sizzled and shook her hat, every time her friend Shoshana visited her from Israel. She became religious, said my grandmother to me, shaking her head again in disgust. What a pity. Shoshana finished nearly every sentence with Baruch Hashem, but even worse, even like my grandmother born into a German-Jewish family, she gave up German after she returned from “there”. Gave German up for Hebrew. Unbelievable. Hebrew never became a language for my grandmother, it always remained a wild and unlogic mixture of syllables for her. I loved to play with Shoshana’s wigs, they smelled of oil, moth powder and a scent of lavender, the false locks, shiny and heavy under my hands. Shoshana wore long skirts and blouses, my grandmother just laughed but it never sounded funny. It’s all the Rabbis fault, she was sure. Alone her old friend Shoshana would never have had such ideas herself. The rabbi wore a black-hat, he was from the Ukraine for my grandmother it was the same as he would have been coming directly from hell. “Ukraine” she cried, “no culture, no books, no life at all”. She was a Charedi now, said Shoshana and my grandmother’s face got dark of anger. “Traitor” she said to Shoshana. “Gentile”, said Shoshana not less angry to my grandmother. And for a very long time, she and my grandmother did not speak with each other anymore. A few years later Shoshana came back for a last visit, the climate was icy and my grandmother stared at the long beard of Shoshanas husband. “Stetl”, she mumbled, and when he took her hands to ask “which one of us is to say the prayer” my grandmother just remained silent, but it was the most uncomfortable silence to be imagined. Shoshana and her family never came back and my grandmother fought her fights again and again. It was a most and absolute helpless fight against a world and a “there” that should have never happened. It was a fight she lost and she knew, she would but never gave up. But still today, whenever I am in Israel or in North West London, passing by a woman with a wig I sniff if the wig has a scent of moth powder, lavender and oil.

Reborn

Everyone of you knows this picture of a young but not too young woman, even if you might never have been able to visit Florence so far. It was the much more unknown and today and by history nearly forgotten Guidubaldo della Rovere, duke of Urbino who ordered in 1538 the picture of a highly erotic but nameless beauty as a gift for his wife. His wife Giulia Verano should be taught a lesson in wifehood, eroticism and exemplary motherhood. But man often, oh too often overestimate themselves and their presents. And no one ever had Giulia Verano anything to teach. But still, the young beauty outstretched in the linen, who looks at the audience confident and relaxed painted by Titian remains in the collective memory of woman and men. Her left hand covers her legs, in her right hand she carries a flower bouquet, the very old symbol of love. At the end of the bed a smallish dog sleeps beyond her feet, symbolizing faith. The viewer sees in the background of the painting a sunset in the midst of a Tuscany landscape, whereas in front of the window two maids are busy to search for something in a rich ornamented trousseau. But why am I telling you all these in such detail, the reason is as simple as a resin could be. Today at around noon I went to the shops with my niece, who chose her favorite loves, begged for more chocolate cookies and as we searched for tissues I looked at my right side. And there could not be any doubt. At the corner with the vegetables, there she stood. The same long blonde hair, the very fine eyebrows, the heart shaped but smallish lips, even the tiny brilliant earring was exactly the same as to be seen in the picture. Of course the Venus of Urbino, so the title of the piece was not naked in the supermarket, but wore a dress the maids must have pulled out of the trousseau only recently. A light white dress, caressing her round hips, allowing a look at her porcelain tanned legs.There couldn’t be any doubt, there she was, weighing three apples in her hand, smiling slightly, looking at the price of the neighbored pears. When we paid, she already grabbed her fruits and left and I swear outside of the shop a carriage with four white horses waited for her, four liveried pagans ready to open the door for her.