The Page

A tale of intimacy and loss

Month: March, 2014



Yva (Else Ernestine Neuländer): Amor Skin, Berlin, ca. 1925-1930, Fotografie auf Silbergelatinepapier © Jüdisches Museum Berlin  I have always worked better in the morning, at the time dawn light is already visible, but not bright enough to let the night be forgotten. Then, the mind still remembers the nocturne walks and drifts, the bodies and faces met, perhaps touched, in those misty dreams. Early, inspiration proceeds from still live memories, and those clearer sparks born from the shock of the day.

Here, in Kreuzberg, the rising noises of city life, never as aggressive as in London or Paris, accompany the first writing shift of the day, part of that concert of senses, of which the aroma of brewing coffee is a central piece. There is you, emerging a little behind me, your soft steps a mere fluster in the peaceful atmosphere of our home.

When it is a little warmer the balcony door is open, letting the city visit our world, but this street is so quiet that only village-like sounds reach us. Sun light plays little tiling games on our walls, on the prints that adorn them, on the glass tumblers on the table. We drink coffee, in a silence hardly interrupted by the sound of a distant radio.

We talk about the book, the characters, the plot that appears so anchored in the city that it resembles a diary. Your smile encourages me to continue, rather than be tempted to lead you back to our room, as my main character would do, if he were me. Of course you know that this is for me therapy, as much as a way to finance the small luxuries that add flavour to our life here: a pair of new bicycles, new lenses, some rare vinyl records found in a marvellous and hidden shop in Friedrichshain…

We talk about going back to Sans-Souci, of Friedrich and Voltaire, of Clausewitz and Charnhorst. Prussia, we call her Brandenburg, is all around us. Constantly we look back at history, what would have happened if, if Bismarck had lived longer, if Germany had remained united, neutral, the opposite of the nexus of the Cold War. History feeds our love of the city, and my work.

We decide to take a walk, there will be time for me to go back to this chapter later, as I know that you will be out this afternoon. Hand in hand, we cross Viktoria Park, and aim for Lindenstraße and the Museum. The Museum is our meditation place, our souls’ meeting place with the city, the grey corridors and corners a replica of our minds. You said that all our secrets and hopes are there, more so than between the monoliths of the open space near the Tiergarten.

We belong here, like the others, the dead and the living, to the city of Faust.

Photography: Yva (Else Ernestine Neuländer): Amor Skin, Berlin, ca. 1925-1930, Fotografie auf Silbergelatinepapier
© Jüdisches Museum Berlin 



The Chancellery, Berlin

Sarah and Julian stand on the bridge, near the Chancellery, one cool and bright April morning, looking at the Spree. Sarah observes her husband, the last words of their earlier conversation slowly dissipating in the air. The thin traffic is sliding, silently, towards the Alt Moabit.

“I agree with you, I don’t want to leave now, I want to stay here, to learn with you, about all that happened in this city…” Julian knows Sarah means what she is saying, he’s not sure, yet, what it means for both of them. He choses to talk about the practicality, the tangible objects of their life, the anchors he can recognise, any help to stop his still fragile mind drifting.

“I’d like us to find a bigger apartment.” Sharing his thoughts, “I love our place in Kreuzberg, but I fancy more space.” – “It’s such a nice idea,” Sarah replies with a tender smile, “Besides, we will bring all our books here from London, so we will need some space!” They laugh.

“But I want to stay in Kreuzberg, or Friedrichshain,” she adds, turning toward him to kiss. Hand in hand they walk back slowly across the gardens in the direction of the Bundestag. The first tourist coaches have started to park along Scheidemannstrasse.

“You finish the book, then we have a long break. We will explore Brandenburg, and study the Bauhaus. Maybe we will travel as far as Dessau!” proposes Sarah. Julian is happy with such a programme, it suits his mood perfectly. They walk in the direction of Friedrichstrasse, then turn toward the Gendarmenmarkt. They stop at a small café: Julian remembers they stopped in the same place before, several months ago. He needs more landmarks, slowly he has started rebuilding the grid of his memories. He tells Sarah: “The more places we see together, the easier for me to forget…” – “I know: I am your mind guard.”

The following day they start looking, and this activity is a blessing for Julian. Sarah finds a buyer for her studio straightaway. They visit several apartments, and finally settle for a spacious four-rooms renovated one, near Viktoria Park. Julian is very happy.

Their new home is on the fifth floor of a classical building, facing the park. There is plenty of light, a wide balcony. Soon they are busy deciding what they will move back from their house in London, and what they will buy here in Berlin. They draw a lay-out of how they want to use their new space, their room, Sarah’s study, Julian’s, what they want on the walls. They buy a new bed. Soon they are on a new honeymoon.

A different you

~ Sarah

Ex Libris,  Franz von Bayroz.  You have changed so much, Julian, that your friends won’t recognise you. Even I sometimes hesitate, when I observe you, at work, writing, or simply walking around the house: is this my husband? It is only small changes, you look the same, but “feel” different, in your way of speaking, your posture when we talk, and, yes, the way our love life has now evolved. I know, people change, and I have changed too.

There is your work. You used to work chiefly in the morning, sometimes, less frequently, in the evening. Now, you are at your desk for long hours, often late into the night. Yes, you have been very successful, the last title is well on its way to become a literary best-seller. But I wonder: this sudden wave of inspiration, this new commitment to your work, what does it all mean? It happened so suddenly. One day it was writing as usual, then, it became obsessive.

Then, there are your dreams, more vivid than ever before, you speaking in your sleep, which used to be very rare. What, or who, is haunting you? You say nothing, and you smile. I find your denials not so convincing. Your treatment ended months ago: you are cured now, aren’t you? Yet, at times, I could believe you are somewhere else, far from me, perhaps far from yourself. I would say that you appear now to live first and foremost for your writing. And as I am your wife, your support, I should be pleased for you, and maybe, I am. Only a little worried.

I will keep these observations to myself, for now. I am pleased with the progress you are making with your writing, and I am proud of your achievements, how could I not be? But I am also wondering, about the dark side of your soul, about the shadows that I suspect, around you.

Soon we will leave, we will return to Faust’s city, his metropolis. I know you want to be back there, and so do I. More than ever it is our city, and there we will find again the path of love. I want to run with you in the Tiergarten, around the old airfield in Tempelhof. I want to look at the paintings of Prussian soldiers of the 1870 war, in the old gallery, I want to see you smile at the bust of Wagner. I want us to go back to the Jewish museum in Kreuzberg, I want to do all those things, with you.

And, perhaps, you will become like the old you, again.

Image: Ex Libris
Franz von Bayroz.
Eau-forte originale signée dans le cuivre. Vers 1910 (via triciclo)

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