It must finally become serious. I’ve often been lonely, but I’ve never lived alone. When I was with someone I was often happy, but at the same time it all seemed left to chance. These people were my parents, but they could just as well have been others. Why was this brown-eyed boy my brother and not the green-eyed boy on the opposite platform? The taxi driver’s daughter was my friend, but I might as well have put my arm round a horse’s neck. I was with a man, I was in love and I might as well have left him there and gone off with the stranger I met in the street. Look at me, or don’t. Give me your hand, or don’t. No, don’t give me your hand, look away. I think there’s a new moon tonight. No night more peaceful. No bloodshed anywhere in the city. I’ve never played games with anyone, and yet I’ve never opened my eyes and thought: now it’s serious. At last it’s getting serious. So I’ve grown older. Was I the only one who wasn’t serious? Is it our times that aren’t serious? I was never alone, either when I was on my own or with others. But I would have liked to have been alone at last. To be alone means: I’m whole at last. Now I can say it: tonight I’m alone at last. I must put an end to coincidence. The new moon of decision. I don’t know if there’s such as thing as destiny, but there is such a thing as a decision. Decide! Now we are the times. Not only the whole town, but the whole world is taking part in our decision. We are now more than the two of us. We incarnate something. We’re sitting in the People’s Square and it’s full of people who are dreaming the same dream. We’re deciding the game for everyone. I’m ready. Now it’s your turn. You hold the game in your hand. Now or never. You need me. You will need me. There’s no greater story than ours, that of man and woman. It will be a story of giants, invisible, transposable, a story of new ancestors. Look, my eyes, they are the image of necessity, of the future of everyone in the Square. Last night I dreamt of a stranger, of my man. Only with him could I be alone, open up to him, completely open for him, welcome him completely into me, surround him with the labyrinth of shared happiness. I know you’re that man.
– Handke, Wim Wenders, Wings of Desire
As soon as I turned up, our life became a search for ways to escape from each other, to die away from each other by painless increments. And this? Why write these words at all, why bother? Perhaps because we both envy those who find escape in writing, who can push themselves off the banks of everyday life and let the stream of writing find them. Because that’s our dream – a dream because it would require a unity, a concentration we don’t have. We write, one or the other of us writes, in spurts, in barely conscious spastic movements. But as soon as I summon you we’re doubled up, as soon as you put pen to paper or touch the keypad we’re split apart. You’re no longer yourself, throbbing man: life is elsewhere, and we’re right back in the moment when you said goodbye to your father and walked down the concrete path, between the dark-green thistle bushes, to your new room, to a different life. When I turned up… Yet in another sense we write all the time, in another sense our life is made of writing, has been nothing but writing since that moment, meaning that only writing can mend it. We write: we gesture at escape with the same tools that lock us together.
God is life, we agree, God is peace. In truth we agreed a long time ago, what seems lifetimes ago. But best not to think about it, we agree. We can’t think about it, not anymore… There’s no doubt that God is life, peace, the final answer, on that we’re agreed. Only not for us, and possibly not at all. God! What a thought! But how to rediscover it? How to approach it, after so long? As fiction? Truth? Metaphor? No, best not to, we agree, for we can’t do otherwise. The great mystics! Will we ever bother to read them again? Will we ever want to hold their books in our hands again? Sometimes your glance lands on their spines as you pass your bookshelves… Only God could unify us, we agree, could make us an I, could close the rift that opened up when I turned up and we split each other apart, that year it all went wrong. Our only hope was God, at least we saw that early on, let’s give each other that at least. But best not to rake all that up again, we agree, it’ll only end in tears. We can no longer even think about God, on that we’re agreed, the thought is a recipe for insanity: to think it is to be confronted with the scandal of our life, and for that we no longer have the strength. We’ve grown too lazy for God, we agree. We’re getting older, thank God. Our synapses are scaling over like electric kettles, which is a good thing.
Sometimes, I confess, I think these words belong to me and that you’re a kind of clerk whose time, too, belongs to me. Sometimes I envy you, the throbbing man, to whom things happen. Or I pity you, the lost man who’s hardly there, whose words aren’t his own. But these words I dictate to you, that you scribble, type, delete, rewrite and labour over to make me look good, give me a presence I can’t maintain. They’re fraudulent to the core, that’s the thought we must both hold on to, even as we flee from it, flee from each other, push each other away.
The one who lives and the one who — what? Watches, criticises, dictates. Fraudulently: even as I manage to make you sit up straight and scribble what you think you hear, what you think I’m saying. Do I even know what I’m saying before you scribble it? Fraudulence upon fraudulence. Let’s write from that fraudulence, then, out of and into it, like falsely accused plaintiffs waiting for the real thing, the liberating judgement that’ll never come.
What am I reaching for, in these words you type for me? You: my Kaspar Hauser. The misted-over image in the mirror. You who can’t live, and without whom I can’t live, without whom I too am a Kaspar Hauser. Then let’s write from our incompleteness, let our writing – our waiting – be a reaching for each other that might somehow reach others.
I have to have a mental picture, an image, to start. I never reach this image, but it’s good to begin with it.
Form is all we have to help us cope with fundamentally chaotic facts and assaults. Formulating something is a great start. I trust form, trust my feeling or capacity to find the right form for something. Even if that is only by being well organized. That too is form.
Strange though this may sound, not knowing where one is going, being lost, being a loser, reveals the greatest possible faith and optimism, as against collective security and collective significance. To believe, one must have lost God; to paint, one must have lost art.
I want to leave everything as it is. I therefore neither plan nor invent; I add nothing and omit nothing. At the same time, I know that I inevitably shall plan, invent, alter, make and manipulate. But I don’t know what.
– Gerhard Richter
Everything slips away from me. My whole life, my memories, my imagination and all it contains, my personality: it all slips away. I constantly feel that I was someone different, that a different I felt, that a different I thought. I’m watching a play with a different, unfamiliar setting, and what I’m watching is me.
– Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet (tr. Zenith)