Devoir de Philosophie

WHY I'M NOT WHERE YOU ARE 5/21/63   Your mother and I never talk about the past, that's a rule.

Publié le 06/01/2014

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WHY I'M NOT WHERE YOU ARE 5/21/63   Your mother and I never talk about the past, that's a rule. I go to the door when she's using the bathroom, and she never looks over my shoulder when I'm writing, those are two more rules. I open doors for her but I never touch her back as she passes through, she never lets me watch her cook, she folds my pants but leaves my shirts by the ironing board, I never light candles when she's in the room, but I do blow candles out. It's a rule that we never listen to sad music, we made that rule early on, songs are as sad as the listener, we hardly ever listen to music. I change the sheets every morning to wash away my writing, we never sleep in the same bed twice, we never watch television shows about sick children, she never asks me how my day was, we always eat on the same side of the table, facing the window. So many rules, sometimes I can't remember what's a rule and what isn't, if anything we do is for its own sake, I'm leaving her today, is that the rule we've been organizing ourselves around this whole time, or am I about to break the organizing rule? I used to ride the bus here at the end of every week, to take the magazines and newspapers that people left behind when they got on their planes, your mother reads and reads and reads, she wants English, as much as she can get her hands on, is that a rule? I'd come late Friday afternoon, it used to be that I would go home with a magazine or two and maybe a paper, but she wanted more, more slang, more figures of speech, the bee's knees, the cat's pajamas, horse of a different color, dogtired, she wanted to talk like she was born here, like she never came from anywhere else, so I started bringing a knapsack, which I would stuff with as much as would fit, it got heavy, my shoulders burned with English, she wanted more English, so I brought a suitcase, I filled it until I could barely zip the zipper, the suitcase sagged with English, my arms burned with English, my hands did, my knuckles, people must have thought I was actually going somewhere, the next morning my back ached with English, I found myself sticking around, spending more time than was necessary, watching the planes bring people and take people away, I started coming twice a week and staying for several hours, when it was time to go home I didn't want to leave, and when I wasn't here, I wanted to be here, now I come every morning before we open the store, and every evening after dinner, so what is it, am I hoping to see someone I know get off one of the planes, am I waiting for a relative who never will come, do I expect Anna? No, that's not it, it's not about my joy, the relief of my burden. I like to see people reunited, maybe that's a silly thing, but what can I say, I like to see people run to each other, I like the kissing and the crying, I like the impatience, the stories that the mouth can't tell fast enough, the ears that aren't big enough, the eyes that can't take in all of the change, I like the hugging, the bringing together, the end of missing someone, I sit on the side with a coffee and write in my daybook, I examine the flight schedules that I've already memorized, I observe, I write, I try not to remember the life that I didn't want to lose but lost and have to remember, being here fills my heart with so much joy, even if the joy isn't mine, and at the end of the day I fill the suitcase with old news. Maybe that was the story I was telling myself when I met your mother, I thought we could run to each other, I thought we could have a beautiful reunion, although we had hardly known each other in Dresden. It didn't work. We've wandered in place, our arms outstretched, but not toward each other, they're marking off distance, everything between us has been a rule to govern our life together, everything a measurement, a marriage of millimeters, of rules, when she gets up to go to the shower, I feed the animals--that's a rule--so she doesn't have to be self-conscious, she finds things to keep herself busy when I undress at night--rule--she goes to the door to make sure it's locked, she double-checks the oven, she tends to her collections in the china cabinet, she checks, again, the curlers that she hasn't used since we met, and when she gets undressed, I've never been so busy in my life. Only a few months into our marriage, we started marking off areas in the apartment as "Nothing Places," in which one could be assured of complete privacy, we agreed that we never would look at the marked-off zones, that they would be nonexistent territories in the apartment in which one could temporarily cease to exist, the first was in the bedroom, by the foot of the bed, we marked it off with red tape on the carpet, and it was just large enough to stand in, it was a good place to disappear, we knew it was there but we never looked at it, it worked so well that we decided to create a Nothing Place in the living room, it seemed necessary, because there are times when one needs to disappear while in the living room, and sometimes one simply wants to disappear, we made this zone slightly larger so that one of us could lie down in it, it was a rule that you never would look at that rectangle of space, it didn't exist, and when you were in it, neither did you, for a while that was enough, but only for a while, we required more rules, on our second anniversary we marked off the entire guest room as a Nothing Place, it seemed like a good idea at the time, sometimes a small patch at the foot of the bed or a rectangle in the living room isn't enough privacy, the side of the door that faced the guest room was Nothing, the side that faced the hallway was Something, the knob that connected them was neither Something nor Nothing. The walls of the hallway were Nothing, even pictures need to disappear, especially pictures, but the hallway itself was Something, the bathtub was Nothing, the bathwater was Something, the hair on our bodies was Nothing, of course, but once it collected around the drain it was Something, we were trying to make our lives easier, trying, with all of our rules, to make life effortless. But a friction began to arise between Nothing and Something, in the morning the Nothing vase cast a Something shadow, like the memory of someone you've lost, what can you say about that, at night the Nothing light from the guest room spilled under the Nothing door and stained the Something hallway, there's nothing to say. It became difficult to navigate from Something to Something without accidentally walking through Nothing, and when Something--a key, a pen, a pocketwatch--was accidentally left in a Nothing Place, it never could be retrieved, that was an unspoken rule, like nearly all of our rules have been. There came a point, a year or two ago, when our apartment was more Nothing than Something, that in itself didn't have to be a problem, it could have been a good thing, it could have saved us. We got worse. I was sitting on the sofa in the second bedroom one afternoon, thinking and thinking and thinking, when I realized I was on a Something island. "How did I get here," I wondered, surrounded by Nothing, "and how can I get back?" The longer your mother and I lived together, the more we took each other's assumptions for granted, the less was said, the more misunderstood, I'd often remember having designated a space as Nothing when she was sure we had agreed that it was Something, our unspoken agreements led to disagreements, to suffering, I started to undress right in front of her, this was just a few months ago, and she said, "Thomas! What are you doing!" and I gestured, "I thought this was Nothing," covering myself with one of my daybooks, and she said, "It's Something!" We took the blueprint of our apartment from the hallway closet and taped it to the inside of the front door, with an orange and a green marker we separated Something from Nothing. "This is Something," we decided. "This is Nothing." "Something." "Something." "Nothing." "Something." "Nothing." "Nothing." "Nothing." Everything was forever fixed, there would be only peace and happiness, it wasn't until last night, our last night together, that the inevitable question finally arose, I told her, "Something," by covering her face with my hands and then lifting them like a marriage veil. "We must be." But I knew, in the most protected part of my heart, the truth. Excuse me, do you know what time it is? The beautiful girl didn't know the time, she was in a hurry, she said, "Good luck," I smiled, she hurried off, her skirt atching the air as she ran, sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all of the lives I'm not living. In this life, I'm sitting in an airport trying to explain myself to my unborn son, I'm filling the pages of this, my last daybook, 'm thinking of a loaf of black bread that I left out one night, the next morning I saw the outline of the mouse that had aten through it, I cut the loaf into slices and saw the mouse at each moment, I'm thinking of Anna, I would give everything never to think about her again, I can only hold on to the things I want to lose, I'm thinking of the day we met, she accompanied her father to meet my father, they were friends, they had talked about art and literature before the war, but once the war began, they talked only about war, I saw her approaching when she was still far away, I was fifteen, she was seventeen, we sat together on the grass while our fathers spoke inside, how could we have been younger? We alked about nothing in particular, but it felt like we were talking about the most important things, we pulled fistfuls of grass, and I asked her if she liked to read, she said, "No, but there are books that I love, love, love," she said it just like that, three times, "Do you like to dance?" she asked, "Do you like to swim?" I asked, we looked at each other until it felt like everything would burst into flames, "Do you like animals?" "Do you like bad weather?" "Do you like your friends?" I told her about my sculpture, she said, "I'm sure you will be a great artist." "How can you be sure?" "I just am." I told her I already was a great artist, because that's how unsure of myself I was, she said, "I meant famous," I told her that wasn't what mattered to me, she asked what mattered to me, I told her I did it for its own sake, she laughed and said, "You don't understand yourself," I said, "Of course I do," she said, "Of course," I said, "I do!" She said, "There's nothing wrong with not understanding yourself," she saw through the shell of me into the center of me, "Do you like music?" Our fathers came out of the house and stood at the door, one of them asked, "What are we going to do?" I knew that our time together was almost over, I asked her if she liked sports, she asked me if I liked chess, I asked her if she liked fallen trees, she went home with her father, the center of me followed her, but I was left with the shell of me, I needed to see her again, I couldn't explain my need to myself, and that's why it was such a beautiful need, there's nothing wrong with not understanding yourself. The next day, I walked half an hour to her house, fearing someone would see me on the road between our neighborhoods, too much to explain that I couldn't explain, I wore a broad-brimmed hat and kept my head down, I heard the footsteps of those passing me, and I didn't know if they were a man's, woman's, or child's, I felt as if I were walking the rungs of a ladder laid flat, I was too ashamed or embarrassed to make myself known to her, how would I have explained it, was I walking up the ladder or down? I hid behind a mound of earth that had been dug up to make a grave for some old books, literature was the only religion her father practiced, when a book fell on the floor he kissed it, when he was done with a book he tried to give it away to someone who would love it, and if he couldn't find a worthy recipient, he buried it, I looked for her all day but didn't see her, not in the yard, not through a window, I promised myself I would stay until I found her, but as night began to come in, I knew I had to go home, I hated myself for going, why couldn't I be the kind of person who stays? I walked back with my head down, I couldn't stop thinking about her even though I hardly knew her, I didn't know what good would come of going to see her, but I knew that I needed to be near her, it occurred to me, as I walked back to her the next day with my head down, that she might not be thinking of me. The books had been buried, so I hid this time behind a group of trees, I imagined their roots wrapped around books, pulling nourishment from the pages, I imagined rings of letters in their trunks, I waited for hours, I saw your mother in one of the second-floor windows, she was just a girl, she looked back at me, but I didn't see Anna. A leaf fell, it was yellow like paper, I had to go home, and then, the next day, I had to go back to her. I skipped my classes, the walk happened so quickly, my neck strained from hiding my face, my arm brushed the arm of someone passing--a strong, solid arm--and I tried to magine whom it belonged to, a farmer, a stoneworker, a carpenter, a bricklayer. When I got to her house I hid beneath ne of the back windows, a train rattled past in the distance, people coming, people leaving, soldiers, children, the indow shook like an eardrum, I waited all day, did she go on some sort of trip, was she on an errand, was she hiding from me? When I came home my father told me that her father had paid another visit, I asked him why he was out of breath, he said, "Things keep getting worse," I realized that her father and I must have passed each other on the road that morning. "What things?" Was his the strong arm I felt

« under theNothing doorandstained theSomething hallway,there'snothing tosay.

Itbecame difficulttonavigate from Something toSomething withoutaccidentally walkingthrough Nothing, andwhen Something—a key,apen, a pocketwatch—was accidentallyleftinaNothing Place,itnever couldberetrieved, thatwasanunspoken rule,likenearly all ofour rules havebeen.

There cameapoint, ayear ortwo ago, when ourapartment wasmore Nothing than Something, thatinitself didn't havetobe aproblem, itcould havebeen agood thing, itcould havesaved us.We got worse.

Iwas sitting onthe sofa inthe second bedroom oneafternoon, thinkingandthinking andthinking, whenIrealized I was onaSomething island."HowdidIget here," Iwondered, surrounded byNothing, "andhowcanIget back?" The longer yourmother andIlived together, themore wetook each other's assumptions forgranted, theless was said, the more misunderstood, I'doften remember havingdesignated aspace asNothing whenshewas sure wehad agreed thatit was Something, ourunspoken agreements ledtodisagreements, tosuffering, Istarted toundress rightinfront ofher, this was justafew months ago,andshesaid, "Thomas! Whatareyou doing!" andIgestured, "Ithought thiswas Nothing," coveringmyselfwithoneofmy daybooks, andshesaid, "It'sSomething!" Wetook theblueprint ofour apartment fromthehallway closetandtaped itto the inside ofthe front door, withanorange andagreen marker we separated Something fromNothing.

"ThisisSomething," wedecided.

"ThisisNothing." "Something." "Something." "Nothing." "Something." "Nothing.""Nothing.""Nothing."Everything wasforever fixed,therewould beonly peace and happiness, itwasn't untillastnight, ourlast night together, thattheinevitable questionfinallyarose, Itold her, "Something," bycovering herface with myhands andthen lifting themlikeamarriage veil."We must be."ButIknew, in the most protected partofmy heart, thetruth. Excuse me,doyou know whattimeitis? The beautiful girldidn't knowthetime, shewas inahurry, shesaid, "Good luck,"Ismiled, shehurried off,herskirt catching theairasshe ran, sometimes Ican hear mybones straining undertheweight ofall ofthe lives I'mnot living.

In this life, I'msitting inan airport tryingtoexplain myselftomy unborn son,I'mfilling thepages ofthis, mylast daybook, I'm thinking ofaloaf ofblack bread thatIleft out one night, thenext morning Isaw theoutline ofthe mouse thathad eaten through it,Icut the loaf into slices andsaw themouse ateach moment, I'mthinking ofAnna, Iwould give everything nevertothink about heragain, Ican only hold ontothe things Iwant tolose, I'mthinking ofthe day wemet, she accompanied herfather tomeet myfather, theywere friends, theyhadtalked aboutartand literature beforethe war, butonce thewar began, theytalked onlyabout war,Isaw herapproaching whenshewas stillfaraway, Iwas fifteen, she was seventeen, wesattogether onthe grass while ourfathers spokeinside, howcould wehave been younger? We talked aboutnothing inparticular, butitfelt like wewere talking aboutthemost important things,wepulled fistfuls of grass, andIasked herifshe liked toread, shesaid, "No,butthere arebooks thatIlove, love,love," shesaid itjust like that, three times, "Doyouliketodance?" sheasked, "Doyouliketoswim?" Iasked, welooked ateach other untilitfelt like everything wouldburstintoflames, "Doyoulikeanimals?" "Doyoulikebad weather?" "Doyoulikeyour friends?" I told herabout mysculpture, shesaid, "I'msure youwillbeagreat artist." "Howcanyou besure?" "Ijust am." Itold herI already wasagreat artist, because that'showunsure ofmyself Iwas, shesaid, "Imeant famous," Itold herthat wasn't what mattered tome, sheasked whatmattered tome, Itold herIdid itfor itsown sake, shelaughed andsaid, "You don't understand yourself,"Isaid, "Ofcourse Ido," shesaid, "Ofcourse," Isaid, "Ido!" Shesaid, "There's nothingwrongwith not understanding yourself,"shesaw through theshell ofme into thecenter ofme, "Doyoulikemusic?" Ourfathers came outofthe house andstood atthe door, oneofthem asked, "What arewegoing todo?" Iknew thatourtime together wasalmost over,Iasked herifshe liked sports, sheasked meifIliked chess, Iasked herifshe liked fallen trees, she went home withherfather, thecenter ofme followed her,butIwas leftwith theshell ofme, Ineeded tosee her again, Icouldn't explainmyneed tomyself, andthat's whyitwas such abeautiful need,there's nothing wrongwithnot understanding yourself.Thenext day,Iwalked halfanhour toher house, fearing someone wouldseemeonthe road between ourneighborhoods, toomuch toexplain thatIcouldn't explain,Iwore abroad-brimmed hatand kept myhead down, Iheard thefootsteps ofthose passing me,andIdidn't knowifthey were aman's, woman's, orchild's, Ifelt asifI were walking therungs ofaladder laidflat, Iwas tooashamed orembarrassed tomake myself known toher, how would I have explained it,was Iwalking upthe ladder ordown? Ihid behind amound ofearth thathadbeen duguptomake a grave forsome oldbooks, literature wastheonly religion herfather practiced, whenabook fellonthe floor hekissed it, when hewas done withabook hetried togive itaway tosomeone whowould loveit,and ifhe couldn't findaworthy recipient, heburied it,Ilooked forher allday butdidn't seeher, notinthe yard, notthrough awindow, Ipromised myself I would stayuntil Ifound her,butasnight began tocome in,Iknew Ihad togo home, Ihated myself forgoing, why couldn't Ibe the kind ofperson whostays? Iwalked backwithmyhead down, Icouldn't stopthinking abouthereven though Ihardly knewher,Ididn't knowwhatgoodwould comeofgoing tosee her, butIknew thatIneeded tobe near her, itoccurred tome, asIwalked backtoher thenext daywith myhead down, thatshemight notbethinking ofme.

The books hadbeen buried, soIhid this time behind agroup oftrees, Iimagined theirroots wrapped aroundbooks,pulling nourishment fromthepages, Iimagined ringsofletters intheir trunks, Iwaited forhours, Isaw your mother inone ofthe second-floor windows,shewas justagirl, shelooked backatme, butIdidn't seeAnna.

Aleaf fell,itwas yellow likepaper, I had togo home, andthen, thenext day,Ihad togo back toher.

Iskipped myclasses, thewalk happened soquickly, my. »


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