Monday, August 24, 2009

Enno (Part 3)

SHORT STORY MONDAY


Enno
Part 3

One wonders.... I wonder, if our hatred of things in others is chiefly due to our fear of discovering them in ourselves? I cite weakness here. When I’m not guarding myself I find myself intolerant of weakness in others. Stupidity, too. I hate stupidity. Do I fear being considered stupid?

It's not an obsession, but maybe I fear I am lazy as well. I won't allow myself the luxury of rest and diversion. We live but once and have but one opportunity to leave our mark in time.

I remember when I first learned that Marco Polo was not the first to find a road to China. His name has been preserved only because he had the ill luck of being forced to share a prison cell with a writer. Writers love good stories. It gives them something worthwhile to practice their craft on. This was how Enno had impressed himself upon me. He would be the object of my art.


Immortality was a recurrent theme in our talks. He claimed that the true immortals were those who most fully understood and embraced the futility of their lives and their work.

But it is not so much the quest for life as the fear of death -- the void and Nothingness -- that drives us. Anything, anything to escape the solitariness of our passage through time toward the predetermined end.


He questioned me about my own work, but I couldn't help feeling my answers did not interest him.

This was only natural, of course. He existed in a world of his own. I frequented that world, sought to experience it, capture it, record, it, but could not expect him to have the same interest in mine.

When I expressed interest in his stories, his experiences, he clucked and trilled like a bird, twittering with delight. If, because of some temporary melancholy, I were somewhat less enthusiastic about hearing his autobiographical discourse, he clammed up, even turned on me, accusing me of hating him.

"I am not interesting enough for you, eh?" he said bitterly. My protests would finally win out.
The game -- we both knew it to be as such -- required two players. His role was to act insulted, mine to abase myself. It's a curious thing, these interpersonal dynamics. The eagerness with which I seek the worm position, prostrate, ashamed... And for what reward? The friendships it provides, I suppose.

Was it love or fear, however, that brought me here to seek Enno's company? It would have been easy to say love, my concern for a crusty old man who had no one else save me.

But the truth, always less comforting when faced honestly, remains quite otherwise. Was it not loneliness that compelled me? In my selfishness I needed a companion, lest my earthly sojourn be a tad bit too solitary.


At one time his presence in a room produced a dominating impression upon people, no matter how large the room or how many the people.

Today, he is half a man. His physical stature has so deteriorated that he can barely sit up at times. Thus I force him to eat, to take regular meals. "You need nourishment," I say. "Your strength is down."

"I forget how good it is to eat."

He neglects everything but his music. Beethoven, Sibelius, Grieg, Bach. "Bocchhhhhh," he declaims with an exaggerated guttural display.

And if I let him, he neglects me as well.

Slats of light paint a zebra hide across his features as he tells me again of his escape during the war. Only this time I question in more detail. Times, places, distances, dates. His memory is hazy and he chafes at this probing for details. Suddenly it appears I am too interested. There is no middle ground.

"I am wasting your time," he says dismissively.

"No, I'm interested. Please, tell me the story again of how you escaped to Switzerland."

"I was working in a small town in western Austria--"

"What was the name of the town?"

"I don't know. It was a small town. It's too small to be on any map. It was a very small town."

"Where?"

"Somewhere near the border. Less than a mile from the Swiss border."

"How far from Vienna?"

"No, no, no. Vienna is not anywhere near Switzerland. Must you be so stupid?"


CONTINUED

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