SHORT STORY MONDAY
"I have never produced anything good except by a long succession of slight efforts." ~Andre Gide
We discover ourselves as we interact with others. Through friendships our true selves find the courage to emerge. Through bitter feuds we discover our capacity for conflict, or lack of capacity. Through struggle we define our strength, or -- to our dismay -- learn of our weakness.
In Enno's case, I found all of this and more, for it was Enno who gave me the courage to let my true self find release. Only later did I recognize what the game we had played would cost me.
Had I once been strong? Or did I only believe myself so? Did I once possess the light of life? Or was I only deceived by flashes from illusory sparks on the retina of my eye?
Magenta tapestries, mauve curtains, lace bouquets and sprigs of baby's breath, honeysuckle and sweet nothings splashed across memory's mantle. I weep alone now, frightened by what will never be.
The truth never owns itself, but rather, gives itself away. That is to say, we do not possess truth. We only encounter it.
Even so, there is nothing certain, even in the most profound revelations, for is it not true that yesterday's experience is soon but a dream. Gone, like a mist... and verifications escape us. The enigma of time swallowing up itself like the dragon its horny tail.
So you see, he has fallen prey to doubt. (Of course I am speaking of myself here. I am a writer, and it is a habit of ours to speak in third person as if we are speaking of other people.)
No, that's not entirely true, though in large measure it is to the universal in all of us that one hopes to appeal. Certainly it was the universal in me that Enno touched. That is, the universal sense of the tragic... Thus we returned together to his apartment and poured ourselves drinks while dashing all hope against the unpalatable night.
He lived alone at that time, in the days before his fame. How could I have known what lay ahead of us then. We tape our hopes to the wall, but we hardly imagine the good thing will come. Years go by and we are left with only the dust taste, the stench of stagnant waters in the cellar of our souls. We conceal our tears, but to no avail. We find little comfort in this solitary stance.
So it is we find our way back to the society of men. We rub shoulders, make small talk, pay attention occasionally, repeat a joke or two and give the appearance of feeling at home in this world, their world, a world not our own.
Then we meet someone rare, someone complete and full of years, who has lived a life not unlike our own, but in a different span of time. We meet in a chance encounter that has the earmarks of Providentiality. We open our hearts and minds and find a resonance so complete it seems to defy probability and chance. Like two long lost friends finding themselves in an alien land, we rejoiced. How strange it seems now, for he alone was the immigrant.
(How foreign I'd always felt myself from that which surrounds me, suffocates and imprisons me.)
Our first affinity was books. "When I was a young man in Poland," Enno has repeatedly told me, "I spent all my waking hours in the library."
We were both lovers of books. European authors best, we both agreed. Americans had clever writers, but few great minds. The American experience is a corrupting experience, teaching us to value only the surface of things, causing us to miss the substance of things themselves. Whether it be art or literature, even music, Americans seem incapable of touching anything remotely passionate in the human breast.
He had come through the war and that, more than anything, sets one apart from most of the American experience. Pop psychology has little to say to survivors of the war experience. He had been a survivor of one of man's greatest invented nightmares. And in 1949 he gained his passage to New York City, freedom's shores.
"No one will believe the truth. So we do not talk about the truth any more." He said this many times, too. "People prefer fictions. Fictions require no commitment. Fictions require no risk. Truth is a risk. Truth demands a stance." Thus was his posture fixed, in an attitude of provocation.