Sonntag, 26. Dezember 2010

Florian Arleth - The Dream of a Ridiculous Boy (Story)

Als erstes Weihnachtsspecial gibt es anbei eine kleine Story in Englisch zu lesen. Ist eine alternierte Version der deutschen Traumgeschichte, also nicht einfach eine Übersetzung/Adaption, auch wenn gewisse Parallelen existieren.

And so with no further ado, here we go:

I had a dream the other night, yet it did not come to my mind that I was dreaming at first. It rather felt as if I was trapped in an intense memory, night on earth in a city whose streets I knew, houses with familiar facades, each one thoroughly painted with my thoughts and feelings during uncountable walks past them, the lives behind the first floor windows as familiar to me as if I was living them myself, and the lives behind the upper windows already laid-out in my imagination in many variations. Scenic pages of newspaper rolled over the street, driven by mysterious winds, and rows of dark cars lined the road in both directions.

A sudden urge to check my cell phone brought me under a yellow streetlight on the corner of a small intersection. The details of the phone were astonishing, I even got lost in the many menus once or twice and this fact could have made me believe that it was not a dream. Then I tried to read the new text message and the dream exposed itself by showing me only meaningless symbols, arrangements of letters that made no sense. Overwhelmed by a thorough feeling of dependency, my first thought was to look for help. But there was nobody on the streets beside myself, the only life the faint noise of cars somewhere in the distance.

A page of newspaper rolled by and got wrapped around the pole of the streetlight, showing me a female face, its features disfigured in unknown shock, not unlike a painting by Munch, except that here the picture had screaming red words on it, words that bore no meaning and made me flee the news of untold terror on the corner, down the gloomy street.

When I turned around, I spotted the figure. It was in the middle of the street, far back in the dark and only a faint shade against the black background, yet clearly there, walking, but if heading in my direction, I could not tell for it showed no front and no back. On and on I went down the road, past dark houses and sleeping cars, closed bars and dead display windows and when I turned around again after a while, the figure had grown bigger. It wore a hat of some sort and a long, open coat. I tried to deny that it was following me, but the change was obvious. Faint car noises came to my ear and I wished that one vehicle would drive down my path, if only to bring some life and to force the shadow to leave the street and retreat to one of the sidewalks, where a solemn streetlight might expose his mystery. Yet I knew that such hope was idle, the cars were in side streets far away, any help was out of reach.

Driven by panic I tried to fasten my pace, but all my efforts were in vain and only made my legs hurt after a while. With stiffened steps I hastened through the suburban monotony and finally the seemingly endless street gave way to a cobbled little square. The square was bordered by rows of tall trees, which in turn were surrounded by three story storefronts, and in the middle stood a round fountain made of stone. Neither the water, nor the slowly waving trees made any noise and the squeaking sounds of my sneakers were the only sounds I heard while walking over the cobblestones. 
After I had crossed the square I looked back, just in time to see him come around the corner and when he saw me watching him, he came to a halt. I gave the idea of confronting my pursuer a thought, if only to have the certainty that he was not of transcendental nature, but then decided that his tentative behavior had something sinister, made the mysterious man appear as if he was lurking in the dark.

So I turned around and without looking back again I went down the nearest street. Eventually the street made a sharp turn and brought me to a brightly lit bar whose name I could not make out. I went past the yellow windows and stepped up to the entrance, a little chamber that had one door to the left, leading to the ground level bar room, and another one to the right that stood ajar and exposed a gawping staircase. I wanted to get away from the streets, so I did not think twice and went down the tiled steeple stairs with a vague feeling of curiosity about what might wait beneath.

The stairs brought me to a huge cave like room with an old wooden bar along the entire left wall and an accumulation of chairs and tables, most of them empty, only a couple of guys in the corner who had pushed together two tables with different heights. I went over to the far end of the counter, away from the old barkeeper who was in a conversation with an elderly woman, and sat down on the split leather of a bar stool. Unsure whether I had money with me at all, I did not want to bring any attention to my insecurity and risk to be thrown out of this place again, or worse: asked for any identification I could not give.

One of the guys from the table in the corner raised and sauntered through the room towards the bar. Halfway to it, he spotted me and changed his course. He wore faded blue jeans, a white long sleeved rip shirt and was fairly unshaven. On approaching me, he spread out one of his hands and introduced himself with a shy smile as
     »Sal, Sal Paradise.«
I took his hand and he gave me a firm squeeze I considered to be a little too strong and he sensed this and gave me an apologetic pat on the shoulder, then inquired why I was not drinking, if I was in a dire financial situation. I responded that I did not know if I had any right to speak of a financial situation at all, could not find my wallet, and he brushed those concerns away with one big hand while using the other to signal somebody at the table whom he called Dean to come over-
     »Oh hello, I'm Dean, how are you doing?«
-and while I was casually kneading my aching hand, he asked him to make us some Wine-spodiodi and after he saw my puzzled face, added that it was-
     »a shot of port wine, a shot of whisky, and a shot of port wine«
-so Dean went behind the bar, even asked the old bar keeper if he could let him through, and the old man did, without even questioning once why this guy he had never seen began mixing strange drinks and giving them out free, of such conviction was the naturally behaviour of Dean. Sal invited me over to their table, so we took four of the strangely coloured drinks and went to the other corner of the room. They sat down to my left and right and I took a seat in a chair opposite a third guy. He had dark eyes and black hair, wore giant round glasses and kept staring at the ceiling. Sal told me that this was Carlo Marx and that I should not mind him, he was a little bit drugged out today. 
Dean suggested to get some kicks and the two went into a lengthy discussion about what to do now. It was decided to play a match of table soccer in the back room, which turned out to be a tiny rectangle with a blue table soccer in the middle and nothing else besides a black wooden board that was attached to the wall and maybe meant to hold the player's drinks, but was so narrow that only two glasses could stand there and the other two had to be placed either on the dirty floor or somewhere on the table soccer. I opted for latter, so did Sal, and we had our team, facing a solemn Carlo and an enthusiastic Dean, giggling maniacally while trying to push the stick of his defensive line into my groin.

I dodged it a couple of times and he eventually stopped after Carlo had announced soberly that the game was about to start. He and Sal, who played three positions simultaneously, fought great battles in the mid field, both of them skillfully moving the ball from one side of the battered uneven playground to the other. Sal finally managed to get the upper hand with a series of quick sneaky passes to my two strikers, who did not have a hard job facing Dean's deranged defense skills. He kept his three defenders constantly somersaulting, at times spinning them with both hands while completely ignoring the goal keeper, who stood motionless besides the empty goal, occasionally screamed-
     »you dig those guys, man?«
-and in this fashion we scored five, while Carlo only managed to get the ball past our goalkeeper twice.

They decided to switch positions, or rather Carlo did, and a profusely sweating Dean took over to face Sal. His efforts to wipe the sweat from his forehead were useless, in big drops it fell between his players who were unsuccessfully trying to get the ball. They did not stand a chance against Sal, whose mastery of the game was astonishing. He anticipated their moves, blocked shots and meek passes, made his own players fake shots and give quick passes, barely touching the hard rubber ball.

With only one more goal to play, Dean desperately tried to avoid the loss and really put himself into the game, shaking the table and cursing. Finally, after he wanted to imitate Sal and tried a tricky horizontal transition amongst his midfielders, who clumsily lost the ball, Dean went mad and shoved the table in what seemed to be a frustrated attempt to make the escaping ball come back under his control.

The two drinks on the soccer table crashed to the floor and made both Sal and Carlo pause the game and give a Dean reproachful look, while I took the chance and shot the last goal. Neither one seemed to notice, Sal quietly announced that he was going back to the bar and Carlo was listening to Dean's apologies with a dismissive face. After a few long minutes, I left them standing there, agitated in a discussion about cause, effect and responsibility.

When I came back to the table, Sal sat there, sipping his drink and I joined him, took a seat to his right and casually asked what was wrong with his two friends and he put down his drink, gave me an earnest, yet not angry look-
     »the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, 
     desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing«
-and I pondered on this while he elaborated his thoughts and feelings, talked in great length about how con­formity influences the artist and corrupts his soul and that the most important thing in life was honesty, to be honest in what you say and what you write, for-
     »If you don't say what you want what's the sense of writing?«
-and I could not help but agree, yet had grown really tired, the Wine-spodiodi had its effect, the hour was late, so I was not able to suppress a yawn, which earned me an ironic smirk, and I wondered what I was doing here anyway.

Then I found myself in the tiny anteroom of a toilet, staring at an old woman who was injecting heroine, leaned against the dirty white wash-bowl, and who became aware of my presence when the tip of the needle was just about to pierce her leathery skin and she stopped and asked me if I was-
     »looking for an angry fix«
-and when I knew no response to this, she sensed my insecurity, measured me from head to toe and finally snapped-
     »What are you doing in here anyway? Aren't you able to read the 'DAMEN' on the door?!«
-but apparently I was not the only one mistaken, for the door flew open and in rushed Dean to my rescue. His unshaven image came to full bloom under the neon light of the little room and he still carried that attitude of utter irresponsibility, gestured frantically-
     »Well, well, whats the matter with you two here?«
-and when neither of us responded, Dean played along with a detached sense of drama, gently pushed me out of the toilet while announcing-
     »Now why don't we get ourselves another drink?«
-and with a last glimpse at the woman I saw that she went back to work as well.
I made him stop and wanted to know what the matter was with everybody in this bar and in a slurry, yet oddly accentuated way of speaking, he proclaimed
     »you know that it doesn't matter and we know time-how to slow it up and walk and dig and just 
     old-fashioned spade kicks, what other kicks are there? We know«
-but just as I wanted to ask him what he knew, how to slow up time and what was there to dig, the old barkeeper approached me and, while firmly seizing my shoulder, announced that it was time for me to go now, they were about to close the bar. Baffled by his demeanor, my first reaction was indignation, yet I stayed calm, sensing that it was the easiest way out here, for he still had not wanted any money or identification from me. So I obeyed and Dean, on spotting the bar unattended, went there immediately and could already be heard clinking glasses and bottles. I looked at Sal, who stood on the other side of the counter, talked to Carlo and glanced up once to shoot me an apologetic smile, and then I left the room.

I went up the stairs and came out of the bar, it was snowing in heavy white dots and I slipped on the wet floor and tripped out on the street right in front of a car, which threw me on the cold concrete. As I was lying there, looking at the clouded dawning sky, I heard Dean, yelling-
     »Now dig this guy, Sal, jumps out of nowhere, right in front of my pow...«
-and I saw the soft flakes falling down and felt my body go numb, heard the voice in the background-
     »You think he's okay? We got to keep going, man, and never stop..«
-and then the words lost their meaning, became harsh barking sounds in a foreign tongue. The snowy sky was framed by a window and I was lying in my bed on the ninth floor, listening to the Polish construction workers outside begin their daily work.

1 Kommentar:

  1. Recently I started reading the diary of Anais Nin, volume one, in which she writes about meeting Henry Miller and his wife June, and Nin just seems struck heavily by the wild kind of life Miller is leading, his dealings with pimps and whores. The world of the beats features some similarities, what with its concentration on bars and shadowy lives. Your dream story, Florian, is afloat in that kind of bohemian lifestyle. Playing kicker with Sal Paradise and Carlo Marx, a dream heavily infested with two heroes of the beats, and just the kind of experience one would expect of these two apogees of a down, beat life. I like the rhythm and flow of the story, its English which is capable of making the surroundings and the people in the story show up with clarity. The only thing lacking to my eye is how the dreamer experiences the episode himself. In the beginning there seems to be some dream terror experienced by the dreamer, as in a nightmare, but later on the concentration is on what is going on, and the feelings and thoughts of the dreamer, in which I would have been interested, don't appear at all. The beat giants depicted here shoulder all the interest, the dreamer himself seems like a mere shade, not involved in the dealings except for his assistance in the kicker game. What does transpire, though, is the nightmarish and lonely quality of the whole experience. The madness of life, being interested in those who give it their all, as is evident e.g. in the writings of Miller and Nin,this one prevailing focus involves a hard look at the ugliness that people expose as they live their life on the wild side. The bleakness of the dream is not relieved, the closure with the dreamer waking up to the world of the workers outside is almost a continuation of the dream, no relief to be had, nowhere. Brian Laurin