It brought some colour into the night. A distraction to the whining faces and the oaths on their graves. Everyone knew about them, but not everyone got to hear the others. And yet I was nothing special, probably never been and the knowledge made me strong when I looked up to the sky.
That evening, the moon was three quarters full. Its dark side was clearly visible among the dampened street lights of not so distant city. The outline marked on the dark firmament, so that if you held your thumb and index finger together, you could hold the celestial body between your fingers. A plane flew past the moon. His flashing radiated in the same heat as that of the stars around it. The flying box shone like the glowing balls millions of kilometres away. Not so steadily. Not so intense. In flashes, blinking, always in the same rhythm, the flying object moved over the darkness contaminated by the lights of the city. The moon stood in the sky, an airplane pulled over our heads and my best friend stood on the shore with his pants in his knees and peed in the passing river.
Writing saved my life at such moments. I don’t know how many times Ihad experienced this and was overwhelmed by the macabre beauty of life, and the many things thatwere forgotten with time. We’ve been sitting here for hours. I sat on a loose piece of stone with my feet in the air, watching the passing stream next to us.
Before that, we had dinner at a restaurant. The food, like the conversations, had been stale. We knew a lot of time had passed, and in between growning up had caught up on us. It was the curse of every living being. Nothing in this world could escape it. I wish it had been something more than a girl or a job he missed. We were trapped in meaninglessness, as people of our age were, between life and death, freedom and responsibility. If we had been born a hundred years earlier, there was no doubt in what we had to do, but it was the end of the 2010s, a time of questions and nothing in this world could have answered us, because this world had become insane and politically active. The ideals of the West were carried to the deathbed like our rational will to live. We were too educated to have it made sense to resist and realized what we had created. All our foundations are built on skulls. These days I was ready to hold a gun to my temple, but late justice feels like if there was none at all and without another skull, the skeletal tower that is supposed to help us out of the hole, will not collapse either.
I once knew the man I was sitting in front of. His name was Philipp. He was my friend. The best, but we’ve been separated for years. We had nothing in common. He had found his purpose again, because he had chosen one. The world was not made for insecure people. Not that I was one, but I thought I knew more than most who went through life. Not looking for insight anymore. Not even love could make me happier, because I had lost it and didn’t find it again and I feared it had stopped without getting to ask for answers to the big questions. Despite the existential fear, I was happy in a brittle way. As long as I could make jokes, I would be and that’s what I wanted for that night. That night meant something to me, and nothing in my life would make it up to me, if I showed him how I really felt and my lost friend would have had enough of me. I was lost. I wish I could find myself again, or tell him what I had learned.
We were sitting there. Eating the food we used to eat. I swore it tasted different, but when we talked about it, he said it reminded him of the past. I probably couldn’t remember. He was the second friend I had in this world that I could say he was my friend and that fact he had never betrayed. But I didn’t know if it was still him.
We talked even more about the past and about those evenings I felt particularly bad, because I remembered how weak I was. I didn’t want to come out or think about it. Surrender myself to the comparison or ask questions of the past time that I have not been able to answer. Was it going better for me? Not really, but I was at least freer when I was young, that I no longer got on my feet was probably my own fault. ‘
“Don’t you remember?” He asked me and I knew I could, but that’s not what I was talking about. He was probably nervous, didn’t know what he could tell me and that I compared him with the shadow of a boy I used to glorify was not fair, as much as I thought about the old Philipp. It was not he who sat in front of me, no matter how much I wished he was. The old man made me laugh, the new man didn’t take on the responsibility for it. I guess we just got older.
“What are you doing now?” That was his question before the main course came. I had spooned the soup away and eaten it under nostalgic stories that were easy to digest. Because I had already forgotten them and the boy he was talking about was dead.
“For a while this and that”, I said, “I’m still struggling”.
He had taken an easy job. If I had been asked, he would have been born to more, but life had knocked him down and I built on that, even though I didn’t take part in his decision-making path. I didn’t ask. He just told me about it, perhaps because he knew who was sitting in front of him and how many of his lives that person had destroyed, and that what he hated most was always his current one. Because the guy he knew from before was far from happy, but he had hope to make something out of his short life, maybe make a person, or go on a journey, and that was maybe even his only mistake, we knew that, because I lived it and he had denied himself it, both. Because if Philipp didn’t achieve something, how could I expect myself to do it? Even if it wasn’t my thing to compare me, what was the point to have intentions without comparison? I was hoping I’d forget about it quickly, but I couldn’t.
“And what do you want to do now?” he asked me after he told me his plan for the next few years and I sat there, and admittedly I didn’t know. I didn’t want to be there anymore. This world wasn’t for intelligent people, I thought he knew that. We are made to destroy ourselves and break under the laughter when we look back at the past. Just like that, we’d be all right. As long as we felt something, we were tied to this world and as long as we were entangled, even though I didn’t know about it. . . I knew for others it was true. The others told me so often about their wounds and how they were, and what they were; and nothing; yes, honestly, nothing was really real or true, if you took two glances at it. We were all built on the foundations of simple truths, which we are used to saying to ourselves before going to sleep as a mantra. What a turbulent world it was. Why else were some so convinced of the lies that this society produced? The West from top to bottom infected with ignorance and I was in the middle of it, 2010s…what did they really give? A world without insight, without consequence, and I was empty and angry, sad and walking with a man, I no longer knew.
I was full of food. The chirping of the cicadas accompanied us as we made our way on our walk through the darkness. I hadn’t been here in a long time.
I asked him, “Why did you invite me?”
“I’m getting married”, he said, and for a moment I was really happy. Yes, for him. could. That really wasn’t much to ask for. Because this world didn’t give me much, so I was happy if someone could share his joy.
“I’m happy”, I didn’t know if there was more to say, but to say more was not necessary either. He smiled, and so did I.
“Who is she?” I asked how a friend did it for someone he was friends to, and finally he told me about her. She was kind and thoughtful with how he felt, and she knew of him every little flaw, and for more so I confessed to him he should never ask.
“I know”, he said, and again we smiled. What a joy it was for me. Myf riend, even though I didn’t know him anymore, he was happy and…I was happy for him. I knew it wouldn’t last long, but he was standing in front of me and when we made our way, we walked along the path along the river, there was no me. Only today, not yesterday or tomorrow. My grief means nothing to him. There was only him and his cheerful message, because he seemed to believe in it and I – even if it was only for him – also believed in it. Soon we were at his parked car and he pulled a few cans of beer out of his car. The night sky, he said, he had been fond of it and I did not want to oppose him.
I didn’t come around comparing myself to him and I thought, what had I done to myself that I had come to this point and had been trapped in this hole. In this pit full of thoughts that consolidated into nothingness and had no truth. The truth was, I was alone and I couldn’t change it any more, because I was what I was. I deserved to die alone. I deserved to be alone. I always knew, some of us are alone for the rest of time. I guess that was my truth, even if I didn’t accept it. We tilted one can at a time. I wasn’t in that mood to say anything anymore. I felt good, almost safe in this old world of which I wished it would also recognize me.
For a while, Philipp made me this schoolboy, but when the plane passed over our heads, I realized that this macabre moment, as much as I loved its beauty and that boy I could once swear was me. That boy was lost. There was him, as much as there was no more, only in memories. Neither of us were real. Only thoughts softened in a self-righteous chemical cocktail. My brain was my prison. My body is nothing but a battery. Was it all, was it? Was the world ever real? Never, would anyone be able to give me an answer. But Philipp, who didn’t think about it, he didn’t have to either. He was just trapped. In theory, never on his own if he didn’t want to be. What a nice feeling I felt. Almost jealousy. It was the first time in months that a tear ran over my cheek. The light from the plane broke in my eye water. I knew again what it was like to feel something and it wasn’t even about him, it was rare when it was about the others, it always just about yourself when you started to cry,“Do you cry?” he asked me when he came back from pissing. “Yes”, I said, “I’m just happy for you”, but that was a lie, but also somehow not, because I was happy for him, but in comparison, well, I wondered who I was. I knew he didn’t want to hear that. That he shouldn’t have to, that I knew asweell. He could have known that everything that was beautiful for me made me sick, so he would have said, look for something different, but I shouldn’t. I was happy. My bitterness tasted almost sweet. Because everything else made me unhappy, didn’t make me feel anything…because with everything else I felt sickly cold, indifferent and because I preferred to be sickly sad, because it made me feel something, I sat between the river and the road on this path softened with tears like his wife would on his upcoming wedding.
I smiled. At least I caught myself thinking about it. I drank my can and assured him that I would dance at their wedding when it was time and we were both satisfied. What more could I have asked for? A little rain would have been nice, because on the way back we were in a hurry home even without a drop of rain.