Untitled by Wernicke

BY F.H.

Published March 2011

He was washing the dishes. Most part of the time he was cleaning floors, dishes, washing linen, clothes, her - mostly her. She was his wife. It did not feel that way, not anymore but she still was his wife. Obligation. He was scratching off the dried potato mash on the plate with his fingernail and it slowly vanished. His fingernails hurt already. After he finished he sat down with a dark-brown cup of black tea, steaming before him in ethereal oiliness. The steam rose and curled in the silent air and he thought of her hair that once was touched by the wind and tossed around so he could smell the faint scent of peach in it. This was last summer, when their gazes had still met in glistening excitement but the eye had already been weary, looking for something it could not comprehend. Everything was settled for the coming night and Wernicke sat in urging preparation of the already done work, not knowing what he could do now because he would not be able to finish it in time and then forget the imperfect thought and then he would be sorry for himself and the self-pity would grow desperate like a lawn after a rainy summer’s day and then he would feel the anger, brown and sticky mud patches on the green surface and then he would try to remember, he would do it very very hard and he would not remember because the mud was too deep and then he would be annoyed and then his annoyance would give way to false hope, that he might do it better next time but he knew there would be no next time. She was still his wife. So he sat there and listened to the drying dishes and he did not stand up and go into his bureau and pick up the pen, no he did not. Expensive cars were standing in line before the hotel, waiting to unload their weight. Important people always came at the end, near the beginning of the ceremony which would start in 30 minutes. A lot of handshaking with false friends. Wernicke breathed and inhaled the smoke of his cigarette. Actually he did not smoke, but today it seemed more than appropriate. Smoke mingled with the leathery scent of new cars and the innocence of clean fingernails. Hurried glances of the driver into his rear mirror. No, he hated smoking guests in his sanctuary where he was king, unlike at home in

his desperately small and shabby apartment of yellowing tapestry that once depicted all kinds of joyful blossoms. ‘We are next’ the driver said. Short brown stubs in salty transpiration on his neck. Wernicke was to anxious too answer and just gave a short, slight nod. The smoke burnt in his lungs. Pain would soothe him, would make her screams hush like a baby and make them dry like empty paper cups. Again he was waiting with nothing to do and the waste of time made him uneasy. And as usual, the mind could drive the laughing feeling out of the destitute center of rationality, but it could not suffocate it so that it broke free in the fathomless pit of his breast. No one knew. Even she did not know. Slowly the car rolled forward. A last breath before he jumped out. ‘Have a great evening, sir!’ the driver said and stopped. It was hot in the car. After drinking his tea, Wernicke went around the rooms on the western side of the apartment. They were drenched in the fading orange light of the diminishing sun and Wernicke stepped into the last rays, sipping from the great power, glancing at the universal light. Soon he would leave, drive off to the house were cats sang in the night between the trash of the city. Their claws were torn out of their paws, only small scars in the soft fur. Wolfs howling at the growing moon without teeth. Uneasiness led him out into the hallway to her door. It was closed. He knew how it looked inside - the machines, the bed, the window, the unhealthy purple of her skin. Her voice was flowing out under the door, constant mumbling. He stood there and listened. Emotions always made the decisions hard for him when they shooed away his thoughts. Tonight he would see the cats between the trash of the city. It was OK, because he told himself that. He said it myriad times so that this became his reality, erected by countless little OKs, a glistening beacon overlooking the black mist at the ground and he would always see it because he decided that he wanted it. The wish became will. She would be here when he came home in the morning hours of the day when thick blankets of

clouds would have made the sun look like he had been drawn by pencils on bleached, already yellowish withering paper. The door opened and Wernicke released his breath. ‘Welcome sir’ said the man in his tight suit that held the door of the car and waved him out with his hand in a white glove. He indicated the red carpet on the floor that led into the hotel. People in clean black smokings and decent artificial manners were standing around with women in sexy, colourful dresses that smiled and simply looked wonderful - blooming flowers growing out of the nourishing black soil. Among them journalists with cameras, bees in a field of flowers in early spring, flying hither and thither, exhausting their attention to one flower after another. Wernicke stepped out of the car and instantly the faces of the soil and their flowers turned to him and the bees were encircling him as if he was the most beautiful and sweetest flower among them despite his own black petals. He was the queen of flowers having just started to bloom, making all other flowers appear ugly. No flower had grown on him, he was not fertile. ‘Pleasure to see you tonight’ ‘Congratulations’ ‘Nice to meet you’ ‘Thanks, thanks a lot’ Words without meaning everyone expected of being said and everyone wanted to say. All of them looked so happy. One could never be sure if people were happy because of you or the things you had done. But they did not knew, no one knew. It was OK. They mistook the changing attitude in Wernicke’s face for a smile instead of a laugh. It’s seeds laid in carefully watered scorn. It was a laugh of knowledge the others lacked. Wernicke shook many hands and slowly made his way to the entrance of the hotel, surrounded by the people he did not know and actually never had wanted to know and all of whom were glad to see him. Before he stepped through the door into the building he turned his head to the right and for a short second Wernicke saw a cat, running hurriedly along the outer wall of

the hotel. It was carrying something in it’s mouth but he could not make out what it was. Then the circle closed in on him again and he was entombed again. Wernicke opened the door, stepped in, closed the door again, turned and leaned with his back against it, his eyelids closed. Ideas were constantly rushing through his mind, full of energy and power; flashing lightnings at the end of his arm. He would write them down, he would read them with stupefied pleasure and then he would correct them and then he would gather them in all the joy of his own creativity that now was soaring, in fact, was boiling over, and he would have to write fast before the train would derail and then he would arrange the best ones and send them to a publisher and then he would have the strange and certain feeling that the artist would always have after he has shown his work to somebody else and then he would think his work was bad and then he would laugh at his poor genius he had never possessed and then he would ask himself how he could have ever produced such a thing and then he would hope that it would rot and wither and someday vanish in a damp box on a damp attic of a house he had once lived and where he left his work on purpose so that he might forget all about it and then he would still secretly hope that it would be found someday when he himself would be long gone and his name forgotten and then his work would be declared a masterpiece. Wernicke opened his eyes and walked to his bureau, past her door, noticing the yellow light that flew out under it like honey and noticing her humming. and that of the electricity. He knew it. He started to run but he knew it. The honey had blurred his sight, the lightning diminished to a faint, distant shooting star at the end of the unreachable horizon. Horror of realisation spread through his mind: it was too late. But with the unshakable hope, his false friend, that the light was not gone yet, he ran into his office and took the carefully prepared pen and began to write into his red notebook. His hand flew across the lines and pages for almost an hour, shaping the map of his head with black ink but he secretly knew that he was

drawing mazes without entrance, without exit. After almost an hour he read what he had produced. The sun slowly rose in the east and glanced over the edge of the paper cup. On the boardwalk there was a red notebook, white pages with lines and black ink dispersed on them. They look like the scribbles of a child. Somebody had thrown it there. A cat came close to sniff at it, interested in the unexpected. Wernicke got up and prepared the daily procedure. His body ached, his bones did not break. He would grow old with her and then he would hate to look at her and the hate would be mixed with sorrow about his wasted life he had exhausted for a body that had been abandoned by it’s soul and then he would grow desperate and start feeling remorse for not having his life sacrificed for the words. But he did not let himself being carried away by this. Wernicke dumped the cloth into the warm water. He took her arm and rubbed it clean. The purple patches on her skin were rough, grown from the constant sleep of her body. And the cloth ran on across her face, eyes moving rapidly without focus. It was not curable, he just kept her heart alive. Doctors said it would not grow back, it could not come back. He was doing his work with the accuracy of a habit that had been burned in his brain. Working without thinking: washing her, emptying her artificial bladder, turning her around, preparing her food, cleaning her face. Someone said that hearts would just move on, but his and hers were tied onto the bed. After he had washed her, she smelled of berries and damp wood. Often he would hold her cold, cramped hand that looked as if she was holding on to something that spelled life. ‘...mistress triangland...’ Wind was playing with the mobile above her bed. After some time Wernicke had stopped to listen to her words. First they had rushed by like a train but now they were just distant birds flying past the window. She did not know. He could make nothing of it. ‘...eating avarment...’ she mumbled.

It meant nothing to him. ‘...what is there...’ She would understand and he knew it was OK. ‘...eat any sigh...’ Everything took it’s tool. ‘...just saving walking and walking...’ The moments carried on this way. ‘...everythin’ like that and cleanin’ my dead...’ Her words were silence to him. ‘...me breveret eating...’ I see him. Triangles above my bed. No, not now. I want to sigh. He goes away. There he is again. My eyes. No, not now. I can not understand you. He is not aware of me. Awareness. Watch me, please watch me and stay. The cage. I am caught. I can reach out, but there is no rope. I am clean again. He talks. He writes. He cries. He writes again. He feeds me. I like it. He cannot reach me. The sun is gone. When will I go? Time is not there without awareness. I see the light of the sun. The sun is gone. Where? There he comes again and there he is again. I talk to him. I know he understands me. I know it. I know. It is not OK. Nothing is OK. He sees me but does not react. I sigh. Triangles above my head. Walking is what I want. And smiling. I cannot. He takes my hand and feeds me. I cannot reach out. I am clean again. He writes again. I talk. I do not understand. He listens. The breveret. I need the morning. It vanishes so fast. Here I go. I think I am leaving now. Please, never let go, please. I leave him. He does not catch me. Never let go. He knows. It is not OK, it never was. The ceremony started and Wernicke did not listen. He sat there, waiting to be announced. The prize had been an offer to him and he had accepted, so he had to come and receive it in front of the public. No, there was no love and no room for him anymore. Then he was called up. ‘For his outstanding poems that depict a fragmentary language, disassembled and aimless in the bare surroundings of our time, where he

strips off the words’ meaning and dissolves the conventions of understanding and convention.’ Holding the prize in his hand there on the stage, the world watching him in his uncomfortable suit, he did not know what to say, not after such a plea for his work, where words were naked and ripped off of their meaning. What should one say if words did not make any sense anymore? What would he say to them? What did he say to her? The audience applauded. He waited for the silence to roll in. ‘Sayings tell a truth without any reasonable philosophy.’ His voice sounded creaky in his ears. He heard her words. He knew them. They did not. It was OK he thought. ‘So I would like to thank my wife because, she spoke without thinking and so she said what she thought.’ It sounded pathetic. It was pathetic. ‘I have nothing more to say, so I let the poet speak.’ The audience applauded again. It felt OK. Now he was famous and now he would receive other prizes, other awards and money and then he would buy a house and then he would mow the lawn every weekend and then he would burn his work and then he would falter to the idea of leaving everything behind but he would do it anyway, because she knew and then he would not be able to look into her face again that spelled emptiness and then he would put her into a nursing home where he would visit her every week in the beginning and later, after a year he would just come once a month and after that he would only come at her birthday and then he would visit her funeral and then he would grow old and he would wear his trousers rolled and sometimes people would come to his huge house and take pictures and then they would say that there lives a once famous poet whose heart broke when his wife had a stroke and that he published a Pulitzer Prize wining volume of poems about it and that after he had become famous he had stopped writing; and then one morning his janitor would find him in the shack behind his house where he parked his lawn mower, and the janitor would find him dead with an empty package of sleeping pills he took because he always saw her eyes without focus in his dreams and then the janitor would find empty bottles of whiskey in the shack and in the cellar of his old house. But even then it was

OK. It was OK for her, because she did not understand. Her eyes had no focus. Slowly Wernicke climbed down again. And a good looking young man hobbled onto the stage. He also wore a tie and was freshly shaved. Sweat was on his forehead. He placed himself in front of the microphone. After a short moment of silence, he began: ‘Untitled by Wernicke.

Where would I be, what they’re eating awareness I don’t know. Oh mistress, triangle me while listen you walking well things, thinks this for year for thee. What it is here? Then let me see: I just don’t know. No I’m not going to eat any sight, no. I just don’t sorry what you’re doing? And you just saving walking and walking around here. I’m kind my own eat my only for my and everything like that and cleaning my dead. Me by is always clean. Me brethren eating and I can watch and everything in the morning.’

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