Sunday, August 27, 2006

Ofer's Table & The Hours


I thought about this note ever since Friday, day in which I contemplated the possibility of devoting sometime to this stream but the heat, the smells of Shabbos and the contemptuous glittering eye of Tel Aviv made it impossible. One should not write this kind of postings as though one is writing memories from a long-forgotten childhood among nuns and strict grammar teachers but rather as a journal diary, very different from the impressions you get when entering St. Stephen's and more in the spirit of Bergson, it's difficult to shape styles intentionally though unless one's writing satire, and because of an underlying discussion over a poem of Vater Goethe (as Rahel called him) that's very far from possible.

Journeys always take unexpected turns, as though one were to turn asides and inspect ants alongs the way just for long enough as to miss the last bus; turning aside like Moses, "for whose works are praiseworthy?"; the sentence in itself has a very Christian flavour which challenges the limitations of the English language, the only language I claim fit for my writing. There are journeys through the most diverse natural phenomena; journeys through Italian churches, through Orthodoxy, through self-discovery, through philosophy, and perhaps above them all is Plato's, the journey of the "good". The latter takes for me a rather different form than the bi-partite worldness of the Athenian and I feel much closer to Abraham, as though it were all a travailing with God's designs and desires, particularly with desire... as though the world were created at every moment of the day.

I've journeyed through two different cities and even as many wonderful men in the course of my life as an adult, one that remains as a pistol-shot in the middle of mass and the second as a thief that abducts you at night and disappears with the waving of the skies, all camouflaged beneath the tallith of the Eternal wafting in manifold blues down a flu-striken highway. It all must have started in a church I suppose, perhaps the Liturgy of the Hours after the Easter somewhere in Emmanuel.

I remember Ofer's table then too, with a little bit of regret and a very very saddled happiness that always intoxicated me to the point of physical pain yet sparkling with circles of vicious tenderness and the most whimsical of all possible moments. Almost lifeless enough as to become a dogma for a new creed. Those weren't happy days, I saw myself obliged to lie too often, to covet my father's nakedness and my own as though the gravest of all possible sins had been committed. Days in which the world trembled underneath with each posession, each achievement and each day of life. A punishment that could only be ameliorated by iridiscent cups of coffee in a cafe that no longer exists, whereby you could see a very long street of Tel Aviv and yet hide from within tall well-brushed plants.

I used to write some rhymes there, all of them truely bad. Plus it was worse than that, Ofer couldn't understand the language. We seemed to have been educated in different worlds and I felt envious with rage. I for one in the Classics, the Victorian literature next to Goethe and Heine, the New Testament and Existentialism. He in the other hand in things I had never uttered before out of shame - utility, leisure, amusement, credulity, security, trust, restlessness, reckless. My education all seemed to have been decided upon only in order not to provide absolutely any skills for life, an education that could have been useful only had I been born in a different social class, either very low or very high. And since I am a Jew I remained chained to the burgeoisie. All what my education could provide was a possibility to write.

That of course in a very narrow view, for even when I no longer yearn for a home with the Lord of the Cross and the whimsies of virgins and mythologies that was the only possibility for my mind to have been born as a thinker. It was in the Gospels, the Mysteries, the Hymns and the Saints that my curiosity sparked one day during my early adolescence never to let its voice down. At the time it seemed as though he was just trying to humiliate me about every single detail, and accordingly I couldn't help the necessity for hurting cynical answers to the least troubling and most everydaily of questions. He was one of my first journeys to adulthood, and by that I do not mean the people whose nakedness I uncoveted, but those with whom I uncoveted an own nakedness that can be frentically and morbidly observed ever at the table.

I would lie by saying that I didn't miss him, but truth is he had fallen into the most absolute oblivion. He's still in oblivion, and I know it because the blistering thorns became entirely painless... at most very exciting and sweetening to the extreme, but certainly painless. But he's not been the only journey, which makes me rather happy. It makes me even more so that he hadn't been around as to see me, because then I could have felt I loved him just like Franz loved Sabina and the disappointment before the nihilism inherent to the enterprise would have poisoned me. He didn't meet Vitaly, in whom he would find very little pleasure other than the plastic one through which he takes delight in being Greek. He doesn't know Vitaly also made me tremble, so hard that I was willing to atone him for the silence, because somebody wrote me letters that were harder to read than Aquinas. Not because they were overtly wordly and complicated for the language was rather cheap and almost systematically excerpted from a couple of novels.

But somehow those were the letters of a man who wrote honest things, who truely hated me with uttermost respect and who never took pride in silence, but rather self-shame. That makes it quite yellowed when weighed against somebody who never wrote a simple word. But that was the design of the Providence, perhaps a single word or touch about 6 months ago would have killed me in the fashion of Theseus, not because I hurted at him but because I hurted at hyself exceedingly. He just decided to rain one day when I had wanted nobody. That's Norrine's... A man who calls you only when he's by no means needed. And for a change, I never wrote to him honest things, only perhaps I discovered literature isn't quite like rhaetorics only very late in life. Late in my adolescence I mean. Perhaps in every line I wrote him even the "and" or "," were some sort of disguise, a lie, a meant-to-be metaphor for an immediately necessary form of Angst.

It has taken me more than a year to forget those days, except that one when we went out for breakfast after which I wrote that poem I threw away and that happened to have come true to the detail in the last week. I wasn't thirsty to flee but in little circles I defined Zeno and tip-toed all the way to Jerusalem in the most timid of all fashions. It took me a lot of ennui, and not enough alcohol. But I stopped feeling guilty for a change, because I simply saw the contigency in the idea of survival to such an extent that I wasn't even open to any discussion about it. After that day shortly following our dismise when I found myself at Adam's table for a whole day... after that morning suicide attempt and that letter I wrote him pasted on a postcard of the Swiss landscape, quotations from the prophets and a passport-size picture of Anne Frank. I lost mostly everything I had but my books, even my old faces and my old eyes and my old mouth. But I have no regrets, and were I to be in such state of despair, I would do it again. Again would I journey so far down the mind to places so dark that not even Ofer can look at.

And even when for some death would be a preferable option, I couldn't make that choice. More than anything I wanted to live and couldn't care less about the price. If this price was unhappiness, then I was willing to pay. The thought of life and death, specially death. It doesn't escape me anyway, that very same thought, but I'm no longer swollen by the fear. I thought I just had to live to remember the world; to remember Tel Aviv and my father, my little tiny apartment with the old Polish cushions and the dinners I made out when my salon guests would be around. The past would crouch before me and ask for a time out in some holiday resort, in the fashion of Etienne Gilson.

I thought the struggle would end one day, until I stopped struggling. It lost worth, I gained life. And I kept waiting and waiting on and on and praying... I prayed for happiness, for freedom, for joy. As my struggle halted I saw happiness coming from somewhere and I began to think that was perhaps the beginning of happiness. But I deceived myself, perhaps because the waiting had taken too long. I didn't want answers any longer, for they were too simple as to attain the meaningfulness of the questions and my world became Lessing's; at least thus said my friends during my birthday dinner which was rather lame.

One day I just woke up slightly older, thinking that it wasn't the beginning of happiness or of anything. That this life itself was happiness and that for nothing in the world I would have traded Ofer or Vitaly, my days in yeshiva and my nightly escapades, James's gloom and Stephan's varsities. How could I trade on the hills of Beit Jamal and the nightly views of the ancient towns? Perhaps the Vesper and Lent? No. Even the Liturgy of the Hours so much not. The fact that I have received a past not as a willy-nilly but as a testament tells me only the examination of it can be contraceptive to the future suffering, not to prevent it but only in order to be able to live with it as though you were living with an old maid that betrays you from time to time but always lovingly turns to you.

It was in the weeks, the days and the hours. It was in them that my happiness was, everyday in simple living. In the life that I gained by splitting my thinking space into being a person and being a thinker. Happiness can never mean completion or fulfillment, at least for the Biblical man. I returned to the table and found it not unlike the day before, because I had been there that day too. The walls belong to my past as much as the dust and the untidiness and the man. I could sit at the table and tell the truth, I could even show anger.

I smoked a cigarette, and it was the same old little plate. He looks much older - not the plate, but that's an irrelevant thought. Before I left I was no longer afraid it would be the last time I saw him, because if it were even so he's one the treasures of my past and that unlike Sylvia I'm not any willing to bury with untimely memoirs, trying to build new layers of concrete and paviment for a new season stage; I suffer from stage fright. I thought that day I loved him a little bit, I hated him a little bit. Just enough to be good to him, just enough to be good to me. Just enough to find happiness in the hours, in the hour. "I'm hourly" said Goethe, and for a change I no longer counted the hours and mourned over him in my sleep like Tereza. How inscure! but how beautiful too. I didn't read Homer this time, for perhaps I'm too one of the moderns:

"All words like Peace and Love
All sane affirmative speech
Had been soiled, profaned, debased
To a horrid mechanical screech" (W.A. Auden)

I wasn't sufficiently embarrassed as not to have my own thoughts and my fears. I stopped fearing that he would find me one day down the street and would think me unbeautiful. How venomous it was to hold my own thoughts about him, but how radically truer. I discovered the most important thing to know about Ofer, he isn't an Oak as I had thought. He's a desk-man. For I discovered late in history he's got one, just like I became acquainted with Marx. It's beautiful to think he's travailing somewhere out there, and I no longer see fit the writing of riddles and puzzles as not to let some name in or out. He's already a Writing on the Wall. He can't be an Oak, "Nature is dead, mein Kind".

1 comment:

Ned said...


i used too, to write amazing lines
devoid of sublteties and rhymes
just to shock and amuse
and full of wry old smiles