imagine if


Written by Cathoel Jorss,

Oh, Germany. Sometimes I am just so grateful to you! I came three years ago, for a week, with a suitcase of summer clothes. Stayed on and stayed. Met a man. Made some friends. Found a Kiez, a barrio, a neighbourhood. Now I am back and the dense sweet piercing chill of this supposedly Spring evening has lifted and carried me when I most needed the lifting, I needed the carry.

Here’s what happened to me today. I kept running aground. Couldn’t work out why and there were things I was itching to do. Eventually I figured out: it was because I was in pain. This happens irregularly, more often than you’d like. It’s character building. I rang the osteopath, who is in the next street, and she was available within hours. So I just went to bed to wait. Reading my book. Third book this week, not a bad one. I like this osteo and she treats me, after three or four visits, familiarly, friendshippy: Lass dich mal wieder sehen, she sang out a month ago when I last left. Let yourself be seen, come back again. She reminds me of the Melbourne friend of my mother and I thought of her as motherly, underwinging, kind.

This time seemed to bring earlier events up to a clearer pitch. She wanted me to lie on my back shirtless, was reluctant to hand over a towel. She let her hands dig into my shoulders and then brought her face rather close to mine, breathing deeply in. For long moments we lay and stood like this and naked high in the sky as the blue faded to black I let my mind wash off into its meditative dream: life is deep and long, worlds are a forest, there is nothing I can change here but I bring my attention to bear on this shipwrecked beach, breathing. I surpassed it all with calm. When I got home I felt wrung out and bleakly alone. It is difficult working out how to say in German, you are too near, I want to be covered.

When I say home, I mean my hotel room. Two months ago my honey and I had a fight, it was 4am and we simply couldn’t bear it any more, and since then I have been living in an hotel and we find ourselves gradually so much more comfy and at ease. The reason for our fight was: two of us, plus one medium-sized dog, living in one room for months on end wore us down. We are both loners and creative types, used to the silence. We tried alternating headphones, I tried writing on the floor of the tiny bathroom and in cafes. It was snowing outside and no one could simply go out for a walk and lose themselves in the greenery. What greenery. Anyway I came home to my hotel, which is quiet and sedate and very old-fashioned; they let me stay here for cheap because they like writers. I was hungry; it was midnight; surely everything would be closed. I wrapped myself again and set out across the square. This bar I like was open, glowing with the hum. Serious German conversation at all tables. The one table in the window, where the cat sleeps, empty for me. I ordered onion soup from the menu open “til one hour early”, which means, til one o’clock in the morning. I ordered a beer. I let the stumbling crank and rumble of benign Germanness wash me all round. I watched the bar cat, sleeping in the hammock of herself. Her name is Zappa. Two gentlemen next to me had the chess board out, but it took them a long while to get down to playing. Something they were discussing took up all of their attention the way a paper towel blots milk. I love listening to German men talking over beers with their friends. There’s so little machismo. Their voices are often deep but they are excited by the ideas, by the shared experience, they converse. The cook, who has biker boots and a long skinny plait, came out carrying my onion soup and a basket of four different kinds of bread. I took my book out and just stared at it. The words printed on the pages were stars and I let them carry me, they were carpets, dancing on the orange horizon where one never meets oneself, where everything is wild, where languages are ribbons not unlike long-eared underwater plants writhing in the salt and combing themselves back and back and back, illustrious, clean. I sat there until the detritus of my day had sanded out of my bathers and then the warm oil of it lit me all the way home and I will carry this into my sleep, a moreish story.

10 comments on “belovedly

  1. I’d forgotten that about Indonesian men, so true! Used to love being around that camaraderie when I was a kid. Imagine if Australian men were more frank in their friendships. There might even be fewer spousal murders… Helen Garner in This House of Grief alluded very delicately to Robert Farquharson’s “bleak” friendship landscape before he murdered all three of his boys.

    Cathoel Jorss April 14, 2015 at 1:32 pm
  2. great story of being in the moment

    peter April 14, 2015 at 6:26 pm
  3. Hadn’t thought of it from this angle, thank you, Peter.

    Cathoel Jorss April 14, 2015 at 8:06 pm
  4. Your telling is superb,

    Alison Lambert April 14, 2015 at 9:37 pm
  5. Wow, thanks very much, Alison.

    Cathoel Jorss April 15, 2015 at 5:33 am
  6. I really enjoyed the section on the men in the bar. I have spent too much time in bars and pubs over the years and have seen “everything”. I lived for a number of years in the USA and was struck by the fact that on the whole men were gentler there. The bars also tended to offer more things like chess, backgammon and books. Animals in bars also soften the atmosphere. Your story had me at the cat Zappa.

    Dennis April 15, 2015 at 5:54 am
  7. I love this idea, Dennis, like having cats in nursing homes, wouldn’t it be great if more watering holes had their own animals in-house. Watering holes in nature attract them, why can’t bars and clubs. You’re right, people behave better and it brings out the softness in tough-facade people who might otherwise spill defensively into violence or at least stroppiness. Zappa is a fixture at this place and she seems perfectly comfortable weaving under the tables, sitting up on a bar stool when she wants her chin scratched, lying under a poster of herself which apparently one of the customers made. Why can’t a bar be a kind of evening cafe in which conversation and social love can take place.

    Cathoel Jorss April 18, 2015 at 6:42 am

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