It is another night of waking memories.
I think soon I will hate this word Re-member. Make it happen again, in one’s mind. See it again, in some sort of inerasable mirror, distorted, yet somewhat true. Assemble anew; feel something you hoped was gone. Re-mem-ber. Clench your teeth and face it.
The greenish shade of the surgeon’s face and the words, bleak and colourless: ‘His state is terminal. Do you understand the word.’ – ‘we will try to operate, but there is no hope.’
And the sudden realisation: those words are _true_ . Those are *real* words. Words that consist of substance other than sound and a movement of air. Words of… no, not prophesy, but a certainty, a future about to happen.
And then, the instant awareness of the kids, turning to look at me. And the thought of what white lies I must invent to break this down into sizeable bits, for my mother. And the feeling of nowhere to go. And the tears stopped then and for a long time. Pain, stowed somewhere deep, where it would not be able to interfere with the processes of… death, of life, of…those endless hospital corridors and waiting. Take a breath. Tell a joke. Laugh.
The face of the surgeon, his anger: ‘Your brother is *dying*. Why do you laugh?!’ But this *is* my pain, my despair – my laughter. I have no other, no public face, nothing to turn to face the inevitable with. Only my dry humour, my jokes, my laughter. Access forbidden for the rest.
Then, desperately, stumbling for words, keeping fear ad tears out of the voice, calling my mother. No, he is sleeping. They do not know when he will wake. We hope and pray.
My other brother. Drunk and crying, ready to swap places with the kid right then and there. The silence of despair. The shared feeling of responsibility unfulfillable. I have no words for him, only silence. No tears. I am the one that has no feelings, for the moment.
My God. My question to him – Would it be possible…? – His answer, soundlessly clear. ‘You already got one. Is this not enough?’ and I bow in acknowledgement. This is enough. Yes, this is enough. But I would change places and die in his stead. Only I cannot.
The voice of the kid’s friend on the mobile: ‘He has hours left. I am going to him. Maybe we still manage to say a farewell.’ Water, prayer book, resolve. My friend next to me. Silent.
The puzzled surgeon at the entrance of the intensive care. ‘Yes, do what you will, baptise if you have the right. But that will not help him.’ I know. It will help *us*. To meet when…all this is over. Leaving the building, meeting the brother. Like in a bad dream, a nightmare, only it is seven [`pi: `em] and everyone is awake. Crouching in the courtyard with the kid’s friends my cousin and brother. The boys smoke. And someone says: ‘it was just like him, to go like that. Tricked everyone, this one. I bet he’s sitting over there on that cloud and having a good laugh at us.’ We all laugh. This is all we can do.
Then, two hours later. The voice of the surgeon in the receiver. ‘I regret. Your brother is dead.’ I say – Thank you for your care. — He drops the receiver. I know I will tell mother in the morning. And my friend who is with her, too. They will need this night for sleep. They will be angry with me about this. White lies. Half-truths. Hated shadows of true words.
I tell the relatives I will do the last rites myself. Because of my mother. Because of my father who is displaced in time-space suddenly. Because… I would hate anyone mess up the kid’s funeral with tears and stupid poems. (This I do not tell the relatives, this is between brother and me).
My brother is bad. He is sick with pain. We share the guilt. We did not watch the kid well enough, and there will be no chance to correct this. Actually, there will be no chances. Not a single one. I hug him, and leave, because we still have two hundred kilometres to my home, to my parents, to our parents. The guys in the whitesmith workshop promise me to get some sedatives for him. The madness of inability to protect.
Friends and neighbours come to get the house in order for the funeral. I work like mad. The smell of fresh-mowed grass, of potatoes cooling for the salad. The questions and the answers. I have forgotten much of what was there. Merciless sunshine outlining everything only too brightly. Pain that is numbness.
I go to the bathhouse to write the funeral sermon, and apparently fall asleep because I find myself much later in the day, with an impression of the prayer book on my face. Then, one night I wake up because I am crying in my sleep. My friends do not know what to do with me. Neither do I.
In the middle of this unbelievable chaos, my father and uncle. Confused, upset, disturbed, venting their nervousness on everyone else. My mother, strangely quiet. Not believing. It _cannot_ be believed. Relatives and neighbours coming, saying a few quiet, meaningless words, being round, helping with the things need to be done, leaving. I cannot find any musicians. Then, an old acquaintance of mine, one of the best organists I know, agrees. I am so happy.
The funeral: the beginning, the blessing, the Words. So dry and so… strangely appropriate. The rainstorm approaching in the distance. The dogs tell me it is time to finish because the rain will start soon. The little dog sleeps under the coffin. The people listen. I suddenly realise that I speak with the local accent when I speak and the literary language when I read. It seems so funny. We close the coffin right before the first raindrops start falling. Classmates take it and walk all the way to the road.
This I remember. And the love of my friends, their support. Without them, it would have been impossible.
The face of the surgeon still haunts me. The greenish shade of his clothes creeping up to his face. I remember. I laugh in despair.