August 6, 2005
(And who exactly is Daniel Mandelkern?)
Elisabeth demanded a decision, and I left our apartment without making one. It cant go on like this. My flight to Milan doesnt leave Hamburg for an hour. Im sitting alone and completely exhausted in the waiting area at Gate 8 (on the other side of the airfield, the pines on the edge of Niendorf). At Gate 7 two Italian businesswomen are joking around. I get up, I have to move so I dont fall asleep. Somewhat farther down the corridor a newsstand: I buy a newspaper (Süddeutsche Zeitung), I buy a postcard (image: Hamburg Volkspark Stadium, aerial view, 1999), I see Semikolon brand notebooks. The only other place that carries them is a stationery store next to the Academy of Fine Arts on Lerchenfeld, which is always an all-day trip, so I buy three of them. I buy cigarettes. Im starting to smoke again now, because smoking reduces fertility, smokers sperm dont hold out as long (eventually their sperm give up). Cigarettes have gotten more expensive since my last pack. I buy coffee at a vending machine and go back to the gate, I tear the cellophane off the notebook and make a note of my fatigue and my headache. Then I make a note of the headlines in the Süddeutsche Zeitung of August 67, 2005:
Craze for the Mobile Lifestyle
Air in Sunken Mini-Submarine Running Out
Im writing because I always write when things get complicated. Im alone, I could smoke. I could throw the notebooks into the garbage cans next to me (one red, one green, one blue, color-coded for trash separation). I should get up and go back, back to my wife.
How I got here: Elisabeth and I didnt raise our voices, I left our apartment in the middle of the night and without closure (we fight in our indoor voices). Took the Svensson file from the kitchen table and carried my half-packed suitcase through the hallway, but then slammed the apartment door behind me much too hard and almost ran down the street in the light drizzle. Away from Elisabeth, the sound of the ridiculous rolling suitcase on the slabs of the sidewalk behind me is louder than expected (for your reporting trips, Elisabeth had said, putting the suitcase in my office). I turned off my phone so I could ignore her calls (shell want to have the last word, as always). Gave the taxi driver who took me from the Hoheluft Bridge to the airport an absurdly high tip (ransom). At the only staffed counter in the otherwise empty terminal, I opened my suitcase and buried my phone between suit and shirts (between recording device and shaver). I stuck my toothbrush in my shirt pocket. The ground personnel seemed to have been waiting for me. Milan? Yes. Identification? Herr Mandelkern? Yes. As I began to explain myself and my more-than-punctual arrival, the Lufthansa agent gave a routine laugh: as far as she was concerned, I could fold my whole life into my luggage as long as it stayed below the allowable weight limit (the scale showed 12.7 kilos). There was still a seat available on the earlier, direct flight, did I want it? Okay. At dawn I was the only passenger at the security checkpoint, I put the two folders full of research on Svensson next to my belt in the gray plastic tub. No, I said, I had nothing else with me (I had surrendered everything at check-in). The ring on my finger didnt set off any alarm. Now Im sitting here at six-thirty in the Hamburg Airport in the nearly empty waiting area at Gate 8, much too early, because I left our apartment in the middle of the night and without a word. I simply left.
I asked last Wednesday at the weekly editorial meeting, which Elisabeth leads, because the travel assignment was listed as Dirk Svensson on her updated monthly schedule and followed by my name. The passing thought of getting up immediately and leaving, of refusing the assignment outright.
Excerpted from Funeral for a Dog by Thomas Pletzinger, translated by Ross Benjamin. Copyright (c) 2008 by Verlag Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Köln. The translation of this work was supported by a grant from the Goethe-Institut which is funded by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. English translation copyright (c) 2011 by Ross Benjamin. Originally published in German under the title Bestattung eines Hundes. Used by permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
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