Stood in the hallway in front of the floor-length mirror and finished off the wine. Looked at the blood on me, the streaks next to my belly button, and from behind me Elisabeth reached into the dried blood on my cock, into her own dried blood on my cock and in my pubic hair, and said, Tomorrow in the battle think on me (my cock a blunt sword; Elisabeth and I warlike: we grind ourselves dull against each other, we strike our blades jagged). As I was about to wash off the blood in the bathroom, Elisabeth was sitting on the toilet and said, you know, Daniel Mandelkern, Im waiting for you to decide (the bluntness of pissing women).
Elisabeth was waiting for a decision, I was standing all sticky in front of the sink. She brushed her hair back behind her ears and reached for the toilet paper. Mandelkern? I must have been staring at her. Daniel? She wiped herself clean and flushed. Suddenly Elisabeth was everywhere: I saw and heard and smelled and tasted her, her blood on me, her wine in my mouth, I felt for my swollen lip, my tongue ran over the fine cut on the inside, which was still bleeding (her accidental elbow). You look like an idiot staring at a math test, said Elisabeth. Did I understand what shed said? Yes, I said, and kept staring, no, I said, maybe (dashboardgearshift-Italy-university-Mandelkern-Hamburg-Berkeley-blood-almond-ethnology-time-Barolo-Breton-child-Renault-Anne-Laura-Eva-Hornberg-CarolinaOne-PetShopBoys-Katrin-Britta-paternoster-Kolberg-matrilineality-Geertz-Svensson-octahedron-aquarium-aquarium-couvade-Venasque-Malinowski-nostalgiatourists). One minute, I said, and spit in the bathtub. I turned my back on Elisabeth and shut the bathroom door behind me, I gathered up my scattered clothes and got the folders from the dark kitchen. Then I took the suitcase and left.
my headings, my categories
Im actually an ethnologist. In America Im a cultural anthropologist. I observe people, I collect conversations, I probe hierarchies, I take pictures, I sort texts, I catalogue materials, I assemble my ideas. In England Im a social anthropologist. For almost two years Ive been writing for Elisabeths editorial department. Ive questioned and profiled people for her, Ive taken down life stories in shorthand and summarized worldviews, Ive fulfilled her requests. I conduct interviews and write portraits, framed by days of silence in airplanes, hotels, and bus stations. I take notes because I want to put things in order (I want to sort myself out).
Why take notes instead of going back?
I hold the pen in my hand and write, I make a note of myself (Daniel Mandelkern). I dont let much pass without remark, I make a note of almost everything (airport terminals, newspapers, cigarette prices, black German shepherds with three legs). I write my body: diarrhea, three-and-a-half liters of wine last night, the two of us. Im still waiting alone at the gate. The red wine didnt agree with me (headache). Later I want to write Elisabeths hair, her blood on me, still later the chatter a few seats down, the two Italian women are still sitting there, my Italian is miserable, hence the word chatter. I make a note of my anxiety, my happiness and hesitation, I write:
Elisabeth Elisabeth Elisabeth,
the third time with distinct reproach in my handwriting. I make a note that it doesnt do you any good to be married to your boss, that its wrong to work for your wife, that a child wont solve our problem. That it cant go on like this, Elisabeth! With a paper cup of coffee and my first cigarette in months, Im sitting in the nonsmoking waiting area of the Hamburg Airport. I write nonsmoking waiting area even though Im now smoking, even though no one besides me is waiting (so much for truth).
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.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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