I walk past an establishment: Barbecue, Drinks, Girls. A modest sign stands out on the right— Contact Bar—and above the red lights smiles a blonde woman with heavily plucked eyebrows. She’s not actually the advertising face of the Contact Bar—she’s holding a pat of butter in her hands, just above her breasts, which are spilling out of her bodice, and smiling on behalf of a supermarket. An ad for a budget market and plucked breasts. Butter ads and girls. Smearing butter on the barbecue fresh from the flesh of this house. I hear the sizzling, feel a sensation of water gathering in my mouth and rain inside my shoes. For a short moment, I get very warm.
I walk around the building several times. Although the EC Card, Visa Card, American Express stickers on the darkened door disgust me, multifarious modes of forging contacts, I still pace my circles. A dog looking for the entrance. Breathing heavily through its mouth with its tongue hanging out.
The idea of sitting at a lametta-draped bar. Watching women dancing, flirting, coincidentally brushing past me and then getting straight to the point, turns me on. Maidenhands looking for weak spots under my clothes while we’re still at the bar, in the midst of them all.
My umbrella’s broken. I stare at the payment options. I’m cold. I think of the hysterical short breathing, of the whimpering, of the searching for words and instead biting, pressing against the wall, everything that looks like powerlessness. EC Card, Visa Card, American Express.
I sit at the bar and see myself multiplied in brightly colored liquor bottles. Even though I know the reflection of my face is distorted, I’m in agreement with what I see. I don’t know this outline but I like it.
I sense they don’t know what to do with me. A few men but mostly women are confused by my presence. I sense I’m not welcome. I’m not solvent. Can they tell by looking?
A woman comes up to me. She kisses me. I have the feeling my lip is bleeding. She says she wants something to drink and she puts one leg between my two. She reaches behind her head and pulls it back by the hair, so that her breasts pop up in front of my face and laugh. I reach for her hand, pulling her own hair, draw it lower, bury myself in her as if I could climb inside her, melt into her, as if I had an entry into the world where it’s never cold.
In my hands there is nothing. I raise my head—there’s the woman. From a distance I see her, see her outlines heading in my direction, lit up by a glitter ball. But she never arrives. She’s moving almost on the spot, walking backward—or is it me walking away, getting thrown out? As if bouncing back off the idea of her.
I reach my hand out for her and bounce back with a blast in my ears, as if crashing into a wall. I’m transported into my freezing self on the street with wet feet and a broken umbrella.
For a short moment I get very cold. It’s very quiet with the rain in my shoes. I run my finger over my lips in the hope they’re still bleeding, but they feel unharmed. I run my hand on into my jacket pocket, considering for a short moment whether to look in my purse, now certain I won’t find anything in there that would buy me entry.
I look for a rock. It’s too small but I pick it up; there won’t be a bigger one on these streets, and I hurl it as hard as I can at the door. It bounces back. Nothing’s shattered. There’s a slight scratch on the door and my outline in it. And I’m unharmed. We’re all unharmed. And we look at each other, the house and I. We stare at each other. It’s a competition. First one to blink.
From Wir Zöpfe
I roll myself up on the floor and purr like a cat.
I miss you. Stop.
You thought of me for a moment yesterday and that got through to me; from now on I’m always in contact with you, whether you believe in that sort of thing or not.
I walked across the ocean and put myself in a head, I didn’t care which one, I felt so unwanted that I thought, I’ll build myself a nest somewhere where they want me. Stop.
I send you messages that don’t get through and my feet shatter, because I can sense you don’t care what happens to me, even though you say the opposite and tell me you talk to me in your head, in your mind, into your belly; you scraped me out so what are you talking to—the scratches on your insides?
I’d have liked to go with you a while. I like your hair. I’d have liked to have the same hair. Now I’ve built my nest again in someone with red hair. But I liked yours and I think we’d have gone well together. I’d have liked to be yours, that’s what I’m trying to say.
And I’d have liked you to go to the park with me, where there’s no playground, just dog shit, and you’d have tied me to your back and not put me in a stroller, because you’d have read somewhere that it’s better for children to hold them on the body and not push them away from you, and I’d have drooled on your shoulder and you’d have smiled and you wouldn’t have put me in daycare because you distrust them all and you’d have argued with my teachers because they’re all assholes and you’d have thrown my first boyfriend out because he smelled of vodka and you’d have yelled at me did I want to make the same mistakes as you and I’d have run into my room and slammed the door behind me and wouldn’t have come out for days and I’d have hidden under my desk and sneakily smoked joints and you’d have come in at some point with something to eat, you’d have crawled under the desk, next to me, and you’d have taken a toke from my joint and forced me to eat, and I’d have gone to demos, which you’d have found childish, and I’d have ended up at the police station, which you’d have found awesome because then you’d have another enemy to defend your young against, and you’d get pulled up for insulting a police officer and who knows what else and I’d have the feeling I was always hanging around your neck and drooling on your shoulder and I think you’d have liked that, too.
I’m leaving your city for overseas, heading for the sky, heading for the New World. I’m leaving you behind in your gray, cold, unfriendly, depressive, self-righteous city, no longer poor but sexy but just dumb and lonely, the city where you all fuck and drink and think that’s weltschmerz, when all it is is your own unfulfilled convulsions of a better life.
Stop. I’m leaving you all now. I’m packing my shoes in my mouth and flying off. And you can all go on tearing your hair out and thinking this here is the best moment in history.
From Muttersprache Mameloschen
I sat on the steps of this church across from my building. I was looking for a synagogue, I admit, just so I could write to you that I’d been there and felt terribly used or whatever, but I couldn’t find one so I just went back to the Greek Orthodox church opposite.
I was so angry, I was brimming over with rage, at you leaving us for that shit, so you left, so you were never there, so what was the whole damned point of you leaving, so I sat there and got soaked by the rain, me and my beer. I wished something terrible would happen for me to tell you about. Or I wished a bird would shit on my head, I don’t know, there must be some religion that says that’s a blessing, I’d sign up for that one right away. And because nothing happened, and I was really damn bored and I HATE being bored, I yelled WHY DID YOU LEAVE YOU STUPID ASSHOLE BECAUSE OF THAT SHIT?!
I sometimes have these fantasies that I find your kibbutz where you’ve hidden yourself away, with a bomb strapped around me, and I send the two of us straight to heaven, and then we can congratulate each other for our good works for the sake of world peace until the end of all time.
Sometimes I just wish I had a bomb in my car and not skid marks in my brain.
I went into the church. I wanted to find someone to tell me how I can help. How I can do something. I went looking for a priest or a pastor or those boys they have, no idea what they’re all called, and then I found one and asked whether I could do anything. Do something meaningful with my life. Apart from praying. I don’t mean praying. He looked at me and turned away and walked off. I ran after him. I’d like to do something for the world, have you got any use for me?
He asked me to leave but I wouldn’t stop, he raised his voice, I kicked a pew and anyway at some point two of them lifted me up and dragged me out of the church and my beer can was dripping as if I’d pissed all the way along the corridor on my way out.
It looks like I’m not cut out for great deeds. Helping people. Looks like you’ve got that covered for both of us.
“Mädchenhände,” Wir Zöpfe, and Muttersprache Mameloschen © Marianna Salzmann. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2015 by Katy Derbyshire. All rights reserved.