Uit: You Were Never Really Here
“Joe lay in bed in his mother’s house. He thought about committing suicide. Such thinking was like a metronome for him. Always present, always ticking. All day long, every few minutes, he’d think, I have to kill myself. But in the mornings and before going to bed, the thinking was more elaborate. He knew it was a waste of time—it was going to have to wait till his mother passed—but he couldn’t stop. It was his favorite story. The only one he knew the ending of for sure. The past few weeks it always involved water. His plan of late was to slip into the Hudson at night, during high tide, by the Verrazano. The currents were strong, and he would be taken out to sea. He didn’t want anyone to be bothered with the body. Once, when he first got out of the Marines, long before he had gone back to live with his mother, he had nearly done it. He had been processed out of Marine Corps base Quantico and ended up in a motel near Baltimore, drinking by himself for a few days and going to a movie theater, seeing the same three pictures over and over. Then one night in the motel, he had taken a lot of sleeping pills and wrapped his head in a few layers of black plastic bags, duct-taping them around his neck. He felt himself diminishing, a shadow around the edges of his mind, and he heard a voice say, It’s all right, you can go, you were never really here.
But then he clawed off the bags and pumped his own stomach. After that, the story never involved leaving a body behind, leaving a mess behind. That was shameful. When it was time to be removed, that’s what it would be—a complete erasure. So the sea would have him. It wouldn’t mind one more piece of waste. He had nowhere else to turn.
He heard his mother downstairs and got out of bed. He did one hundred push-ups and one hundred sit-ups. His morning ritual. That, walking a great deal, and squeezing a handball as often as possible was all he did for exercise. He especially liked his hands to be strong. It was good in a fight. You break your adversary’s fingers, you have an immediate advantage. It frightened even the hardest men to have their fingers snapped, and in a fight, like a dance, you often held hands. So his hands were weapons, his whole body was a weapon, cruel like a baseball bat. Six-two, 190, no fat. He was forty-eight, but his olive-colored skin was still smooth, which made him appear younger than he was. His jet-black hair had receded at the temples, leaving a little wedge, like the point of a knife, at the front. He kept his hair at the length of a Marine on leave. He was half-Irish, half-Italian. He had a long, twisting Italian nose and eerie Gaelic blue eyes, set back and deep, Italian but for their color. It was a mournful face, a self-involved face, with a thick forehead, another weapon, and his jaw was too big and long, like the blade of a shovel. When he passed security cameras, he tucked it in. The black baseball hat that he wore most of the time hid the rest of his face, which in its entirety was not ugly but not handsome. It was something else. It was a mask he would tear off if he could. He was aware that he was not completely sane, so he kept himself in rigid check, playing both jailer and prisoner.”
Jaren later, zou hij, ondanks zijn zwakke knieën,
die vulkanische piek hebben kunnen beklimmen
om de gigantische ribben te aanschouwen
van dit ding dat hij met de hand gebouwd had, het schip
het kwam in zicht als door de ogen
van een half uitgehongerde zangvogel op zoek naar een plek
om te landen. En omdat hij het had uitgehouwen,
zou hij met zijn hand langs een el hebben kunnen strijken,
het kielstuk gebleekt als een bot
en glad, gebronsd door vele dagen onder de zon.
Daar, boven de boomgrens en onder de sneeuw,
zou hij, wankel op zijn voeten, vermoeid, beseffend dat het schip
zo krap was, toen het, op zijn best,
al die beesten in paren had ingekwartierd,
ongetwijfeld hebben gehuiverd,
niet anders dan de Heer die zijn mislukte
schepping zag. Welke bouwer zou niet kijken
tussen de verwoeste tuigage en zich bewust zijn van
modderconstructies; rook van kookvuren; gedaantes
van ezels, honden, geiten, grazende schapen in de verte?
Boven het groene plateau is er altijd verdriet,
dat, bezield, de levensadem wordt.
Vertaald door Frans Roumen
Zie voor nog meer schrijvers van de 23e maart ook mijn blog van 23 maart 2020 en eveneens mijn blog van 23 maart 2019 en ook mijn blog van 23 maart 2015 deel 1 en eveneens mijn blog van 23 maart 2014 deel 1 en ook deel 2.