the epitome of happiness (is radiant)


he remembered his schooldays. images which welled up from a river, one that emanated from him, underground.
a hallway with brown banding, a smell of wood, turpentine and varnishes. a room with tall windows, from which he looked down, at the circular construction of the auditorium, and behind, the school sister’s exuberant vegetable garden. the high-pitched voice of his music teacher, her cleavage full to the brim with enormous breasts, an absurd analogue to her stilt-like legs.
he remembered his schooldays and he realized, that within this enormous river of images, floating upwards, he could only see one single school. the only one that counted. a school which was the opposite of everything he believed in, an illumination, squeezed into structure.
but still. those were the happiest days of his life.

on his first day, he was eleven, he got lost. had that been a sign? an old lady brought him back onto the right track, brought him back to the school-gate, which he had only seen once before. he remembered the sound of one hundred screaming laughing girls. their warmth. the feeling of belonging, when he ran with them, among them, through the hallways. from the third floor down to the second to the basement.
boisterous, a horde unleashed.
brunette braids, swinging, and the English teacher’s sticky armpit hair, who always said ja instead of yes.
somebody asked him, what the images from his memory had to do with his present life.

they are the river which takes me to the ocean, he wanted to say.
but instead, he said: I don’t know. and thought: it is the river which takes me to the ocean of light. the epitome of happiness, my happiness, is radiant.
he remembered his own glow. back then, he was radiant. released within the structure, he could blaze. a warm beam of light amongst many other will-o’-wisps. it gave him a feeling. he could nearly touch it. he listened to the leadings of his heart. a longing.

back in the days, he told somebody, back in the days I was liberated within my innate energy. back then I grew and glowed and I was happy.
he could see a plaster mask in the river, coloured in ivy-green and he remembered how the art teacher helped to peel off the dry plaster from his face. every time he moved he found this mask in a box. every time he put it on.
he considered that the space between skin and plaster grew wider, every time a few more centimetres. centimetres that turned into years. fifteen years.
but why, somebody asked him, why is the light in this structure cropped?
he didn’t see. he had been blinded by the memory of an old feeling.
now he could see. and didn’t want to.
he squinted, but the river had become too broad to be ignored.
he saw the hand, which expelled him from the room. saw the child’s body, daubed with light-pen. saw them standing, in file, how they folded their hands. seven fifty. our father, who art in heaven.
he heard the voice that said: unfortunately I now have to give you an A.
he felt like the monkey behind bars, who screeched and clamoured.
you are right, he told somebody. you are right. there was too little space in that structure.
somebody pointed out the pink waves and yellow curls in his memory.
this is where I grew, he said. he knew, suddenly.
and thus it became real.
where you can hear them chuckle and giggle, where they sell sweet things, where the yellow will-o’wisps are, this is where I grew.
and didn’t say: this is where I learned to fly.
but thought so. and listened to the leadings of his heart.

he remembered his schooldays, the swimming pool, the park, the volleyball-class, their theatre play Sadako wants to live (at which his parents had cried), the aquarium next to the door, the smell of damp sponge on the chalk-covered blackboard, the metal-grid, onto which he put his shoes every day and exchanged them for slippers, his place in the row, the last day of school, when nobody wanted to go home, and he asked himself, what all of this was, in relation to his present life.
the river foamed and gargled and didn’t answer.

© Marianne Jungmaier, Vienna, May 2013

Categories: Journal