241 Things

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241 Things

I only started living once death entered my life. Don’t worry, this is a tale with a happy ending. Until death entered my life, I was constantly accompanied by a certain desire for something better, something far-reaching. I was certain I would meet people endlessly more interesting than those I already knew. I would find myself in infinitely more exciting worlds. The bottomless well of the unnamed desire. I would be admired, doors would open, actresses, sultry nights would ensue. I might be overdoing it a bit, but there’s not a soul out there who won’t understand what I’m getting at.

Opera singers, spotlights!

Essentially, there’s nothing wrong with these daydreams, after all, you’ve got to have something to look forward to. But the medallion has a flipside. Whatever I experienced, whatever I did, it held no importance because it was no match for what was waiting for me. When it finally came, I was bored. And I remained bored.

I sat slouched in chairs and grumbled unintelligible responses to questions or requests. I just could not be bothered. Some might be familiar with this state.

What, in God’s name, is a dynamic existence? Ask those who lead them. It’s not as great as you’d think, they’d say. If it were up to them, they’d rather be sitting on the sofa with a plate on their lap full of mash and a dimple of gravy. It’s a cliché, and it’s true.

We’re all aware of our mortality. But few truly fathom this knowledge, nor did I, in the least. Quite a few people around me have passed on, many of them being the same age as I. I’ve been reminded of the inevitability of death countless times, yet it took me ages until it truly hit me. Open the newspaper, turn on the television: they’re dropping like flies! But every morning my eyes would open once again and another day of limitless days would begin anew. Time, I spent her as if she’d never run out. Body, as though it could not be broken. I needed to see death through the passing of those around me. I have photos of me with them. With the same indestructible body, and the same endless sea of time as I have before me. First a friend, then another friend, then my thirty-eight year old sister, and a year later, my father. This is the point where it started dawning on me. This is it. This is all there is. This is what I have to make do with, for however long I have. That, in retrospect, whatever it is, it’s already quite substantial.

During this period, I ended up in Germany for a group exhibition. My pictures were being shown. Now I’ll have a real experience, I thought (I’ll never completely rid yourself of that daydream.) The international art world, and I’m a part of it! Beautiful, eloquent women! Behind a large mansion they stood in a big garden, holding a glass in one hand, an hors d’oeuvre in the other. Naturally, I knew no one. I forgot to tell you that besides being easily bored, I’m also shy. I’m normally not shy, except at moments when I don’t want to be. Needless to say, I struck few conversations in that garden. But I wasn’t too excited by the people I did manage to speak to. All that talk about art. The perpetual name dropping of famous people. If they weren’t speaking of wildly famous artists, they’d be speaking of themselves. Show me one artist who isn’t smitten with himself. I was lucky to have brought a good book with me; otherwise I’d have been completely and utterly bored.

Everyone stayed the night in that big mansion, including myself, it had gotten late and my nerves had led me to drink quite a bit. Driving 400 kilometres to Amsterdam didn’t seem like a very good idea. That night I was dreading the thought of reopening my eyes the next morning to find myself faced with the same art world characters all over again. In that same garden. And talk, talk, talk of art and international destinations.

After breakfast I wanted to speed off, but I was stopped. There must be football, the artists against each other! Football? What a load of nonsense. I tried to worm my way out of there but to no avail; they pushed a pair of boots into my hands and dragged me onto the field.

I don the boots, step onto the field, the ball is passed to me, I give it a kick and I’m sold. Ever since that day, I’ve played football every week with the exception of flues, vacations, and injuries. There’s nothing that makes you as conscious of your body as running after a ball for an hour. It makes you aware of your existence, of your fully functioning body. The exhaustion, the glow, wonderful. Thinking of nothing but the ball. It’s slightly late to start football at the age of thirty-eight. I’ll never be very good at it. I don’t play competitively. There’s a bumpy lawn in Amsterdam where I play against ten, twelve friends. Never a day of football without a whole lot of bitching, and the ball often seems to take a strange course when I’ve kicked it.

There was a time when I couldn’t play for a long while. It looked like I was ready to go (Death! There she is again.) It’s an illness that can rear its head at any time, it might return in twenty years, it might stay away forever, no one can say. Five weeks after the operation I was playing with the boys again. I shot two goals immediately. Me, who usually never scores, at most ten times a year. Could it be that God exists? That’s what I thought. That’s how simple it is. There’s nothing more to need. And who did I have to thank? Art. That first game, the morning after breakfast in Germany.