The fountain in Albertplatz is no longer populated by naked children; it is too cold. The couples who sit together on the benches are older, in their late twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, and so forth. The benches themselves look tired, their once glossy paint worn dull by the rain, the flood, the countless sandbags.
The cafes at either end of the street are sparsely populated, and the aproned man grilling wurst for the restaurant looks bored, lonely and cold, wisps of smoke wreathing lazily about his head.
Note to Self (1)
15 September 2002
I write this to you in the spirit of friendly criticism and, as you know you could stand much improvement, I trust you will not take what I say amiss. This beginning has put you on your guard – though I cannot see your face from where I sit, yet I can feel it has involuntarily tightened, assumed a wariness, which is not unexpected. It is as habitual as it is unbecoming. Unbecoming – how quaint a word. You have always been fond of quaint and archaic words, so I shall speak to you in your own idiom, rather than vainly attempting to adopt the modes and manners of modern English, as she is spoken today.
By now you are wondering why I have bothered to write to you, seeing as I intend to consume sentence after sentence with idle preamble. At present, I merely wish to inform you that I shall take closer note of your actions in the future, and offer such advice as seems timely and appropriate. I dare say I will not write often, but when I do, it will be to a purpose, no matter how veiled. I felt it would be courteous to tell you of my intentions, before you have the opportunity to misconstrue them.
An observation in parting: you realize, of course, that you will probably be saddled with the adjective ‘charming’ for the rest of your days. I am aware that this annoys you, but if you pause to think about it, there are surely worse adjectives to be associated with, insipid and listless though ‘charming’ may be. You could, if you choose, aim for tedious, or impertinent, or suave – I think, however, we can agree that none of these really suit. Pensive, perhaps, or shy – but these fall under the quieter shades of charming. Ponder this awhile, and know I remain, &c., &c.,
Socrates was married, you know, and his wife, Xanthippe, was a shrew.
Perhaps that’s why he liked to sit in the cobbler’s shop and talk with young aristocrats about the meaning of words.
‘The only thing I know is that I don’t know anything.’
How many a man has said that, in the course of history, to his family, his lovers, his friends?
No wonder you had to get your own back, toying with the feeble minds of arrogant boys, who were not the sons of masons, but of millionaires. Crito, Meno – what were they but foils, the mirror of your unspoken dreams.
Make a virtue of necessity, and so rob from it its force. How Spartan of you, oh most patriotic of Athenians…