And why marry?


The Divorce
Hans Magnus Enzensberger
At first it was an imperceptible tremor of the skin –
‘Whatever you say’ – where the flesh is darkest.
‘What’s wrong?’ – Nothing. Opaque dreams
of embraces, but on the morning after,
the other looks different, strangely bony.
Razor-sharp misunderstandings. ‘That time, in Rome –’
I never said that. Pause. Rapidly beating heart,
a kind of hate, strange. ‘That’s not the point.’
Repetitions. Brilliantly clear the certainty:
everything is wrong from now on. Odourless, in focus,
like a passport photo, this unknown person
with the tea glass at the table, eyes staring.
It is no use, no use, no use:
litany in the brain, a touch of nausea.
End of reproaches. Slowly the room
fills up to the ceiling with guilt.
The plaintive voice is a stranger’s, but the shoes
that drop with a crash to the floor, the shoes are not.
The next time, in an empty restaurant,
slow motion, bread crumbs, they talk about money,
laughing. The dessert tastes of metal.
Two untouchables. Strident rationality.
‘Things could be much worse.’ But at night
the vindictiveness, the noiseless struggle, anonymous
like two bony barristers, two big crabs
in the water. Then the exhaustion. Slowly
the scab peels off. A new tobacconist,
a new address. Pariahs, awfully relieved.
Shadows getting paler. Here are the papers.
Here are the keys. Here is the scar.


Die Scheidung
Erst war es nur ein unmerkliches Beben der Haut –
“Wie du meinst?” -, dort wo das Fleisch am dunkelsten ist.
“Was hast du?”- Nichts. Milchige Träume
von Umarmungen, aber am anderen Morgen
sieht der andere anders aus, sonderbar knochig.
Messerscharfe Mißverständnisse. “Damals in Rom-”
Das habe ich nie gesagt. -Pause. Rasendes Herzklopfen,
eine Art Haß, sonderbar. -“Darum geht es nicht.”
Wiederholungen. Strahlend hell die Gewißheit:
Von nun an ist alles falsch. Geruchlos und scharf,
wie ein Paßfoto, diese unbekannte Person
mit dem Teeglas am Tisch, mit starren Augen.
Es hat keinen Zweck keinen Zweck keinen Zweck:
Litanei im Kopf, ein Anflug won Übelkeit.
Ende der Vorwürfe. Langsam fullt sich
das ganze Zimmer bis zur Decke mit Schuld.
Die klagende Stimme ist fremd, nur die Schuhe,
die krachend zu Boden fallen, die Schuhe nicht.
Das nächste Mal, in einem leeren Restaurant.
Zeitlupe, Brotbrösel, wird über Geld gesprochen,
lachend. Der Nachtisch schmeckt nach Metall.
Zwei Unberührbare. Schrille Vernunft.
“Alles halb so schlimm.” Aber nachts
die Rachsucht, der stumme Kampf, anonym,
wie zwei knochige Advokaten, zwei große Krebse
im Wasser. Dann die Erschöpfung. Langsam
blättert der Schorf ab. Ein neues Tabakgeschäft,
eine neue Adresse. Parias, schrecklich erleichtert.
Blasser werdende Schatten. Dies sind die Akten.
Dies ist der Schlüsselbund. Dies ist die Narbe.



Finally finished up reading Jonas Gardell’s Kärleken/Sjukdomen/Döden (Torka aldrig tårar utan handskar) trilogy (the TV version is also good). It’s strange to see the ‘backwards’ countryside of western Värmland represented (and to read about it). As a ‘foreigner’ living here especially it’s entertaining.

Near the end of the third book, one of the main characters (one of the only ones left alive) exits the train in Åmotfors, which is already a podunk, middle-of-nowhere, close-to-nothing town, and asks the guy who picks him up, “Ar det långt till Koppom?”

“Bah. Tar väl en kvart eller så. Och när vi väl är där får du inte blinka för då missar du hela tätörten.” Yes, that’s just about 100% accurate.

It was interesting to delve into these books as my first foray into reading books in Swedish. I knew I had to choose something that would hold my interest – and the story/tragedy of AIDS happens to be one of the things that still conjures up all kinds of emotion and anger – this huge sense of loss – even though I have no tangible connection to it. I feel deeply affected every time I think about it – and how pervasive the fear and scaremongering was. And also to realize how young people today understand so little of how the terror associated with this at-first completely mysterious and fatal disease rippled across society and more starkly exposed the hypocrisy and inhumanity of bureaucracy, governments and healthcare organizations (as well as average people – who didn’t care about this at all, in fact welcoming and even laughing about it on some selfish, shitty, brutal level as long as they believed it only afflicted gay men) while bringing the strength, resilience, organization and collective voice of the gay community into the light.

When I reflect on this period, it felt like “peak terror” went on for a really long time (I was a child during the height of this), but in fact, despite the havoc the disease wreaked, it was a relatively short period of time that it gripped public attention and also equalled an inevitable death sentence (the relatively brevity of the ‘epidemic’ period being little consolation to all those who did lose their lives)… I cannot say it was a mere blink of an eye, but like most things in life and indeed in the course of history, especially now with the 30-second attention spans of tweets, the demand for instant gratification and higher-stakes drama, the pain and fear of that period has lost its efficacy – at least for those who didn’t witness those years of uncertainty, illness and death.