Lukas Bärfuss

Artwork by Elephnt

It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.
—Bob Dylan

For Kaa



Thursday, 2:00 p.m.

VERA:  When do you fly.

ALEX:  On the eighth.

VERA:  Your last few weeks at home.

ALEX:  Looks like it.

VERA:  Excited.

ALEX:  Why.

VERA:  New York, film school, a new life, a long way from home.

ALEX:  All that’s not such a big deal.

VERA:  You look tired.

ALEX:  It got a bit late last night.

VERA:  Michael’s train leaves at eleven. It would be good if you picked Rebekka up from school at noon.

ALEX:  At noon.

VERA:  Can you manage that.

ALEX:  I think so.

VERA:  She doesn’t like it if you wait for her in the building. She gets embarrassed. So it’s better if you stay outside.

ALEX:  Sounds fine.

VERA:  Nothing personal.

ALEX:  Sure.

VERA:  I’ll leave some money, then you can go to the Chinese for lunch.

ALEX:  You got it.

VERA:  Although—what will you have for dinner.

ALEX:  What does she like.

VERA:  Pasta, pasta, pasta.

ALEX:  So that’s fine.

VERA:  There’s sauce in the refrigerator.

ALEX:  Sounds like a plan.

VERA:  Alex. You’re up to this, right.

ALEX:  Pasta with sauce. Yep, I should be able to handle it.

VERA:  I mean the weekend with Rebekka.

ALEX:  Ah. Sure, I’ll do fine, absolutely.

VERA:  Rebekka’s really looking forward to being with you.

ALEX:  Sure.

VERA:  All she can talk about anymore is your film.

ALEX:  Yes, making films is awesome, just awesome.

VERA:  Don’t take her to the lake. She’s not a very good swimmer.

ALEX:  Don’t worry. They also call me Alex the Beaver.

VERA:  The beaver.

ALEX:  And not because of my teeth.

VERA:  Well anyway, no going to the lake.

ALEX:  We won’t have time anyway. Friday afternoon we’ll be writing the screenplay.

VERA:  I thought you wanted to be filming.

ALEX:  What do you need for a good film, Mr. Hitchcock. A good book, a good book, and a good book.

VERA:  How’s Chantal, by the way.

ALEX:  Honestly or pro forma.

VERA:  Honestly.

ALEX:  I think she’s dying. Of boredom.

VERA:  She hasn’t called in ages.

ALEX:  She doesn’t call anyone.

VERA:  And then there’s Saturday.

ALEX:  We’re going over the whole weekend, are we.

VERA:  Does that bother you.

ALEX:  Doesn’t bother me.

VERA:  Not minute by minute.

ALEX:  Right.

VERA:  So Saturday.

ALEX:  On Saturday we shoot. No mercy.

VERA:  The whole day.

ALEX:  I’m counting on eight, nine hours.

VERA:  Nine hours.

ALEX:  Until we’ve got the thing in the can.

VERA:  Rebekka can’t keep going for nine hours.

ALEX:  She can’t.

VERA:  She’s seven, Alex.

ALEX:  Hard to believe.

VERA:  What.

ALEX:  That she’s only seven. She’s got something.

VERA:  Yes.

ALEX:  Well anyway you wouldn’t think she was seven.

VERA:  Chantal’s practice is doing really well, or so I hear.

ALEX:  She’s totally raking it in.

VERA:  She’ll miss you.

ALEX:  I doubt it. She has him.

VERA:  She has a boyfriend.

ALEX:  A really special, angelic boyfriend—

VERA:  You mean—

ALEX:  She talks to him. When she’s cleaning. Or chopping onions. Or in the bathroom. Is that—

VERA:  What.

ALEX:  Well you work with people like that.

VERA:  People like what.

ALEX:  It’s not an illness if you’re talking to dead people, right.

VERA:  Lots of people who’ve—

ALEX:  How long will she keep going.

VERA:  It usually takes a year before the person can start a new life.

ALEX:  I mean Rebekka.

VERA:  Two, three hours. At the most.

ALEX:  Ouch.

VERA:  Don’t take too much on. Process rather than product.

ALEX:  If the film’s any good, we can show it at the short film night. The guy who’s organizing it promised me.

VERA:  Ah.

ALEX:  There’ll be some pretty important people there, producers and TV types.

VERA:  We’ll see.

ALEX:  Do you do that too.

VERA:  What.

ALEX:  Do you also speak to dead people.

VERA:  Me. No. There’s no one it would make sense for me to do that with.

ALEX:  I mean, I don’t care, she can talk to whoever she wants—

VERA:  Of course—

ALEX:  It’s like when she’s sitting on the john, and I can hear it plop, I mean, the fact that she has to take a shit, that she’s eaten, but that doesn’t mean I have to—

VERA:  Talk to her.

ALEX:  Yeah, well, it’s difficult.

VERA:  How so.

ALEX:  I’ve tried. She denies it.

VERA:  What.

ALEX:  She’ll be sitting there in the armchair chatting away with Dad, I mention it—

VERA:  And what does she say.

ALEX:  She doesn’t know what I’m talking about.

VERA:  Is she sleeping.

ALEX:  I just don’t know if she denies it because it’s embarrassing to her, or because she really doesn’t realize.

VERA:  But she is sleeping. At night.

ALEX:  No idea. Is it worrisome.

VERA:  You’re worried.

ALEX:  They never talked to each other, and no sooner is he in the ground than they start yakking.

VERA:  I’ll give you something for her.

ALEX:  What.

VERA:  So that she sleeps. That’s the most important thing.

ALEX:  She hates medication.

VERA:  They aren’t strong. I take them too.

ALEX:  You can’t sleep either.

VERA:  It hasn’t always been easy recently.

ALEX:  Does she have something she can wear.

VERA:  For the short film night.

ALEX:  For shooting. A costume. Something, I don’t know, something special.

VERA:  The pink tulle dress maybe.

ALEX:  A fairy, a little wicked fairy all in pink.

VERA:  New York’s great. Or at least it was. Fifteen years ago.

ALEX:  You were there for a while.

VERA:  A few weeks. After college.

ALEX:  On your own.

VERA:  At first, yes. What is it.

ALEX:  You and New York, don’t get me wrong, but somehow I just don’t see it. You’re more the Paris type, aren’t you.

VERA:  What’s a Paris type.

ALEX:  Or Florence.

VERA:  I went to CBGB’s a lot, but that’s not there any more.

ALEX:  Hey, we need your shoes.

VERA:  Which shoes.

ALEX:  Those. The ones you’re wearing.

VERA:  These. For Rebekka.

ALEX:  A pink fairy tottering through the universe, in her hand the wand of perdition—

VERA:  I was going to take them with me.

ALEX:  Another pair then.

VERA:  I did have a cherry-red pair. With rhinestones.

ALEX:  With a heel.

VERA:  Death-defying heels.

ALEX:  That I’d like to see. You in red pumps.

VERA:  Don’t underestimate me.

ALEX:  Well they’re allowed anyway.

VERA:  I gave the shoes away a long time ago.

ALEX:  A scandal.

VERA:  Alex, listen.

ALEX:  I’ll find something else, no worries.

VERA:  We still need to—

ALEX:  We can work with screen names.

VERA:  With screen names.

ALEX:  If you don’t want to be associated with the film. Ginger Lily, or something like that.

VERA:  Ginger Lily. Please.

ALEX:  You don’t want an evil fairy, right.

VERA:  That’s not it.

ALEX:  She’s got something, I mean, you could think she’s a little angel.

VERA:  Rebekka is a little angel.

ALEX:  Yes, but after a while you understand, you discover her second face.

VERA:  What second face.

ALEX:  Only in the story of course.

VERA:  Please don’t force her into a role.

ALEX:  I thought I was supposed to shoot a film with Rebekka.

VERA:  Well yes, you are.

ALEX:  I don’t have to. I can also do something with toilet paper rolls—

VERA:  That’s not what I meant.

ALEX:  I’ll do it right or I won’t do it at all.

VERA:  It’s just that she should feel good while doing it.

ALEX:  Madeira you said.

VERA:  Malaga.

ALEX:  For two days.

VERA:  Two nights, three days.

ALEX:  Not exactly extravagant.

VERA:  For me that’s like two months.

ALEX:  What are you doing there.

VERA:  I’m looking at churches.

ALEX:  Just don’t turn devout on me.

VERA:  That’s not my intention.

ALEX:  There’s this guy who sometimes comes, from some church.

VERA:  To see Chantal.

ALEX:  I think they pray together.

VERA:  For some people, this life isn’t enough, they yearn for depth.

ALEX:  Dad would never have let a guy like that through the door. You should see the flyers he leaves. Only idiots fall for that stuff.

VERA:  Lights out is at nine. She needs her sleep. You can read something to her. We just started with Pippi. It’s on the dresser.

ALEX:  Sure.

VERA:  Oh.

ALEX:  What.

VERA:  It’s dumb. There’s the father, Pippi’s, and it says he became a negro king.

ALEX:  Negro king.

VERA:  I changed it.

ALEX:  You censored Pippi Longstocking.

VERA:  It’s an outdated translation. I bet it says something else in the original.

ALEX:  I won’t say negro anyway.

VERA:  That’s what I mean. No one says that any more.

ALEX:  I’ll say nigger.

VERA:  Alex.

ALEX:  Yes.

VERA:  Please.

ALEX:  It’s not a swear word. These days niggers call themselves niggers.

VERA:  That’s absolutely out of the question. King of the Africans.

ALEX:  So I call the negro king the king of the Africans.

VERA:  Exactly.

ALEX:  Hey, it’s OK if someone stops by on Saturday evening, right.

VERA:  Who.

ALEX:  A friend. His name is Tim.

VERA:  Oh, well I don’t know—

ALEX:  He’s cool, I swear.

VERA:  Can’t you postpone that—

ALEX:  I’m leaving soon and—

VERA:  It’s alright with me. But he has to be out of here by midnight at the latest.

ALEX:  Sure. So. I’m going to take off. I have to go to bed, this is one hell of a hangover.

VERA:  Alex. No alcohol. And that applies for the whole weekend.

ALEX:  Ah.

VERA:  You understand me.

ALEX:  We wanted to watch a few films—

VERA:  I’ve got nothing against that.

ALEX:  And when we do that, we like to drink a beer or two—

VERA:  There’s no way.

ALEX:  But Rebekka will have been in bed for ages.

VERA:  I think you’re not taking this seriously enough.

ALEX:  We’re not going to get drunk—

VERA:  I’m giving you responsibility for the well-being of my daughter, young man.

ALEX:  Got it.

VERA:  I don’t want your friend to—

ALEX:  We won’t drink—

VERA:  No, Alex, I’m worried you won’t be able to say no, and that’s too big a—

ALEX:  I can say no—

VERA:  It’s probably better if we call the whole thing off.

ALEX:  You won’t go to Malaga.

VERA:  Of course I’m going to Malaga. Michael will look after Rebekka.

ALEX:  I could have delivered pizzas. I turned that down for you.

VERA:  Like I say, it’s not my problem any more. Michael will have to decide whether to hire you.

ALEX:  And if he says no.

VERA:  Then you’ll have a free weekend.

ALEX:  And I won’t have the money. New York isn’t cheap.

VERA:  Then you’ll have to put yourself out a bit.

ALEX:  Vera. I was counting on the three hundred.

VERA:  You’ll get half, whatever he decides.

ALEX:  Let’s say two hundred.

VERA:  A hundred and fifty.

ALEX:  Vera.

VERA:  Or nothing.

ALEX:  You were at CBGB’s.

VERA:  I told you I was.

ALEX:  At the CBGB’s.

VERA:  There was only one.

ALEX:  On the Bowery.

VERA:  Of course.

ALEX:  That’s where the punk bands played.

VERA:  So.

ALEX:  Don’t tell me you like punk.

VERA:  I liked the atmosphere.

Thursday, 5:00 p.m.

MICHAEL:  OK, now listen. This thing is at least as awkward for me as it is for you.

ALEX:  Why should it be awkward for me.

MICHAEL:  Let’s talk it through seriously. Man to man.

ALEX:  How else could we talk about it.

MICHAEL:  Good point.

ALEX:  I understand, sir. You want to know who’s looking after Rebekka.

MICHAEL:  No need for the sir. I’m Michael.

ALEX:  Well anyway I’d proceed just the same way.

MICHAEL:  You’d mistrust you.

ALEX:  I’d want to know what kind of guy he is.

MICHAEL:  And. What kind of a guy is he.

ALEX:  You want me to describe myself.

MICHAEL:  Why not. It would be a starting point.

ALEX:  I’m nineteen. I live with my mother. My father died a few months ago.

MICHAEL:  Vera told me. I’m sorry. My father hasn’t been dead for so long either. But that’s a different thing of course.

ALEX:  Why’s it a different thing.

MICHAEL:  Well, I am older than you.

ALEX:  And at a younger age people cope less well with bereavement.

MICHAEL:  I don’t know. You tell me.

ALEX:  It hasn’t left me devastated, if that’s what you mean.

MICHAEL:  And what does leave you devastated.

ALEX:  Me. Not many things.

MICHAEL:  For instance.

ALEX:  Well not people.

MICHAEL:  What then.

ALEX:  Lighting states.

MICHAEL:  Lighting states leave you devastated.

ALEX:  They move me.

MICHAEL:  And what else.

ALEX:  I’m an artist.

MICHAEL:  An artist.

ALEX:  A filmmaker. It’s not always easy.

MICHAEL:  The existential suffering, the depth of the feelings, certain lighting states.

ALEX:  It’s not funny.

MICHAEL:  Not in the least.

ALEX:  The road ahead of me is a rocky one.

MICHAEL:  If you know it, you can prepare yourself.

ALEX:  This era has no need for visions.

MICHAEL:  Tell me.

ALEX:  What do you want me to tell you.

MICHAEL:  About your vision.

ALEX:  It’s not something that can be summed up in words. Maybe only in pictures.

MICHAEL:  I used to go to the movies a lot.

ALEX:  Sure, but you can’t watch films in the cinema.


ALEX:  I watch films at home. I want to be able to analyze the scenes, rewind, get into the découpage.

MICHAEL:  Into the what.

ALEX:  How the film’s been edited.

MICHAEL:  You approach it in a pretty analytical way.

ALEX:  If you say so.

MICHAEL:  But you’re missing out on the whole experience. Getting excited when the lights go down. Getting annoyed by the ads.

ALEX:  Well I’m not watching films for pleasure. I want to learn, understand the tricks.

MICHAEL:  Sounds like hard work.

ALEX:  Absolutely.

MICHAEL:  But making films is fun for you.

ALEX:  Not at all.

MICHAEL:  And you do it anyway.

ALEX:  Aren’t you familiar with that. Having to do something even though it won’t allow you to eat or sleep, and even though it hangs over you like a big black cloud.

MICHAEL:  There’s a big black cloud hanging over you. Super.

ALEX:  Not when I’ve finished a project.

MICHAEL:  Well thank heavens for that.

ALEX:  But I can’t stand it for long.

MICHAEL:  You need your cloud.

ALEX:  I need that total immersion. That perfect surrender.

translated from the German by Neil Blackadder

Used by permission of Hartmann & Stauffacher