Maxi Obexer

Illustration by Gianna Meola

For Sandra Boeschenstein



The news reports can be spoken by a narrator, played on a radio or TV, or projected. Productions are more than welcome to take advantage of the changes in auditory, musical, and visual presentation of news over the past fifty years. A certain amount of tension between the lines spoken by the characters and the news reports is absolutely in keeping with the author’s intent.

NARRATOR:  At four in the morning Destina hears the alarm that Hanno, her young lover, had set so he could single-handedly conquer a white mountain. He gets up and takes a shower. The splashing of the water pulls Destina out of the last mist of sleep. She throws on her bathrobe, goes into the bathroom, and looks through the drops running down the glass at Hanno’s young body.

DESTINA:  Everything taut, a taut body stretching itself out—

NARRATOR:  Destina’s bathrobe slides off her shoulders like a falling curtain—

DESTINA:  It was like the first time, because our bodies weren’t used to each other like old acquaintances, but they were familiar to each other, they were magically known to each other.

NARRATOR:  Hanno puts on his clothes, pants, shirt, sweater . . .

DESTINA:  I should never have let him back out of me.

NARRATOR:  . . . and leaves the house.

DESTINA:  I made a pot of tea, warmed my hands on it, and looked out at the fog he’d disappeared into.

NARRATOR:  She wouldn’t see him again for fifty-four years.

1961: The Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbits the earth in the spacecraft “Vostok.” The German Democratic Republic seals off its border with the Federal Republic of Germany and constructs a wall right through Berlin.
1963: John F. Kennedy is assassinated; ZDF, the second German TV channel, begins broadcasting.
1964: China tests its first atomic bomb.
1965: Opening of the Mont Blanc Tunnel in the Alps; a glacial ice avalanche in Switzerland claims 88 lives; in a cyclone in eastern Pakistan, more than 10,000 people die.

Eight years later. Spring. On the deck.

DESTINA:  Since Hanno’s been gone, I haven’t come up with the right name for myself. He called me you little cinnamon roll or my favorite bacteria, or names like vermilion frogcakebee, tiger shark, or just pluot.

Since Hanno’s been gone, I call myself “you stupid cow.” Put your bathrobe on, stupid cow. Give me a cigarette, stupid cow. The wine tastes stale, you stupid cow. I don’t really know. I haven’t thought about what I should call myself if other people aren’t calling me something. Not that I feel especially angry at myself. I could tell myself to go to hell more often, sure. When I do that, I say: Get out of here! Buzz off! Beat it!
Get the hell out of here, stupid cow.
But it doesn’t work.
So I sit, unless I’m standing, by myself, here.
Look out at the landscape, at the Rieserferner right there in front of me.
Look at it with Hanno’s eyes, when I do that it’s magical.
Hanno sees the Rieserferner through the eyes of a stranger. That’s the secret. Seen through the eyes of a stranger, a place becomes magical. If I look at this place through Hanno’s eyes, it becomes a magical place. When I look at it through my eyes, it makes me want to throw up.

1973: War between Israel and the Arab states. The southern border of the Sahara advances thirty miles. As many as eighty percent of the livestock perishes, 100,000 people die.
1975: Reign of terror by the “Khmer Rouge” in Cambodia—proclamation of a people’s republic. A magnitude 7.5 earthquake in Tangshan, ninety miles south of Beijing, kills around 650,000 people.
1977: The United States government announces the construction of a neutron bomb. On Tenerife, 583 people die in the worst ever civil aviation disaster.

On the deck.

FLORINDA:  There are fish species of which only two specimens exist in the whole ocean. Each of them swims around all alone through the vast seas without even once running into another of the same kind. This is not uncommon. In the immeasurable multitude of species that exist millions upon millions of times, there happen to be a few that only exist twice.
Some of these rare species never encounter each other—they live and they die without having even once met up with another being of the same kind.
My father and my mother belong to such a species. Before they met, the currents carried them here, there, and everywhere. They also lived in separate basins of the ocean and always wanted to be somewhere other than where they were at that moment. Until, yes, until chance brought them together—when for the first time they got to know a creature of the same species.

1979: Soviet troops invade Afghanistan. A severe earthquake in Irpinia shocks Italy.
1981: President Reagan orders construction of the neutron bomb. Start of the Falklands War.
1983: US troops occupy the Caribbean island of Grenada.

Four years later.

FLORINDA:  It’s so nice out. So incredibly nice.

DESTINA:  It’s supposed to get nicer still.

FLORINDA:  Nicer and nicer.

DESTINA:  Nicer and dumber.

FLORINDA:  Nicer and nicer and nicer still and nicer still and still—nicer!

DESTINA:  Nicer and still dumber.

FLORINDA:  Amazing.
And the hotels are filling up again.

DESTINA:  And the basements. The guests walk through the brightly lit lobby, the guest-workers slip through the back entrance into the unplastered hovel of the basement.

FLORINDA:  It’s so nice. So incredibly nice.

DESTINA:  It stays the way it is. Otherwise people wouldn’t come.
Right away they’d just stop coming. If it didn’t stay the way it is.
They come because it stays the same.
And so it stays the way it is. So that they come.

FLORINDA:  Remind me what he said about when he’s coming?
Did he say he’s coming today?

DESTINA:  He’s coming.

FLORINDA:  Or maybe he meant tomorrow?

DESTINA:  He’s coming.

FLORINDA:  But he never has come. Maybe he won’t come until tomorrow.

DESTINA:  He’s coming today.

1985: Mexico City is shaken by a magnitude 8.1 earthquake; more than 6,000 people die.
The US space shuttle “Challenger” explodes shortly after take-off.
A serious accident at the Soviet nuclear power plant Tschernobyl releases radioactivity that spreads from Ukraine to Poland, Scandinavia, and over large parts of central Europe.

Two years later. (1989.) On the deck.

FLORINDA:  Sunday afternoon. Everyone’s up on the slopes.

DESTINA:  Anyone who isn’t has closed the blinds and is watching Formula One. Sometimes one of the drivers burns out. Sometimes one of them even crashes into the grandstand.

FLORINDA:  Soon it’ll be time for Senior Club.

DESTINA:  The kids are hanging around in the bowling alley.

FLORINDA:  Five of three. A daughter-in-law accompanies her limping mother-in-law to church.

DESTINA:  Down in their basement hovels the guest-workers are lying on their bunks—another two hours until they have to wash the salad.

FLORINDA:  Two motorbike tourists slurp the last of the whipped cream from their iced coffee drinks.

DESTINA:  You have no idea how much I wanted to lose my virginity on days like those.
Guess I wanted to defile the mountain, finally get it to move.
In the movie theatre in town we stuck our tongues in each other’s mouths. Like slugs those alien tongues slithered around in our mouths. Soon everyone’s lost their virginity.
The mountain could have cared less.

FLORINDA:  Has the sun already set today?
It sets more slowly every day.
Yesterday it didn’t set either.
For weeks now it’s not been setting.
(Short pause.)
Now I’d like to lose my virginity too.

And one more year later. (1991.)

FLORINDA:  I hate birds that migrate. They fly away, just like that.

DESTINA:  They come back.

FLORINDA:  When there isn’t even a real winter any more—and no snow either. Except for what comes out of the snow gun. A snow gun is no reason for a bird to fly away, is it? No bird should have to fly away because of a snow gun, I’d say.
Fly away, just like that. The sons of bitches.
And the other ones aren’t ever here at all.
Where are they, the ones that aren’t here?

DESTINA:  Somewhere else.

FLORINDA:  Right, somewhere else. Always somewhere else.
What am I supposed to think of that?
There’s a whole bunch of things that exist without them being here. Like penguins, if you read up about it there are more than eighteen different species! Emperor penguins, King penguins, gentoo penguins, royal penguins, Snares crested penguins, erect-crested penguins, macaroni penguins, Humboldt penguins, jackass penguins, Magellanic penguins, Galapagos penguins, yellow-eyed penguins . . . and then there are cuttlefish and crustaceans and . . . all sorts of other things!
If they exist without being here, but only somewhere else, then. Then.
What am I actually doing here?

DESTINA:  Soon the alpenglow will start and the cows will lie down.

FLORINDA:  It could be that I exist somewhere else also.
Who knows. And I’ll never know I do.
That would be a pretty interesting thing to know, right?
Whether or not I might exist somewhere else too.
Because sometimes I just don’t know how much of me there really is here!
Whether there’s enough of me, a sufficient, sufficient for me, yes even whether I exist at all, I sometimes wonder.
You hear me?! I wonder whether I exist at all!
Whether I exist! I have to exist somewhere!
Are you even listening to me?!


DESTINA:  It’s hot.

FLORINDA:  Yes! It’s hot and getting hotter and hotter!

DESTINA:  And it’s bright.

FLORINDA:  It’s hot! And getting hotter and hotter!

DESTINA:  And it’s bright.

FLORINDA:  It’s hot!

DESTINA (sings):
How I wish! How I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year.
Running over the same old ground. What have we found? The same old fears. Wish you were here . . .

FLORINDA:  Well I am here. No one else you wish were here?

(She follows the smoke from the cigarette, in the direction of the Rieserferner.)

FLORINDA:  Why are you looking straight ahead and not at me. I’m right here next to you, not straight ahead of you. That’s what you always do, you look straight ahead. Been doing that for years.

As if I was in front of you, somewhere out there, instead of just being right here next to you.

DESTINA:  Where the hell are you, which fold of the ice have you got yourself stuck in?!

You son of a bitch! You crevasse-lover! Show yourself!

(There’s a flash of lightning, followed by powerful thunder.)

FLORINDA:  How do the mountains stand it?
The air buzzes. The trees, those honest roots, stiffen all the way down.
Any minute now the mountains are going to explode, I can feel it!
At some point the mountains, and everything that’s on them, it will all explode!

(Another clap of thunder, then pelting rain.)

FLORINDA:  When did he say he’s coming?


FLORINDA:  Remind me, when did say he’s coming?
Did he say he’d come at quarter of three?
Or at ten after six?
Is that possible, might he have said he’d come at ten after six?

DESTINA:  See you later, that’s what he said, he said see you later.

FLORINDA:  See you later?

DESTINA:  See you later.

FLORINDA:  Not goodbye?

DESTINA:  No. See you later.

FLORINDA:  Are you sure he didn’t say goodbye.

DESTINA:  Absolutely sure.

FLORINDA:  Then he’ll definitely still come, right?

DESTINA:  He’s coming.


FLORINDA:  Time passes. (Short silence.)
The cowardly bitch.
Never stops. Never stays in place.
Never takes hold and joins in.
Always just keeps on moving. The. Cowardly. Bitch.
Where does it always go anyway?

DESTINA:  It passes.

FLORINDA:  Where does the day go, once it’s gone?

DESTINA:  It passes.

FLORINDA:  And the hour? And the minute? And the second?

DESTINA:  They pass.

FLORINDA:  Couldn’t we do that too?
I mean go somewhere, anywhere, rather than waiting.
While everything else goes.

DESTINA:  And what if your father comes?

FLORINDA:  Is he going to come today?
He didn’t come yesterday either.
He hasn’t ever. He’s never yet come.

DESTINA:  But today he might come.

FLORINDA:  So everything goes.
Only Dad doesn’t come.

DESTINA:  Your dad’s coming.
Otherwise we wouldn’t be waiting for him.

FLORINDA:  And if he doesn’t come, do we still wait?

DESTINA:  Time doesn’t pass. It goes inside you.
It grows inside you, time, and sticks to the life inside you. Inside you time stores everything it has, it keeps the happiness inside you like preserved cherries, so that you can always snack on it, for the whole of time you can snack on it!

FLORINDA:  What am I supposed to snack on?
Snack on what?!

DESTINA:  On you. On yourself, that’s what you’re supposed to snack on, you silly thing.

FLORINDA:  You’ve been snacking on Dad forever.


Isn’t there a point where time is all snacked up?


DESTINA:  Time isn’t something that can get all snacked up.

FLORINDA:  But you can beat it up! You can beat time up for so long it can’t stand up any more! I get beaten up. Because my father’s a hero but they say he left us in the lurch.

DESTINA:  Then you should just stay here from now on.

FLORINDA:  I say he’s a hero and I beat them up till they say of their own accord that my father’s a hero because he went into the ice. Until they say it on their own. But no sooner have they got back up than they’re saying he left you and me in the lurch and is now somewhere else altogether and they beat me up again, until I can’t get up any more—


FLORINDA:  Don’t worry, I don’t stay lying down. I get up and beat them up for as long as it takes till they can’t get back up and voluntarily say my father’s a hero.

DESTINA:  Walks up the glacier with a yardstick and a spirit-level, looking for the right spot for his ski-jump! Do you think they’ll let you have it? You?? Hanno! A nonentity like you? Someone who who who! Who waxes their skis—cleans their staircases—swabs down their toilets? This isn’t the kind of place where dishwashers build ski-jumps!! Here here here here—definitely NOT HERE Hanno!!!

FLORINDA:  But he is a hero, right?

translated from the German by Neil Blackadder