“Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt, sondern die zukünftige suchen wir,” I tell her who is, and who is not. If you know the difference between ser / estar, you’ll get it.
“Marc?” she responds from Strasbourg, “are you quite all right?”
“I wasn’t,” I told her. “In fact, yesterday I simply abandoned all hope, since I was very much in the first clause of ‘Denn wir…’”
“And that would be?”
“’For here we have no continuing city,’” I tell her. “It’s the first line of the sixth movement of the German Requiem….”
So then I have to confess: I have spent seventy minutes or so weeping softly in a corner of the café, because paradoxically, when thousands are gathered outside the Stonewall Inn, or in the streets of London and Paris, nothing much is happening in Puerto Rico.
Is it homophobia? Or is it that we are all too stunned, and depressed, to act? Because in the space of four or five days, we learned that the House had passed the Fiscal Control Board, that the Supreme Court of the United States was perfectly happy to tell us that we didn’t have sovereignty, and that 23 of our (for the most part) sons had been murdered. And so my friend Keith in Michigan had dragged out his bass, and undoubtedly shed blood on the fingerboard in a hastily-called performance of the Mozart Requiem. (I mean it about the blood—imagine rubbing your fingers up and down a thick wire for over an hour. Wouldn’t you be bleeding, too?) But here, in Puerto Rico, nothing much was happening. No candlelight vigils, no marches, no ecumenical services. And so I was left with Facebook, which doesn’t provide catharsis as much as it deepens whatever woe that leads you sobbing for catharsis. And what tipped me completely into a major depression was a clip—with 22 million hits, and I kid you not—about how to survive a mass murder attack.
“For here we have no continuing city,” I told Lady, “or in other words, what have we become? And when did our city stop continuing? Because now I have to sit here and try to figure out—what should I do if, at this very moment, the terrorist / s enter into the very door, their AR-15's blazing?”
“I know what you’d do,” said Lady, “I’ve seen it a thousand times: you’d finish your coffee!”
Actually, just thinking the scenario made me chug it down….
“Not funny,” I told her. “The problem is that I have two options, since the third—hiding under the table—is a little out.”
The table would barely cover my belly.
“So, I could run for the bathroom, and barricade myself in it. But the problem is, how do I know if anybody is in the bathroom? If so, I’d lose precious seconds instead of doing what I should have done, which is go into the gift store, up the stairs, and—if needed—go up to the roof. But of course, I don’t know if the door to the stairs is locked, either. Oh, and if I barricade myself in the bathroom, presumably the killer would have the sense to shoot the lock, and there I’d be—a sitting duck….”
“And don’t tell me that that’s not going to happen, because 49 people never went out to the nightclub last Saturday night expecting to come back in body bags. No, the whole thing is about making everybody crazy….”
“Marc, I hardly think….”
“Anyway, so yesterday I got into the darkest funk possible, since it dawned on me that I haven’t even checked if the door into the gift shop is open, in which case I would be losing valuable seconds….”
“So now I’m going to have to check all the doors to everywhere, and then I’m going to have to keep a running tab on who is in the bathroom, though what if someone sitting behind me uses the bathroom? Do I have to change my table to the one closest to the bathroom? Or maybe we should get a bell that rings discreetly when someone goes into the bathroom? Or a rear view mirror for my table? Close captioned video? There’s gotta be some technology….”
“And the other thing is, what about Felix? He’s sitting right in front of me, and granted, he’s a little weird, but he is a musician. So should I tell him to follow me, up the stairs, and onto the roof? But he’d probably just be stunned, and not prepared, as I am, with the 22 million people who have watched the video. So there again, those precious seconds….”
“Well, you could….”
“And the thing is, I know perfectly well what I would do, in the event of a mass attack by assault wielding ISIS-supporting terrorists, and that is sit stone-still at my table with my mouth agape. Not a pretty picture, but sorry, that’s what I’d be doing. Because I have this quirk: I have to figure things out. I don’t react quickly, or on instinct. Or rather, I do, and my instinct is to freeze and process the mass murder that is going on around me. Which means curtains! Hasta la vista, Baby! Kiss Marc’s sweet bottom goodbye!”
“And so, I got into a full blown, major depression, and then I started off into the land of anxiety; I had had just seen the road sign for the city of Panic Attack, when Saul came in….”
“Saul—we used to hang out with him. And now he has a 9-month old baby, and she could sell baby food to a nursing home, she’s so cute. So we talk about that, and he asked me if I’m playing the cello, and I told him no. Why, he asked. So I told him about my back, and how I need to rest my back after being up all morning. So no more cello playing at 5 PM. All that’s in the past. For here we have no continuing city….”
“So what did he say?”
“He got really concerned, and told me that I had to go back to the cello. He said it was a gift, that people really got moved by the sound of the instrument, that God had given me something special.”
“Well, he has….”
“He’s given us all something special,” I told her, “presuming he exists. Or not. Anyway, Saul goes off. Then he comes back, and tells me, ‘I used to come here with my soul broken, and your music healed me,’ and I thank him, and sit down to look at the door he is going out of, with his 9-month old little daughter, and that’s when I saw the mass murderers with their AR-15’s come in, and the first person they shoot is the little….”
“OK—so there were no mass murderers, and Saul and his daughter are fine. For now. Because who knows? And then I realized, that for us….”
“…we who have no continuing city….”
“…well, my soul is broken, and who is there to heal me? Because here I am, waiting for the mass murderers to break through the door, and everybody else is drinking coffee, or putting their 9-month babies into the stroller. Their city is continuing. Mine, not. So that’s when I turned to the Brahms German Requiem, and that’s when I learned about the city I live in, no longer continuing. You know, the first part of line I quoted.”
“And the second part?”
“Sondern die zukünftige suchen wir,” I told her. “But we seek the future.”
“Yes,” she says, and smiles distantly from Strasbourg, and then drifts out the door, patting it gently as she leaves the terrorists far, far behind.
Click here for an excellent translation