The Silent Melting Night: Thoughts at X-Mas Eve.
By ZJ Galos
She sent me a portrait. Half of her face, cut perfectly into half. A growing moon half as I saw her on the wintry skies, pale and increasing in intensity as night fell in early afternoon. A wonderful shape a vessel of the soul, half of her being. Which half? The one that reflects the pure feminine side, perhaps as the artistic side sits right above the right eye, it’s the Ini I met with my emotional side and not the conscious mind alone. At one moment of artistic longing I wanted to paint her face, the eyes in which her life’s emotions are compressed together like into a precious gem. Looking into her eyes is a welcome act that raises my heartbeat and it turns into an intimate togetherness, as I read about Ini’s dreams and feelings. For some time I follow her on Facebook and through a journal of her portrait photographs and her visits of exhibitions in and around Vienna. Ini is an unusual person, a colourful appearance and a young woman who is on her long way to her artistic expressions. She goes about it quietly and without airs, except for choosing out of the ordinary locations. There are good vibes between the artist and his model, the artist and his muse. This is uplifting.
PT phoned me while I had been walking yet again to the closest supermarket. B had complained about the Turkish halva, which did not compare well to the Greek halva, we had bought on Friday as we wanted to visit PT in his Art Shop. B wanted me to borrow some cash from my friend. I had exhausted my funds, but had promised to support B, when she returned from commuting for the second time to Athens. I had not intended to get into more debt, not into any debt at all. However I have tried to save up, but it’s never enough for B. Unfortunately she is a peculiar human being with peculiar needs and desires, which are at time inspirational for a writer, but not at all becoming for a human being living on the social edge. Besides, she has difficulty in making friends, and I heard many comments relating to her social behaviour. All I want to do, is visiting my friend preferably alone and enjoying quality time. However PT had a cold and could not come personally to the shop, but he sensed through my phone call that I was in need for some more funds, especially over X-mas, as I only receive my money at the end of the month. He asked his assistant in the shop to hand me 30 Euro and I knew it would go mainly toward B’s cosmetic for her hair, which she needed urgently. We had already bought the Greek halva at a Greek shop in the Lerchenfelderstrasse before, and the injection of PT’s offer of 30, as I had asked for 20 before, made all the difference. After all I had promised B to help her. Yet her mood swings have not changed, she still stirred at personal matters and when I responded, she picked a fight. It all had started with discussing small things and talking about general matters that led to specific ones, which she detested vehemently. Will we find ever common ground?
The night is dead still. B is entering my writers’ and artist’s domain every few seconds. It is irritating to me and it turns me angry, as I am not interested of having general items that concern her, heaped upon my head as I concentrate writing. I long for a quiet place where I could write and draw in solitude and just come home when I have finished my creative output. Would I then come home in a hurry? PT feels suddenly better, as his wife had left yet again on a trip. She had been recently away before, and during three weeks PT was a different man. Anything different to the other married men on a long standing?
One could hear a needle drop. The cars, which usually pass frequently on the close-by main street, have stopped commuting. The dustbins have been placed outside the street, but the sanitary service had stopped too. It’s pitch black, as the opposite neighbour had turned off the lights, perhaps celebrating a dinner at one of their parents. It’s family night and wonderful to have still a family that cares for human warmth and togetherness. It reminds me of Carmen in South Africa. The elegant wife of a friend we used to visit on a Sunday to play a game of tennis. On X-mas day, she brought us presents, as we came back from playing. Well, we had been included in her extended family. This year as X-mas Eve and Chanukah Ten sync together on this night, the merging of two main religious feasts should be symbolic for reaching out and holding hands in peace and accepting different viewpoints and respect each other. For me religious beliefs are secondary to real human beings, like Carmen, PT, Uncle Joe, Anne, and Ed, for many years my collocutor. I have lost Carmen to the universe, just the same as Anne, and yet I have met PT, who is for me more than a best friend. Now, you would ask the question: what about B, your spouse? Quite right. She is around and unfortunately we love each other while we pain each other in oscillating phases. Forty-six years of marriage had turned into two roads we walk parallel on, next to each other. There are spots we meet, on a square, and on a specific corner, and we feel we could make it again and yet making love will be not possible through the way we expect it to be – so different from each other. Damned! B is talking everything to shreds and this puts me off. She complains that I do not care for her with my soul. Well, if she would agree to make love to me, without talking and just get on with it, she would be amazed how well our souls would talk to each other. But she states that she has no energy for that.
I think of my friends I had left behind, or who faded out of my life: Jacques. For over 40 years we had known each other and corresponded at all times. He had trouble with his son, who had married a divorced woman, who spent the son’s hard-earned money. Well, I had no chance to visit him in France. We had met in Stockholm at a café, popular with foreign students working during their summer holidays in Sweden. We corresponded and Jacques visited me in Vienna, having run away from a woman, he did not wish to marry. Since his Viennese days, he became fond of all my friends and associates and he had a jolly good time. Later he married and had two children. His daughter became a medical doctor and married a doctor moving with him to Canada. Suddenly Jacques had a change of domiciles and he wrote to me less and less. As I intended to move from South Africa to Europe, he stopped writing to me. I could not invite him anymore to Joburg, as we had to empty our domicile. Perhaps he felt that I did not want to invite him. Finally I met him again one day on one of the Internet communication channels and yet, he had changed. Perhaps we both had changed. One cannot mend a long standing friendship from one side only. Finally Jacques had disappeared into the desert of Algeria, where he had done his military service and often talked about it. It appeared to me as if I had seen a Fata Morgana, after so many years of an extensive friendship through letters his distinct face faded out, absorbed by the hot relentless sun. Whenever I read writings by Camus, I saw Jacques’ face reappearing.
Frieke: the young pretty woman from Belgium, I fell in love with as a student of architecture, during a tour where we were building physically a boundary wall for a convent in Louvain. We had danced and we had fun, and I pursued her for a year afterward, returning and ready to marry her, but how could I think to start a family without a job and regular income? Like Van Gogh, I held the palm of my hand over a candle to proof to her that I really loved her. Her mother thought of me as a talented, but slightly mad artist and discarded marriage. Of course she was right, but I wanted Frieke and as our petting became dangerously close to making love properly, she backed out and left me standing naked with an erection, while she had also ran away from her French suitor, who understood to be engaged to her. While we all sat in the pleasant well-decorated art-noveau ‘Villa Roma’ residence of her parents, Charles and I became friends together with Frieke’s brother Jan, while mother and daughter sat together in counsel. Finally a girlfriend of Frieke invited me for lunch at their place and I realised that I had to take my mind off Frieke, who later married a nice young man, as she called him. I often wondered about her and if she had experienced happiness in her life and how her family looked like.
Carl: The engineer, who was interested in architects and architecture on top of his engineering work. I met him during a building inspection, where the client had asked me to call for an engineer. Adjoining to our street, where B and I lived, I had seen a board depicting professional people. As the building site looked similar to the one I had been commissioned with, I phoned Carl. He came immediately and we resolved the problems to the satisfaction of all participants. We clicked with our approach to work and during a light lunch became friends. It was fun to work with Carl, who had a passion for good design and understood the thinking of an architect. As my own business became better funded through more work, I employed Carl wherever I could. After hours we met at a pub or Carl took me to his own building sites, he worked on with another architect. I learned a lot from him and extended my practical experience. At X-mas time Carl had arranged lunch in a sushi bar and restaurant and we had a good time trying out the Japanese speciality. Of course we had more than a few drinks of Saki and enjoyed life. Finally the biggest job I had him appointed with his builder’s friend, had some repercussions for me, due to the tender for the jobs to my design, as the contractor, who had originally brokered the job, had defaulted through his builder. Yet, the man upset that he lost a contract, took it out on me and involved me in some horseracing, where I fell of a horse. Fortunately, I had not broken anything, yet had cracked my pelvic bone. Carl diligently carried on supporting me, but he stood between me and his builder friend who constructed the unusual design of the great extension. Finally I had drawn a wrong card with the owner and he booted me out of the job. Carl remained friends and helped me with fetching materials for beautifying our garden and get refurbishing initiated. His advice helped me a lot and his friend’s building chaps could finish the home extensions B and I had in mind, before we placed our home for over forty years on the realty market. Carl remained a friend through thick and thin. He helped us with our luggage and drove us to the airport as we left South Africa for our European tour, which I had intended for a sabbatical to finish my novels and poetry. I intended to follow my creative path using my talents I had suppressed for working in the building industry. It was time to let the colourful world of fantasy rise like a kite into the skies.
Simchi: The young intelligent woman, whose eyes sparkled like a polished tiger eyes, and who was my friend, lover and critique during my student years. We met at a cold clear wintry day at the skating rink near the Stadtpark of Vienna, on Heumarkt, a popular meeting place for the young. When I met her I started glowing inside. After the first few words I fell in love with her. Yet as she started to blossom, at the tender age of seventeen, we met regularly and whenever her mother allowed her to see me. In her last year at secondary school, she had become my steady girlfriend and we were into heavy petting. Simchi called it the waking of our hearts in love. She finished matric, started acting classes and she was good at it. During our relationship we went together to parties, concerts and to the cinema. She liked my paintings and my art style and disliked my poetic efforts. This hurt me. However she had decided that I would be her first man in her life and her cunning mind had worked out a strategy and a place for it. During a weekend party, she could stay at a friend, known to her mother and therefore the opportunity for us to spend our first night together became a reality. I felt nervous and the pressure of not disappointing her grew heavy on my mind, but little did I know about love. Yet, thanks to youth and tenacity, we finally passed the stage of first time lovemaking and the following later events became a pleasure also for her. I often thought of her and about criticism of my lovemaking, which suffered due to a low student diet. When I became strong and vivacious, I often thought of having Simchi again and enjoy with her lovemaking as I felt more virile and continue our experience into the erotic world. Therefore, as we had gained more experience in sex, we could have enjoyed ourselves together tremendously, as we matched well in spirit and in sexual love. Simchi had married the man approved by her mother, who took her to Germany and she would probably have grown children by now. I often imaged that I would meet her again by accident and fantasized about our intimacies that could thus emerge.
Ini: I met her by accident at the Essl Museum for Modern Art. Since I came back with B to Vienna, I had been drawing with a ballpoint pen. I had been inspired by the art of Dolfi Frankl and his great talent to express a character with a few lines. His talent of observation and rendering techniques were to me important. I drew on standard sized paper and added the pieces together like a puzzle. One of the upcoming curators liked my drawings and my way of presentation and I was invited to take part in a competition for being exhibited in the museum, if my work was chosen. I did not make it. However, invited to the opening of the exhibition, I sampled the work of the artists who were exhibited to the curator’s choice. I was disappointed with the work that represented the future of painting, except for a few canvases, which I thought represented a new style of painting. After the opening I choose to have a sip of wine and some bread in the cellar of the museum, which also held the crated works of over 7000 artists collected by Mr and Mrs Essl. I sat down, not knowing anybody and sipped a glass of white wine and had some bread. Suddenly I saw a young woman, dressed in an Indian or oriental way, colourful and as she passed me I felt drawn to her pretty face. She sat down at a deck chair. As next to her another deck chair remained empty, I approached her and sat down next to her. I started a conversation about the competition and we talked, sipped some wine and ate bread. I introduced myself and she said her name was Ini. We talked until it was time for her to take the train back to Vienna. I accompanied her to the train station and she took a lot of photographs. She said she was doing portraits. I wanted to paint her, but she had no money to take the train ride back and forth, but perhaps once in a while. However we parted friends. I often thought of her, as she reminded me of a past girlfriend, an Indian woman, who worked with me in a writing course. Ini would be a perfect model for me, besides she would be an inspiration for a new story perhaps, certainly already for a short story. We stayed in contact through facebook, where she sends me messages and she is interested in accompanying me to a museum. I invited her to PT’s Art Shop, which she will visit in time, I know. Unfortunately I had missed our first date at Essl, as I had been at PT’s Art Shop that day and I apologized to her. Ini did not make a scene, as B would have, or any one of my friends. She said she enjoyed the ride, but she did not paint that day, as we had planned that we would do it together, in Essl’s free paint workshop. I will be visiting Ini’s art exhibition later next month in the New Year. This time I will be going to see her not only through the eyes of an artist. From her last photograph, a self-portrait, I have noticed that she had matured. I like Ini’s art and I hope that we could do a project together.
Ylos and Danae: A delightful couple. Once pursued by a host of suitors, Danae, like her name suggests, had been conquered by Ylos, who held her under his wings protected from the slightest touch of any approaching friend. A great sportsman, he fathered her children and became a good father to them, yet he still kept Danae locked up behind steel bars of a jealous attitude toward eroticism, which she was inclined to take risks for, he absconded in his traditional way. Through the years the erotic sparks always remained strong between Danae and her friend. One day she had invited her friend with his spouse to dinner and she dressed especially seductively, wearing no underwear, as the friend had noticed sitting close to her. From this point the night could have taken a natural path to a new erotic experiment if her spouse would have been amiable to let Danae live out her fantasies. It happened in the minds of the potential lovers, but not in the tactile closeness of physical lovemaking. However the erotic sparkle still remained.
Kimh: An attractive woman, mother of two grown-up sons, she had been from the start of my asking her to make love to her, distant and a lady-in-waiting. I had been duped. When a woman senses that she is capable of turning a man on for her, she’ll use that power for manipulating her men. Kimh did just that. She was a good friend until she sensed that she could be one’s potential lover, and she used those times to help storing my furniture and valuable items from my mother’s home in her house. During the years of storage, she put pressures on me to take my goods and transport them to my place of residence. As I had been an artist living on and off in Europe, I had no permanent home yet. The moment I had established a future back in Austria, she had suddenly a heated discussion with my spouse. One bad word followed another and finally she cut her sisterly ties with my wife. Meanwhile we had found out that she had rented her additional place and wherefore we had to spend all our saved up money to pay a deposit for a small one-roomed flat, as she would not help accommodating us. Kimh, the woman with steel in her heart. Kimh, the amazon who pursues her own interests regardless. Kimh, the ungrateful woman who grabbed the goods that belong to us. She will not be sated with ‘Raubkunst’ or the other goods falling into that category. It’s a sad story, especially as times are so darned tough for us and she had forgotten that she was always welcomed at our domicile on the African continent. Is that all forgotten?
Anne: She had been a good looking woman, sprung from a Greek island and excelling in the art of poetry and storytelling. Having met her online, she seemed bright and open-minded, with a lifelong connection to art and literature. She became a muse and collocutor, a model, a lover, an inspiring facilitator for modern poetry, and besides had been a good mother to her daughter and a dedicated spouse to her husband. In her later years she changed from a young girl into a mature woman in the process of becoming a writer acknowledged by her peers. She gave me a son-et-lumiere-tour of her life and it seemed that we had known each other for all our lives, as we exchanged photographs and anecdotes, poetry and short stories. Life seemed to be perfect for a creative couple, married to their art through the wondrous love binding them together. But happiness is a rare bird and difficult to keep for long. It flew away, with her passing into the ‘Bog Void’, as she called it.
Jo: Perhaps the woman Anne mentioned to send me? At the stage of one’s pain about a love’s passing another love will turn up, but then it’s a mutually induced happening. Jo had been the other side of Anne, the other half of the moon in the shadow. She emerged as a sudden portrait that smiled and offered her love unconditionally. It took a few years to realize a love that rather related to lust. Anne’s book of poetry came to mind, as I mused about Jo’s lust that evoked my own. Sarching for a love that had been a shock, just like paradise lost must have been to Adam and Eve, friends like Jo come along and help one to stand up and recover with one’s feet to pound the ground of reality again. By the time one realizes that, five volumes of a love and lust story had been written. It had astounded me, this search for an adventure, hand and feet digging deep into the garden of one’s soul. I have not yet typed my manuscript of the last three volumes into my laptop, since the other one had given up it’s useful life. But just as I had written all anecdotes involving Jo, it seemed that the thrust of lustful encounters had evaporated like a visible gasp that rose to the skies and moved like a cloud toward a northern suburb of Athens.
Val: She came and conquered my aged frame of being, shaking it up and infusing into me the lightness of her young being. I felt happy in her aura sitting close to me and typing my poetry and prose. Then I felt that the ink had not been dry yet on my creative work and I asked her to teach me Greek. That way I could keep her close without touching her, as she talked about marriage and children. I felt suddenly old and not in the frame of mind to be guided along as a future husband in a game of love. I told her and she slept with a guy she had met in a bar, being unfaithful to her boyfriend. I am not a good teacher for making love and yet as I desired her young body, I knew she reached for a way forward escaping from a home where she missed her privacy. If I had access to good funding, I would be an acknowledged artist married to three women at the same time. She laughed. Good humour and open to erotic games, we would have matched for good lovemaking, but we had no privacy for that. The story of V & Z remained open, even when she decided to lose weight in a gym, where she met her next boyfriend. Her face of the time we were studying the Greek language together remained with me. It repeated on my drawings and paintings. One day after I left for Vienna, she seemed to be sad. Val would have been a wonderful model and muse, would I have been able to secure an atelier. I wonder if she is all right, as I received no reply to my mail any longer.