Last Saturday night he fell down and had not even noticed it. He was dead drunk, but had not been sick. In his sleep he wondered about how he had found back to his small bedsitter. In the morning he noticed the plate glass table on the floor, with the white powder-coated tubular steel frame on top of it. What had happened?
Slowly his memory started reconstructing last night’s celebrations. He had been at a friend’s place, he remembered that part clearly and he had met an artist friend before. She had taken him to an art-warehouse, the only one in Vienna’s distant Simmering, not far from the last station of the U3 subway. A most fantastic display of all tools and accessories for all artistic endeavors, a heaven for the creative minded. Mona became excited as if she would be in love with him, but she was in love with the artist’s super-shop.
But why did he turn the heavy glass top upside down, with its sub frame landing on top of it? This thought interjected in his mind continuously. Well, he thought he must have fallen onto it. But he had no abrasions on his legs or on his body. His mind carried on with back flashes.
In the meantime Mona had been late that Saturday afternoon and she met him at the super shop’s coffee area, where she invited him for a refreshment. She took a cappuccino, while he decided to have an espresso. She talked about her work with handicapped people and that she cannot just leave her patients half-treated to come to meet a friend. Of course he understood and their fingers touched, as she asked for the sugar and Zed handed it to her. She had sinewy fingers of an athlete and Zed mused about their intense usage and the marks of using alcohol for cleaning, like a surgical team would, before they’d put on their gloves.
Mona is a special kind of person and he felt comfortable with her, probably due to her friendly nature that had though a pairing with a certain stubbornness if it came to defend a position in art and art-related subjects. Just like Zed did when he defended his way of painting and the inner happenings that he wished to depict with his mystical realism, as he called in general his oeuvre. Mona seemed to like him and she brought him presents, whenever he met her, as today she would encourage him to buy some watercolour paper and a sketchbook.
When she accompanied Zed to the aisle, where the various paper qualities were stacked onto shelves, she encouraged him to choose a watercolour block and a sketchbook of good quality, as Zed intended to take the more reasonably priced ones. “I buy, you choose”, she announced and took the medium quality stuff and placed it into the trolley, she had organized meanwhile. “But…”Zed protested…”well, you paint and I buy”, she laughed. “OK, let me paint you something then.” She smiled and Zed took it for a deal.
After shopping they took to the road and walked to the nearby Metro station. Zed wanted to validate his prepaid ticket, but the validator did not work. “It’s only two stations from here”, Mona said, “let’s go!” Two stations later they took the exit nearer to Simmeringer Hauptstrasse and two blocks down the road they entered an apartment building. They took the lift to the fourth floor and Nica opened the door at the first ring of the doorbell.
“Ah, here you are both!” She hugged Mona first, then Zed kissed her cheeks. “Welcome”, she said and please come in. They took their coats off, cap and shawl and finally their shoes. Close to the diningroomtable the food had been almost ready and well prepared. It smelled good. “What do you like to drink?” Mona choose fruit juice and Zed wanted a tot of vodka to kick off. Nica brought glasses and soon her daughter-in-law prepared the table with all drinks and food placed on top of the long wooden table, just as Nica’s tradition demanded. Zed had to smile, as he had never before came across such a custom. Then Nica and the girlfriends of her son and her daughter served the food: Delicious rice with hers, chicken drums and salad. Zed wanted to take his red wine, a Merlot, but Nica surprised him, “I have wine for you.” She handed him a bottle of Sauvignon Cabernet. “Mh, thanks”, Zed said and thought that this wine might be too strong for enjoyable drinking, but being polite, he tried it. They toasted. Nica addressed her family and her two guests with a short speech about remembering her dad, who had passed away 40 days ago, as is custom with the Russian Orthodox religion. After that all cheered and toasted to the memory of Nica’s dad. Zed found the wine a bit too harsh, but after two glasses, the Cabernet tasted smooth enough to be drunk. Yet soon after the meal Mona left as she had to visit a girlfriend. Nica said “I hope you two would stay this tie a bit longer.” Zed looked up. His eyes met Mona’s, who looked a bit concerned. “OK, I will stay longer”, Zed said. After Mona had left, he talked to Nica’s son and daughter and he seemed to have a good time, but forgot to watch his alcohol intake. The bottle stood in front of him and he talked and drank, talked and drank.
Then his memory faded and suddenly there was a blank. He was waking from a deep sleep and felt good. He wandered about having neither a headache, nor having been sick. “Horrible”, he mused, “cannot remember a thing, except sitting in the backseat of a car and listening to the voice of Vicky, Nica’s daughter, who seemed to find out where Zed lived. >From his mumbling, she reckoned to know the address and found it after some trial and error driving with her brother. Vicky gave this information to Zed, who met her at the art shop and he felt bad about having let himself go. But Vicky laughed it off.
Zed apologized to Nica and thanked her for her son of taking him home. “It’s my family!” She said proudly. Zed only nodded and thought of making good again. However, it’ll take some time and some paintings for Nica, to be in her good books again.
Zed had to see Nica every time, when he traveled to the art shop and he mused about the way he had fallen. Instead of stopping drinking, he had finished the bottle. “I behaved like a peasant”, he mumbled and thought about stopping his urge of drinking himself into a stupor and into consequences, out of his rational conscious and out of his control. But how often did he remind himself time and again. It seemed to be a pattern. Since his bad understanding with his spouse B, he had not confronted her immediately with matters that bothered him about her lack of understanding, which he supposed to have done! Damned! And he recalled the time, when B had driven him into a corner of having a threesome with another man, her friend, who visited regularly. It was not enough to entertain him with happenings around their own lives, serving whisky and nuts. No, B had to fall in love with their friend. This had been fatal and Zed thought a sexual encounter, where he should as well participate, with tooth and nails. Would it not mean that he agreed to it and let B become their friend’s concubine on a legal basis? Besides, Zed had to lose more, had she not told Mr. Erad that she would inherit a flat in Vienna? It all built up to a competition for B, so the winner would take all, not so? Zed had been fallen onto his face, cutting his hands and body in the smithereens of the smashed glass table in their dining room, but he would stand up the following day and carry on living, had B not expressed her egoistic interests in Erad? Well she could carry on with her life and handle it discreetly, but she was not inclined to do so. Zed would get ill on this cat and mouse game and land at a psychiatric clinic, but finally his message reached B in full scale and she cared for Zed to get out of the ‘looney bin’, as she caked it. However Erad seemed to hide behind his social mantle and keep his image of a good husband intact. So why should Zed then be the sacrificial lamb?
Has he fallen this time again? Well, he had a crash on Nica, when he met her at first, but she clearly refuted his cautious advances and told him straight: “You have reached an age, when one is considered to be old.” Hm, he thought, really? Good, he’ll look for a Muse and model for his paintings elsewhere. It’s not a problem, Nica did not wish having tactile contact with him, instead she chose a tall guy, who seemed to be somewhat boorish and it astonished Zed, even amused him about her unfortunate choice. However Nica only played a game and soon this was clear enough to him. Besides, on the one side he had fallen for her, yet on the other, he enjoyed watching her and listen to her views on literature and art. Yet her quick spoken words of judgement about her employer, T, were not favourable, as she always defended T’s spouse, who could most of the times feature as the poor abused woman, in the eyes of Nica. Yet Zed always took his time and detected that Nica had a quick mind, yet she spoke often uncontrolled and contradicted herself about T and his spouse. After all, she was employed by them and her loyalty was split, rendering her own split of opinion at all times. But overall she took T’s spouse’s side, while Zed, who had befriended T at first, before he had been accepted by his spouse, had loyalties to his friend, whom he accompanied to meetings, interviews by the media and exhibitions about the Holocaust. However, he would behave respectful to his wife and notice that T needed his wife more than she needed him. However, he would carry on to look after him, as he had promised his wife to do. Perhaps in this respect, he had a level above Nica, who was employed in the art shop. In these circle of friends and employee, Zed’s actions related to matters T wanted help with, while he also did work diligently to Nica’s directions, who acted on behalf of her employer, Mrs. T, whom she had ascertained her loyalty.
A difficult relationship, where Nica’s help and work had been defined by her agreed timetable, while Zed’s timetable was that of a voluntary helper, who also accompanied T as a friend, who at the same time became his PA for T’s many errands and meetings, especially in Bratislava.
So Zed had managed somehow to live in between these complex relationship levels, including his private one with his spouse B, the most difficult one. He had fallen into the trap of living together with a woman, who had become incompatible to live with. Yet there had been a reverse bad conscious between them, to abandon their childless marriage on the one hand, and on the other to leave the partner for 47 years lying abandoned in the corner of a broken relationship. Had they not rescued each other many times from mishaps, bad physical health, incurred debts and hostile attacks by unprofessional competition? Two persons, however they might have developed through all these years of married life, cannot forget the long road together, either in sickness or good health, in extramarital affairs, or with pulling together on same string of a last try to get this cart of life up the last bit of inclined road.
But as B is carrying on to be angry about Zed’s small mistakes and habits, she shows herself like in a mirror accusing herself of having failed in a relationship that lasted close to 50 years. Zed, who is not a regular living individual, has a habit of forgetting time and space around him, when he is creative and in a groove for inspired writing, or for transforming his poetry into paintings. B has only critique for him and she states that he supposed to cover up his paintings that remind her of the Holocaust. Zed paints his sadness of having lost his Muse, Anna, into his canvases and depicts her in his drawings. He has to place on his earphones and listen to Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, Keith Jarrett and Michel Petrucciani, in order to cut-out disturbances in his marital life, as well as in an effort to tolerate his spouse’s own life that runs parallel in their small bedsitter and separate kitchen, where they share domains. It’s not a competition of who will not be the one that will fall in the end, but if they both have enough energy to carry on with their individual lives and foster enough tolerance at the same time to survive in an almost impossible match of their changed characters.