1. An uneasy dream of which I have no recollection still wafted as I walked off my bed, awake; it left when I was operating the ticket machine in the U-Bahn.
2. A seemingly homeless Pole who I sat next to while waiting for my train, kept scorching a stub with a feeble lighter and spewing phonetic primitives in my direction: ava, ovo, eve! ava! ava! ava ovo! a o e i! Curiously, there was no smell of homelessness about him. When the train slid in he also rose but did not enter the train, and passed me as the door was splitting space between us, muttering to himself in Polish.
3. A.S.Byatt's longish short story about a gynaecologist impregnating an apparently homeless anaemic art student whom he then prevents from having an abortion. The ending almost moved me to tears as the train passed Zwickauer Damm. Next stop was the airport, and as I walked upstairs I judged the settled story rather melodramatic, and watched a woman in a short quasi-shapeless white cotton robe (the third in such garment since yesterday) struggle with her travel bag, like Jacob on the ladder. She had nice strong hips, double-white. I thought I could have been in a rock band as a youngster, having written a song called "Cotton panties"; I saw a ridiculous CD cover in my mind and the sense of shame for having recorded it that would have left me long ago. Then I saw people running up the stairs and joined them to catch the bus that they were imagining.
4. The airport was unremarkable and quick. There was a comely girl on high heels weeping silently in a way suggesting rather grief then parting, and a segment of a sprawling Jewish family who talked intermittently in Russian, Hebrew and some other language I could not place. At security the three grown men left the woman with three little children telling her to ajabo gworbo with some insistence which I wanted to look up later to identify the language, and did so without success. The weeping girl kept looking back past the sliding doors as if trying to conjure somebody up, but couldn't. When I set out to leave, she stopped crying, and swathes of pink dissolved on her cheeks into a nondescript airport face colour.
5. In the S-Bahn underpass at the ticket machines the line curves into curious shapes as everyone is awkwardly and mostly unsuccessfully helpful. The crowd collectively sends fingers that poke the screens and are withdrawn, corrupt fragments of German instructions are read aloud with various accents, hands paw around in the slot, cards and notes slide in and out of various openings. Missed trains pass overhead droning and bellowing. For a moment I have an impression of being a tiny metal chip in a cymatic experiment. My coins screech with sweat in my closed hand.
6. In the train I am joined by four young workmen as A.S.Byatt tries to lure me into a fascinating world of stones. A story about grief and disfigurement, fugue, maybe, disintegrates into lists of minerals and mouthfuls of geologic jargon. The workmen, sober, good-looking and very cheerful, juggle phrases in a Turkish dialect I don't understand, and rescue my attention from the stony dread of the book. They carry things: one has little pink trainers, one has a shiny water-tap with a great length of hose, one carries something like a portable guillotine, and one has exceedingly large red-haired hands and nothing to hold, and the hands rest like mammoth starfish on his knees.
7. As I walk through the area called "The Red Island" (formerly populated by obviously well-to-do socialites) past the kindergarten where I left and picked up my daughter daily a couple of years ago, I think (again) that I'd like to rent a flat there. In my mind I say daftly to a benevolent agent that the location has a special significance for me, and he tells me they have just the flat for me: from the balcony I can see the playground, and the historical public toilet, and the church, and the graveyard, only there is not much more to the flat than the balcony, you know, prices are up, flats in demand, The Red Island a desired location for a great many people.
8. In the interior of a new café appropriately called "Daddy" hipsterisms abound; I order an americano and proceed to sit in the back. It goes deeper than I thought. There is a young lightly bearded man typing on a Mac and a large woman sleeping on the couch in the back room, massive black boots sticking out into the door like a turnstile. I sit down near a loud pendulum clock and continue reading A.S.Byatt who is by now an unhappy mixture of George MacDonald and Oscar Wilde. The large woman removes herself from the couch, turns out to have a dark babushka and an apron on, and walks grudgingly towards the entrance between me and the mop bucket. They seem to have just opened, and yesterday's remains are still astir in the bucket. The plump black-haired counter girl brings me my coffee and retires; I hear her speak to the large woman. The clock tolls gently, just audibly over the sound of its own ticking. An austere gentleman in an open chequered shirt and blue jeans walks between me and the clock. He has a drooping white moustache and seems to be inspecting the floor. I have a lot of coffee to drink, and about 40 pages of A.S.Byatt. In the story, a woman who is gradually turning into a heap of geologic terms meets a stone-cutter at an urban graveyard and he takes her to Iceland, which enlivens the narrative quite a bit.
9. The pen I use to annotate Machado de Assis by scribbling awkwardly calligraphic quotations onto thin yellow paper then inserting the papers into the book between the pages where the author and the work I quote are alluded to, the pen I use for this is a very thin light-weight Japanese ballpoint pen that does just that: scribble (audibly). But the new Swiss ballpoint I received yesterday is heavy and slides silently over the paper. Will it prove conducive to my vicarious scribbling? How awkward can attempted calligraphy get? The book is rather bloated right now, but holds together well. I am about three quarters through, mostly French, but also Latin, Spanish, notably Greek, even Portuguese and a sprinkle of Hebrew.
10. After I have written this, in a bus between a park named after an influential German poet and dramatist
(I once saw a helicopter land onto the junction where I get into the bus)a quotation from his work adorning a house nearby
(Rabbits scurry in a little square across the street, fenced off by basketball courts; there are also rats and squirrels; they, too, scurry ostensibly)namely: "A free, thinking man will not remain wherever chance brought him to rest"
(His profile seems to oversee the dunking teenagers, to take interest in the homeless drunks dozing off a game of boules)although, curiously, that is not the whole of it - he goes on to say "and when he remains there, he will have a reason, will have made a better choice", but that's the hidden part,
(The colonnade in the park, built in the late 18th century is chipped by bullets and has been brought piece by piece from the other side of town even before the Great War)in a bus between that park and a U-Bahn bridge named after a German infantry general
(The bridge used to go straight through an apartment block when it was built, but then the houses were bombed and then the Soviets closed the line, and the bridge housed a Turkish market which was moved to another location when the wall fell)I understood very clearly, to the point of vision, that life is not something that can be described or even expressed as a text
(We do often forget how much history had accumulated before photography was invented, any kind of photography)but that life is text
(In the entrance of another large and prominent building, which is I believe otherwise deserted, a homeless person lives invisibly behind piles and piles of deep blue bin bags filled with what exactly?)which sounds as daft as anything does after visions cede to sobriety, but when I got off the bus
(It is tempting to construct a metaphor with the aim of describing the perennial movement of scaffolding along rows of houses, something involving framing and time lapse)I found myself wandering in a forest of footnotes, variant readings and scraps of what appeared to be annotations but wasn't anchored, had no reference, was written in no language.
(Almost immediately I took this picture