Goodnight, Gustav Klein
Stark parades of wintry air pounded the reddened face of Gustav Klein. He was unadorned, not bothering to notice the skilfully rehearsed tricks of the Scottish wind; he was lost in a burning recollection, sketches of the past inside his mind hurling from one side to the other, dipping a steady toe into consciousness, ablaze and frantic. A crack expanding between ruptured stone, the dam burst and a flood of memories enthralled the wayfarer, whose hair jittered in the gale, who considered the season of intrepid sadness, lust and turmoil which had brought him to this point, to the peak of his sorrows, where the only way now to go is down.
He was standing atop a small mountain near Aviemore, in the Cairngorms. The air was not warm, but it never is. And the fatigued rambler looked down, back to his trail of hope, drenched in the blood of reality, at the slopes and crevasses of his journey.
To wind back through the broken ruins of history, the scratched dance floor: the ballet pumps of time stretch outward, arms fixed parallel with the ground, holding a tendu: he remembers a woman behind a window, sunlight glaring off the glass, turning her eyes into red dots and her cheeks as pale as the clouds. The left leg is raised, holding a firm countenance, leaning forwards into an arabesque: he remembers the sound of the fireworks, the celebrations, the cheering euphoria which brought him into the current year, and forgets why. The slender body of memory gracefully peeling away from its core, balancing a perfect adage: he remembers a round of applause, remembers the miserable beat of the train rolling through sodden tracks. And the dancing clock stretches farther, reaching down to the distant floor, allongé, allongé: he remembers grey clouds; remembers the sun endeavouring to break through, or hide away; remembers not being able to tell which. The strings of space grow, forceful plucking and an ominous ring, the hands of the conductor ravaging the air; the left leg beating in unison, the grand thump of a balançoire: he remembers a beautiful woman in a splendid city, and enjoying it for a while, before the Christmas lights were put up. Turning, tightening, the dancer of memory, rolling in, the plié lifting with heavy breath, and turn, turn, a pirouette into the past: he remembers tears and arguments and the stains of red wine. Bending at the knee, the ballerina who whisks the memories into a flamboyant concerto for the pensive thinker, the sweat of the conductor drowning the orchestra, the deafening blow of horns for the final soubresaut: he remembers saying goodnight to the journey that tantalisingly slipped through his heart like a fresh blade, and saying hello to the reflection of Mr Klein’s face, the single man who tried to escape, through the window of a train.
Time leaps. It hauls the body through the cesspit of regret. It silences the past and darkens the future. It guides with a rough hand, leading the memory to where it all began; the descent to the top of a mountain. The misty confusion of the mind is cleared, and all that is left are the dim, yellow lights of a small budget hotel in Munich switching off, the radiators crackling as they cool, the ‘For Sale’ sign twitching in the wind, the discarded rubbish blowing through the car park as the last car leaves. And the driver winds down the window, leaning out into the mild night of Bavaria, and his lethargy conquers each speck of his existence. He stares blankly at the building, the empty rooms, the moribund memories, and then he drives on.
Time patters through the gloom of the memory in bourrée, and Gustav Klein merely thinks, hauling thoughts back to the foreshadowing bitterness of autumn.
Genre – Travel, Political, Dystopia, Romance
Rating – PG15