We are listening to a song of a nightingale – alienated. Then the sound of machine gun fire and grenades exploding. Heavy, intermittent breath.
A male voice: Do you wanna smoke?
A male voice: Smoke!
A male voice: Now they are coming.
Son: I will be back tomorrow then!
(the sound scene of war disappears. Light. An old man lying, connected to machines. Infusion hoses are hanging there. He breathes with difficulties, in violent shocks. His son is standing in front of his bed. The old man opens his eyes.)
Son: Keep on sleeping.
Father: am not sleeping.
(the old man fights his way up, to have a look at the clock on his night desk. The old man falls down feebly again.) You are late.
Son: They did not want to let me in at the gate. No visiting hours now.
Father: And how did you succeed?
Son: I said: My father is severely sick….and….
Father: and he wouldn´t last very long. Yes, not last long. Good. Good that you are here. He has come here. I know, I know that this is not an easy thing for you – but this is precisely what you can still do for me. For your father. Will you be staying for the funeral?
Father: Ag, piss off. Just put it on the night desk – and then you leave. Maybe it is the best way. (Silence). So you are staying here. – Why are you staying here? – You are a good son. – The mirror…give me …. on the night desk …. higher!
(the son is holding the mirror towards him) Oh my God …. I had to think about this long before. Now I will not be a beautiful corpse anymore. (Silence)
And? Comb my hair. Mirror! Comb. (the son takes the comb from the night desk and combs him) Mirror.
(again the son is holding the mirror towards him) the fringe – it is on the wrong side.
Son: so sorry.
(the son is combing him once again, holds the mirror towards him)
Father: ah, what´s the point! The worms do not care if the fringe is on the left or on the right. (the son puts the mirror back on the night desk) Do you have cigarettes with? – Did you buy some cigarettes?
Father: Good. Give me one.
Son: they have smoke detectors here.
Father: Open the window then.
(the son opens the window and wants to light a cigarette.)
Father: No! – I will do it myself. (he lights the cigarette himself). What a taste….it tastes so good! As ever. Every time I took some with me ….. (the sound of the nightingale can be heard) …. Are you hearing it too? Is there any such a thing?
Son: Yes. A nightingale.
Father: Is there such a thing….
(The son walks to the window)
Son: it is directly below us. In the tree.
Father: It is so beautiful there outside….
Father. Everything is blooming …. – Dr. Rothemund has the testament. Do not worry. They don´t do you any harm. – They don´t want to know anything. They don´t want to. I saw them standing here …. here in front of the bed…I said: “Do me a favour and do away with me.” They understand me.
Son: And why aren´t they helping you then?
Father: They shit in their pants. If someone will ask – then you know nothing, okay? Just got it myself.
Son: Dad, I need to tell you something.
Father: may…. and then the summer will arrive….
Son: it is enough for now.
Father: No! I want more! The ashes….
Son: Put it in the cup. (some deep draws, the song of the nightingale, some cough again) Come on. Enough is enough. Give it back to me.
Father: That´s it. (the son wants to close the window) Leave it open! – Okay…then….
Father. Don´t …. Don´t say anything …. (Silence). You go. Some Water ….. the glass …. on the night desk.
Son: Dad. I have nothing. – I did not get anything.
Father: You promised …. you have promised to me….
Son: the coachman did not want to.
Father: (shouting) You promised!
Son: But he did not want to!
Father: You lie. Everything was sorted out.
Son. Yes. On the phone. But now he changed his mind.
Father: that´s no true. He needed the money …. Urgently ….
Son: He said: “If this comes out, I can close my pharmacy.”
Father. You should have offered him more then!
Son: I tried to.
Father. You lie!
Son: You cannot arrange everything with money! (Silence.) I am sorry. Believe me. There was nothing I could have done.
Father: So it is you?
Son: What do you mean? (Silence)
Father: You …. you have to do it then.
Father: I am done.
Son: Stop it….
Father: the pillow….
Son. Leave me alone!
Father: Grab the pillow! It will work easily …. I will be gone immediately, for sure. Pease, Martin! Today is the day!
Son: Why?! Prof Lissen told me that the latest x-rays show that the inflammation hasn´t worsened. The befall has stabilized he said.
Father: Stabilized? They pump liters of penicillin into a corpse! Stabilized!? What for, Martin? Yes? Tell me what for!
(a long-lasting retching and coughing).
Okay. And now you gather all your guts – and you will help me!
Son: And why is Prof Lissen not helping you? He is your doctor and you are friends?!
Father: he is not my friend!
Son: He must help you – not me!
Father: He does not need to. He is Christian. Jesus is his friend. I wanted him to give me something – but he said: “God gives and God takes away “– and not me. And I said: “Father, Father why have you left me?”. He simply runs out of the room. Please be a better Christian than Dr. Lissen and grab the pillow.
Son. I cannot do this! – My God? What are you asking for?!
Father: Rebutting your father´s last will …..
Son: I need to go now.
(the son walks towards the door. The father coughs, bears a fit of suffocation, retches, and squirms in his bed. Then he straightens up, falls down and his head falls on the night desk. The son rushes back and holds him tight.)
Dad ….. Dad ….
Father. (whispers) Can´t you see this?
Son: (whispers) I couldn´t live with it…Dad….
Father: (whispers) this is your revenge.
Father: He hates me. This is why you do not help me.
Son: This is not true.
Father: You wish that I will die. Now you have the chance to accelerate it.
Son: But this is not true….
Father: It is true. After the last bad fit – when I was in the ICU and was still making plans …. still wanted to buy a new car ….. he bent down towards me and said: You should rather think about death and not about a new car.
Son: I should not have said that.
Father: But that was exactly the right thing…what I want to say…when you said….it was like …. such a happiness in your eyes …. no even more….it was triumph … there was triumph in your eyes….and I thought:, yes he really hates you. He is waiting for you to die.
And I know exactly what is going on…being too weak. So write about it. As you are not able to handle the situation, your way out will be a piece of paper.
Son: To write means to act. But this sun has never been risen for you. That is the reason why we both are groping in the dark. See you.
(The son walks to the door)
Father: You need not come back. Get lost – and spit on my tombstone. You have never ever achieved anything. And in this moment, you are failing again. Born as a coward ….. and ever since stayed a coward ….
Son (at the door): Yes, you are right. This is how it is.
Father: You hate me because you yourself have never brought about anything.
Son: No, I do not hate you. Not anymore. I simply do not care about you anymore. And that is a good thing. You are right …. before I was waiting for you to die as something very crucial that will happen …. as you are longing for the spring during the winter. But now I do not care anymore. And it should remain like that. This notion is the reason why I do not assist you. I will not kill you. If I did, I would be connected to you again. I meant that finally there will be no more escape.
Son: What for?
(the son remains at the door, avertedly)
Father: Martin, don´t we say goodbye?
Son: I bade good bye to you long ago.
Son: This brings nothing. It is too late. There is no need to talk.
(he wants to leave)
Father: I do want to know it! What happened ….. what happened between us….what happened with you?
Son: yes – death is knocking on your door – and one finally looks at each other …. Some people look at each other genuinely for the first time because they know that they will be seeing each other the last time …..
And sometime some awkward questions are running through one’s mind….
Father: you are probably right here.
Son. And if the first time is the last time, then it is too late. Good night.
Father. Just tell me – tell me everything what you still want to tell,
Son: It does not mean anything to me.
Father: For me. Do it for my sake …. come on ….. I wish you did it…
Son: Why …. I have never understood what you wanted from me …. why me …. actually why at all …. at all …. at all …. what did you want from me? Was I somehow of importance for you?
Father: Of course …..
Son: No, no, no! Do not answer so quickly. So conscientious – so stereotypical. The father loves his son and so forth …. Who was I for you? Apart from being the son for the photo under the Christmas tree? And? – It is not that simplistic.
Father: And what was I for you?
Son: some kind of a ghost.
Father: Nothing more?
Son: Nothing more. Does this fact bother you?
Father: it does….it does bother me…
(the son walks to the window, leans onto the window sill and looks into the hospital garden)
Son: What a beautiful night it is …. whenever you looked at me, there was this contemptuous look on your eyes. I always wondered why you looked at me in that way. I absolutely wanted to find out why you despised me so much. For this reason, I kept on observing you. As long as I can remember I have been observing you. Even when I was alone with myself, your eyes looked at me …. relentless glances …. no mercy. And there came a time when all I wanted was to get rid of you. I I tried to delete you from my self. I hid myself away … cowered into books … vanished into alien stories …. I left …. I travelled like mad …. on the run without any destination. I started writing. Most miserable experiments to become someone. For a while I even succeeded – but in the very moment I realized that I only wrote to set something against you … to write to fight your eyes … to achieve something I own to myself …. to fight your eyes …. that I wrote because you made me write …. in this very moment, I could not write anymore and realized that I lost myself more and more … I was …. on the brink to completely loose myself actually. You are right. I did not achieve anything. The best result of this fact is that I know it myself. That I know myself so absolutely well. Now. No more illusions. – What a beautiful night. Even the moon is showing up. – Sometimes this world is so beautiful that one can hardly bear it. Do you know this feeling? The feeling that beauty strikes you with wounds? Why does this happen? Maybe because one wakes up in exactly that moment and realizes that most of the time is spent in a numb kind of sleep.
Father: Yes. A sleep….
Son: You understand it?
Father: Yes, I do. Continue, please….
Son: To continue what?
Father: there is more to come ..
Son: Yes, there is more to come.
Father: Then keep on telling me ….
Father: I will suffocate …. I will suffocate tonight ….
Son: I was five as far as I remember …. You came home late in the night and shouted something and woke up the entire house with your bawling. During that time you were drunk very often. A drunkard in a tailor-made suit. Each time Mum tried to calm you down – even though she knew that you will attack her again. Do you remember this night?
Son: Okay, I see. Those nights were many. How should you remember any of those? But this one was particularly terrible. You pressed Mum against the wall and put your hands onto her throat. She could not breathe anymore and I wanted to help her. I screamed, clung myself onto your leg and bit you. You grabbed me and threw me onto the cupboard. I tried to crawl away but you kicked me and kicked me – until I was no longer able to move. Are you still listening?
Son: Mum wanted to look after me but you grabbed me and hauled me up the staircase …. into the guest room. There you throw me onto the bed and lied next to me. After you fell asleep, I crawled out of the bed and sat down in front of it. The moon shone through the window. The entire night I stared into your pale and distorted face. … When the day was dawning, I crawled to the window, looked into the garden and cried. I cried very quietly. So you would not wake up. In this night I bid good bye to you. Later you still kept on hitting me and kicking me – but it did not hurt anymore. It not really hurt anymore.
Father: Martin –
Son: No, no. It is okay. We do not need to talk about emotions here. If we talk about something now we should do it with a clear head. One has to focus on the questions that I started developing then even though they did not come to my mind then.
Father: Give me an example?
Son: This anger of yours …. when you hit me …. I deeply felt that these fits of angers were too much …. too much for you. – Why had you been my enemy? What had I done to you? Explain it to me! Why did you despise me so much? Why are you not responding? Are you dead already?
Father: I don´t know. …We didn´t have an easy time with each other. … You were a strange boy … as if you came from another planet. You were never present …. not accessible …
Son: Yes. That was how I was and this is how I still am. Nobody can get hold of me and plant me next to himself. Not that anybody wants to. They sense that I am a weed … this is the reason why I travel so extensively.
In an alien land one does not feel guilty for being an alien. But when I think about it now then …. you were an alien somehow too …. never really present …. never entirely there. Where had you actually been all the time? Where had you really been? You could not enjoy all your money to give one example. You could not enjoy anything. Apart from your cigarettes. All the beautiful things never existed for you. You stood next to them helplessly. The things have surrounded you but they have not really touched you. Tell me why you nevertheless so obstinately run after money? To be envied by others? For bootlickers who celebrate you? Or was it a kind of fear – a fear of something? Where are you, Dad? I still remember a dream that I dreamt a long time ago. In this dream I really liked you. You walked along a deserted long beach. I followed you …. Secretly …. You did not notice me. You looked for something – suddenly you kneeled down and with your hands you shovelled the sand to the side and a metallic hatch became visible. You opened the hatch and climbed down an iron staircase. I followed you into a kind of an underground bunker and hid n a corner. From there I observed you how you greeted a young man in a Wehrmacht uniform and you almost tenderly embraced each other. You seemed happy that you found each other again. I felt that he is the only person whom you really loved. Never ever had I seen you interacting more affectionately than with this person in my dream … with your comrade. Then you opened a cupboard, took out a uniform, put it on and sat down in front of a radio unit. Your comrade steps behind you and put his hands onto your shoulders. In this position, you both waited attentively for an answer … for a message …. for an order – for a radio message that was supposed to be transmitted to you across the grey leaden sea. And I felt that this waiting time … for a radio message … that this was the real thing – the meaning of your lives. The fact you had been occupied with. Why was I dreaming such things, Dad?
(the nightingale sing again in front of the window)
Father: I am nineteen years old … and sit in a trench in Russia. With forty others I am sitting in this trench. The Russians fire grenades into it the whole night long. Mortars … grenades …. we cannot defend ourselves …. there is not much ammunition left … Suddenly it becomes completely quiet and the sun rises. I wipe the blood and the scraps of flesh out of my eyes and my face …. I look around. One man is still standing. I do not recognize him. He is older than me. …A lieutenant. …Why don´t I know him? Only him – and I – all the others are dead, have been dissipated. Him and I – we look at each other. While the sun is rising. He wades across this broth of blood towards me, stops in front of me, picks up an eye from my collar and says: “Now they are coming. Would you like a cigarette?” And say: “I don´t smoke”. Then he enlightens one and puts the package back into his chest pocket. He smokes even though it is unreasonable. “Who cares?” is what he says, “most likely it is my last one. Unless you catch them all. You still have one belt – have you realized it, boy?” I nod. We spy across the fringe of the trench. And it is true, across a clearing the Russians are walking towards us. They make jokes, they laugh and carry their helmets under their arms. It is a morning in May. They are apparently very sure that none of us in this trench is still alive. None. None is alive in this pit. They must be completely inexperienced. Otherwise, they would not dare to do this. “Point your machine gun and let them come very close”, whispers the lieutenant. “You will finish them all, boy! You must finish them all. You got it?” I nod. I must shoot. I am the operator of the machine gun. Not him. And I was always good at it. Now I have to prove it once more. He slaps on my shoulder. I buckle up the belt and point the machine gun. When they are already very close and I am just about to shoot – suddenly a bird is singing.
Above me in a destroyed tree. Very close by, so I look up and listen …. It is so beautiful ….as if I were somewhere else. The lieutenant hits me his fist into my back and screams: “You go, boy! Go!” Then the nightingale stop singing. And all the Russians are dead. …. or shortly before that and turn around amidst their intestines. The lieutenant dances around in the trench
and is crying. Full of joy he is dancing in this broth of blood. Keeps on embracing me. Kisses me. I say nothing – am just observing him. In that moment the nightingale starts singing again. And I point my machine gun towards him. The lieutenant falls silent, stares at me, puffs on his cigarette. And then the nightingale sings again. And then no more. It is dead silent. Dead silent. I take the cigarettes out of the lieutenant´s chest pocket and light one. (silence). That is where I had been. There is where I am.
(long silence. A nurse arrives with infusion bags, wants to exchange the emptied ones).
Nurse: Do you want to stay overnight?
Son: What are you doing here?
Nurse: Your father gets an antibiotic. What are you still doing here?
Son: Stop it.
Son: Stop it I said!!!
Nurse: Keep your temper…
Son: this man … my father is dying! And you feed him still with antibiotics? Why? Why?
Nurse: An order of the head physician….
Son: this man wants to die! This man must die! Must die! Do you understand this?
Son: Please help him!!!!
Nurse: Let me go!
Son: Do something! Something!
(the nurse is rushing out of the room and slams the door. The son is walking slowly towards the bed, pauses in front of it).