Reportage / 26 May 2019

Time To Say Goodbye

Last postcard from Ohio

You are different elsewhere. I am different elsewhere. Elsewhere is not just the other place; it’s also the other language. I feel easier in English. Lighter, that is.

All the more difficult it is to say goodbye. I don’t like to say goodbye. At times I'd rather just disappear, from one day to the next, to avoid the last hugs, the last words, the last gestures. Then again,I laugh at myself because I know that it's not the last hugs, the last words, the last gestures - if all goes well.

For the last time the familiar steps from my apartment across campus to my office, to wrap up the full notebooks and scattered notes, to prepare books to be returned to the library, to transfer data and erase it from the university computer's hard drive. All at once an empty table. My novel is finished. The excitement that I felt, when I wrote that scene and that dialogue, still has to be somewhere in the room. The trees in front of the window bear leaves, the squirrels are jumping around, I think of the squirrel in the cemetery, sitting in the cold on a trash bin and looking at a gravestone. Everything’s blooming; that it once was minus 25 degrees seems almost unimaginable. In the last session of my class I take the students outside. We’ve had enough of the windowless, sticky room. We’re sitting in front of a cafeteria, it starts to rain, I say that unfortunately there’ssomething I have to tell them: nobody had passed the class. Briefly it goes quiet, then a student asks, what about him, pointing to his green and white Rapid Vienna jersey,in which he appeared for the last session. Alright, I say, you pass, but otherwise. Another student asks what about him, after all he sang karaoke in a bar I was in. Alright, I say, you pass too. After I’ve got everyone's promise to finish their stories on climate change and Losing Earth, even though the As are already registered, we go to The Black Swamp Bar, I buy everyone a drink of their choice, some take beer, others are not yet old enough for drinking alcohol. Then, for the last time, I walk over to Jazz Night, which takes place every Wednesday in a pub on Main Street, where professors of the Music School perform and, after the break, ask their protégés to join them onstage. I look around, lots of familiar faces. Yes, I say, I know, time has passed quickly.

From the fear that Donald Trump might indeed declare a state of emergency to the whole rigmarole around the Mueller report, from hundreds of benighted tweets to the audio document from the 80s, in which the current president calls Forbes under a false name, but with only a slightly disguised voice to explain that Donald Trump has now inherited virtually all of his father's fortune and is therefore much richer than expected, and would have to be much higher up the list of the richest people - that too is a time measurement. For the madness of our days, for the primitive nationalisms and earth-destroying capitalism, for the blatant lie that’s not ashamed of itself as long as it appeals to resentment and stirs dull emotions. Yet also an indicator of the sheer need for a new time, a different society, a different mode of production, a different life to keep and make this planet habitable.

Even though I would have preferred to ride a train to the airport to board a plane powered by renewable energy, I stow my luggage in a friend's car. We drive to Detroit and hear the song we heard on our trips. I got friends in New York City, the song starts, which I turned into: I got friends in Wood County. I say goodbye with one crying and one laughing eye. I will miss Bowling Green, Ohio, in the Wood County District. I will miss my friends. But in Vienna my pregnant girlfriend’s waiting. In August I will be a father.