The diaries of Arnon Grunberg (5)

Watching the New Year’s fireworks, the star spangled skies over the tip of Manhattan, the red colored nightly heavens, from the Brooklyn boulevard, I see the times turn and shift along a primeval consciousness in which people share their pathetic survival, their clinging on to life. Life mysteriously calculated according to an old pattern of astronomical formulas based upon the constant denominator 12 and 60, Roman and Babylonical, squirmed into a Christian Gregorian pattern. So out of date, so obviously out of sync with reality that constant adjustments are necessary to keep track and not fall behind. Yet, our perception loaded with reverence refuses to take on a solar calendar, and thus we celebrate this random day in our wacky calendar. Giving up the Gregorian calendar would be an intolerable admission of the fall of western domination, the control of time, the last symbol in history to let slip out of one’s hands.

It was not time that prescribed us the peaks of the year’s calendar, but it was the calendar that dictated time. The heightpoints in our lives are dated, outdated by western standards. Arnon lived in a time that did not fit his comprehension. In an anonymous place like New York City this was in itself not a problem, but it bothered Arnon unmistakenly, although nobody cared. At New Year’s eve, this became only the more apparent as Arnon did not become aware any sense of importance, and the moment that the fireworks hit off, lightening for a series of seconds the dark night that loomed over the geometrical puzzle of lights of down town Manhattan, was lost on him. Much went lost on Arnon for the very same reason.

Lost was such a loose concept, which itself could not be placed, and this was perhaps the only handhold that existed in life. The world blasted apart, explosions lit up the skies, but Arnon was not effected by it, did he therefore not exist? No he did exist precisely because he escaped the events planned by calendar or coincidence. He was because he was despite everything else, nothing mattered except his escape, his absence. This consciousness gave great direction in Arnon’s life. “Just imagine,” he would think sometimes, “that you are tied to the center of the great events of our time, subjugated to the conditions that defined history, without escape, but so engaged that the whole world turned around you, or rather held you in the eye of the storm, like the gravity of a black hole. Could one exist if there is no escape?

His absence was Arnon’s great proof of being, not his involvement, not his negation, his absence from both, life as the great nothing, the core of the universal space that was filled with absence.
“Clang! Cling!”
Glasses were lifted into the air and friends standing in a circle around each other toasted. “Happy New Year.” The turning of time, the turning of a single page. Plastic cups filled with apple cider distorted the light of a nearby lantern, deforming the bright light into a blurry presence, a weak flame glowing in the center.

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