Oblivion and three fragments
Wall (present, informal)
Me: I walk uphill beside a wall on my way to work. Its a respectable, historic brick wall around a school yard; childrens voices evoke little scenes behind it. Once, while I strode past her at the wall, a woman spoke to me there. As if we were dear friends.
You: You were running late; youre always running late.
Me: I was sweating horribly, and angry, and the wall did seem to slow me down, as monuments do. She stood exactly in the middle of the footpath, with one thin arm extended to touch the bricks. Theyre vaguely warmed by the morning sun.
You: Walls attract and repel, like magnets.
Me: She was silvery-old, but tall, somehow both very frail and very dignified; she had a handsome leather briefcase beside her. That day, the proportions seemed all wrong to me and I wanted to be rude.
She was absolutely still, concentrating, then said to me suddenly, look, how extraordinary. We might not survive! But she was glowing with pleasure, perfectly at ease.
You: Did you look?
Me: I wish I had. I mean, I will. I thought later that she might have meant the moss. It was infuriating.
Wall (past, formal)
Me: It isnt sledgehammers that I remember, but the more haunting sound of the lesser wall peckers in January 1990. A thousand tiny chisels were scoring the concrete on the West Berlin side, souveniring fragments of the graffiti to sell. You could say that after 28 years the wall peckers were the first to takeor rather to seize, quite delicatelyeconomic advantage of Germanys reunification. This memory is emphatic. The brisk tapping could be heard through the nervous, freezing air anywhere along the boulevards of West Berlin. From further away, it had the trance-like quality of noise being made in spite of tremendous exhaustion.
November 1989: the Berlin wall fell in an instant because Günter Schabowskis news conference was broadcast live on television. Or rather his postscript to the news conference.
You: Hed been on holidays, hadnt he?
Me: On holidays, and was inadequately briefed. It fell conceptually; literally, checkpoints teeming with euphoric East Berliners were forced open, and those in uniform who supposed that they could still exert their control were surprisingly disinclined to kill.
You: Of course it had always been penetrable. And
Me: Yes, yes, I paid for a piece. It looked like a scrap of burnt biscuit, and pulverised in my luggage.
Wall (future, another mood again)
Me: Did you know that from the moon, the earths moon, and from outer space, you can see the Great Wall of China?
You: Thats simply not true. With the human eye?
From which side of the moon? From where in outer space?
Try not be so impatient, so inclined towards anger. On Mars the sky spreads blue at sunset. The sunset is blue. Not one blue; a regal, rapturous, susceptible bluelikemassed delphiniums.
Me: What does that have to do with oblivion?
You: It has to do with the wall. Youll keep coming up against it. My advice is, move closer, bend down to it. As that woman in the street said, whatever it is, its much more and less substantial than you realise.