A Peach Goes Swimming (Extracts)

»You forgot your swimsuit!« Before she can make up her mind, the dry gravel will giggle its heat under her soles like acid. She will not giggle, because she never giggles like the other girls whose polyphonic perfection tautens across the pool like a white summer sheet. He tautens muscles across bone and tautens and tautens like a fishing net across the blue bed that sloshes restlessly over the edge. Swish and swash, that giggle again, swish and swash. Flex relax flex relax; a hand! Those hands again. Hands and peaches. Sodding metaphors. But if it’s hands and peaches, then it’s hands and peaches. And if it’s a peach, and if it’s white and sticky – get rid of it, what is it, just get rid of it, it’s disgusting – then a peach is what it is. She lies in her silent bed and she has tugged the transparent sheet over her skin. Over her skin, which won’t be covered, not even here, hand and peach, especially not in the corners. She likes the corners best because in the corners you can be so wonderfully alone. – Do you come here a lot now? – Between the pale tiles the little fish have scattered sand and beads. For you, all this is for you, they tell her, the little talking fish. Ice-cream finger. Mustard. She has forgotten her swimming costume. Before she can make up her mind, at the other end of the baths, a trail of ants is trampled, with chubby little-boy fists, squashing them underneath. She doesn’t see. She can’t take her eyes off the beads and the tiles, because the little fish are singing for her, a blind note they sing for her. She doesn’t look, once she makes her mind up. – Is it alright to go to bed without your swimming costume? – A hand rips free of the arm and hangs at arm’s length. Jump. A fish flounders, a blind fish, and belly-flops on the silly fidgety gravel and little stones roll and with all their pebbly power tug the fish, the one with the cold feet, to the edge of the pool. The bed has taken fright, just this instant, and groans and rolls with all its force over to her and it and the fish drowns. Nearly drowns. A little fish nearly drowns and the bed rolls on over the fish in the hand, the hand. At the other end of the swimming baths a peach drops from the corners of thin girl’s lips, flesh sticks like fiber between the tiles behind. One last shove and shiver and jump and let go and lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu lalelu …

Out of a corner rustles a blind note, tickling her cold soles, and blind fish dance in the corners. »She doesn’t sleep through, makes a fuss in bed.« A white smock and chewed lips which open to her pale smooth thighs and would find it nice if she opened too. »Peaches hide the inside from the outside. But that’s quite normal. She’s that age. Things just grow. Don’t worry about it. All from outside in. All quite normal.« And his hands rest on the places that someone has forgotten, perhaps the person who packed the swimming bag, who forgot the swimming costume, didn’t remember that she breathes when she sleeps, in her bed, where she lies sunken, and where the polyphonic perfection of little giggling girls stretches across like summer sheets and rocks in the air like a little paddle boat on Lake Garda. Swish and swash and swash and swish.

… many years later …

She will always be sad. She will always be sad and drunk. She will turn her tear-soaked cheeks to you, offer you your cigarettes and then smoke them all. She will always be sad and not tidy the table up, because she is so sad, not pay the bills, throw them in the waste bin by mistake, stare for hours into emptiness and answer Yes, even when you ask her how she is. When you ask her if she wants something or needs anything or is hungry, she will say No and be angry with you because she lied. She will lie to you anyway, because she is so sad, do things behind your back, be unfaithful, and be drunk. She will be sad every day, even in your presence, and tell you, every day, that she counts the hours but is too much of a coward, and is startled and cries when she cuts herself shaving. She will not be able to tidy up, will not make the bed, will forget to feed the cats or ring you. She will forget to touch you when you lie there under the blanket, or to look at you when she hands you the remote control, will stand up and go to bed and leave you sitting there on the sofa when you have cooked for her, not knowing. When you eat she will be silent or unfriendly, and have no eyes for you and your weary face that she does not touch. She will turn away from you and be firm and rigid when you seek softness and brush her shoulders with your chapped lips. And she will jump with fright when you touch her breast, by mistake, or her tummy, and will feel bad and be angry with herself and with you and with having to touch or wanting to touch and not being able to love and feel another way and because that is the only way we can do it, love and be loved, because we always have to be touched and want to be touched. And she will despise you for loving her and curse you in her thoughts for not wanting you to stop loving her with your hands and please please please don’t stop with your hands, she will say, grasping them and despising you for your hands that grasp her, peeling off her skin and hiding and drying it under the mattress because she is so sad.

But she will stand before the mirror, cut the sleeves off old T-shirts, tidy up her desk, wash and style her hair, carefully powder her face and pluck her brows, trace her lips with liner and dot her lashes with mascara and be sad as she does it, look into her own sad eyes and say Good Night to you. Then blow you fleeting kisses, forget the key, be sad and count the steps that take her from you and to you and sit drunk and sad at the bus stop and talk to some old lady and cry and laugh and kiss and drink and smoke and be sad. She will mock herself and you and then let you console her and will always let you console her when she makes a scene and will apologize and you will accept her confession because she is so so sad and feels guilty and you will say – no you aren’t – and she will say – no and yes and somehow and I – and you will look into her sad eyes and she will look out of the window and you will ask why and she will say – I want to play Sarah Kane.

And then she will take your face in her two hands and be very tender and look at you, really look at you, and say to you: I would like to make your coffee every morning and bring it to you in bed and get up before you to lay the table and buy you proper jeans and carefully hide them in your wardrobe and give you an electric guitar and listen to you when you sing; and be able to sing beautifully with you and take you out for a Sudanese dinner and collect you from work and cuddle you when you fall and bake you a cake that you sit on by mistake and hold your hand and say I love you with my hand and my mouth and pay the bills, and go to the supermarket with you to steal avocadoes, watch you when you dance and be jealous of you and try to dance even better than you so that you want me and pull you from the dance floor into the hedges and kiss and bite you and laugh with you, want your hands on me and want you to want mine and to take them, and for us to hurt each other wanting so much and to forget everything we know and forget everything we’ve seen and have no fear of cutting ourselves on the broken bottles, even want to cut ourselves, and break into a swimming pool and you will drown along with me.


And smear your face with cocoa and paint you with felt pen at night, my name on your forehead, and knit you a yellow jumper because yellow doesn’t suit you but you will wear it anyway. And have a child with you and make a nursery for her, a fairytale forest, and a bed for her out of dust and moss, where she will be safe, and watch over her sleeping with you and hold her, now you and now me, if she has nightmares, and make her hot milk and honey, and smile if she is horrid and laugh if she gets up to mischief, and sing workers’ ballads with her and be embarrassed along with you. And argue with our parents then go to the graveyard with you and tend to the flowers and listen to you and cry because you can’t, and sit at the crossroads at night, with you, and cry afterwards, with you, and be sad, both of us together, and be sad and listen to sad songs and watch sad films and read sad monologues.

Then she will look out of the window, catch sight of your face in the glass, and laugh, and you will ask why, and she will say – I don’t know. Then she will roll herself a cigarette, read digital messages from digital friends, and be sad, and write a message herself and make a date with someone she doesn’t like and style her hair and give you a fleeting kiss and forget her key and count the steps and stumble, be caught by someone she doesn’t like and fuck her and fuck and laugh and be sad and sit sadly in a taxi and ring the bell and wake you and look in the mirror into her sad eyes and vomit. And steal into bed beside you and be ashamed and say sorry and feel guilty and you will say – no you aren’t – and she will say – no and yes and somehow and I and I and I.

Translated by Katherine Vanovitch (German to English).