In the past, I had particularly loved her smell. She always smelled freshed, freshly washed or of freshed laundry or fresh sweat or freshly loved
I took all the blame. I admitted mistakes I hadn’t made, intentions I’d never had. Whenever she turned cold and hard, I begged her to be good to me again, to forgive me and love me. Sometimes I had the feeling that she hurt herself when she turned cold and rigid. As if what she was yearning for was the warmth of my apologies, protestations, and entreaties. Sometimes I thought she just bullied me. But either way, I had no choice.
Why? Why does what was beautiful suddenly shatter in hindsight because it concealed dark truths? Why does the memory of years of happy marriage turn to gall when our partner is revealed to have had a lover all those years? Because such a situation makes it impossible to be happy? But we were happy! Sometimes the memory of happiness cannot stay true because it ended unhappily. Because happiness is only real if it lasts forever? Because things always end painfully if they contained pain, conscious or unconscious, all along? But what is unconscious, unrecognized pain?
Imagine someone is racing intentionally towards his own destruction and you can save him – do you go ahead and save him? Imagine there’s an operation, and the patient is a drug user and the drugs are incompatible with the anesthetic, but the patient is ashamed of being an addict and does not want to tell the anesthesiologist – do you talk to the anesthesiologist? Imagine a trial and a defendant who will be convicted if he doesn’t admit to being left handed – do you tell the judge what’s going on? Imagine he’s gay, and could not have committed the crime because he’s gay, but is ashamed of being gay. It isn’t a question of whether the defendant should be ashamed of being left-handed or gay — just imagine that he is
I know that disavowal is an unusal form of betrayal. From the outside it is impossible to tell if you are disowning someone or simply exercising discretion, being considerate, avoiding embarrassments and sources of irritation. But you, who are doing the disowning, you know what you’re doing. And disavowal pulls the underpinnings away from a relationship just as surely as other more flamboyant types of betrayal.
I had no one to point at. Certainly not my parents, because I had nothing to accuse them of. The zeal for letting in the daylight, with which , as a member of the concentration camps seminar, I had condemned my father to shame, had passed, and it embarrassed me. But what other people in my social environment had done, and their guilt, were in any case a lot less bad than what Hanna had done. I had to point at Hanna. But the finger I had pointed at her turned back to me. I had loved her. Not only had I loved her, I had chosen her. I tried to tell myself that I had known nothing of what she had done when I chose her. I tried to talk myself into the state of innocence in which children love their parents. But love of our parents is the only for which we are not responsible.And perhaps we are responsible even for the love we feel for our parents. I envied other students back then who had dissociated themselves from their parents and thus from the entire generation of perpetrators, voyeurs, and the willfully blind, accommodators and accepters, thereby overcoming perhaps not their shame, but at least their suffering because of the shame. But what gave rise to the swaggering self-righteousness I so often encountered among these students? How could one feel guilt and sahme and at teh same time parade one’s self-righteousness? Was their dissociation of themselves from their parents ere rhetoric: sounds and noise that were supposed to drown out the fact that their love for their parents made them irrevocably complicit in their crimes?These thoughts did not come until later, and even later they brought no comfort. How could it be a comfort that the pain I went through because of my love for Hanna, was, in a way, the fate of my generation, a German fate, and that it was only more difficult for me to evade, more difficult for me to manage than for others. All the same, it would have been good for me back then to be able to feel I was part of my generation.
I thought that if the right time gets missed, if one has refused or been refused something for too long, it’s too late, even if it is finally tackled with energy and received with joy. Or is there no such thing as “too late”? Is there only “late,” and is “late” always better than “never”? I don’t know.