Thursday, March 12, 2015 - Max Orkis
departing from track eight,” says a woman’s buttery voice.
Zurich is a
mispronunciation of Turicum which may
itself be a variation on Turicon or possibly turris, tower or high building. Turicum’s gone. So is the turris,
if it ever existed. Zurich remains. Life is so often an outcome of
and iron bend in a supple morning stretch. The spokes of the glass ceilings and
the muntins of the vaulted windows convert sunbeams into dust-traced pillars. Luminous
squares hopscotch the station hall.
Those who work here
have christened it the ‘jail bars effect.’ The cubicle-bound, the railway waiters,
the bratwurst grillers are stationary, going no place. Wall-mounted flat
screens flash ads. Timetables roll transient numbers at commuters. Strung up by
their wings, kitsch sculptures dangle from the ceiling. Outside, the Münster
and outbound, bounce about like billiard balls on a table. They stand hurriedly
in lines and each other’s space. The peaks and valleys of their vowels, their rock-hard
consonants chafe and swell into an overriding acoustic itch. Scraps of
conversations and silences ripple toward a two-man band. They aren’t going
anywhere, either. The fiddler closes his eyes and folds his dark-haired
middle-aged face on the stock of his violin. The guitarist’s bangs hang over
his face. He stares at the polished floor, his disk-shaped eyeglasses as
fingerprinted as a bottle of Schnapps. A bee, high on cleaning chemicals, stumbles,
wings spread for balance, an acrobat.
Planted in the
foreground and to the side, is Frau B. Long ago, her face must have been
attractive. Now it’s simply beautiful, waves carved into her forehead, cheeks
engraved with moats, her pallid eyes engaged, yet uninvolved. She wears her white
hair up, her bare head towering over her slumping shoulders. Her bronzed hands
with fluvial networks rest on a voluminous bag attached to a metal frame with
two wheels. Shrouded by the indifference of a passerby’s glance cast at a
statue, she inhabits a faded sutanesque dress. Her crooked feet are locked in
off-color prescription shoes. She knows exactly who and where she is and what she’s
doing, and no, she doesn’t need any help.
chimes dilute the musicians’ steamy “Bésame Mucho.” Notes climb like a jet
plowing a trail through the sky. The violinist fends off demons, the minus of
the bow athwart the neck, adding up to a holy weapon. A pause. An obscene vibrato. A couple drowns in a kiss.
Applause. A dip. A tear trickles down the mist on a bottle of beer, like a run
in fishnet stockings. That’ll tickle anyone’s throat.
Frau B opens the
carcass of her bag and extracts a thermos and a plastic container with pills
for dessert – white, yellow, blue, oval, round.
A square clock
overlooks the Treffpunkt, rendezvous area, where teenagers laugh as contemptuously
as their imaginations permit. Two beat cops cruise past the Information Desk. Its
rookie attendant, her brows question marks, her rectangular glasses a montage
of billboard reflections, points across the hall at Frau B.
Has a Polizist ever
felt tempted to fill in a clerk on how the old lady’s the only person allowed
to loiter outside the Treffpunkt? To bait a waitress with a story that circulates
about a husband leaving from this spot countless years ago? To score points by pitching
Herr B’s homecoming, the stubble on his flabby cheek scratching Frau B’s skin, their
bodies intersecting, his old man’s smell, his alluring scent entering her?
itself into one’s blood around here. The truth is on a need-to-know basis, not
to be revealed in vain, lest it be trivialized and scared off. It’s sacred as a
confession when the uninitiated are informed about why Frau B stays put like a
monument, timeless as the gold plus on her neck or the ingrown zero on her
officer even dream of leaking to the attendant that Frau B gets to hang around because
she blesses people (yes, Swiss Polizei can, too, bend the rules, like the
station’s arcs their surprised brows)? Or should the truth be saved for
oneself? Frau B’s benedictions must be
worth the hush.
The duo plays, “Et si tu n’existais pas.” Frau
B dances her motionless dance with the brass skeleton of her bag, her still life
partner, on the ballroom floor of the station. Afternoon rays penetrate the arched
windows to produce a disco-ball effect. Light and darkness square off between
the vinyl furrows suturing the tiles.
open doors of the trains injected between platforms, soundtracks offer wishes candidly
and indiscriminately – all passengers are bound to get off together with their
The floor now reflects
electric lights. The musicians’ knuckles gallop. Frau B should know their
repertoire by heart. They’re here every summer. “The music wouldn’t play,” jams
the sticky guitarist on the keyboards. “The church bells all were broken,” riffs
the dusty violinist on his companion’s guitar. Bells ring. It’s time. “The Father,
Son and the Holy Ghost, they took the last train for the coast…” Tourists.
The guitarist bows
to the violin case, reaching for the day’s catch of coins. The bee’s legs are folded,
gravity surmounted. The violinist nods at Frau B.
and rolls away from the trains pulling in and out of the leviathan ribcage of
the Hauptbahnhof. The tacit urban legend shuffles along Zurich’s vascular tram
tracks. She blends in with a gray wall, a set of ornamental wrinkles, a groove
in time. The wheels of her bag bleed fleeting lines onto the asphalt.
By: Thought Collection Publishing - Source: The Milo Review