Morning. It’s windy and cold outside. I was told weeks ago that I was no longer allowed to go to work. No more customers, no more cash registers, no more small talk for me. All the shops had to close immediately. Everything was arranged, temporary unemployment, they didn’t know for how long, but at least a month. Today is one of the days of ‘at least a month’ – but it’s been going on for much longer than that – and I have no idea what that day is called. Wednesday maybe, or Monday or Sunday, no idea.
I haven’t met one single person for weeks now.
I make coffee and I look through the window. I eat a sandwich and I look through the window. I sit at the window and I look through the window. All there is outside is the street, and all there is in the street is cars. It is an hour before anything moves. Someone walks past with a shopping bag. Someone goes by on a bike. A police patrol car passes by. Opposite my window there’s a tree. It’s beginning to bud.
I didn’t sleep well, lay tossing and thinking and turning, and woke long before morning, after which I didn’t manage to get back to sleep. The sounds of the night seeped into my ear. The pounding of the church clock in the village is a beacon. I counted the strokes even though I wasn’t sure I hadn’t missed the first one. Three, so it could be four o’clock. When a rooster crowed in the neighbours’ garden, I knew morning was coming. The lack of sleep is making itself felt. My actions become slower, less accurate. I stub my toe, on the cusp of irritation at my own clumsiness. It’s all bullshit, I hiss under my breath. It feels good, enough to make me laugh at myself, also under my breath.
He is asserting his power again. He’s playing up. I thought I was finally done with it, that I’d put him in his place. Seems I was wrong. I haven’t paid any attention to him for days, but now he’s back. I take him upstairs, show him the mirror. Undo my trousers, pull up my shirt. There he is. He stands there perkily, as if nothing’s wrong. On top of his wrinkled old sack. Take a good look. He peers out of his one slit eye. No sign of any women, just that veined, crooked, wrinkly old man. He pushes and throbs, refuses to give in. His fierce urge extends into my belly, rises into my chest. He commands my diaphragm, my lungs. I lift him above the washbasin, take him by the scruff of his neck. He bares his bald head. I pull the skin down past his collar.
In normal times, I might have thought of a woman to tug myself off to. Now it’s mainly a technical issue – I have to unload myself. I encircle him with my hand and move it up and down, as I know I should. Halfway through the ride, I get cramp in my forearm. I’m out of the habit. But I keep going, no point switching to my other hand, that one’s never done it before, the times I tried it the grip wasn’t good, the movement too jerky and imprecise. I’m not left-handed, it was never satisfying, I have to keep going in spite of the cramp. I press my balls against the edge of the washbasin so that the penis is squeezed inside the shaft and the sensation becomes more intense, and before long it happens, two, three drops welling up out of his eye, leaking into the washbasin, job done.
An anti-climax. No feeling of satisfying lust, no contentment, no valuable orgasm, not even any relief that it’s over, a pointless emptying out. I squeeze out the last droplets, wipe it up with a few sheets of toilet paper and flush it down the loo.
I feel the pain in my arm, can’t even lift a glass without shaking. I feel exhausted and duped. He tricked me. It seems this is a mechanism that does not want to stop. Maybe it has to do with Schopenhauer’s will. A standard mechanism of life that wants to perpetuate itself, that wants to grow and over the course of evolution has afflicted individuals with this will because the origin of the species could succeed only through individuals. One single individual cannot maintain a species.
My seed is not as vigorous as it used to be. I’ve noticed it doesn’t spurt that far anymore. It’s not so much spurting as dribbling. I’d rather not get involved, but the mechanism remains. I sit down and rest my arm on one leg. My penis has retreated, crawled away inside himself. He has abandoned me to my fate, a superfluous individual.
I am sitting on a chair at my window again. Outside, someone kneels down, ties his shoelaces, a man going outside to stretch his legs. I hear the rattle of metal shutters being raised. The company has not called me. I am surplus to requirements.
The radio does not tell me what day it is. Twelve o’clock, it says, the news with Lien De Cooman. I love the news with Lien De Cooman. She always speaks as if she wants to take it back, her voice never sounding certain. All the shops are open, she says. So it can’t be Sunday.
Not a single plane in the sky. I refuse to think about a holiday.