Monday 23 December 2019

ALS: 'Gevallen engel'

Fallen angel

I’d like to write something about a man who cycles to work every morning. He lives in the Rivierenbuurt district and cycles to the city centre, near to the Central Station. He has a wife and child. The route he cycles morning and evening has been the same for the past 15 years. This means that he now not only knows the streets, the houses and the tramway lines but also the housewives who have a fixed job, for this was at a time when few women worked outside the home. Over the years the man has fallen in love with a women in the neighbourhood of the Ceintuurbaan. They have never spoken to each other, but because his cycling times are so precise, customs have arisen on both sides the effect of which is rather like low and high tide, sun and moon, day and night. The man is a fallen angel, but he is unaware than the woman knows about this. The woman was born in Sumeria, an area that was once a part of Mesopotamia, The Land between Two Rivers. It is regarded as the first land in the world to have displayed characteristics of a human civilisation. This woman in the neighbourhood of the Ceintuurbaan is in love with the man who cycles twice a day past her house and looks at her as if a history between them could possibly arise. She feels her blood, but also her brains, she knows that he originally comes from the tribe of fallen angels, and she is unwilling to take over that curse. He will not be released, nor will she be forgiven her false step. That is how things lie after thousands of years, and nobody in this young neighbourhood is aware of the fact. Something changes when her husband dies and her children leave the house. The woman changes in her loneliness, she seeks a rapprochement with the cyclist and wishes to forget that he is a fallen angel. The cause may be mere chance, that of the cycle: a puncture. After 15 years his bike gets a puncture outside her house. She immediately feels that this is a sign, she comes out, he has up-ended his bike and is searching for the puncture. They look at each other, she is four thousand years old. Her first words are: ‘Morning star, sun of the dawn light, how deep you have fallen! You who ruled over your peoples have been struck down.’ He sneezes three times and says: ‘Do you have any tissues?’ She goes back into the house to fetch them. He thanks her with a kiss and whispers: ‘It is over, we have become ordinary mortals. I am no longer an angel, you simply live in Amsterdam, you can forget about The Land between Two Rivers.’ She asks: ‘Shall we buy a Christmas tree?’ This, however, is going a bit too far for him, Christmas trees have never been part of the family traditions. At this point the story stalls, the writer’s hand seeks rest. He probably lets the fallen angel mend the puncture, he follows the woman on her final journey to Sumeria,  but he does not record any of this on paper. The years that follow are ordinary and anonymous, as are the lives of practically everybody. The upstairs neighbour of the man is the only one who cannot accept this. He begs the couple to be allowed to mention something about their wedding, two years later. They hesitate, but finally agree to this. He is allowed to be present, but must not expect any large-scale celebration. In February 2022, at Stadsloket Zuid, they are joined in matrimony at half-past nine in the morning. From that moment on, they are like everybody else, humanity that no writer wants to understand, as has actually always been the case.

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