After mid-February, I need to go to the Qingdao quarantine point in Shandong for isolation before going to Beijing for work. After taking off from Tokyo Narita Airport, about 2.5 hours later, as soon as the plane landed, I noticed several airport officials standing by the window at any time, and several workers in protective clothing standing on the boarding bridge. More than a year has passed since the outbreak, but China, which has always implemented drip-proof management, still maintains a strict epidemic prevention situation. It may be said that it is precisely this system advantage that China has minimized the spread of the virus.
On the plane, in addition to filling out the regular entry form, passengers also filled out several types of forms, including whether to agree to the inspection, health status, etc. Before leaving the country, you need to prepare a double-negative certificate, and you must use your mobile phone to make a health declaration. The procedures are quite complicated. An employee of the travel agency who assisted me revealed that someone was unable to board the plane due to incomplete procedures.
Several checkpoints have been set up on the aisles leading to the interior of the Chinese airport. There are many staff members standing around, all wearing protective clothing and are heavily guarded.
I was a little shocked that there were people who could speak Japanese were serving passengers seriously, and there was also a Japanese broadcast reminding passengers of the necessary procedures. The previous impression of China is that Japanese services are rarely provided in public places and the attitude of service is more casual, but this time the service is quite meticulous.
Next, the passengers were divided into several groups and arranged in small rooms for testing. I just finished the test in Japan two days ago, and I was tested again immediately after getting off the plane. China’s epidemic prevention measures are really not leaking. Every time a person is tested, the room is disinfected, and after disinfection, it is the next passenger’s turn. It seems that the staff are very skilled in this procedure, and I sincerely admire it.
After that, the passengers passed the temperature sensor, completed the entry registration, and received the checked baggage. The luggage I got was wet, I thought it was raining. But it soon became clear that disinfectant was sprayed on it. When arriving at the hotel, there are also staff responsible for disinfecting the luggage. At the exit of the airport, passengers on the same flight were divided into groups of buses. The large buses only seated about 15 people, and the seats were covered with special materials. From the time the plane landed to the time I boarded the bus, I never saw an unrelated person who didn’t wear protective clothing.
Unlike Japan, China says one thing is true and strictly implements its regulations. Faced with the topic of preventing the spread of the new crown virus, this experience made me think about the way in which individuals and the country exist and the relationship between rights and obligations.
dawn had begun, appeared as Otto Burkhardt from the illuminated even the great chandelier hall, and said goodbye to Albert. He stood under the chestnuts, thirstily inhaled the gently chilled, leaf-scented evening air and wiped large drops of sweat from his forehead. If he could help his friend a little, it had to be at this hour.
There was no light in the studio house and he could not find the painter in the workshop or in the adjoining rooms. He opened the door towards the pond and walked around the house with quiet steps, searching. There he saw him sitting in the cane chair in which he had painted him today, his elbows propped up and his face in his hands, as calmly as if he were sleeping.
“Johann!” He called softly, stepped over to him and put his hand on his bowed head.
There was no answer. He stopped, was silent and waited, and stroked the short, coarse hair of the man who was lost in weariness and suffering. In the The wind blew trees, otherwise it was quiet and peaceful evenings. Minutes passed. Suddenly a broad wave of sound came swelling through the twilight from the manor house, a full chord that had been held for a long time, and then another. It was the first bar of a piano sonata.
The painter raised his head, gently shook his friend’s hand, and got up. He looked quietly at Burkhardt with tired, dry eyes, tried to bring up a smile and let go of it again, his stiff features slackening.
“We want to go in,” he said with a gesture, as if trying to ward off the music pouring in from over there.
He went ahead. He stopped at the door to the studio.
“I think we will probably never have you here long?”
How he feels everything! thought Burkhardt. In a controlled voice he said: “One day doesn’t matter. I think I’ll travel the day after tomorrow. ”
Veraguth felt for the buttons. With a fine metal tone, all the lights in the workshop were dazzling.
“Then we want to drink a nice bottle of wine together.”
He rang for Robert and gave him orders. In the middle of the studio was Burkhardt’s new portrait, almost finished. They stood in front of it and looked at it while Robert moved the table and chairs, brought in wine and ice cream, put on cigars and ash trays.
“It’s good Robert, you can go out. Don’t wake up tomorrow! Leave us alone now! ”
They sat down and toasted each other. The painter moved restlessly in his chair, got up again and turned off half the lights again. Then he sank heavily into the chair.
“The picture wasn’t quite finished,” he began. “Take a cigar! It wouldn’t have turned out bad, but after all, it doesn’t matter so much. And you will see each other again. ”
He picked out a cigar, cut it slowly, twisted it between nervous fingers and put it back down again.
“You didn’t exactly hit the spot this time, Otto. I am sorry.”
His voice suddenly broke, he sank forward, grabbed Burkhardt’s hands and took them tightly in his.
“You know everything now,” he groaned tiredly, and a few tears fell on Otto’s hand. But he didn’t want to let himself go. He straightened up again, forced his voice to be quiet and said, embarrassed, “Sorry! We want to have a drink! Don’t you smoke? ”
Burkhardt took a cigar.
They drank and smoked in peaceful silence, they saw the light flashing in the cut glass goblets and glowing warmer in the golden wine, saw the blue smoke wavering indecisively through the wide space and curling up in moody threads, and sometimes looked at each other, with loosened ones open looks that hardly needed language. It was as if everything had already been said.
A moth buzzed through the workshop and hit the walls three or four times with a thud. Then he sat quietly and numb, a velvet gray triangle, on the ceiling.
“Are you coming to India with me in the autumn?” Burkhardt finally asked hesitantly.
Again it was quiet for a long time. The butterfly began to move slowly. Gray and small, he crawled forward as if he had forgotten to fly.
“Maybe,” said Veraguth. “Maybe. We still have to talk to each other. ”
“Yes, Johann. I don’t want to torment you. But you have to tell me a little more. I never expected that it would be all right between you and your wife, but – ”
“It wasn’t good from the start!”
“No. But I was shocked that it had come to this. It can’t stay that way. You perish. ”
Veraguth laughed harshly.
“I’m not going to perish, my boy. In September I am exhibiting about twelve new pictures in Frankfurt. ”
“It’s OK. But how long should it go on? It’s pointless … Tell me, Johann, why didn’t you break up with your wife? ”
“It’s not that easy … I want to tell you. It is better if you experience the whole thing in the right order. ”
He took a sip of wine and sat leaning forward in the chair while Otto continued to withdraw from the table.
“You know that I had problems with my wife from the start. It went on for a couple of years, no good and no bad, and maybe all sorts of things could have been saved back then. But I was unable to hide my disappointment enough, and I kept asking Adele what she couldn’t give. She never had any momentum; she was serious and heavy-handed, I should have known that beforehand. She could never leave five straight and help herself over something difficult with humor or recklessness. she had Nothing to counteract my demands and moods, my impetuous longing and my final disappointment but silence and patience, a touching, quiet, heroic patience that often moved me and with which I and she was not helped. If I was angry and dissatisfied, she was silent and suffered, and if I soon came to a better understanding, if I asked her forgiveness or if I tried to drag her along for an hour in a happy mood, it didn’t work, she was also silent and persevered more and more closed in her loyal, ponderous nature. When I was with her, she was indulgent and fearful, she accepted outbursts of anger and funny moods with equal composure, and when I was gone she played the piano by herself and thought of her girlhood. So I got deeper and deeper into the wrong and finally had nothing more to give or communicate. I started to be hardworking and gradually learned to entrench myself in work like in a castle. ”
Apparently he was trying to keep calm. He wanted to tell, not accuse, but behind the words there was still the accusation, at least the accusation about the destruction of his life, about the disappointment of his youthful expectation and about the lifelong condemnation to a half, joyless existence that constantly contradicts his innermost nature.
“Even then I sometimes thought of breaking up the marriage. But it wasn’t that easy. I was used to sitting still and working and always shied away from thinking about courts and lawyers, from tearing off all the little daily habits. If a new love had come my way back then, I would have made up my mind easily. But it turned out that my own nature was also more cumbersome than I thought. I fell in love with pretty young girls with a certain wistful envy, but it never went deep enough and I saw more and more that I could no longer give myself away to any love as I could to my painting. All desire to let off steam and forget oneself, everyone Desires and every need were directed towards this, and really in these many years I have not taken a single new person into my life, no wife or friend. You understand that I should have started every friendship with the confession of my shame. ”
“Shame ?!” said Burkhardt softly with a tone of reproach.
“Certainly, shame! That is how I felt back then and it has not changed since then. It’s a shame to be unhappy. It is a shame not to be allowed to show one’s life to anyone, to have to hide and cover something. Enough of it! I want to tell you.”
He glared into his wine glass, threw away the extinguished cigar, and continued.
“In the meantime Albert was a few years old. We both loved him very much, the conversations about him and the worries about him kept us together. It wasn’t until he was seven or eight years old that I began to get jealous and fight for him – just as I am with her now Pierre fight! I suddenly saw that the little boy had become indispensably dear to me, and for several years I watched with constant fear as he slowly grew cooler towards me and stuck to his mother more and more.
Then he became seriously ill, and at that time of worrying about the child everything else sank for a while and we lived for a while as unanimously as never before. Pierre comes from this time.
Since little Pierre was born, he has possessed everything I could possibly give in terms of love. I let Adele slip away again, I let it happen that after his recovery Albert grew closer and closer to my wife, that he became her confidante to me and gradually my enemy until I had to remove him from the house. I had renounced everything, I had become very poor and undemanding, I had also given up scolding and ruling in the house and had nothing against being only a tolerated guest in my own house. I didn’t want to save anything for myself but my little Pierre and living with Albert and the whole situation in the house had become unbearable, so I offered Adele a divorce.
I wanted to keep Pierre with me. She could have everything else: she could stay with Albert, she could keep the Roßhalde and half of my income, more, if you like. But she didn’t want to. She wanted to consent to the divorce and only accept the bare essentials from me, but not part with Pierre. That was our last argument. Once again I tried everything to save the rest of my happiness; I asked and promised, I bent down and humbled myself, I threatened and cried and finally raged, but all in vain. She even consented to Albert being given away. It suddenly appeared that this quiet, patient woman was inclined to give in not a finger’s breadth; she felt her power very clearly and was superior to me. I hated her then
So I let the mason come and got me The small apartment was attached here, and I’ve been living here ever since and everything is as you saw it. ”
Burkhardt had listened thoughtfully and had never interrupted him, not even at moments when Veraguth seemed to expect it, indeed to wish it.
“I’m glad,” he said carefully, “that you can see everything so clearly yourself. It’s all about what I thought it would be. Let’s talk a word about it, it’s all going now! Since I’ve been here, I’ve been waiting for this hour as much as you have. Suppose you have an unpleasant ulcer that torments you and of which you are a little ashamed. I know it now and you feel better that you never have to keep it a secret. But we don’t have to be satisfied with it, we have to see if we can’t cut the thing open and heal it. ”
The painter looked at him, shook his head heavily and smiled: “Heal? Something like that never heals. But go ahead and cut! ”
Burkhardt nodded. He wanted to trim, of course, he didn’t want to let this hour pass empty.
“One thing in your story remained unclear to me,” he said thoughtfully. “You say you didn’t divorce your wife because of Pierre. The question is whether you couldn’t have made her leave Pierre to you. If you had been divorced by the court, you should have been awarded one of the children. Did you never think of that? ”
“No, Otto, I never thought of that. I never thought that a judge could use his wisdom to make amends for what I failed to do. It does not serve me. Since my personal power was not enough to persuade my wife to give up the boy, I had no choice but to wait to see whom Pierre himself would decide later on. ”
“It’s all about Pierre. If it weren’t there, you would undoubtedly have long since divorced your wife and would still have found happiness in the world, or at least a clear, sensible, free life. Instead, you’re in trapped in a jumble of compromises, sacrifices and small makeshifts in which a person like you has to suffocate. ”
Veraguth looked restless and hastily dumped a glass of wine.
“You always talk about suffocating and perishing! You can see, I live and work, and the devil should come and get me if I let myself get down. ”
Otto ignored his irritability. He went on with low urgency: “Sorry, that’s not entirely true. You are a person with unusual powers, otherwise you would not have endured these conditions for so long at all. You can feel for yourself how much they have damaged you and aged you, and it is a useless vanity if you do not want to admit it to me. I believe my own eyes more than you do, and I see that you are miserable. Your work keeps you going, but you find it more numbing than joy. You use half of your beautiful strength in privation and in small daily resistances. What at best? comes out is not luck, but at most resignation. And for that, my boy, you are too good for me. ”
“Resignation? This may be. Others feel the same way. Who is happy? ”
“Happy is whoever hopes!” Shouted Burkhardt emphatically. “What do you have to hope for? Not even outward successes, honors and money; you have more than enough of all of this. Man, you never know what life and joy are! You are satisfied because you never hope! I understand that, if you like, but it’s a hideous condition, Johann, it’s a bad ulcer, and anyone who has one of these and doesn’t want to cut it open is a coward. ”
He had gotten warm and was pacing up and down in vigorous movements, and while he was pursuing his plan with tense forces, Veraguth’s boyish face looked at him from the depths of his memory and the image of a scene floated in front of him, since he was once with him as he is today had quarreled with him. Looking up he saw his friend’s face, he sat slumped and looked down in front of him. Nothing of the features of the boy’s head were more present. There he sat, whom he deliberately called a coward, whose once so embarrassing sensitivity he had touched, and did not defend himself.
He just cried out in bitter weakness: “Go ahead! You don’t need to spare me. You have seen what kind of cage I live in, now you can point in with the stick without worry and hold my shame against me. Please go on! I don’t fight back, I don’t even get angry. ”
Otto stopped in front of him. He felt so sorry for him, but he controlled himself and said sharply: “You are supposed to get angry! You should throw me out and tell me your friendship, or you should admit that I am right. ”
The painter got up too, but limp and without freshness.
“Well, you’re right if you care,” he said wearily. “You overestimated me, I am never so young and never so easily insulted. I don’t have enough friends to waste either. I only have you. sit down come here and have another glass of wine, it’s good. You won’t get one in India, and maybe you won’t find many friends there who will put up with so much stubbornness from you. ”
Burkhardt slapped him lightly on the shoulder and said, almost angrily: “Boy, we don’t want to be sentimental now – especially not now! Tell me what you have to blame about me and then we will continue. ”
“Oh, I have nothing to blame about you! You are an impeccable fellow, Otto, without a doubt. For almost twenty years you have watched me sink, you watch with friendship and perhaps with regret as I gradually disappear into the swamp, and you have never said anything and never humbled me by offering me help. You watched me carry around potassium cyanide with me every day for years, and you noticed with noble satisfaction that I never swallowed it and finally threw it away. And now that I’m so deep in the dirt that I can never get out, now you stand there and have to rebuke and admonish … ”
He stared bleakly straight ahead with reddened, hot eyes, and Otto, since he wanted to pour himself a new glass of wine and couldn’t find anything in the bottle, only now noticed that Veraguth had emptied the bottle alone in the short time.
The painter followed his gaze and laughed loudly.
“Oh sorry!” He shouted violently. “Yeah, I’m a little drunk, you mustn’t forget to credit me for that too. It happens to me once every few months that I accidentally drink a little intoxication – – as a stimulus, you know … ”
He put both hands heavily on his friend’s shoulders and said plaintively in a suddenly slack, high-pitched voice: “Look, my boy, the cyanide and the wine and all that would have been unnecessary if someone had wanted to help me a little! Why did you let me get so far that I now have to ask for a little forbearance and love like a beggar? Adele couldn’t stand me, Albert fell away from me, Pierre will leave me one day too – and you stood by and watched. Do you have can do nothing? Weren’t you able to help me at all? ”
The painter’s voice broke and he sank back in the chair. Burkhardt had gone pale as a death. It was much worse than he had thought! That this proud, tough man could be seduced by a couple of glasses of wine into a defenseless confession of his secret flaws and misery!
He stood next to Veraguth and spoke softly in his ear like a child who needs to be comforted.
“I’ll help you, Johann, believe me, I’ll help you. I was a donkey, I was so blind and stupid! See, everything will be fine, rely on it! ”
He remembered seldom occasions from his youth when his friend, in a state of great nervousness, had lost control of himself. Such an experience, which had slumbered deep in his memory, now rose before him again with strange clarity. At that time Johann was hanging out with a pretty painting student, Otto had spoken dismissively of her, and Veraguth had announced friendship to him in the most violent way. At that time, too, the painter had heated himself up disproportionately from a small amount of wine; then, too, he had red eyes and lost control of his voice. The friend was strangely moved to see forgotten features of an apparently cloudless past so strangely return, and again, as then, the suddenly revealed abyss of inner loneliness and emotional self-torment in Veraguth’s life frightened him. That was without a doubt the secret that Johann had always hinted at and that he suspected to be hidden in every great artist’s soul. Hence this man’s uncanny insatiable urge to create and to grasp the world anew with his senses and to overwhelm it every hour.
It was as if Otto had never fully understood his friend until that hour. Now he looked deep inside the dark fountain from which Johann’s soul was filled with strength and suffering. And at the same time he felt a deep, joyful consolation that it was him, the old friend, to whom the sufferer, whom he had accused, whom he had asked for help, revealed himself to.
Veraguth didn’t seem to know what he’d said anymore. He rested soothed like a child who had let off steam and finally he said in a clear voice: “You have no luck with me this time. It all comes from the fact that I haven’t had my daily work lately. It’s an upset nerves. I can’t stand the good days. ”
And when Burkhardt tried to prevent him from opening the second bottle, he said: “I couldn’t sleep now. God knows where I’m so nervous from! Well, let’s have a little more drink, you weren’t that brittle in it before. – Ah, you mean because of my nerves! I’ll put it right again, I’ve got experience in that. I’ll be back at six every morning for the next time go to work and ride an hour every evening. ”
So the friends stayed together until around midnight. Johann chatted through memories of the old days, Otto listened and saw, with almost reluctant pleasure, a shiny, happily reflecting surface calmly close where he had just gazed into torn, dark grounds.