The Scream

I walked alone through the park of the city, away from people to enjoy the sun. When I was about to leave one of the smaller parks and return to the city’s waterfront, a young woman passed by and stopped me. I was in what you might call a tranquil or somnambulistic mood that day, so I eyed her attentively and was saddened by her humble stature and the needy way she addressed me. She first stopped me with an “Excuse me?” and then said: “Could you please help me, I don’t know what to do. I have a child and I don’t know who to turn to. Do you have some money for me, please. It’s so much to pay over the month. It is so humiliating that I have to turn to you. You’re the first person to stop and listen to me today. I don’t know how I’m going to manage this…”. I didn’t stop looking into her eyes and she spoke in a monotonous, empty voice, as if she was playing a program or a rhyme learned from memory, but the words hurt me. I felt as if she was paying close attention to how I was taking in the words and as if, like a precise machine, she was assessing what she had to say next. I hated myself for accusing her of this and thereby devaluing her, for I appreciated that she took the trouble to invent a story for me, for I was lonely after all. I knew it was just a made-up story, but my sympathy for outcast women (whatever you can call it) made me an easy prey. She was probably of south-eastern European origin. I suddenly felt reminded of stories about vampires. In an absurd way, this external stimulus played a game with me, as if I was caught up in my own desires and dreams. She, too, looked back with those empty, brown eyes. Her black hair was a little tousled and tied into a bun. Her face gave the impression of being slightly dirty. I just said briefly “Yes, well, I don’t know. Of course…”. As the words came to the money, I was glad about this escape, because I was afraid of her and money was here a way out of this awkward situation with which I could help and yet not have the feeling of having done nothing at all. I was immediately aware that the money would certainly not be left for her own use. It will certainly be taken from her by the gang, which is surely acting in the background. Sadly I gave her only 5 Euro, because everything else seemed not safe, because of the situation. Far too little (or too much?), but it was hopeless. When I gave her the money, I couldn’t help but immediately take the steps and go. She spoke after me in such a way that it stayed in my mind: “but don’t go away!” and she really emphasized the words in such a way as if she had hopes in me and that my leaving made her sad, as if I was lovable and as if I hadn’t seen her as she really is. How sad. What else did she want? Was it not enough that she got the 5 euros? Did she want more? That couldn’t help her begging trick to make me feel guilty. You couldn’t know. But it was this mixture of obvious suffering, my sympathy for a young woman in need and the hopeless situation that brought it about. Nevertheless, this painful contact remains in my memory, even though it was probably just an act, because suffering is received in the brain in such a way that it remains in the memory, as an important lesson or remark, an experience. I wish so much that this neglected young woman could be free. But fortunately she was cold. One had to be like that to be able to beg well and when I looked around I saw how she went on with her normal steps. It had been an ordinary situation for her, I think. What kind of world is all this and why was this situation more real and meaningful to me than all those smiling or pompously strutting dudes with their little puppies who were strutting contemplatively through the sun on the promenade. Why am I given truth and value in such painful situations? Before the event I was happy and now I am sad. Is it like Nietzsche said when he thought that begging should be forbidden, because no matter whether one helps or not: one is unhappy. An hour before I was angry with an old grandmother who gave money to a tricky beggar (there is only this one in town) who always plays the hunchbacked and limping one. I thought: how can one be so naive. And I had already found my master. It is hard to cope with the fact that the people you meet are always a mixture of so many ingredients. The people are crooks and saints. This young woman has much more potential. I have to memorize addresses of help centers in my city, so at least I can help next time. But I think I’ve seen this young woman beg more than once. I’m sure she already knows. And the reader now knows how quickly I get caught up in everyday situations. Writing it down makes what I have experienced feel prescribed and discarded, and yet somewhere between the cracks of the bell the unsaved voices of incomprehension cry out. The truth screams, misunderstood and put away, in some corner of the prescription. Buried under post-corrections and writing. Something like one of Munch’s paintings. The sky is steel-blue and the sun is soft and gentle. There is a slight coolness that soothes what has been experienced.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *