He left the bicycle padlocked. She shut her eyes in order to see the scene, she knew the place by heart. He was lying on a sofa, an uncomfortable nineteenth-century sofa. And the sickle had flattened and skimmed the waves of the sea. He opened the door. The mother dragged him way up, so as to have him look below. A hedge blocked the window. He stayed up all night, it seemed to him that he had a great deal to do, in the doing of nothing. The flush of spring, the scent was nauseating, tainted and too strong. Meanwhile she thought that she would have to change her will. While nothing happened between the eyelids and the eyes, his legs lengthened, almost as though to touch a distant, very distant line with the tips of his shoes. It was just the horizon. Why then could her son not sleep? He is happy now, she said. They were a dynasty of insomniacs. No one forced him. In the light malaise in the air. His feet were resting on the wooden armrest. With the perfect choice. On the Via Mala. And he, the boy, felt so well, in the shadowy peace. The tiredness had to be increased so that the insomnia could decrease. Almost as though to recover his eyes as they’d been back then, that had settled with hatred on the pools of water. Translated from the Italian by Gini Alhadeff
The pain her son had caused her by choosing to die on a day in spring was less than she had expected. And the mother who had got him used to sleeping pills, too. Neither by food gone bad nor by the Holy Ghost.
This is an excerpt from Fleur Jaeggy’s collection I Am the Brother of XX, translated from the Italian by Gini Alhadeff and published by And Other Stories. The insomnia lessened. The doctor is pleased. There are those who have an inborn gift for not being deceived in life. Then, when he managed to stretch out on the bed, he had the sensation of entering sleep. You must tire yourself out. She was pleased if the butcher gave her a beautiful cut of meat. ‘I made you some dinner.’ Shellfish and something pink, boiled and grey, with two holes. His mother liked foods he couldn’t stand. He had shut them out. His will pushed him to the end. Such as fish, for instance. Understanding and charity begin in the mother’s womb. A curved line in the shape of a sickle. When the vision faded, he saw the wall. Of insomniac women. He didn’t care. The flowers were coming back before his eyes, before his door. The solemn and glorious instant just before dissolution. But which? No one could deceive him as to freshness. In a field he saw flowers with small purple wounds. Tattooed flowers. It couldn’t have been otherwise. Fossil lances. Out of habit. He was waiting. An enamel landscape, innocuous, mute. Someone must have marked them as they went by. They had always slept, the mother said on a sour note. A minuscule branding, such as is used on herds, or linens. Or she might have chosen a different method. The mother was there, holding a tray. He had been advised to ride a bike to attempt to calm his insomnia. She would have liked to die that way. The boy looked at the emerald ring, the same colour as the water. The men were more given to sleep.
Beyond the limits of the visible. To force him to look down. He hardly realised that he was going down, falling, the green water rocking him and the sharp edges of the rocks had already torn him apart. The only son had become so tired that he no longer cared about the insomnia. He was entering, given his enormous tiredness, into a kind of eternal rest. It was something very beautiful. He didn’t even notice. He had experienced something like that with opium. And she herself felt almost relieved. And today, years later, he went down. You must tire yourself out a great deal. And so, in the end, she was pleased with the death of her son. There was absolute stillness. And this did not please the mother who held him by the hand. He was sickly, wan. But who? His step faltered. Jörg looked unhappily at the water down below, lizard green, deep down. Pain let itself be pushed about like a paper kite and she, the mother, after having pondered the various ways of dying, was in absolute agreement with her only son, on the perfect choice. Of his own will. The son had let himself fall off a rock, on the glorious Via Mala, where as a child they had taken him to see the gorges. With some physical exercise. At the same time tiredness increased.