"Why would someone write a story?'
The man is sitting in front of me. Bald, black-rimmed glasses, Van Dyke goatee. In his left ear he wears a tiny silver cross. What his age will be. Thirty. Forty. Hundred? He has no age. He is one of those men who at some point in time cease to be a human being. They become an image, a persona. What he actually is. An intellectual, a filibuster, a hippie.
"Many years ago, I use to write poetry."
His voice is raw. Like when you cutting a plank in half using a fretsaw. I hardly dare to look at my sandwich. I bought it just at the lunch corner. A whole wheat roll filled with Gouda cheese and rucola.
"Poetry has somehow the ability to grasp the real nature of life. And the real character of our existence is rambling. Our being is nothing more than a weird collection of fragments, pieces and scraps. "
I want to agree with him. But to be honest, he doesn't need any confirmation. What he is looking for: a listening ear, a face, a mirror. So I decides that's what I am today. I nod, I mutter, I smile. Now and then we ought to be just humble. Nevertheless, I decide to take a bite. He notice me eating. He observes that my mouth is too small, the bun too big.
"But every time I have a viscous hope that someone will take the bull by the horns, one day. A fearless woman, a heroic man. Who writes a story, a book. To have it there, in print. Unvarnished. How this life works. What the common approach is. The connection. The central theme. So that we - poor souls - find a handhold. Like someone who felt into a gorge, is able to hold a rope. Like a drowning man in a stormy sea, can grab a lifebuoy." I have a hard time to get rid of the first bite. Very patiently I chew on the crusts, the vegetables, the cheese. Thin sauce slides down my mouth.
"That's why I came to this place. I thought, if it is to be found anywhere, then it must be here. Here in the most beautiful bookshop in Europe. At least, that is claimed in the authoritative newspapers. "
He makes a sweeping gesture. If he is a guide. And at the same time he looks around. I follow his eyes. And see it all again. The thirteenth-century basilica converted into bookstore. The white marble vaults with colorful paintings. Jesus and Mary, the prodigal son, Moses and the burning bush. The tingling stained-glass windows, with the gold-covered pipe organ. And in between. Hardwood cabinets full of books. Literature, psychology, philosophy, theology. And in a corner. The restaurant.
"But what I find. Stories, only stories. All depressing attempts to explain how it is. Our life, our existing. But in the end it appears to be. Chatter, bullshit, ravings. That is my conclusion. Who is fooling who? "
Meanwhile, visitors are still entering the classic building. Enthusiasm hums as a popular pop song through the impressive space. The man zips up his jean jacket and makes himself ready to leave. Too bad. I'd like to talk to him some more. I take a sip of milk. He greets me with a surly gesture as he moves towards the exit. I take the book that I just bought. And fold it open. Cautiously. 'The Trial'. Kafka.