|As I Fall
translated by Graham Thomson
A fall like the one I had gives you
quite a lot of time for internal monologue. You fall and fall and you keep on falling and
its like youre going to fall for all eternity. There are people who have
fallen from higher, of course. Airmen shot down by enemy planes during the war, for
example. At first it must have been the same for them as it was for me, when I didnt
realize what was happening, but then straight away you know your time has come.
Im not trying to make a big deal out of this,
but I fell with great dignity, in silence, not a squeak. Maybe I clenched my jaws a bit,
like the tough guys do when they find themselves in a tight spot, but that was all. If it
wasnt for the fact that my brother had to squeal like a rat the whole way down my
fall would have been exemplary. You can psych yourself up to go to your death with courage
and dignity but if you draw a flake for a partner hell fuck it up for you. And as
well as squealing like a rat, I think my brother shit his pants, because all of a sudden
the car started to smell bad. He always was chicken, my poor brother. Lets face it,
you die the way you live: the cowards like rats and the brave like men.
What with one thing and another, I was having trouble
concentrating on my interior monologue. Ive always liked the idea that I would die a
proper death and see my whole life pass before my eyes, thinking about the nice memories
and the bad moments, but when it comes to the crunch, there isnt time for everything
and you think what you think. Just exactly like in life. You think youre going to do
wonders with the twenty-four hours there are in the day and then, you know, you do what
you can and thats it.
Maybe at first I was a little bit scared, but only a
little. It could be that I banged my head and that left me a bit woozy for a couple of
seconds. But as soon as I realized that the bridge had given way and the car was falling
into the river, I thought that really was an amazing coincidence and I almost had to stop
myself from smiling. And then I forgot about seeing my whole life pass before my eyes and
I thought about how fantastic Marta was and how much we loved each other and how beautiful
life had been while we were together. We were crazy about one another, we really were.
Wherever Marta went, I was there. And wherever I went, Marta was there.
What I liked best about Marta was the way she would go
quiet and look at me in that strange intense way that went straight to my heart. There are
people who, when theyre quiet the only thing you think is that theyre quiet
and thats it. But Marta had a way of being quiet that would make you imagine I
dont know what things inside her silence. A silence full of fabulous secret
treasures, thats how Martas silence was. People tend to talk too much, at
least the people I know do. And its not as if they say anything much. They recount
their lives to you detail by detail, and that gets on my nerves because it stops me from
thinking; it blocks up the tubes where the ideas circulate, thats a fact.
Her silence was what I liked most, but it was also
what hurt me most. Thats life: the same things youre crazy about one day, the
next day, they kill you. You could sum up the story of my father and wine like that, I
suppose. One day youre fond of a glass of wine and the next day it turns out
youre a hopeless alcoholic and youve ruined your life.
As we were falling it also came into my head that my
brother would be one of those noisy ghosts that get all worked up and wail and rattle
chains and move the furniture about and become poltergeists to attract the attention of
the living. As for me, though, I imagined myself being a discreet ghost. I shouldnt
be saying this, but I even laughed to think how I would drift silently into Martas
house, giving no sign of my phantom presence, so as to spy at leisure on the familys
reactions. What a pleasure itll give me to see them all shocked and in a terrible
state because of course theyve got to be really upset.
Marta's father has a pile of dough, a pile. Hes
so loaded and so stuck-up that he thought I wasnt good enough for his daughter when
he found out about us. I dont know what threats he used on Marta but he made it
crystal clear that no daughter of his was going to marry a bum, still less a bum whose
father is an alcoholic. A bum, thats what he called me. I didnt even want to
hit him when Marta told me about it. The best punishment for people like that is
indifference. All right, I might be a bum who makes his living with a humble job and
doesnt go around treating everybody as if they were his servants, but your daughter
loves me and theres nothing you can do about that, mister big man.
I said to Marta we should run away and that was when
she killed me with her silence. She didnt say yes or no, she just nailed me with her
silence, with a strange intense look and I felt myself dying.
Now all Marta's fathers dough is going to go on
lawyers. Hell get the best, like people in his position do, but even so they
wont get him off. He thought I wasnt good enough and now my brother and me are
going to be too much for him. I dont even need to slip into his house like a
discreet ghost to know he isnt sleeping at nights, that he twists and turns in his
bed with the anxiety and the fear sticking to his body and that hes been to see a
specialist to help him calm his nerves.
Chance is too much, it really is. Anybody could have
been driving across that bridge. Or nobody. But just exactly when it goes, because it
cant stand up to the storm even though they only built it seven years ago, the bum
and his brother are driving across the bridge in their car, what a coincidence. And now
the big-shot engineer is in for it, because another bridge right next to it thats
been standing there for a hundred years held up in the storm. Thats the way it goes,
mister big man. The very same thing that made you a fortune over the years is going to
ruin you now.
Id prefer to be alive, of course. But
theres no denying that of all possible revenges this is the most complete. Now no
one will ever ask him to build another bridge. And because they wont ask him, they
wont even ask him to blow a smoke ring with a joint, poor bastard, his whole life
down the can. And hell have to pay my parents a load of money. And all for a couple
of bums who werent worth a thing to the big engineer.