Now, what are the Devil’s means? Well, our fear is that He could destroy the whole world in order to start over again.
Norman Mailer, On God
At the end of the 20th century I was visiting New York. I had been there before. In 1971 the last Holland-America Liner ever sailing brought us to The Apple so I had my first bite then. On that hot September day red butterflies flew from the mainland towards our ship and greeted those who were still at sea and had come on deck to see the famous sky line.
Those butterflies were an unexpected extra. So, alas, were the Twin Towers which I did not anticipate and which really ruined Manhattan’s silhouette as fixed in my cinematographic memory. Perhaps, you may attribute the disappointment to the buildings not yet being finished.
The Twins in 1971
Once these sky scrapers were completed I still did not like them. In 1973 we came back from the West Coast and I saw them again. They were just too outlandish, too Martian for me.
Of course, twenty years later – when ‘back in town’ – I mounted one of these pinnacles. Watching from above a high rise town gone map-flat was an awe inspiring spectacle. Faraway you saw Harlem. Then again, on one of them, from up there you did not have to look at those Twins…
On 9/11, in Haarlem in the Low Lands, I watched on CNN the first tower burn, first thinking it was a disastrous accident. I was warned by my sister in law who told me to put on the telly. With the second movement of Glass’ string quartet Company on the speakers and the bla bla of CNN shut off, I watched that damned plane strike into the second tower.
And then, as if an eternity later, you saw the two of them go down, one after the other, and slowly so slowly…
Even though quite some time had passed since my standing on top of that tower, even in my chair its collapse felt like the earth under me gave away. La terra trema. In a fit of inner hysteria I considered the option that Devil Time was after me, but had just missed me. The two of us, we had not been in phase – so lucky me!
Of course, it had not been abstract Time that had construed this catastrophe, but the very concrete hand of those Al Qaida bastards. This strange surrealist feeling of being chased never left me. Also – I confess –the actual collapse had something of the sublime…
Already a long time before this it had happened to me a first time, then with even much less chrono space between the events of my being somewhere and its sudden and violent disappearance.
On a beautiful autumn day in 1991 I walked over that elegant bridge in Mostar, almost in heaven.
The strange experience of walking from what may be called Christian Europe into what had been for ages the Turkish Muslim Caliphate. It was a picturesque as wells as a cultural ‘experience’. I had not the foggiest what was going on in former Yugoslavia, as a left-winger considering it one of the few places where ‘communism’ and ‘peace’ were sort of married.
Then after March 1992 all hell broke loose. Yes indeed – the Devil again. Like with the Twin Towers much later, this time also on CNN though now not ‘live’, I saw that bridge die. This, then, was the first time that I felt the Devil on my heels. And this time also in human disguise – whether Croats or Serbs.
What was left of it, or rather, how it was ‘repaired’:
Today – finally – I am completely sure that The Devil is after me – Devil Time, either disguised as a human terrorist or in the magnificent costume of Mother Nature.
This was the picture in my morning paper which struck me even before I had taken the first sip of the life giving coffee.
Years ago, on the isle of Malta, I was admiring this enormous rock formation with that hole in it, naturally pondering the great question of Nature as an everlasting self-destruct. The sea for ever pounding the stone, grinding its way into it, finally right through the stone, thus slowly building this mysterious bridge into nowhere-land. How long would it take, how long…?
Obviously so long. That is, till Wednesday last week. At one time I had walked this bridge, almost losing myself. Now, after eons of time, The Devil has struck again. Did not catch me though, as he did not catch me on the Twin’s platform or on Mostar’s bridge.
Only thanks to His wrong timing did I escape.
By now, though, He has chosen to conceal himself as an unpleasant little defect in my marrow. This time he will surely catch up with me, though he is still biding his time. One of these days our phases will coincide. At last.