In Process, Without Prospects

In Process, Without Prospects, author's reading, opening of the Beyond Nuclear Family exhibition organized by Jindřich Chalupecký Society, Foundation and Center for Contemporary Arts Prague, June 2020, photo: author’s archive

He is standing with his wife in the corner of an old, disused cemetery in front of a grassy triangle bordered by two perimeter walls and a gentle slope. From here they are looking down at an irregular rectangle of freshly turned soil. They’re talking about whether they should dig up the corpse they’d only recently buried here. They’re worried they haven’t buried it deep enough. Like this, the police will find it easily. All they have to do is notice the turned soil, dig down a metre and they’ve got her. The argument continues over whether they should leave or dig up the body and make the hole two to three metres deeper. That would take a lot of time, however, and they’d no doubt get nabbed by the cops. The atmosphere is becoming tense. They don’t know what to do, how to decide. Suddenly the man wakes up, breathing heavily and staring upwards uncomprehendingly. Wearily he comes to and realises that those few moments of his life were a vivid and intense dream. Even so he is still doubtful over whether it really was pure fiction. Maybe he’d witnessed something similar and the dream reminded him of it again. He is fascinated by the clarity of those few moments, but as he’s waking up, everything is slowly vanishing. He tells himself to go back to sleep; but is unsuccessful. At first, his eyes wander over the ceiling. He can discern cracks and stains disrupting the flat surface of the plaster. After getting lost in thought for a few minutes, he returns to his dream. First to the graveyard. He tries to recall an image of it. Perhaps he’d been there at some point in the past. But why a dream like that and why now? A short while later he comes to the conclusion that it was probably allegorical: when someone ditches their body in a dream then they’re definitely trying to suppress something, a memory, most likely, that bears the scars of bad conduct or actions in the past. The fact that he buried the corpse with a woman can only mean one thing – she shares the secret with him. He vaguely remembers how in the dream she tried to convince him that the body is buried deep enough. He, on the contrary, maintained that it needs to be buried even deeper. That could mean she knows about the memory, but it’s not that important to her. Suddenly it comes back to him; the day before they’d been visited by acquaintances. They’d had dinner, a few drinks and they talked about various things. At one point they broached a theme that he found unpleasant. They were criticising something that concerned him personally. They were scoffing at one of many cultural relics of the social class he hailed from. They had no idea about this, they’d not known him very long or well. His wife was watching surreptitiously. She knew they were indirectly also taking about him. This awkward situation lasted for several minutes. No longer than three, four minutes. Then he managed to steer the conversation onto a different theme. “That’s it!” he says. “That’s it.” Abruptly he leaps out of his bed and starts walking around the room with his fists clenched, then quickly he leaves the bedroom so as not to wake his wife, leaving the door slightly ajar behind him. He is breathing heavily, his fingers are curling up painfully. He keeps walking to and fro. He walks over to the kitchen and with all his strength he starts to punch the air. He is looking for an imaginary, faceless and nameless enemy, but he can feel its presence. After a while, completely exhausted, he squats down. His arms are stretched out between his knees and he keeps opening and closing his trembling fingers. All the while furiously hissing: “Fuck this, fuck this, shit, shit…” He gets up and his imaginary enemy acquires sharper outlines – the couple from the previous evening. “Why so high and mighty? Who do they think they are? Who do they even think they are?” he repeats over and over. Not only was their criticism attacking the social class he came from, above all they were attacking values that were formative during his childhood and with which he still identifies and does not mean to renounce. That’s why he keeps jabbering: “What can they know, what can that lot know? How dare they vilify anyone! Laugh at them. Those two of all people. He realises that the woman works with children from socially excluded groups in a non-profit organisation. And again he starts to shake with anger. “If anyone, she should know! Who else?! She really is completely stupid! Damn hypocrite! It’s not enough today to take good care of your kids, they have to acquire these urbane, polished morals so they can be successful among people like them, so they take them in as their own! Well fuck me! My parents certainly didn’t give me that, even though I had a happy childhood and I can’t complain about anything. They have disappointed me there. They really fucked that up! Now I don’t know whether to be pissed off with Mum or Dad. Fuck!” He sits down on a chair in the kitchen and all manner of thoughts and opinions are flitting around in his head. He stands up again. He goes to make some tea. “So, what should I do about it?” he asks himself. “The best thing would be to come to terms with it and learn to live with this unpleasant and exhausting emotion. This injustice. But how? Should I refute everything from the first two decades of my life? Will I be able to maintain an internal integrity? Won’t this have a negative effect on my life? I already have problems with keeping my occasional fits of aggression on a tight leash. Or should I publicly laugh off these jeers and insults?” For a moment he looks straight ahead, eyes focused on one point, and slowly sips his piping hot tea. Even though the steam irritates his wide-open eyes. He doesn’t mind, it helps him focus. After a longer pause he says: “That would be stupid! To tell them. It’ll be better to limit get togethers between our girls to the minimum, from now on we’ll drive over to see them only over Christmas and Easter. That’s all. If they want help with anything, maybe the house, sawing the wood, then I’ll drive over on my own and stay at their place for a few days.” Finally, he is calming down. He’s finishing off his tea. He puts the mug down on the table-top and goes to bed. For three more hours he lies in bed, still awake, but pleased with his decision. He’s merely waiting for the alarm clock to ring, he’ll get up, wake up the kids, take them to school and then they’ll head to work. His older daughter is studying at the eight-year Gymnasium and the younger one has been attending a primary private school for three years. “It’s expensive, but she deserves it, I don’t want to ruin that.”