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Tue 07
Aug 2007

Carlos, from Ecuador.

Posted by dora under The Beggar's Diary

The Beggar’s Diary, 06.08.2007. - Filch is late getting to the Spiekerhof, as usual. He was collecting trash to make a sculpture, he says. Now has to leave to drink his coffee at the FYAL; he leaves a note at the Spiekerhof explaining his absence.

As he sits in the sun sipping his coffee he remembers a story he read some time ago. It goes:

There's a man walking in Manhattan, New York. He's a financial analyst heading for the financial district. It is early morning. This man has a beautiful wife and child; you could say he is happily married. As he is walking down the street, he passes a construction site. A worker accidentally drops his hammer, and the hammer falls from the 42nd floor (this is New York) right in front of our man's feet. The man realizes he could be dead now. Indeed, he feels that in some way he did die and that he is now reborn. He disappears.
His wife waits for him, but when he does not come home, she calls the police and reports him missing. They soon find out he was not at work that day and that the last thing he used his credit card for was to buy a plane ticket to San Francisco. His wife, sure of his love, believes he was robbed and killed. She mourns.
Jumping ahead a bit, it is now 7 years later and a friend who comes by to see her says that he thinks, no, he's absolutely sure, he saw her late husband. Astonished, she flies to San Francisco and starts to look for him. It takes her but a few days to find him. She runs up to him and he recognizes her.
"Well, just what are you doing here?" she asks.
He: "I am a financial analyst here. I’m married, and have a 3-year-old daughter."
She: "But why? Why did you leave New York to create the same life here in San Francisco? Didn’t you love me anymore?"
He: "No, that's not it. But this time I could choose. I had the choice."

(Filch, Filch, you've been reading Paul Auster, quite a long way from Brecht, don't you think? Still, I must admit, it is a seductive story for a man in the throes of a midlife crisis to recall.)
What Filch really fears is that the second part of his life will be exactly like the first part: "Because you have been down there Neo, you know that road, you know exactly where it ends. And I know that's not where you want to be", as they say in The Matrix.

Some people at the Spiekerhof approach him holding an SPM07 map. He looks at it and sees that some of the sculpture numbers had been crossed out by pen. He asks them: "Are you planning to cross out my number as well?" And something in him wants to add: "so cruelly?"
They promise him not to cross his number out. Ever.

A Dutch woman says she will give, in return for his story, another story. It goes like this:

"A little boy lives with his family in Africa. Near his house, by a tree, he finds a bunch of cocoons. He looks at them, fascinated. He tells his friends about them and they say he should blow on them and a miracle will happen. The boy, of course, really wants to see a miracle. He takes a cocoon in his hands and blows softly. The sheath of the cocoon breaks open and pulverizes, and the boy suddenly sees this beautiful creature appear. A butterfly, he cries out. But, there is something wrong. It cannot fly. As he looks more closely, the boy can see that the wings are not fully grown, and soon the butterfly dies. The boy—he’s now an old man—learned back then that things have a pace you should not interfere with."

Today, while wandering through the streets of Muenster, Filch comes across a Latino-looking man who’s selling pins. Filch immediately spots a business opportunity. He talks to the man, who introduces himself as Carlos, from Ecuador. "Ha", says the man upon hearing Filch's name, "Charles, like Carlos". "Indeed" Filch smiles. A friendship has started.
The pins cost 1 Euro each. Filch explains Carlos his plan. "Oh, you want to buy wholesale. The wholesale price is different: 50 cents. But you have to pay half in advance." The man explains he makes the pins himself and can deliver tomorrow. Filch now asks if he can give Carlos the pictures he wants on the pins. “Of course. Send them by email, no problem.” Filch looks at his day’s earnings: 5 Euro so far. Carlos and Charles shake hands on 20 pins. Filch has closed a business contract!
He sees very clearly what should be on the pin. But that has to be a surprise, so, dear reader, you have to wait till tomorrow.
Filch calculates: "20 pins cost 10 Euro. If I sell them for 1 Euro each, I gain 10 Euro. Wow."
Of course, Filch doesn’t contemplate the possibility that he might NOT sell them, because Filch is not that kind of man. Filch is an optimist. And seeing riches piling up on the horizon seems to have purged him of his midlife crisis for good.

Later that day, a girl offers an ice cream in exchange for one of his cardboard drawings. A big one. Filch hesitates, but then agrees. An ice cream in this hot weather is too tempting.
They sit down together and he tells her the story of the boy in Africa, which she likes very much. She says she loves butterflies, and then recites to him the opening lines of a poem by Novalis.

Wer Schmetterlinge lachen hört,
der weiß, wie Wolken schmecken,
der wird im Mondschein
ungestört von Furcht,
die Nacht entdecken.

She would like to have recited the final lines also, but she couldn’t remember them. Filch looked it up for her:

Der mit sich selbst in Frieden lebt,
der wird genauso sterben,
und ist selbst dann lebendiger,
als alle seine Erben.