07/ Koln, 1991 -Right in Front of Us

A・P. She was from a very small town called Tourrettes-sur-Loup which was close to Nice, South France. She was studying cultural anthropology at University of Aix-en-Provence, and she once has forgotten to register for the next year so she ended up with wasting her whole year ahead. To spend away this time lost, she happened to come to Germany relying on a friend whom she met, who was a student at University of Heidelberg. I first met her in May, 1991 the year of the Gulf War. Her blond hair was shining bright in the early summer sun. She was small and looked as if she was a teenager but in fact she was 21 years old.

I was just a Japanese man who had failed post-graduate exams the year before last and had no job. As I wanted to spend a year in an art university in Germany, I wrote a few letters to different professors. However, no replies for some time and finally professor R gave me a one, and I flew to Germany to meet him by any chance. I was 25 years old at that time. And this was how I happen to meet A in a German language school there.

Usually, language schools finish by the afternoon in German. After lessons she who did not have a lot to do and I also had nothing to do would always go to the student canteen at university of Heidelberg. We could have lunch for just 2 or 3 marks there.

I don’t know if this was a French thing but she always asked me to join her with a cup of coffee in a café that costed 1 mark even after she was concerning about her lunch being 2 marks or 3.

Discussion was what we had in the café. She liked discussions. She could not stop talking once she started discussing about politics, literature, psychology, gender issues and surprisingly about art as well. I was free anyway and I quite liked those kind of arguments, so I spent time with her till the late afternoon. Sooner or later, it started to feel that afternoons of weekdays were just not enough and so we started spending weekends together for a chat. We usually met up in a central station of Heidelberg around 10 am. We sometimes went down the river Necker where a lot of people were sunbathing, and other time we went on a train to check out the collection of Joseph Beuys in a city museum in Mannheim.

There was a reason why she knew Joseph Beuys. Her father was an architect. He was pro-Japanese in all his sympathies, and I could hear his excited voice on the other end of the telephone when A was telling him about Mishima or Kawabata which I told her about.

It was fun… and nothing mattered… work, study, money nor future-wise.

One whole month had passed in a blink. And the time has come that I had to go to a different language school in Koln. It was already decided when I was in Japan. I was going to brush-up my German there and then was going to meet with professor R afterwards.

A came to see me off at the Heidelberg central station. She was small, yet her eyebrows shaded behind her blond hair were drawing fascinating arcs. Her grey irises were beautifully clear and her pupils were roving. It was too late to think so but I thought she was lovely … After train had left Heidelberg, I could do nothing but thinking about her.

It was heartbreaking to think about her that day and the next day. In Koln I stayed in a youth hostel that was situated on the left bank of the Rhine for two days. Going down to the riverbank one could find a few people just looking at the setting sun, which was not such a familiar scene in Japan. There was a cathedral on the right and I was looking at the sunset in front of me thinking about A.

There is no such thing as rainy season in Europe but we had rain almost every day since the beginning of June in Koln. The German language school I was attending was full of students from Africa, China and Finland. In the place where French and Chinese words were flying around, I just became introverted and was always thinking about A.

Koln is a typical German city. You can find glass-walled buildings along the ring road and old churches and Roman ruins at the same time, and there are fashionable café s with ‘Ice’ signs everywhere. But for me then, the bustle was irritating and that brought me to the field where moles could have come out from anywhere. There I was very close to where I lived, and I was often lost in deep thought. By the end of June, I was no longer thinking of becoming a student for a year in Germany and did not go to see professor R after all.

Thinking about it, I should have known that it was almost impossible to get a place in Professor R’s classes. It was very full and he had told me that in his letter. Why I had to go to Germany… I notice that I was obsessed with Joseph Beuys. But he was already dead and even in Germany his works were unique and so it did not necessarily mean that there were a lot of ‘Beuys’ out there.

The questions were actually very simple. What do ‘I’ want to make? and what do ‘I’ think of what I make? And how would other people see it? I kept pretending that I didn’t see them even though they were always hanging in front my eyes for a very long time. Well, I should have noticed this when I failed my postgraduate exams back in 1989 or even earlier when I first intended to do art in 1981. After walking around places irrelevant to what I was aiming for, and as a result I was shaken by strong emotions thinking about A and finally admitted that there were those questions.

At that time for two years, I was working part-time saving some money and made my way to Germany. Professor R being a kind person might have actually met me… and possibly might have had something to say about my art works…or even I might have had chance to join his class and work on my art for one year…but now I was aware of my questions, so I decided to go back to Japan to where I was without job or not being able to draw even a single straight line when facing the paper. It was very much like my choice, it was very me.

Still, I keep repeating as I draw a picture. It is like this. When it is almost finished I suddenly notice that what I needed to draw was somewhere else and not here…but very close…I kept wandering about in places where there was no aim.