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from the April 2012 issue


After the intermission, when they prepped the audience and warmed them up with an acrobatic display, clowns, and other supporting acts, the second part began, the main one, the part with the adored women. Wind instruments, festive but refined, herald the entrance of the star Dolly Scheinwald. She strides erect. She is very beautiful. Her form draped in a black dress with a deep reveal, her hair black and her alto a sensual rasp. Two bachelor spectators, high in the gods, know she’ll never be theirs, that she already has somebody exclusive, because she’s the famous Dolly Scheinwald, that much they read in a feature in a women’s magazine, but even without reading they know, for how could it ever be otherwise? Could there ever be a moment’s vacuum in which Dolly Scheinwald was available to love? Unnatural, not the way it is. And a man from the highest echelons of society, of that you may be sure, an asset like her will find another asset, and not them, in the cheap seats, the mass, sweating in its stink of unfulfilled desires. That’s why they aren’t hopeful. That’s why they listen closely to her song, try to focus on the artistic angle, but naturally not without noticing what the curves hint at beneath the delicate, almost transparent gown. After the thunderous applause they sink their heads on their sunken chests, as if admitting, each to himself in all sad honesty: we will not have the privilege.

Later, at the end of the show, the two bachelor friends will walk the street and blurt alongside a base chuckle a base word about the intimate affairs of the star Dolly Scheinwald, yes, this much they can allow themselves, and also love to do. A kind of eunuch satisfaction, they plumb in crude terms the physical attributes of her desired but unobtainable physique. Anyhow, at the end of the day the universe is large and spacious, and everyone’s allowed to emit a little stink. They laugh a little, unbutton as it were a bit, as if they were men of manifold conquests and expertise, and go home sour and stinking as before, each to his sheets’ chill. Dolly Scheinwald herself will by then be already on her way to being laid sweetly and securely – and without any dirty talk believe you me – in the arms of her exclusive beloved, Hugo Zacks, in her cozy, secure apartment. But we’ve got a little ahead of ourselves.

For immediately after the appearance of the great Dolly Scheinwald come bursting on to the stage with the irresistible vigor of youth, and again to the sound of a squeal of horns promising wonders and jubilations, row upon row of chorus girls, some fifty of them, and it is actually here, faced with this picture, that the two bachelors are struck by a bitter feeling: there is so much! There are so many of them! And so ravishing! Cast your gaze from one to the other, a third, a fourth – all smiling, all promising joy, toting peacock fans on their shoulders and waists, while their long hair flows and is parted with becoming modesty, why they are wearing bloomers full of white flesh, soft and fragrant, and their breasts and thighs are fit to burst, and they caper, a blinding fireworks display of beauty, and just take the peacock feathers from them and instantaneously you have before you a group of good, rich girls from a Swiss finishing school, that get up every morning to brush their teeth, their beds still warm, and they’re modest, and blessed is he who gains their love and fidelity, for they know how to love, aren’t sluttish at all, promise a proper life, a life of peace and tranquility, with lots of happiness and security, especially security. And they all caper as if just for us, and spread their hands out just for us, and finally do not come to us at all but clear off to the sides of the stage and disappear into the wings. And if you say, go wait for them after the show at the stage door, then a problem will arise: which one do you wait for? And maybe that one we choose to wait for, that one already has somebody waiting for her, and you’ll look a fool and meanwhile also miss out on her friend?

They do not know, the two bachelor spectators, which one of them to be sorry about first, each one of them has something, if you’re sorry about this one, your heart will curdle in you that you weren’t sorry about that one. And here is the bitterest feeling of missed opportunity of all: there’s fifty, and not even one for you. Not only the celebrated Dolly Scheinwald, that one we wrote off in advance, but also the fifty, the fifty will also scatter after the wondrous dance so full of life, each to the arms of a different lover, and not even one come to our arms. And that’s what hurts so much, the world is full, but not for us.

Now, since the commotion has started in the hearts of the bachelor spectators, and they’ve been tempted to pick somebody for themselves to be sorry about, and all kinds of sad moans have stirred, and continue to stir even through the appearance of the next magnificent duo, which is none other than the pair of star sisters Alice and Ellen Kirchner. They carry on, in their hearts, the two bachelor friends, picking out a fit heart’s desire worth feeling sorry about, and each entertains himself with pointless sweet daydreams, and ponders and dithers between the two.

Both are alike, fair-haired, giant pearls on their breast, wearing fishnets with high heels and dressed in corsets made of the same gold plate and laced behind with shining buttons. Their waists are tight, their breasts and thighs emphasized, only to their penetrating gaze Ellen’s is perked a little higher, broader than Alice in the shoulder and thigh, her rear more abundant and generous. Her sensuous smile, painful and even firm, as against Alice’s smile, innocent, sweet, and a little over the top. The two bachelor spectators would very much want Ellen, and they are already sorry about her. Both reap thunderous applause as they go off stage and again the thighs, Ellen’s thighs and rear, no doubt about it!

A not inconsiderable number of men in the audience go out with a feeling of missing out on Ellen Kirchner. But Ellen Kirchner already has a lover. This the dresser knows who waits for her at the stage edge, drapes a robe on her shoulders and follows her to her private dressing room, to undress her and dress her up. About ten minutes later she’s already prone on the back seat of the car, being driven to the home of her lover, who’s waiting for her. She passes the two bachelor spectators, walking quickly, irritable and in foul spirits, bitchily blurting out their few expletives about Dolly Scheinwald and silently sorry about Ellen Kirchner. The darkness swallows the private vehicle of the female performer Ellen Kirchner, riding to her heart’s true love, Gunter Weizacker, who’s waiting for her, exclusively.

© by the Estate of Hanoch Levin. Published by arrangement with The Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature. Translation © 2012 by Atar Hadari. All rights reserved

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