Adon Melech Ben-Zion Building, 1932, and Dr. Berlin Building, 1933

(Homage to Valeska Gert and Jacob Pinkerfeld)

The text:

My beloved, where are you now? When will you give up wandering around the world, looking for love? I count pavement tiles. On one side I have three columns of concrete tiles, grey, perfect, new, flat, square, not smelling of dogs, clean of any excretion, free of chewing gum, unstained by oil and unsullied by the fruit of the Washingtonia, which, to grow and make a mess, that is to have top foliage swarming at night with bats shitting purple droppings, needs another thirty years. When the top foliage sways among the power lines, city officials will come to clip it, leaving only the trunk. Dr. Berlin, if he lives, will feel sorry for Mrs. Berlin who has died, as well as for Mrs. Melech Ben-Zion, who wouldn’t have allowed the Washingtonia to be cut down after thirty years, but not for the tree itself. The sidewalk in front of the Melech Ben-Zion Building and the Dr. Berlin building next to it is finished, and spare tiles are stacked nearby in three columns. No one will move them, ever. On the right, exactly parallel to the corner of the stuccoed and whitewashed gate pillar, there is a low, four-tile column, my column, on which I can climb rather easily. I can sit down, can lean against the pillar, keeping one eye open for anyone sauntering up the seven stairs to the short upper sidewalk which leads to the Melech Ben-Zion entrance, and using my other eye, had I had one, to watch the parallel seven stairs leading up to the entrance of the Dr. Berlin Building. If I were strong enough to carry them, if I had any hands in the first place, I could arrange those perfect four tiles at exactly the same distance from either edge of the gate pillar. If there were no pillar separating the gates, the stairs leading to the Melech Ben-Zion and the Dr. Berlin Buildings would make a single stairway, with one broad gate and one broad entrance, and I would somehow pull in my stomach and sit in front of them on my tile column without leaning against anything. I would sit upright, casting a black shadow on the clean sidewalk in front of me, and I would keep watch. The two other tile columns are very high, higher than the stuccoed, whitewashed brick trailing of both stairways attached to the gate pillars at a right angle. Were four tiles to be removed, that is, precisely the height of my column, those columns would become level with the railings, making an unbroken extension, so that at exactly half the height of the gate, another seat would have been created, a seat three times as high as mine, so that had I legs, I could easily sit on that one as well, swinging those legs, although in this fashion I would lose entirely my control over Dr. Berlin’s entrance, and anyone would think that I’m guarding the Melech Ben-Zion Building only. Anyway, the tiles in those two spare columns are not properly stacked. Forever. No one has bothered to straighten them up or align their edges close together. No has anyone bothered to align them close to the brick railing, which from here on extends in a straight line up to the seventh stair on one side, and on the other side of the gate pillar extends straight to the end of the street. Between these loosely stacked columns and the railing, dampness and filth accumulate, it is permanently half dark, lines of ants foray out in various directions. All in all, a total of sixteen tiles in each of the tall, loose, spare columns. One might have used them to build eight precise seats for eight men like me, so that counting me, right in the middle, there would be nine of us guarding the Melech Ben-Zion Building and the Dr. Berlin Building. The city is new, white, clear and beautiful. Guys like us, clipped in battle, they could spread us around and everything would be under guard. Your mother says you're in Singapore now. She is writing for me and we’re mailing this to the hotel. Have a good time, for me too, and remember that I am forever faithful.