Few things are more ridiculous than a childless middle-aged couple traveling alone with a miniature longhaired dachshund.
It was sometime after lunch when they arrived in the City of Arad.
Though theyd only driven fifty miles, theyd been traveling for six or seven hours. Theyd left Szged, paprika capital of the world, after breakfast in the dining room of the Hotel Tesla. At 20 bucks a night this once grand hotel was a fantastic bargain and they couldve stayed forever, sampling the charms of southern Hungary, except that their final destination was Arad. Jerome was in his element preparing their departure, secreting rolls and cheese and apples, sliced meats from the buffet table into his and Sylvies clothes and bags each time the wall-eyed peasant waitress turned her back. The Hungarians were pigs. It was well documented that, during World War 2, in their willingness to turn in Jews, they were second only to Poles. There was the famous transport from Budapest to Dachau, in December 1943, six months before the close of the war, in which most members of the citys mercantile and professional bourgeoisie were rounded up and unloaded six days later in their finery and furs, dazed, as if going to a Sunday concert. It was the most strategically unnecessary of all the transports and therefore the most reprehensible; though saying that was to step into a fascist conundrum or quagmire, as if there is or ever was a valid measurement of human life or horror. The holocaust had made it ethically impossible to any longer say, If A is true, then therefore B... Jerome collected holocaust statistics the way others traded baseball cards. That morning in the hotel dining room, Sylvie had protested when Jerome wrapped one last roll inside a stolen Hotel napkin. And then they squabbled. "Im very organized", Jerome said, the way he always liked to say. It was his koan, coming first, his intense desire to control all the variables within the bubble of his personal space... caps on pens, pencils sharpened, his knapsack packed in a certain way... And then of course it was his allusion to the black market economies of Dachau and Treblinka, as in, "if you pass this message to my wife in Birchenhau, I will organize you half an egg..." Sylvie didnt like to eat and she never thought about the future until after it arrived. But still, her very frailness moved Jerome to "organize" her diet and she loved to be protected. Holocaust was perhaps the favourite of their many games.
The Ford Festiva that theyd rented with the German money in Berlin ten days ago was loaded with survival gear: bottles of water, large metal jerrycans of gas, an arsenal of toilet paper, bathrobes, towels swiped from the luxury hotels of Eastern Europe. Sylvies clothes. Cans of food for Lily, the couples miniature dachshund. A selection of her doggy sweaters, the pink one and the blue one. Theyd fought long and hard about the bear. Sylvied wanted to bring one. Weeks ago before theyd left New York, Sylvied tried to organize an outing with Jerome uptown to FAO Schwartz in search of the right bear, wanting both the bear and the pleasure of teasing or manipulating some unexpected softening or concession from Jerome to the idea of how adorable the accoutrements of "child" might be, but Jerome had been too busy. Shed pleaded with him, badgered, and eventually Jerome agreed that she could bring the tiny sea-green baby sweater trimmed with white angora shed gotten him to pay three dollars for at a Salvation Army store in eastern Pennsylvania. Jeromes willingness that afternoon to buy the sweater had brought them closer: she held it out and nuzzled up to him, a powerful erotic proof of what their love could be. But still, it was the entire contents of her "hope chest". Having studied the field of plush toys and stuffed animals extensively, Sylvie left New York determined to pick up the question of the bear in Germany. Perhaps she could get Jerome to buy a Gund stuffed animal... Shed seen them in the baby stores of upper Madison Avenue and East Hampton. They were the bears that promised a future life of storybooks and sailboats. The very sight of them made Sylvies heart and vulva melt into rapturous fantasy of complete protection. But in Berlin Jerome was even less inclined to humor her. And what would a screaming infant puking formula in an unheated Romanian orphanage want with an 80-dollar bear? But still, she said, I want to give the baby something to remember me. And Jerome had gruffly, realistically remarked how it was pointless to buy a bear for a child theyd never seen, and anyway theyd have more time when they were on the road, in Berlin his time was back-to-back with meetings, his text was late, etcetera, and Sylvie wondered how plentiful the choice of bears might be in a country where, the papers said, it was impossible to buy gasoline, but this time Jerome prevailed and the Ford Festiva left the Berlin Kudaam bear-less.
Chris Kraus is the author of Aliens & Anorexia (Semiotexte/Smart
Art Press, 2000) and I Love Dick (Semiotexte, 1997). She was
a contributor to Sophie Jerram's Posted Love (Penguin NZ, 2000) and
to Sande Cohen's French Theory in America (Routledge, 2000). Born
Bronx, New York, she grew up in New Zealand and now lives in Los Angeles.