Doe Eyes or From the Supreme Moment

Wenzel Mraček
Doe Eyes or From the Supreme Moment
I had finished all of my other oral exams for graduation in the morning. They were good enough; not even I had great expectations. One subject was left and after the lunch break we once again entered the examination room on the third floor of the older school building that was already in dire need of a face lifting renovation. Outside to the west, an immense storm had developed, and not only in a figurative sense. We - the examiners and I, the examinee - had hardly sat down when the storm broke loose. In addition to the thunder and lightning, gusts of wind blew through the double panes of the old window casements whose varnish had long ago peeled away and which had always let in cold drafts during the entire last winter. Whoever had to sit by the windows in class were well advised to wear either a jacket or even a coat during class.

As though a B-movie director had waited in the design of this scene until this very moment of my last exam, all of the papers and exam protocol were blown from the green committee table through the room which had suddenly become quite dark. While two of the teachers jumped up and tried to somehow securely close the windows, the others needed several minutes to find their strewn papers and roughly order them. Someone turned the light on and the examination room settled down again. The head of the committee, so we were told, suffered from increasing deafness. This was why he was being retired early and our graduation exams were to be his last. Perhaps this was also a reason why his voice sounded somewhat uncontrolled and high-pitched with a tendency to crack as he said, "Mraček, a question about Low Voltage Techniques."

The day before, I indeed had time to look over the manageable list of possible questions over this topic and prepare. Aside from all of my interests - including incidentally all of my other exam topics as well as the entire school time at a higher technical institute - in hindsight it would have been possible to simply have memorized all the material and reeled off my text like a bad actor. They would have accepted my presentation of knowledge knowing all the while that I had no wish to spend my life as an actor playing the role of an industry engineer or as a teacher who would every year copy onto the board from the notebook of last year's best student, just like I had witnessed myself more than once.

So on the day before the storm, I was sitting in my tower room in the house of my grandparents with the sun shining brightly outside. Here, I thought, nothing could distract me from preparing for the decisive show that was to take place on the next day. Except that my potential working desk was turned towards the only window in the room and through this I could see the meadow lying in the heat of the early afternoon as well as a section of the lake that lapped up on the far side. My lake, as I like to think even now, even though it naturally does not belong to me. I remember that I had not yet even looked through my material. I had decided first to take a short swim in order to devote myself to my work refreshed... Just like right now I want to take a short ride on my mountain bike through the woods. Evidently it is still with me today, the hope for increased concentration by means of a short, thrilling distraction in order to bring things to a good end. - I'll be back in two hours.

That was my plan at least. The sun hesitated, it seemed to me, then it soon set. Meanwhile, it is now nearly noon of the next day. Yesterday in the woods, I actually happened to meet a colleague of mine with whom I should prepare an exhibition. He was also on his mountain bike. Also taking a short ride before getting back to work. We spoke briefly, then soon realized that we should be taking notes. Pen and paper would surely be provided for us at a nearby pub. There we drank a little of the brew that this highly qualified expert had made from the fruits of the earth and found - nevertheless or eventually - our respective ways home. At every offered opportunity, my colleague and I proudly claimed ourselves to be Doctors of World Knowledge; that our special skill is diligence, well this is a claim that surely does not stem from us.

Back then, almost exactly thirty years ago, I left my tower and the room that had never yet become my study room. I swam the short distance to the dock of a nearby beach. Even from a distance I could see some friends swimming and jumping into the water, doing exactly those things which boys of a certain age do in order to catch the attention of a girl. The very same director was also here at work: after a casually cool greeting I dove under, feeling myself growing suddenly quite warm. The director had sent The Girl swimming in my direction; he also caused me to run out of air so that I came to the surface directly in front of her. I breathed in; she had the eyes of a doe and she said, "Hello!"

For my friends, my arrival was not ideally timed, which meant that we had to introduce ourselves to one another. Her name was Maria. Her towel was spread out over on the dock and she asked me if I would like to come over and join her for a little while... Later I could actually speak a little: from my examination on the next day, from my jittery nerves. That the current situation had to a certain degree caused a second, yet thoroughly pleasant nervousness, this I did not tell her. But she noticed it, of course. - In short, she calmed me down and I am still even today grateful to her that she did not encourage me to do that which would have been more supportive for the career of an industry engineer actor.

Back then, it did not last as long as yesterday's business meeting. We drank fruit juice that had not been produced by a brewery. Regardless of whatever would happen on the next day, we had planned to meet "come what may" on the day after. And from then on for the next day. She completed her tourism internship and I suddenly had plenty of time during the summer to work on my maturity.

After the awaited debacle came to an end on the third floor of the old school, I was allowed to leave the examination room. I was standing in the hallway in front of a large, newer-model window tipped open, waiting for my colleagues after me who were still being grilled. I wasn't unhappy at all, rather I felt a kind of confirmation from the accommodating cooperation with the invisible director.

Finally, the door opened behind me and the first to come out was the committee head who headed straight to me. In this moment, he perhaps saw in me a rebellious student like Torberg's Kurt Gerber about to jump out of the third story window and he put his hand on my shoulder. I saw myself rather as a Catcher in the Rye, but I swear he said, "Have courage, my friend. You will be able to straighten this all up in the fall." And I saw how he found in me a Gerber standing in front of a window on the third floor. Following right behind him came my form teacher Nothnagel. I swear again that he said, "Mraček, you are a jackass!" - But it was actually Nothnagel who had absolutely no idea what it meant to learn for life itself by giving into the temptation offered by that one supreme moment named Kairos, instead of stuffing my brain with low voltage techniques - I was in love with Maria and, with all weakened respect, Nothnagel was the jackass!

Wenzel Mraček,
geboren 1962 in Klagenfurt, lebt in Graz, Österreich; Kunsthistoriker, Publizist, Seefahrer.
born 1962 in Klagenfurt, Austria, lives in Graz; art historian, journalist and sailor.
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