In this city, and at that time, you should understand that suicide was a completely acceptable option, an entirely understandable, rational course of action to take. And I speak as one who knows its temptations intimately: three of my elder brothers took their own lives – Hans, Rudi and Kurt. That left Paul, me and my three older sisters. My sisters, I am sure, were immune to suicide’s powerful contagion. I cannot speak for Paul. As for myself, I can say only that its clean resolution of all my problems – intellectual and emotional – was always most appealing.
I came down from the Hochreith, our house in the country, to Vienna to meet Herr Ficker. The big white villa in the parks of Neuwaldegg was closed up for the summer. I had one of the gardeners prepare my room and make up a bed, and his wife laid the table on the terrace and helped me cook dinner. We were to have Natutschnitzel with Kochsalat with a cold bottle of Zöbinger. Simple, honest food. I hoped Ficker would notice.
I shaved and dressed and went out on to the terrace to wait for him to arrive. I was wearing a banana-yellow, soft-collared shirt with no tie and a light tweed jacket that I had bought years before in Manchester. Its fraying cuffs had been repaired, in the English way, with a dun green leather. My hair was clean and still damp, my face was cool, scraped smooth. I drank a glass of sherbet water as I waited for Ficker. The evening light was milky and diffused, as if hung with dust. I could hear the faint noise of motors and carriages on the roads of Neuwaldegg, and in the gathering dusk I could make out the figure of the gardener moving about in the Allee of pleached limes. A fleeting but palpable peace descended on me, and I thought for some minutes of David and our holidays together in Iceland and Norway. I missed him.
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