Philip Staufen
"Philip Staufen" Lichtpauspapier, 295x390x270 cm, 2004
From now on
Tilman Rammstedt

I don’t know Philip Staufen. Unfortunately I’m not totally sure about that. Unfortunately there’s nothing to be done about it. I look at the photo in the newspaper, the photo that is supposed to be recognized, the photo about which one is supposed to call out: My God, isn’t that Philip, the photo that one hopes will become superfluous as soon as possible, but I can’t recognize anything, I can’t cry out, because I don’t know Philip, because I have never laid eyes upon him, and I, as much as I regret it, am not the one who will make the photo superfluous. Philip and I didn’t play together in the sandbox and then years later happen to run across each other on the street, only to exchange a few wooden sentences filled with pauses. Philip and I didn’t go on vacation together, for example take a camping trip, to Sweden for example, only to get into a fight there about some thing or other, let’s say a leaking bottle of apple juice, and then to brood silently during almost the entire return trip. Philip and I didn’t have the same route home, the same bus line, a family doctor in whose waiting room we simultaneously sat with chicken pox while our mothers knowingly smiled at each other. Philip and I didn’t work as gardeners during the same summer and didn’t sometimes go out for a drink afterwards. Philip wasn’t the exchange student who said farewell in an extravagant manner, even though we had never exchanged a single word with each other, he wasn’t my younger sister’s short-term lover whom I saw darting shamefacedly into the bathroom, he wasn’t one of altogether twenty-four applicants for the available room, he didn’t serve tables in any café, didn’t ask me for directions or for a light, was never asked by me for directions or for a light, he never sat opposite me in a train, we never had a bicycle accident, never had a third encounter on the same day where you suddenly come to exchange greetings. Philip and I never made plans, never promised each other something, never finally told each other the truth, I never wrote something on the cast around Philip’s leg and he never wrote something on my pen case, Philip and I never assured each other of not being in any way, shape or form in love with someone, Philip never knew that sometime later I would call again, I never experienced something in order to be able to tell Philip about it later, and we never complained about each other to third parties.
Philip and I never snatched an identity card out of each other’s hands in order to joke about the photo of the other person. There are no drunken snapshots of us, we aren’t standing anywhere in front of the Louvre, upon the Karlsbrücke, in front of the sign of some little place in Wales. Nothing was like that, and because nothing happened that way, because I don’t know Philip, because unfortunately I am certain about that, I can’t compare Philip’s photo in the newspaper with Philip himself, I can’t say: Shorter hair looked better on him, I can’t say: So he still has that sweater, and also not: Well, he’s put on a little weight in the meantime. I can only sit in front of the photo and not recognize anything and not make any comparisons, because on the photo Philip’s hair is always the same length, and he always wears the same sweater and his weight doesn’t change, not even then when I stare for a long time, up to two hours, and not then when off and on I look away for a moment, and not the next morning, not the morning after next, and not the one after that. Nothing is changed if I cut it out, if I put it into my wallet and gaze at it during the lunch break, on the bus, while waiting, when from time to time it falls out of my wallet, for instance when I am looking for money, when people ask me who that is, maybe my best friend or my brother, and I say: Yes, my best friend. Yes, my brother, and people say: He certainly looks nice, and: That’s clear to see, you both have the same chin, and I answer: In fact he really is nice, and: Yes, that is the chin of my grandfather on my mother’s side of the family. And as the months pass, the photo gets all creased and tattered and maybe it already fades a little, maybe it also gets so creased and faded that white lines run across Philip’s face, so that with time it is no longer possible to recognize Philip.
Then at last I would remember Philip, at last I would be able to say: That was Philip on the photo, and then when it falls out once again, and people ask me what that crumpled scrap of paper is, I then say: That’s a photo of Philip, unfortunately we’ve drifted out of contact with each other. And people nod and say that yes, it’s easy to drift out of contact, and that they know about it themselves, that one simply ought to get back in touch again.
I have to get back in touch with Philip, because he can’t get back in touch with me, I have to go looking for him, because he can’t go looking for me, I have to show him everything, because he doesn’t any longer know anything. I have to prepare him. I have to show him, for example, what a refrigerator is. I have to find out how a refrigerator works so that I can explain that to him exactly, and I have to show him, for example, what clouds are, and I have to read up about evaporation one time more, so that I explain it to him correctly, a dictionary has to be purchased, and attention must be paid to documentation, experts have to be consulted. And I have to buy a dog quickly, in order to explain dogs to him, that is something you have to experience yourself, a dictionary is of no help here, and I must go to the barbershop in order to be able to explain to him how it feels when you have gotten your hair cut really short and you then look up with alarm at the mirror, when the barber says: That certainly looks good, when he says: Maybe you’re just not quite used to it yet. I have to fall deeply in love, and I have to break a leg, and I have to ask my mother how it is with Königsberger meatballs. It’s crucial that I eat starfish once again, because there as well I’m no longer sure of myself, and I have to go aboard a ship, I have to learn the knots, I have to get over being seasick. I have to start to smoke and then have to kick the habit, in order to be able to say that the first days are the hardest. I have to lose a boxing match. I have to learn a dance. I have to climb a mountain. I need contact lenses and an apparition of the Virgin Mary. I have to say Follow that carand Don’t worry, I’ll get you out of here and then I have to actually follow someone and get someone out of some place or other, that’s all part of getting ready. Look, Philip, this is how the stock market works. Look, Philip, this is a melophone. Look, Philip, this is my youngest son. I have to find out many things, and I can’t forget anything because I mustn’t be forgetful in front of Philip, no one can pull the wool over his eyes. And when I’m through with finding things out, then I will go and find Philip, hopefully that won’t be too difficult, and then I find him and say: Look, Philip, that’s a refrigerator, and Philip says that he knows all about it, because while I was busy finding it out, he had long before already found it out for himself, and I say: Look, Philip, that’s a Labrador, and he says that he knows that as well, and I say: Look, Philip, that’s how it is with Königsberger meatballs, and Philip says: Well, how about that. And then we will eat the Königsberger meatballs, and at first Philip will be a little bit nervous, that doesn’t matter, so am I, and after a while he will cautiously ask whether we know each other, and I will look at him in surprise and say: Don’t you remember any more how we didn’t play together in the sandbox back then? Don’t you remember any more how we weren’t in Sweden together? Don’t you recall any longer my missing signature on the cast around your leg, don’t you recall any longer the empty place across from you in the waiting room of the family doctor’s office? That was me.
And as proof I will show him photos where he is not to be seen – Don’t you remember any longer, Philip, how you weren’t there? – and old address books in which his name doesn’t come up – Don’t you remember any longer how we didn’t write to each other? – and I will sing him the refrains of the songs that we didn’t listen to together, and recite the titles of the books that he didn’t lend to me – I had to buy them all myself, Philip! – and I will show my incisor and say: Don’t you see that it’s whole? Don’t you remember any more how you didn’t accidentally break off a part of it with your tennis racket back then? And I will look at him in disbelief, he can’t have forgotten all that, and he will sip on his drink or wipe his mouth with the napkin and then say, probably say softly that of course, he still remembers all that, remembers exactly everything that didn’t happen, he still recalls everything that is missing. He will say: I remember all that as if it were not yesterday.
And I will laugh and say: See there, Philip, you still know that, you still know all about it. And Philip will ask, somewhat shyly, if he remembers correctly that we didn’t play together in a really horrible band, him not on guitar and me not on bass, and I will cry out: Right, the horrible band that we didn’t play in, now what was its name? And we will try to come up with the name, and we won’t hit upon it, and we will exchange many such memories and with time become a little bit melancholy, and then, when it has already grown bright again, when we say goodbye to each other, I will say: From now on we can’t allow ourselves to drift out of contact, and Philip will say: No, no more from now on.