PEOPLES OF ALL NATIONS
A bedtime story written and illustrated by
translated by G. Ghon
One evening, Georg sat on his desk and skirted a jacket sleeve in the light of the sewing machine. As the cloth passed under his hands in the hurried pace of the needle-sticks, its changeable folds reminded him of the hills and valleys of a passing landscape, and the rattling of the sewing machine made him dream of trains on endless tracks to distant destinations. At that very time, Georg was in fact breaking out to new shores: in a distant city, a well-known fashion designer had become aware of him and had promised him an assistant position. So it came that his travel dreams realised much faster than he anticipated and he actually found himself in a train compartment shortly after.
There, a grim-faced woman sitting opposite him caught his attention, as she wrote in her notebook. She looked up, caught by Georg's amazement, and with a sigh put her writing-set aside. "Every day I make up jokes for a newspaper”, she explained, “but I am not quite able to make people laugh, anymore!" "I have a house, a husband, a child, and a budgie, but since I have been feeling so good, I seem to have lost my humour." Perhaps it was Georg's excited anticipation of the all new life that awaited him at his destination, or even the image of the unfortunate bird patiently waiting in its cage for the returning home of his owner, abandoned by all good jokes; something on the threshold to melancholy within him suddenly evocated that inexplicable cheerfulness, which should finally culminate in a never-ending laugh attack! His sad fellow traveller could only resist for so long, and so they laughed together until they came to tears and fell asleep from exhaustion. Meanwhile, the train had slowed down and entered a station. Still sleepy, Georg’s gaze followed the woman, who spoke a soft "thank you!" over her shoulder before she left the compartment.
"Thank you for what?" Georg asked, surprised.
"For inspiring me!", she answered, smiling, and before he could say any more, she had already hurried out by the compartment door and disappeared in a crowd of passengers.
Finally, after a long journey, Georg arrived at his destination. Noise, traffic, an amazing gathering of people of all nations, everything here seemed to be pouring and obeying a faster pace. The big city felt like a strange patchwork of many cultures intersecting that he became absorbed into. Even in the designer’s workshop, which he reached – due to his disorientation - only on erroneous paths through a maze of backstreets, he met a restless, creative activity. Impressed by the large, bright room, he let himself be led through a magical collection of design sketches, fabric patterns and tailoring busts, on which the most unusual creations have been placed. His heart started beating at a higher pace. Even if everything seemed somewhat confusing at first, he felt right at home here, in that manic place.
He had no difficulties adapting to this new environment and absorbed everything around him, full of curiosity and zest for action, in order to find inspiration for his own ideas. Here he became aware that fashion was always a means of expression of the present and of remembering, full of symbols and clues, a platform for revolution and protest, but also for the development of a new aesthetic style that breaks with convention and confronts the familiar with something new and surprising. Georg's imagination was nourished not the least by regular appearances of interesting personalities coming to the workshop from time to time and inquiring about his work or just for a chat.
One of them was an elderly man, an archaeologist who lived next door and had plenty of time at his hands. George loved the stories of this man, who seemed to lighten up when he revived the past. After all, anything was possible in the myths that he was delving in: magic, transformation, and a divine wrath that could shake mountains and oceans!
Whenever there was time, Georg forayed through the city, its museums and antiquity shops, contemplating the exhibits and deciphering their stories, some of which should leave a lasting impression on him. One day he saw a Greek vase on which a scene was depicted that showed Hercules robbing the tripod of Delphi.
Impressed by the power of the altar's symbolism and the yearning of a godly figure as Hercules, whose actions surprisingly resembled human motivations, he decided that if the dream of owning his own company would ever manifest, he would want to let this magical and contested item appear in the logo of his brand name.
He had just stopped and began to study the window display of a bookstore, when the shop door suddenly opened with a swing and woman came rushing through. She carefully balanced a stack of folded cardboard boxes in front of her, planning to dispose them in a paper recycling bin across the street, which was, however, as she noticed a bit too late, already stuffed to the brim with a rolled-up foam mattress and plastics. Fed up, she pointed her gaze in Georg’s direction and prophesied:
"Crap will beget misery! One day, the last green blade of grass will be withered. Bald trees with branches full of single use plastic will cradle themselves in lifeless landscapes, lapped onto by poisonous seas, and groaning in the hot desert wind, whose sad pastime it will be to blow scrap pieces across the devastated earth instead of delicate desert roses. Man will be surprised! "
"Hardly anyone wants to read any more in these transitory and hurried times!" Georg heard her mumble before she disappeared inside, under the bells of her shop. Georg did not hesitate to follow her, and after some searching, he surprised the prophesizing lady with a choice of a two-tiered folio that had “PEOPLES OF ALL NATIONS” on its cover.
Another time Georg found himself in a painter’s studio. There, an intriguing, colourful plethora of brushes, pastels and oil paints was rolling about on wheeled tables in an air filled with solvent smell. Georg took a seat on a somewhat saggy couch and lost himself to study manifold large and small-format pictures that hung on the walls or leaned against them. They showed enigmatic compositions in various layers, where fragmented interiors of deserted houses clashed with nature, people, seemingly lost, only appeared in reflections on shards or dark lakes, and splinters of mirror took off on a dream-like journey with worn rugs. Astonished, Georg asked the painter, "Why are you making these paintings?" "As other people travel, I have to paint,” he responded, “while painting I can travel across the threshold of dream and reality and bridge that gap."
In the workshop, Georg worked night and day, to the effect that he soon became nervously tired. One day, when he was assigned to help painting the shop, he exhaustedly tripped over some random object bumbling on the floor while carrying a blue bucket of wall paint and spilled it over a man's coat. His boss came rushing, visibly annoyed, when just in that moment, a lady stepped into the shop, pointed at just that coat, and asked if she could try it on.
Georg was flabberghasted when she stepped out of the dressing room with the blue-flecked coat enveloping her naked body like a glove. It was a magical moment for Georg. He felt arrested, unable to move, and watched her pay silently, before she floated out of the shop and got lost in the fog of the big city.
Never forgetting that fateful experience, he left the workshop a little earlier one evening to catch the last rays of sunshine in a sidewalk café, where suddenly he recognized the blue coat in the stream of passers-by. Fearing of losing sight of the woman of his dreams, again, he promptly paid his bill to hurry after her. When he saw her disappear into a hotel, he did not hesitate to follow. His heart pounded wildly as he found himself in a sprawling, sumptuous hall that seemed to be completely deserted.
Only those portrayed on old paintings looked down on him, seemingly following him with their gaze as he strolled over to the bar, and sat down on a grand piano. He just hit a few keys when he felt a gentle, desirable breath just behind him. Finally! He took the slender hand that delicately touched his shoulder and never wanted to let her go again.
The old hotel with its large mirrors, stucco and intricate wallpaper patterns made a somewhat unreal impression in the light of the magnificent crystal chandeliers. Even the reddish carpet runners who dampened his steps and the glass elevator up into the room with a view on the city lying dormant in the moonlight, made him feel as if he were floating through a dream.
He was certain that he had found the love of his life.
When he awoke the next morning, however, the woman had disappeared. Weeks and months should pass, him ceaselessly hoping that one day she would return and accept the beautiful sun-yellow dress he had infatuatedly sewn for her. His grief and longing threatened to break his heart. Finally, Georg fell in a state of deep melancholy. As if in a frenzy, he began to make the night into day, plunged into the party life, attending event after event, for he dreaded dwelling alone, fearing his disheartening thoughts to return.
After an argument with his boss, who had not been particularly well-disposed towards him lately, he suddenly realized that it was time to make a move. He just took the yellow dress and his book on the Peoples of All Nations as he turned his back not without sorrow on that place, which held so many beautiful memories and shaping experiences.
Wandering about, he sat down on a random park bench, laying out his belongings carefully beside him. He lost himself in the contemplation of a sky filled with passing clouds, which were constantly moving, yet never uniformly, following the draft of various winds.
"What is driving me on?", he asked himself, when his phone screen started flickering and a series of letters lined up on the black background, soon arranging into a question: “Is love dead?”, the computer seemingly wanted to know, as suddenly a woman appeared from the shades of the trees. As he observed her wandering towards him across the green, he noticed the apple in her hand and couldn’t help thinking of the paradisiacal painting of Adam and Eve, picking the fruit from the tree of knowledge.
"Why did you let yourself be driven out of paradise, Eva?", he asked as she sat down on the park bench next to him. She conjured a second apple out of her backpack before answering him: "That's a long story. If I had preferred to stay in paradise, I would have never enjoyed that fruit!", she said and calmly started to eat the apple. "By the way, I would have never seen a dress like this, either", she added, while contemplating with an examining expression the sun-yellow gown, which slightly moved in a gentle breeze.
Then Georg emptied his worried heart and she listened to him patiently and attentively, when he began: "Some years ago I dreamed of traveling and had a vision ..."
After he had finished his story, they sat in silence for a while before she said, looking at him with serious eyes: "Only those who believe in unicorns can become unicorns.” Dusk began settling in when she finally got up and shouldered her backpack: "By the way, this dress definitely needs someone who appreciates it!" "Then come over and try it on, one of these days," Georg suggested. She nodded, and the happiness in her eyes fed him with new confidence. Now he knew what to do - love must be lived to be found.