Sunday, September 12, 2010

Standard Disco Beat

A team, led by Nick Neave of Northumbria University in England is filming 19 men aged 18-35 in a lab as they dance to a standard disco beat. One of these men, the one with the tapered jeans and oversized black and white checkered shirt, is Maximilian Müller formerly of Munich but now living in London Central with an Australian girl named Jazzberry.

What am I doing here, wonders Maximilian, who has recently begun thinking his thoughts in English. In this lab, dancing, in this cold city working with deceptive people and electronic machines that possess no physical feeling or sensation. In my life, what am I doing?

That night, while dining in a curry house on the Piccadilly end of London's Regent Street, Maximilian shares his thoughts with Jazzberry.

"You are doing fine," she says calmly. "You are happy with your life."

"I am happy with my life," repeats Maximilian.

"You are in love," says Jazzberry.

"I am in love," repeats Maximilian.

"And you are a good person," says Jazzberry

"I am a good German," says Maximilian. Then quickly, "no, that's wrong, isn't it?"

"You are a good person," says Jazzberry again.

"It isn't working," says Maximilian.

"Try it again."

"I can't think straight in this Gott-verlassen language. Why are we doing this?"

"In time, the questions will be answered," says Jazzberry. "For now, we must get on."

Maximilian closes his eyes. "Yes, we must get on," he says. "I am a good person."

"That's fine," says Jazzberry. "Enough for tonight."

The next morning, Maximilian wakes up, as he has every morning for the past six months or so, on the very edge of his king sized bed, ultra-soft 700 thread count sheets pushed down by his feet. He is naked. He lives on the 7th story of the Think Tower Bridge, in a serviced apartment, and there is a glass of freshly squeezed mango juice waiting for him on the bedside table. He can hear Jazzberry talking on the phone in the other room.

"Marvellous. Very talented. He's really coming along. Trust me. Oh, he's awake, I've got to go."

Jazzberry, also naked, now enters the bedroom and leans up against the the large glass window.

"I heard you just now," says Maximilian.

"Then I will kill you," says Jazzberry with a smile.

 "You will kill me," repeats Maximilian.

Now forty years have passed. Maximilian is old and he is fat and there is a package on the ground outside his front door with his name on it. Maximilian falls to his knees and he cries. He slides his finger under the tape and a pain shoots up through his arm and into his elbow. His body is like this now. Inside the package is an electronic device. He turns it on and then off again within an instant. It is a film of young men dancing. He does not want to be reminded of this time in his life, of the things he has done since learning to contort his body to a standard disco beat.

The very next day, while riding the number 103 bus, Maximilian dies. Quietly and alone.
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