Sonia Abendmauer: The Toronto Incident
"So you met him in church?"
Friedemann Doppelberger asked, out of bewilderment, not as much as out of curiosity. He had looked intrigued throughout the story Sonia had told.
"Was there a special occasion, or you both just happen to go to church?"
The publisher was never quite comfortable with American religiosity, but he had never really thought about Canada. Would the Canadians be religious also, just in the way their brethren south of the border would be? He voiced his inquisitive question as neutral as he could. Neutral and polite.
"He went to the church to hear me sing."
Sonia raised her head, straightened up her posture while seated in the large, deep-brown leather sofa. The conference room was badly lit, disorganized, with books and papers lying about everywhere. Even though it was way past afternoon, and at half past six in March the sun was down below the Hamburg horizon, yet the publisher looked like he had just got up from bed. His anarchist shoulder-long uncombed hair appeared unwashed. The shirt was unbuttoned here and there and halfway outside his canvas trousers. The only decent detail about him was his shoes. Neatly polished and laces tied with a double knot. Mr. Doppelberger pronounced every r distinctly, almost indistinguishable from a Scotsman:
"And the Russian, is he a churchgoer as well?"
"No. He is not religious. He only went to the church to hear me sing." Sonia uttered the 'no' while exhaling and falling back into the deep sofa again, as if she had admitted a sacrilege; singing for a disbeliever.
"Aha! And what did you sing?" Mr. Doppelberger was a Baroque opera aficionado who had once lobbied Brussels into funding an entire recording series featuring works of the obscure Johan Valentin Rathgeber with the Consortium Canticum in Leipzig. Much to the dismay of Sigiswald Kuijken, who saw his budget for La Petite Bande cut that year.
"We sang excerpts from Missa votiva".
"Yes." Sonia looked baffled.
"Do you know how to identify Zelenka?" Mr. Doppelberger asked with amusement, giggling as if he would reveal a secret to a teenager.
"I think he is already dead." Sonia was not following the publisher back into the 1730s.
"If the instrumentation sounds exactly like Bach - and I mean EXACTLY - but you cannot identify the BWV number and the harmonics ocassionally vaguely remind you of Händel, then you got him by the balls!"
"Oh I see." Sonia was astonished to hear that expression in this context.
"Well, it definitely sounds like you feel this man is ruining you." Mr. Doppelberger removed his glasses once again and looked briefly at the manuscript.
"Yes, all men do." Sonia answered without hesitation.
"What a worldview." The publisher smiled impishly at her.
"What do you mean, that I have been brought to perfection by men?" Sonia returned the smile.
"It depends on the way you look at it. It seems you romanticize staying seventeen and untouched forever. Is that really an ideal?"
"Well, if you mean enjoying something sexual, that has only happened once."
"With the Russian?"
"So why do you go back to him all the time?"
"Surely after this incident I cannot." Sonia looked down into the floor.
"Which incident?" Mr. Doppelberger was taken by surprise. He started to browse through the pages again, page by page. Had he overseen such an important event in the manuscript?
"There is no sex here anywhere." Mr. Doppelberger asserted what he had read. You just met and talked.
"His frustrating behaviour."
"And no violence."
"He is sending mixed messages all the time."
"So does that qualify for the word 'incident'"?
The publisher looked at Sonia.
"It was hurtful to be rejected."
"Yes! He said he wants to kiss me, but then won't let me."
"Listen, incidents bear the names of places of historical significance, often cities, often in the Far East. The Mukden Incident. The Marco Polo Bridge Incident. The Fukushima Incident. During an incident, an event of historical proportions occurs, often catastrophic or cataclysmic, but at the very least it should be paradigmatic. A good indicator would be that a lot of people are killed. Preferably, a regime should be toppled or a nation should be invaded. A king assassinated, or a throne abdicated."
"I was rejected!"
"To be rejected is not an incident!"
"Being thrown out of a house would not qualify as an incident?"
"It was a non-incident." Mr. Doppelberger looked down into the manuscript again. "Look at all the things that are not happening in here: Sex, violence, marriage, divorce. What happened in here was that everything you wanted to happen did not. We need a new word, this was a noncident."
"It seemed quite traumatic to me."
"Perhaps you are a little more fragile than average...?" Mr. Doppelberger removed his glasses again, put them slowly down at his desk and looked at Sonia, as if awaiting an answer.
"Perhaps I put a lot of weight into events that you think not much of" Sonia replied.
"Perhaps" Mr. Doppelberger replied.