old hand with plastic red nose on palm

A Breath of Air

31.August 2018

A Breath of Air

At first glance, one might think she’s watching television, but the TV is off. Sitting on the sofa in the first floor lounge of a nursing home in Klagenfurt, she stares into thin air as she faces the screen. Both her face and her glance are soft, and her one eye is slightly covered. Her short, white hair is beautifully styled as always. She looks preppy in her knitted sweater, jersey pants and felt slippers.

I’ve known her for two years and find myself drawn to her in a special way. She doesn’t approve of loud music. When you greet her from afar, you get no response. However, anyone who sits next to her, takes her hand and gently says, »Hello, Mrs. Schmid,« will enjoy a short, mild glance from her.

She used to move her right hand up and down her thigh rhythmically. When I once praised her for this, telling her how busy she looked, she glanced up briefly and answered almost a little proudly: »Yes, busy.« Those were the first words she had ever addressed to me. Since then, I regularly use the word »busy« when I talk to her, as this magical disyllabic word opens the gates to her world for a few seconds. 

We recently sang the melancholic melody, »The beautiful girl from Burgenland.« My fellow clown, Guido Mosl, accompanied us quietly on the accordion. I took Mrs. Schmid’s hands and we swayed together to the beat. She seemed happy, and this impression was confirmed when she said »beautiful« after the last note had faded away. Then she uttered »Thank you,« before she sank back into her dream world. When I said goodbye to her, she responded by starting to rhythmically blow out of her mouth – »shhh, shhh, shhh« – like the echo of a train long gone. When I also blew back rhythmically, she raised herself up abruptly, leaned towards me, touched the green feathers on my head and tenderly stroked my cheek, without interrupting her blowing. Then she leaned back and became quiet again. 

How similar we are, I thought. Just like her, we clowns live in another universe. Just like her, we like to communicate with air, sounds or touch. Oh yes, we’re very similar!