Last night I kept dreaming that I had lost the ability to swallow -- like Franz Kafka, and actually I think this may have occurred to me in my dreams. I wonder if Franz Kafka used to dream that he could swallow? In any case, my problem is not laryngeal tuberculosis but an ordinary head cold: I couldn't breathe through my nose, so my mouth dried out, so my dreams kept turning to drinking from a faucet or sucking on an ice cube, but it didn't work. Eventually my discomfort would wake me and I would go actually drink some water, but the dream recurred at least once.
Given what a bad sport I am about being sick, you'd think it was laryngeal tuberculosis -- though actually I've read some of the notes, the Gesprächsblätter, Kafka wrote while dying of dehydration, and he sounds a lot better-humored than I typically feel with a head cold. In them Franz often offers his nurses and visitors beer -- this is one of the advantages of dying in a nursing home in Europe in 1924, that you can offer your nurse a beer -- because he liked, pornographically, to watch others drink. He also mused on the flowers in his room: "How wonderful that is, isn’t it? The lilac –- dying, it drinks, goes on swilling." Franz, you heartbreaking bastard!
Possibly Franz was sanguine, or sounded sanguine, at least, about dying in a particularly unpleasant way because he'd always suspected he'd go young and in some dreadful manner. I don't know that he thought that, but I do know that he was aware of himself as a frail creature. Maybe having forty years to accustom himself to it made him better able to cope, or maybe it was that he'd already suffered so much, lately from tuberculosis but before that simply through being Franz Kafka, that any death seemed OK to him. And he had his work: the heartbreaking bastard was revising his short story collection The Hunger Artist. (I didn't make that up, it's 100 percent true.) And he had his girlfriend Dora Diamant and his best pal Max Brod to write speech-slips to. One of them is strange and sort of E. E. Cummingsesque: "Limonade es war alles so grenzenlos," or "Lemonade it was all so boundless." Many have speculated about what he meant, but I tend to think he was referring to literal lemonade, which by Gott he used to be able to have a glass of whenever he wanted. Just as I used to be able to breathe through my nose, and did I appreciate it then? Not as much as it now seems I ought to have.
All of which, of course, makes me think about sex, and I say of course not because it's inevitable in any universal human sense but because I am led to thoughts of sex if I contemplate anything long enough, which is to say for more than two or three minutes at the outside. (Especially this happens when I am sick, for whatever reason, which just seems mean.) Anyway, ja, the lemonade is boundless when you have it, but then your throat closes up and you die, I guess is my point. But here again Franz was a better sport than I: another of his Gesprächsblätter reads, "The trouble is that I cannot drink a single glass of water, though the craving itself is some satisfaction." Trouble, he calls it. As if it were a minor inconvenience. I should try being stoic like that. But who ever heard of a stoic LiveJournaler?