We were poor that November and living in cold rooms or emptied out flats in Amsterdam. Squatting, really. We measured our weeks in cigarettes and brutal insults from waiters tired of bringing us glasses of water. Our time hopped rather slowly in between several weird state and religious holidays filled with insignia and symbols, flags and pennants hanging from historic, concrete balconies–over-the-top nonsense. Days when the wind was not blowing (and those were few) a carefully positioned electric fan aimed at the back of the flag did the job, making the standard flap somehow more virile, extracting those whip-crack noises that so exalt the martially minded, sending them into an almost comatose patriotic fever. Throughout the holidays people would discard half-eaten pastries and profiteroles in rubbish cans along the streets. There was lunch. And some was saved for dinner, as well.
“What if there was no death?”
“How do you mean that? If there was never death?”
“No, if it just suddenly decided it wouldn’t want to work any longer. If it went on strike.”
“Then there’d have to be some counter-measure to that. Somehow the human race would have to be rendered impotent. Literally.”
“God wouldn’t allow that.”
“God wouldn’t allow for there not to be death. He would never will his own demise.”
“Without death and Resurrection there’d be no church and all systems–government included–would fall into disarray. Then, turn it around: church wouldn’t be able to peddle Resurrection and redemption and salvation without death. Immortality would breed atheism.”
“Without church there’d be no government?”
“That wouldn’t be too important really.”
“It would bring about disorder.”
“More so than the realization of no payoff at the end? Of no end, in general?”
“What about the other way around? Flip it.”
“Lack of religion does not mean lack of mortality, if that’s what you imply.”
If you sit by a river long enough, all your enemies will float by. So we walked to Hembrug and waited on the Kanaalweg. But we saw nothing. Flotsam, maybe. And a half loaf of bread. We tried to fish it out with a rotten tree branch; we coddled it toward us but the current was stronger than our skill, so after looking like the two vagabonds that we were, running alongside the canal, we decided to spend the afternoon on a bench and watch the pigeons.