“Am I in love? — Yes, since I’m waiting.” The other never waits. Sometimes I want to play the part of the one who doesn’t wait; I try to busy myself elsewhere, to arrive late; but I always lose at this game: whatever I do, I find myself there, with nothing to do, punctual, even ahead of time. The lover’s fatal identity is precisely: I am the one who waits. (Roland Barthes, Fragments d’un discours amoureux. L’attente p. 47-50)
This artwork is about waiting. About the fatal identity of the one who waits for a promised (or hoped for) sign, waiting for a proof of feelings, hoping for silent communication, without reciprocity. Truths are confused with fantasies and wishes. The delay of the other is analyzed and at the same time the one who waits is brainstorming, having a mixture of unimportant and substantial thoughts.
The accompanying text (see below) explains the artwork – a girl waiting all day long in front of her door for someone to come – her waiting symbolizes and dramatizes more trivial scenes of waiting, eg. refreshing your inbox, waiting for someone to log in to a chat room or instant messenger, waiting for a phone call, waiting for someone in a cafe…
Her eyes are fixed on the floor. She knows that he’ll be coming any second now, so she doesn’t move. She remains seated on her knees in front of the door. Her eyes scrutinize every detail of the door:
The paint is beginning to flake off here. What’s that little scratch? I suppose it’s from that day I was hurriedly leaving for Paris and bumped against the door with the suitcase. Why was I in a hurry? Certainly the usual: I must have waited to get ready until the very last moment and almost missed the train again – how typical of me. Why isn’t he coming? What time is it now? A wall clock, that’s what I need. Hm… I think I shall have to clean the skirting boards sometime, I never bother to do it and it’s so dusty. What an occupation, cleaning skirting boards… Perhaps I’ll do it tomorrow. I have some kind of appointment tomorrow; I don’t quite remember what it is. I must have written it down in the calendar, let me check.
But she does not leave her place to check the calendar. She changes her pose and squats on her haunches.
I had planned to show him my new artwork today. Do you think he is going to read the text I placed in the background? Nobody ever reads these texts: they must all think they’re visual effects. But it’s better that way, I don’t like everybody to read my texts, they won’t understand them anyway. But I’d love HIM to read this text. And what if he doesn’t like it? What if he doesn’t realize I wrote it for him, about him? What if he realizes it’s about him and starts acting distant again? What if he doesn’t believe me? What if he says I’m exaggerating? He thinks “despair”, “anxiety”, “abandonment” are words too strong to utter – oh, he just has no idea. This tile has a broken corner, I never noticed it before. Come on, where are you? Why aren’t you coming?
Her knees are aching and her feet are cold and numb. The floor is cold and it’s getting dark, but she just doesn’t want to get up. She doesn’t want to turn on the light; she doesn’t want to stretch her legs. She denies it to herself! She doesn’t want to run the risk of missing the moment he comes in. What if the door opens while she is missing from her designated waiting place? What if he comes in and she’s not there? That kind of disaster always happens in a fraction of a second! No, she has to sit there and wait, without doing anything. So she won’t miss the moment he comes into the room, so he can see her there waiting. Anyway, she knows he’ll be coming any second now. He HAS to come. Her wish is so strong and sincere that it must come true. Perhaps the fact that she remains seated in exactly the same place for hours on end will force him to come. There must be a way to make him feel her desire and force him to come more quickly. She tries to concentrate on her thoughts, to send him the message that she is waiting for him. If at this very moment the door opens and he sees her, he is going to know that she has been waiting for him. That’s why she won’t abandon her position.
I didn’t even get to comb my hair and dress up today. I came here directly from my bed. That’s another sign of my love: I’m sure he’s going to notice and appreciate it. I didn’t even take a look at my e-mails. What if he sent me an e-mail? No, he never writes on Saturdays. What if he wrote today? Have I eaten today? I don’t remember. It’s OK, we’ll eat together. Do you think he’s going to sense I am in angry with him because of his delay? How would I show it? Am I angry? Why can’t I be angry with him? Why do I forget everything the moment he appears? Anyway, if he comes today, he will sleep here and we’ll wake up together. Maybe tomorrow I should call my brother, haven’t talked to him in a week. This CD is really awesome; I can’t understand why he gets annoyed if I play it again and again. This track, this verse, no, the next one, wait, was it this one or the next one? This is it! He left last Monday while this verse was playing. He said: “May see you this weekend”, then closed the door and went out. I listened to his footsteps on the stairs. Imagine if he came in right now, while exactly the same verse was playing – what an illusion! What if he forgot that he promised to meet me today? Didn’t he promise? Of course he did. What time could it be now? I want to think of him but somehow I can’t concentrate on thinking of him. What might HE be thinking of right now? He must be in a bar with friends, he’s sure to have gone out, it’s Saturday night.
Suddenly she realizes that if she concentrates on her thoughts, the message should travel to his ears, he will then sense her despair, feel that she needs him and come. The sound of his keys opening the door, his scent suddenly overwhelming the air, the image of him walking into the room and telling her “I sensed that you needed me, so I came” – she would give everything to experience this. The image passes vividly through her mind, rewind, replay, repeat. Now she lets her eyes play over several objects lying on the floor around her: a pair of shoes, a small piece of paper with a phone number, an umbrella. Her eyes fix on every object and mechanically scan it:
I bought this umbrella six years ago, in Salzburg, that day when the rain just wouldn’t stop, they only had this green one, now I’m left with an ugly, green umbrella. Is there a way I can think “strongly”, so he can hear me? Let me try right now. I won’t let any other unimportant thoughts confuse me, I will think strongly of his eyes, no I will visualize that I am talking to him – now I am talking to him: hey love, listen, I need you, please come, it’s very important, because I really missed you and I can’t stand your absence any more. What else could I say? What if he doesn’t hear me? What if he’s working today and he cannot come? Someone’s on the stairs, I can hear steps. That’s him, oh god that’s him! I recognize him! Is that him? No those are women’s steps. Damn! She is talking on the phone. Oh well, some people are having fun today. They have the right to have fun. I hope someone finally got the light bulb changed in the stairwell. He told me I should call him if I wanted to see him. I could just have picked up the phone and invited him. He’d come as always, wouldn’t he? But I don’t want it that way. That’s not enough. I want him to sense that I am thinking of him and to come on his own. I need you, please come. Isn’t that a good enough reason: what do I have to do to convince you?
Text: Ina Mar