Hello. My name is Effy. And I make documentaries.
The idea was simple. I wanted to show life. Not Life, but life, without capitals. I wanted to show what I knew about life. I wanted to make a documentary. A documentary about a man, a normal man, who wakes up with a morning erection, brushes his teeth while having a leak, has a leak while he is taking a shower, struggles with an old piece of bread while dressing and combs his fingers through his hair while he shuts the door behind him and hurries off to the office where he will spend the rest of the day looking for a clue. I wanted to show that all these documentaries about nature or ancient temples, rock bands and politicians, arms deals and medicin scams are not what my life or your life is all about. I wanted to bore the shit out of you and make you realise that that is what life is: boring the shit out of you. Until you run out of shit.
My friend James was willing to help me out and he was perfect for it. Neither excepcionally attractive nor unattractive, neither cool nor nerd, neither fancy nor tramp, the sort of guy you see about a hundred times a day and you never remember his face. We had been more than friendly, a few years back, but of course, these things never last. We remained friends, although there were times when I had to remind him with some vehemence that indeed we were only friends and no funny stuff please. Obviously, as a man, sometimes he couldn’t help wanting more even though he knew very well that he didn’t want to. Anyway, he was very willing to help me out, for whatever false hopes or genuine feelings of friendship.
At 6:30, the alarm-clock went off. It was still dark, but the dial-face of the clock was lit up. He switched off the alarm off, turned on the bedside lamp, rolled around and fell in a slumber again. About 12 minutes later, he woke up again, jumped out of bed, ran to the bathroom, brushed his teeth under the shower, put pieces of bread in his mouth while taking a leak and pulled on his socks with one hand and his shirt with another, with the mistaken idea that this would go faster. We only see part of all this because I could not move my camera too fast without being in his way. In the end, I chose to keep its focus on the unmade bed, and opted for only recording the sound of the door slamming shut when he left without filming it, hoping for comic effect.
And here, I should interrupt again to explain that my idea was to just go on filming his bed for the next 10 hours or so. You are right that it was quite a risky choice, and I do not mind to admit that I was not sure it really would work. I am all for experiments, me. So there I was with the camera on a tripod and thinking of making myself a nice cup of tea. And then I was looking through the lens for a bit, checking the light, making sure it looked good. That it felt good. And then something moved.
And then something moved. Right there (where?) from somewhere under the bed. In less than a second, my heart jumped from my stomache to my throat and back again, looking for a way out of my body and my lungs felt as if I had smoked five packs of Ducados for breakfast this morning. And I don´t smoke. So much for my physical reactions. My mind was numb apart from the only thought, which I remember vividly and literally in just those words: “I am not going to scream!” So I did not scream. Oh, and I had stopped looking through the camera lens too.
Out from under the bed, came a man. He was quite decent looking, like a bank director or a politician on his campaign, only naked. “His penis could be his tie”, I thought, because I think things like that.
So what did I do?
“Excuse me. What are you doing here?” I asked. I did not scream, but, honestly: was that really my voice?
– “No, excuse me! What are you doing here?” He said. Even though his voice sounded insistent, he also made it sound very cool, calm, collected.
– “I am filming. Or, I was… I mean… I mean: what are you doing here? This is the house of my friend, James.” But for a moment I wondered: was it really?
– “I live here.” He said simply. And then he sat down on the bed, crossed one leg over the other and bit in a carrot which apparantly he had held in his hands all this time without me noticing it.
– “You mean: you live here with James?”
And indeed, he confirmed that so it was. And right then, it came to me as lightning: this was exactly the sort of thing my documentary needed! This was the great break I had been waiting for, looking for, hoping for. A completely different angle to the whole thing. Meanwhile, there was no denying that he certainly did seem to feel very much at home.
– “Does he know you live here?”
– “No. Or maybe he does. I think he does. But no, he does not know in the sense that he admits the knowledge. Not even to himself. So by all practical means, he does not know. And now I want to repeat my question. Who are you?
– “Hello”, I said. “My name is Effy. And I make documentaries.”
– “Well, that is nice. What about?”
– “Well. Life, really. What life is all about. What my life is all about.”
– “And what is your life all about?”
– “Well… Apparantly, but this is a rather recent thing actually and I am not yet fully to grips with it, apparantly my life is about finding unexpected naked men who come crawling from under the bed.”
– “Did you ever take a look under your own bed?”
What did he mean with that? I sat down, not too close and not too far away from him, and I wondered. Although I was still clueless, I felt that what he had to tell me would not come as a suprise. Not really. But I did not want to go to the core of it inmediately. And I had my documentary to think of too.
– “When did you… when did you start to think about living like this? How did this start?”
He laughed. The laugh of an adult who is about to explain something to a child. “I used to have my own house too, you know. A long time ago. It was nice. Then one day I came home early. Earlier than normal. I got fired that day, actually. And there was a man there, just like I am here now. He explained certain things to me. As I do now.”
– “And what did you do?”
He laughed. “I threw him out of course. What do think I did?”
– “And then?”
– “And then? I lived on. Lost my house. Lived on the street for a while. Met a girl who lived on the streets too. Vegetables from the leftovers at the market, meat from the leftovers from restaurants, showers on the beach, and occasionally a quiet night in a squatter´s house. But she had some other friends who lived in other people´s houses. And so she suggested we would do the same. I thought it was insane. But in the end we did. It was ok for a while. Then we broke up. And then I found this place.”
There was a short silence.
– “That was the short version”. He added.
– “You mean, there are more people who live like this?”
– “I asked you before: did you ever take a look under your own bed?”
– “That´s insane. I would notice such a thing.”
– “Yes, you would, wouldn´t you?”
Again, that all-knowing, all-seeing little laughter of his. If there is one thing that really pisses me off, it is someone acting as if he knows something about me that even I don´t know. On the other hand, was there a point in what he was hinting at? I would notice such a thing or wouldn´t I?
What about those many nights when I was alone at home but I felt someone else was there? The feeling someone was watching me and breathing in the same room as me. The urge I often had to go out, to leave. And the strangeness of my home, when darkness had fallen and it was too late to try to fall asleep even though I was tired. Shadows loomed gray and whispered, but I would not turn on the light, afraid of what would lie beyond them. My own voice, trying to comfort myself, would sound like a stranger´s and was it really me who had spoken?
I turned to that strange man, and I saw he smiled at me, knowingly. “Makes you wonder, doesn´t it?”, he seemed to say.
I stood up to go. At the door, I turned and looked around. He still sat there and nodded to me, friendly somehow. I left my camera there, because I knew it would be alright. He would not touch it. It would go on filming until James would come home and the man, whose name I did not ask, would hide back under the bed again. I left everything behind and hurried home. I went by bike and faces, people at busstops, a woman walking a little dog, were blurs. I ran up the stairs and walked to my bedroom.
Nobody. Nobody. I checked under the bed and then the wardrobes, under the sofa (which has no space to hide a mouse), everywhere. There was nobody.
I sat down and let the growing sense of disappointment fill me up. Outside, the night was falling.