Vrij korte verhalen - English

From A to B

My feet, they were stuck. Looking down, I saw I was up to my ankles in mud. At the same time, I felt something heavy in my hand. A wrench. What do I need a wrench for? How did I even get here?

Looking around, I saw I was standing in the middle of a large, soggy meadow. Big puddles everywhere, the ground completely soaked with water. The horizon largely flat. Above it towered endless rows of gray clouds. No wind, but the air was unpleasantly cold and damp. At the end of the field was a straight dike. With some effort, I wrestled myself loose and plodded towards it. The wrench firmly in my hand. I took it without thinking.

When I reached the dike, I saw a man dressed in rough work clothes sitting on top of it. He was chewing on a blade of grass. A bike was parked next to him on the asphalt. When he saw me climbing up towards him, he got up.

"Can you help me? I think I am lost," I said.️

"Of course," he said. "Where do you need to go?" His voice was calm and friendly.️

I thought about it for a moment. Actually, I didn't know where I was supposed to go. I tried to trace back my steps. This morning I was still at home. A plumber was supposed to stop by and he did. After he finished his work, he explained what he'd done to fix the leak. I didn't understand him. That's where things must have gone wrong.️

The plumber explained to me that it is impossible to understand something. That understanding doesn't actually exist. I must have looked surprised.️

He pulled out a wrench from his toolbox and held it up in front of me. Demonstratively, he dropped it. It hit the floor with a loud clang.️

"Do you understand that?" he asked.

"That's because of gravity," I said.

"Yeah, that's what they call it," said the plumber. "But do you really understand it?"

"Well, the earth pulls..." I began.️

"The earth is pulling? Why? What would the earth be pulling for?" The plumber looked as if he'd had this discussion many times before and was certain he'd win again. He continued.

"People always talk about cause and effect. If this, then that. One thing leads to another. Getting from A to B. It's all nonsense. How much is two plus two?"

"Four?" I asked suspiciously.

"Yes, it is four. But why is it four? When you add two to two, how does it follow that there are four? I'm not saying it isn't true, but I could not explain to you why it is like that."️

Old school math problems bubbled up in my head. Maria has two apples, Joseph gives her two more. How many apples does Maria have? I could see the four apples so clearly that I could almost grab them. I told him this and asked: "Can't you just count them?"

"You can count the apples before and after. First, there were two apples here and two were there. Then there were four. But how did they exactly go from two and two to four? Was there a sharp transition? Like, first two times two and then click four?"️

"Or did it go gradually? Were there consecutively two, three, three and a half, and then four apples? Could you pinpoint the moment when there were three? I honestly couldn't tell you. Addition is a mystery to me. I can tell you what goes into the calculation on one side and what comes out on the other, but I really don't understand what happens in the calculation."️

"If you think about it carefully, this is the case with everything. One moment you're holding a wrench in your hand, the next moment it is falling, and soon after that it is lying on the floor. Why? Why doesn't the wrench just stay where it is? So the earth is supposed to be pulling it down. But beyond that, you never hear anything about it. Calculations, mathematics, the theory of gravity... they're all fine theories. They tell you what comes before and after. But they don't explain anything at all. The part in between, the part where it really happens, that always remains a mystery."️

What happened after that I couldn't remember. Whether there was a huge gap between that conversation and my awakening in the meadow, I don't know. I stood on the dike and faced the man with a questioning look. It seemed as if he could read my thoughts.

"And then you were standing here?" he asked.

"Yes," I said.

"Okay, good. It's very simple," he said. "You wanted to get from A to B, right?"


He pointed along the direction of the dike. "That's A," he said. He then turned around and pointed in the other direction. "And that is B."

"You pick whichever side you want to go to. I have to be in A, so I'll just cycle there." He added action to his words. He got up on his bike and took off.️

Once I was alone, I first looked in the direction of A, then in the direction of B. In both cases, there was nothing to see and the dike just seemed to disappear into a dot on the horizon. I held the wrench in front of me and opened my hand. It fell. Eventually. It hesitated for a moment, or I thought I saw it hesitate, but then it fell with a loud, satisfying clang onto the asphalt. I straightened my back. Without picking it up, I started walking, in the direction of B.️