Last Thursday, I had invited François to have lunch with me. He's an old friend, a trained psychologist. We were eating desert and he was setting forth one of his never-ending theories about the human psyche. I was listening to him, absently at first but then, all of a sudden, something he said caught my attention: "So it would seem that every human being is double. In fact, each individual is fractured inside. Like you, for example", he said pointing at me.
I pulled myself up right away, rankled by his suggestion. "What, me? How dare you?"
He pretended that he hadn't noticed this fierce reaction: "Yes, you too are double, split into two like every other human being."
I grabbed hold of him, roughly-I'm aware of that. "Get out, get out, you hoaxer and deceiver!" I yelled out, beside myself. Before he could respond, I had dragged him to the main door.
François was as spineless as ever. I opened the door and threw this uncouth individual outside, with all my force. My friend- should I still use such a word?-fell down the stairs; there were no shouts, just an odd noise.
Worried nonetheless, I went down a few steps. François was lying on the floor, his body literally broken in two, broken into two symmetrical parts split from head to toe; I couldn't believe it. The two halves stood up as best they could, and each tried in vain to adjust itself to fit back with the other half.
I got frightened and ran back inside, shutting and bolting the door. I didn't dare look outside, as you can understand.
"He was thus right, the little rascal!" I grumbled. I ran my feverish hand down my spine, and I was sure that I could feel a slight crack into which I slipped first one finger, then two, then my whole hand.
A sinister creaking sound in my backbone was certainly not a good omen...
When a thousand suns exploded under my skull, I was busy writing. The pain I felt was transmitted to the page and the writing convulsed. Seizing the page right away, I immediately stuck it to my face. The freshness of this sensation did me much good. When I removed the page, I noticed that it was once again totally blank. The pain had disappeared.
Tonight, I was awakened by a slight scratching at the window. Initially, in a hurry to fall asleep again, I didn't pay attention. I live on the tenth floor of an old building, thought I was dreaming. At the moment I closed my eyes again, the scratching began anew, in earnest. I opened the shutters and leaned out. It was a dark night; I couldn't distinguish a thing. Then, leaning farther, I recognized him, with his small suit and black hat: no doubt, it was Franz Kafka! Amazed, I finally managed to speak to him: "What are you doing there, Franz? It is foolish, you will kill yourself!"
As he did not answer, I believed this must be a hallucination caused deep in my unconscious by a recent trip to Prague. But no, he was still there, clinging frantically to the edge of my window. Initially, I thought-I admit it-of forcing him to let go, thus causing him to shoot downwards into the void. After some reflection, I was ashamed of these impure thoughts: one does not act in such a way with death. It would be against the most elementary rules of courtesy. Kafka remained there, sadly, in front of me. I did not know what to do. Motionless, as if suspended in air, he considered me in silence. Suddenly illuminated, I shouted to him:
"Franz, you climbed to the wrong floor! You want the fifth floor.
"Why?" he answered, disconcerted.
"Quite simply because both your first and your last name have the same number of letters in them: five!" I said victoriously.
"Thank you, thank you! you have given me some hope" he howled.
And, clutching hold of me, he brought me down towards the ground at a tremendous speed.
Since then, each evening, Kafka and I have been hopelessly striking on the fifth-floor window. But nobody ever opens it for us. The apartment is inhabited, so I am told, by an old Czech lady... Milena Jesenskà, I believe her name is.