Filling in the Gaps

I’d really hoped that enough of Werther’s own writing would be left over from his eventful final days that I wouldn’t have to break up the flow of his letters with my own narration.

I’ve taken it upon myself to interview everyone who might be in a position to know what happened. The story’s pretty straightforward, and everyone’s versions line up except for a few minor details; the only thing there’s any real disagreement about is what was going on in the heads of the people involved.

So all that’s left is to describe as meticulously as possible everything I managed to dig up, insert the letters he wrote before he passed, and not overlook even a single line in his notebooks or unsent draft in his email — especially because it’s so hard to uncover the specific causes of anything that involves people who are so far from ordinary.

*          *          *

Scorn and resentment, always fundamental character traits of Werther’s, had gradually gotten more and more tangled up together and ultimately took over his whole psyche. His internal balance was totally thrown off; the fire and violence inside him, which pitted all his personality traits against each other, made him act in the most unpredictable ways, and finally left him with nothing but an exhaustion he struggled even harder to get out of than he’d fought against all these other demons. Panic and anxiety wore away at all his strengths, his liveliness, his insight, until he became a real downer, unhappier every time you saw him, and more and more unfair to people the unhappier he got. At least, this is what Albert’s friends say: they claim that Werther was in no position to judge Albert, who was basically a pure, peaceful person, finally enjoying a nice thing that he’d looked forward to for a long time, and doing what he needed to to preserve that happiness for the future, while Werther, meanwhile, spent every day throwing his money away just to come home every night and feel terrible. They say there’s no way Albert could have changed so much in such a short period of time, he was still the same guy Werther had always known and respected and looked up to so much. Could you blame Albert if he’d wanted to make sure it didn’t even seem like anything funny might be happening? if, at that point, he didn’t feel like sharing his precious possession, even in a totally innocent context? They admit that Albert usually cleared out of his wife’s room when Werther came over, but not out of dislike for his friend — just because he could tell that Werther felt awkward around him.

*          *          *

Lotte’s father had gotten so sick he couldn’t leave his room, so he was letting her use his car, and she went off for a day trip. It was a beautiful winter day; the first snow had fallen heavily and covered the entire region.

Werther went over the next day to welcome her back, since Albert was still stuck at the office.

The clear skies couldn’t do much to brighten his dark mood; a dull pressure on his soul and those sad mental loops had hardened in him, and the only shifts in his mood were from one painful thought to another.

Since he was in a permanent state of anxiety, he saw other people’s situations as that much more unsettled and tangled too; he thought he’d troubled the great relationship Albert had with his wife, and he was always beating himself up about that, with some subconscious resentment towards Albert mixed in there too.

The walk over was one of those times his thoughts got stuck on this. “Sure, sure,” he said to himself, sneering inwardly, “this is how you act as an intimate, caring, tender, sympathetic partner, this is what steady, long-term commitment looks like! It’s NUMBNESS and INDIFFERENCE! Doesn’t he get more turned on by his stupid job than his amazing wife? Does he even know how lucky he is? Does he give her the kind of attention she deserves? She’s his, fine, fine, she’s his — I know, same way I know lots of things, I think I’m used to the thought, it’ll still drive me crazy, it’ll still kill me — and does he honestly still see me as a friend? Doesn’t he see my attachment to Lotte as already creeping in on his territory? Doesn’t he see the attention I pay her as an implicit criticism? It’s obvious, I can feel it, he doesn’t like seeing me, he wants me out of here, having me around makes his life harder.”

Over and over, he paused mid-frenetic-stride, stood still, and seemed like he wanted to turn around; but he kept on marching straight ahead and, with these thoughts and inner dialogues playing in his head, finally arrived, almost against his will, at the D.A.’s house.

He walked in the door, looked around for Lotte or her dad, and found the house in a state of chaos.

[…to be continued]