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Unformatted text preview: ruel.
Hours were punishing.
Standing above him at all moments of awakeness was the hand of time, and it didn’t hesitate to wring him out.
It smiled and squeezed and let him live. What great malice there could be in allowing something to live.
At least once a day, Hans Hubermann would descend the basement steps and share a conversation. Rosa would
occasionally bring a spare crust of bread. It was when Liesel came down, however, that Max found himself
most interested in life again. Initially, he tried to resist, but it was harder every day that the girl appeared, each
time with a new weather report, either of pure blue sky, cardboard clouds, or a sun that had broken through like
God sitting down after he’d eaten too much for his dinner. When he was alone, his most distinct feeling was of disappearance. All of his clothes were gray—whether
they’d started out that way or not—from his pants to his woolen sweater to the jacket that dripped from him
now like water. He often checked if his skin was flaking, for it was as if he were dissolving.
What he needed was a series of new projects. The first was exercise. He started with push-ups, lying stomachdown on the cool basement floor, then hoisting himself up. It felt like his arms snapped at each elbow, and he
envisaged his heart seeping out of him and dropping pathetically to the ground. As a teenager in Stuttgart, he
could reach fifty push-ups at a time. Now, at the age of twenty-four, perhaps fifteen pounds lighter than his
usual weight, he could barely make it to ten. After a week, he was completing three sets each of sixteen pushups and twenty-two sit-ups. When he was finished, he would sit against the basement wall with his paint-can
friends, feeling his pulse in his teeth. His muscles felt like cake.
He wondered at times if pushing himself like this was even worth it. Sometimes, though, when his heartbeat
neutralized and his body became functional again, he would turn off the lamp and stand in the darkness of the
He was twenty-four, but he could still fantasize.
“In the blue corner,” he quietly commentated,...
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- Winter '13