The latest data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on March 3 shows that Australia’s economic growth rate in 2020 is -1.1%, which is the first economic recession in 30 years. The Australian News Network reported on the same day that the reduction in the size of the Australian economy last year was an objective result of the new crown epidemic, but compared with other economies in the world, the Australian economy has achieved an “excellent” rebound. It is reported that in the quarter that began in December last year, Australia’s GDP grew by 3.1%. Australian Treasurer Freidenberg also told the media, “At present, the Australian economy has recovered to the level of 85% before the epidemic, and the recovery speed is six months faster than previously estimated, which is gratifying.”
However, the opposition Labor Party stated that the quarterly recovery of Australia’s GDP is not surprising after the relaxation of the epidemic restrictions. In fact, the current recovery is still only on paper, and it is still practical for many Australians. It is the feeling of economic recession, especially the decline in Australian wages. Statistics show that Australians’ income levels have declined due to the government’s reduction of wage subsidies since the end of September last year.
In one corner of the town’s churchyard there was a great deal of waste. Piled up there lay withered wreaths and palm trees, all uniformly gray-brown, as if they had never been bright and colorful. Here and there the dirty end of a satin ribbon or a gold fringe that had gone black peeked out of the tangle. Old women with brown, withered arms and ugly, indifferent faces stabbed with pitchforks into the heap of former gifts of piety, or perhaps just convenience. Mindlessly they tossed the wreaths onto a cart, and an old, blind horse hobbled away with them, hauling the garbage from the cemetery to where all the rubbish and rubble from the city was dumped.
Assumption of Mary stood at the door; therefore it was necessary to make the churchyard free and clean for the reception of new gifts of love, new wreaths, new palm trees.
“Blessed be Mary,” said one of the old women, and tore the brown garland from the statue of the Blessed Virgin to throw it with the other wreaths.
“And give forever, Amen,” added the other old woman.
Then they both greeted respectfully and stepped aside to make room for two nuns, who appeared with flowers and candles to decorate the picture of the Queen of Heaven for the feast.
The sisters bent their knees in front of the rough statue and began to polish it out in the most friendly and colorful way possible.
A slim, pale lady in an elegant summer toilet entered the churchyard. She greeted the picture of Mary and then the sisters. “Light a candle for me too,” she said, stepping closer, and pressed a coin into the hand of one of the nuns. Then she nodded to the sisters and slowly walked along the series of hereditary funerals.
The two old workers approached the miraculous image with curiosity. “What grief may the privy councilor’s wife have for sacrificing a candle?” Began one of them.
“Who knows if it’s because of an intercession; Such rich people only have to thank the holy of holies and cannot thank them enough if they wanted to sacrifice ten candles every day, “said the other.
“It is probably just a festival for tomorrow, Privy Councilor Bremer is a dear, devout soul,” said the older of the two sisters.
“She didn’t even bring wreaths for her parents’ graves,” remarked the old woman again the friendly expression of the pious sister did not seem to please the pious sister at all.
“Yes, the rich people have their own special fashions,” agreed the other old woman, “they are called pious, even if they do much less than others, for whom it gets angry enough.”
“The intercession of the saints is worth more than gifts and sacrifices,” said the younger of the two nuns in a stern tone. Then she and her companion left the churchyard.
The old women gathered a second cart full of wreaths with their pitchforks; Privy Councilor Bremer walked past them and slowly and tiredly sat down on a small bench that was set up to the side of two graves covered with black granite slabs.
“The memory of the righteous remains a blessing.” – This saying was carved into the shiny black stone slab in gold letters. The man whose body rests here had acted as an unpaid town councilor. The prudent manager of a large industrial company had unselfishly put his manpower in the service of his fellow citizens after he had put his own business in the hands of his son. When he went home to rest at the side of his previous wife from the works of life, it was learned that in his will he had bequeathed legates to almost all the charitable institutions in his native city. Now the grateful fellow citizens had the memorial stone for him on whose flickering writing the gaze of the only daughter rested pensively. The setting sun cast a reddish glow over her pale, translucent face. Slowly she raised her broad dark eyelids, the eyes were only partially veiled, the eyelids remained half over the unnaturally wide pupils, which gave the whole face something indescribably tired and sick. She then directed her gaze straight to the setting, glowing red ball of the sun, but in spite of the sharp incident light the iris did not contract, but remained wide and dark, as with many blind people.
Slowly she put her feet on the edge of her father’s grave, leaned back in the comfortably curved bench, and breathed with pleasure the air of the summer evening, soaked with the scent of flowers.
There was a heavenly calm around them. Fragrance, warmth, light and peace. Wherever the eye looked, there were beautifully tended flowers, pleasantly shimmering stones covered with gold writing and wreaths. The birds twittered in the tops of the old trees, it was so beautiful and so quiet in the place of death as it is seldom there where life with all its rights still rules.
Like a prayer, the breath of the wind went through flowers and leaves. The departing sun transfigured the Lord’s garden. All the inscriptions flamed and lit up, including those on the old man’s grave City council: “The memory of the righteous remains a blessing.”
The young woman looked around with nervous haste. She was alone, all alone with the dead. A satisfied smile appeared on her face for a moment. That gave her sad, tired features a strange beauty.
From the pocket of her dress she had taken a small black case and a tightly corked bottle. With quiet, deep inward satisfaction she looked at the contents of the bottle, which looked as clear as water and quite innocent. Only a few small white crystals, which were not completely dissolved in it, showed that it was a strong solution of morphine. This little supply, so difficult to obtain, formed an extremely precious possession for the young woman, at the sight of which she delighted and inebriated, before she decided to open the bottle.
Slowly she filled the little syringe – five lines, – six lines – no, it was not possible to resist, she drew until the glass tube was full. Then she corked the bottle very carefully and made sure that the cap was watertight. A lost drop was irreplaceable.
Carefully she pushed the jewel back into the pocket of the dress. Only when it was safe did she put the needle on the small instrument with forceful pressure. Her hands trembled, partly in the anticipation of the enjoyment to be expected, partly in the weakness in which the need for this enjoyment rests.
She pushed the sleeve of her dress back from her wrist. A strip of canvas became visible. She tore him loose quickly. The small bandage covered a wide, if not deep, wound caused by the use of morphine. For years the sick nerves needed the stimulant, and in order not to sacrifice the beauty of her arms, she had given up this one place entirely. The abused part of the body resisted the poison that had been forced upon it through pain and persistent suppuration, but in the end the area became quite insensitive.
Now, as always, she lowered the needle here. A slight pain knocked her brows together for a moment, but that didn’t last long. The contents of the morphine syringe disappeared under the wound, the strip of canvas quickly covered the area again. She carefully cleaned the used instrument with a small piece of wire, then closed the case, put it in her pocket, and leaned against the back of the bench to await the effect.
With blissful comfort she felt how an intoxicating sensation filled her brain, her limbs and at the same time paralyzed them. All desires, all needs of body and mind dissolved into satisfaction and sweet languor. The sick dull one The expression in the eyes faded and gave way to a lively, sparkling look. The nerves no longer knew of exhaustion and weakness.
She could now have shone at every party, taking over any work. At the same time, however, her limbs were heavy, so that she found it decidedly a pleasure not to be compelled to move. Only the head was light and free – so free, so clear, as if the pressure that had previously been on the brain had suddenly been removed. She had felt thirsty, that was over now, she felt good, namelessly good and content. Her previously pale yellow face took on a little color and warmth, she pressed her cool, white fingers against her cheeks. Then she slowly put on the gloves that were lying on the bench again, smiling thoughtlessly.
She had chosen the moment well for her enjoyment, because the calm that had prevailed before was now over. A hearse drove through the great portal, stopped in front of the chapel, and a coffin was carried to an open tomb. Many people followed; the clergyman began a speech, and even if the lonely woman could not hear anything about it, she was nevertheless disturbed in her solitude.
In addition, a gentleman approached her who was walking straight towards her.
“What a delightful little refuge you have here, you are to be envied, madam,” he began, greeting her.
She looked up at the tall, blond man with a smile. “They are my parents’ graves, Herr Doctor Turnau,” she replied with an inviting gesture, pointing to the empty half of the bench.
He immediately took his seat, apparently pleased. “Is that piece of lawn on which this bench stands reserved for you, madam?”
“No, my parents bought it for my unmarried sister. Elise is likely to remain lonely until she swaps the wheelchair for the coffin. There is still room for my husband and me in the Bremen hereditary burial. ”
“I think it has a charm all of its own to know exactly the place that is destined for us,” he remarked, taking off his light summer hat and brushing his blond hair from his pretty white forehead. She laughed: “That is again one of your paradoxical views, with which you may make yourself interesting to some people, but on the other hand not only attract contradictions, but also provoke many unfavorable judgments about yourself.”
“Ah, frankly, thank you for that, madam. I must know how to bear the unfavorable judgments, but I do not try either to arouse contradiction or to make myself interesting. It is only because of a nervous disquiet that I sometimes feel the need to utter some thought, even a strange thought, when it is going through my head. ”
“This need is natural,” answered she, “Much more natural for a well-off man of your age than the wish to know the place where your now so youthful body will one day turn to dust.”
A gloomy smile slipped over the young man’s features. “This youthful body is closer to disintegration and decomposition than it appears. When we celebrate the Assumption tomorrow, maybe the candles will be burning on the altar for me too. ”
She looked at him calmly and searchingly. “Why are you toying with the thought of the end of life?” She asked seriously. “Don’t you think that hours of satisfaction and enjoyment are still possible for you too, which must end with death?”
As she looked at him, the red ray of the sun shone into her dilated pupils, he looked at it attentively, then smiled: “Thank you, madam, for sparing me a moral remark. I was actually prepared for it. By the way, you are right, yes – I too still believe in hours of enjoyment, in moments of the highest possible satisfaction on earth. – You will understand what I mean by that, because I can see that you use atropine. Please don’t try to deceive the medicinarian that you are using atropine to compensate for the loss of beauty that the morphinist’s eye suffers. ”
She looked down, concerned. “Yes, I use atropine,” she replied hesitantly, “but not out of vanity, as you might assume. If you yourself are a morphinist, you also know that the coquetry of women as well as the ambition of men are extinguished in the soul of the morphinist. ”
He nodded understandingly. “Certainly, madam,” he replied, “I approve of the dangerous use of atropine because it serves you to deceive those around you about your morphinism. In your case there is certainly no coquetry at play. You risk your eyesight, but you must. Who gave you the indispensable pleasure and who deserved to be privy to your secret? Like all morphinists, you are forced to deceive an environment that wants to be deceived. ”
Lydia breathed a sigh of relief. It did her inexpressibly good to be understood. She had met only condemnation of her passion, in the best case pity for a morbid condition wherever she had ever dared to hint at the bitterness which she often felt when it seemed almost impossible to get morphine. The excitement of this bitterness made her speak at times.
“So you don’t necessarily find my weakness immoral, Herr Doctor?” Asked the young woman.
“On the contrary,” he answered briskly. »All religious founders in the world recommend theirs to people Fight passions. The natural condition of our nerves poses insurmountable obstacles to these endeavors. Morphine alone conquers the passions in every breast. If a new prophet made morphine freely available to his followers to combat their natural human urges, he would soon see a community around him to which any vice would be alien. ”
“At the moment I haven’t had enough morphine to be able to follow the bold flight of a prophetic fantasy up to this height,” remarked Lydia, smiling, astonished, looking at the passionately excited man.
“Shall I give you what is still missing?” He asked eagerly.
She nodded blissfully and looked up at him expectantly.
“How much percent do you need, madam?”
“Six,” she admitted with fearful hesitation.
“So there is still some wonderful improvement ahead of you,” he said with a sigh, and pulled a small glass from his breast pocket. How little he gave her was almost nothing – ah, this disappointment -! Was that a joke or – – –
It went through all her nerves like a jolt – like a blow the unprecedentedly strong solution hit her brain. She reached for her forehead and then her chest. It trickled under her skin like sand, and she was gripped by a fearful unease.
He saw how cold drops of sweat appeared on her forehead and how her face turned pale. “Have I given you too much, madam?” He asked.
“No,” she stammered, half unconscious, “please don’t watch me, I’ll be fine again – very well. – «
Her hands trembled as she said it, as if from far, far away she heard her own voice – the increase in pleasure! –
“I am writing a book on the abuse of the various narcotics, and for this purpose I am making my observations, so please excuse the indiscreet medical eye,” he said politely.
“A book?” – She gathered all her willpower to speak as if nothing had happened. He shouldn’t think the dose was too strong for her; she did not know that she shared the ambition of being able to endure a great deal with all her fellow sufferers.
“A book,” she repeated again, slowly and with a heavy tongue. It was as if she had sand in her mouth, she could hardly speak, but she did speak now. “Didn’t you want to give up your medical activity, didn’t you say that recently?”
“No,” he replied, “for the time being I have to work as an assistant doctor in the mental hospital. I don’t have a private practice and the boss gives me as much free time as possible. He is interested in my work and in my experience offer the material in his institution. Once my brochure has been completed, however, I will leave my current position. ”
“The professor said the other day that you wanted to become a university professor?” Oh, how hard she managed to get the words out of her lips!
“I don’t want to be anything,” he replied dully. “My book,” – he laughed to himself, it was such a laugh of its own that Lydia raised her head in fright even in the frenzy of her senses.
“Well what about your book, why are you laughing?”
“Oh, excuse me, nobody can know how funny I think that if one day, after my death, of course, the clever professor, who fights morphinism with all the weapons of science, reads the work of his former assistant.”
“But why are you writing the book if you cannot share the point of view of the other neurologists?” Asked Lydia, visibly uncomfortable at the strange behavior of her companion.
“My book will be a scientific protest against the ban on the free sale of narcotic drugs,” he said almost solemnly. “Personally, I do not suffer from this prohibition, because I am a doctor, but I know the despair and misery of the morphineist who is faced with the impossibility of obtaining morphine. Decent, respectable people, in their desperation, resort to the most dishonorable means, and I will try to redeem them from this misery. I have collected material that throws horrific highlights on these conditions. Against the promise to help them for a single recipe, numerous unfortunates have confessed to me. Oh – I know how deeply some otherwise pure, unapproachable natures have humbled themselves in order to get by bribery, by deceit, whatever they need, just as the hungry needs bread in order to sustain themselves. ”
She half rose and looked down at him with folded hands. “You want to help, you could help – oh God Herr Doctor, no, no, you cannot tear down the wall of hardness and lack of understanding, which thousands shake and which all, all unconsciously ricochet off.”
“I don’t know if I can, of course, but I will at least try,” he said, moving a little to one side so that she could sit down again.
“At least I want to illuminate before the world the dark paths on which a multitude of sick people have been urged with merciless severity. I want to show where a law leads that is only there to be circumvented because it cannot be obeyed. I put the whole strength of my mental abilities at the service of this task, this striving, which seems noble and worthy to me, because it is for the arbitrarily oppressed, the nothing spent, wants to come to the rescue. Mankind should be informed about the extent to which the paternalism of the police goes, and I hope that non-morphinists will also be interested in the question, which they are now indifferent to. ”
“And then?” Dreamily he repeated the anxious question she uttered softly. “Yes then, madam – I will not finish the fight. I can only live as long as I can enjoy. Call it egoism, illness, weakness, as you like, but when the hour comes when my nerves stop reacting, the hour when even the last heightening and complication no longer leads to enjoyment, then I lay my pen out of hand. With life, the obligation to keep fighting also ceases. ”
“Of course, isn’t the end of life just as much in our hands as the enjoyment to which we surrender?”
She shuddered at this last consequence, which he reached so easily and calmly. She was on the same path as him. “The memory of the righteous remains a blessing”. – The letters of the inscription danced like fire before their eyes. Enjoyment, enjoyment of life, and then the end. Throwing away the life that no longer offers, it sounded next to her. She believed everything was going in circles around her, only the black tombstone in front of her stood firmly in the vortex, but it glowed and blazed, illuminated by the setting sun, it hurt her to look down on it.