Cognition (Part II)

You want to know what happened so far? Read here!
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A journey into the unknown! It was as if I’d been plonked in the middle of the Atlantic on an inflatable mattress without a compass. And Coco represented the wind and the seasons that would dictate my destination from then on. I had completely lost control of the situation.

I was helpless, but it was a pleasant kind of helplessness – the kind where you free yourself of all of life’s little troubles and completely let go. An abduction! We felt a bit like Mallory & Mickey in Natural Born Killers – only with water pistols.

When we passed the sign for entering Hamburg I thought we’d arrived. Little did I know how far off the mark I was.

“We’re almost there. I just have to let my sister know. Can you pass me my phone from my bag?” asked Coco.

Coco’s sister? Family? Right now? I wasn’t prepared for that! I’d sooner have expected her to take me for a romantic candlelight dinner on the hallowed turf of HSV Hamburg!

I gawked at Coco with a dopey look on my face while my brain tried to think of something witty and intelligent to say. Since I couldn’t come up with anything better, I reached down and began fishing around in her bag for her phone.

“Got it?”

“Not yet,” I replied, still grinning.

Girls’ handbags will always remain a mystery to me. I mean, how many hours are consumed fishing around for things in handbags? One hour a day, something like that? And is this a universal phenomenon? Do girls all over the world go hunting in their bags? That’s something I’d like to know!

“Ah, just leave it. Don’t worry, we’re not staying long. We still have a long journey ahead!” said Coco with a smile.

At that moment a great weight was lifted from my shoulders. I don’t know why the thought of Coco’s family was so unsettling. I was crazy about her – and yet I didn’t really know her all that well yet. Meeting the family always felt like it had an element of duty. And that just didn’t sit right with me at that moment at all!

“We live in an age of zero commitment, ” I thought to myself. Men have always struggled in that respect, and our generation in particular.

“No obligation.”

“No minimum contract.”

“Full satisfaction or your money back.”

These slogans, and the emphasis on “discount” and “low prices”, have skewed our understanding of value. Oh well, you usually overthink these things, don’t you?

Coco’s sister lived with her fiancé in a picture-perfect family estate: curtains, front gardens, carports and garden gnomes dominated the neighbourhood. The sight of a pensioner in three-quarter-length trousers washing his car triggered some kind of alarm in my mind and reminded me of a question that had been bothering me for some time:

Have you ever noticed that that at the border, which is generally also a red-light district, there are always tons of garden gnomes for sale?

First of all, why is that?

And second, should you be concerned as a woman if your husband starts putting gnomes in the front garden?

When we stopped outside a detached red-brick house we’d reached our destination. Coco had hardly rung the doorbell when I heard some excited screeching from inside. A door was opened and footsteps approached – probably slippers on a tiled floor – then the door was unlocked.

“Heeeeeeeyyy!” one of them shrieked.

“Hellooooo! We’re heeeeeeerrre,” the other shrieked back.

I left the two of them to their greeting ceremony (hugs, cuddles, kisses, tickles and smiles all round), only joining in passively myself (smiling and nodding – no idea why I nodded… but that’s how it went).

Right on cue the pair of them simultaneously turned their heads towards me.

“So you must be René!”

“Yep, that’s me,” I said a little awkwardly. “And how about you?”

“I’m Jana,” she said. “Coco’s sister. But you can call me Dinky. That’s what everyone calls me.”

“Ok, Dinky,“ I said with a wink.

Never had I seen such a bizarrely furnished house. Every item of furniture was precisely matched with the others. It was like walking through an Ikea showroom. Even objects like magazines, pens, books and glasses were placed in exactly the same positions as page 243 of the latest Ikea catalogue.

We sat down on the FRIHETEN sofa, where the BJOLE husband was waiting in his SVERGLEM pullover. I was about to ask whether they had a ball-pool in the children’s room when I was handed a steaming cup of black coffee.

“Milk and sugar?”

Dinky put the milk jug and sugar jar on the table and excitedly got out a photo album – which was actually quite unnecessary, since the entire living room was plastered with pictures of the two of them. Blown up to poster format, the couple looked upon us from every wall. Even in the toilet they maintained order and decorum from a picture mounted on the door.

You can imagine my relief that Coco kept to her word: as soon as we’d finished our coffee she said:

“Sorry Dinky. We really have to get going.”

“No problem. You must still have quite a journey ahead, right René?” Jana answered mischievously. “He still doesn’t know where you’re going to end up, does he?”

“Nope, not yet,” said a grinning Coco.

When we were back in the car I asked Coco if she felt like telling me where our journey was taking us. She just answered: “Maybe.”

It wasn’t long before the gentle vibrations of the car lulled me into a peaceful sleep. The next time I opened my eyes it was already getting dark.

“You back with us?” said Coco.

“Where are we?” I asked in my drowsy state.

“About 100 kilometres outside of Amsterdam!”

Seeing my bewildered expression, Coco burst out laughing and was almost bent over double.

“AMSTERDAM? WE’RE GOING TO AMSTERDAAAM?” I exclaimed euphorically.

“YEAAAAAH! Are you happy?”

“Of course I am! I’ve always wanted to go to Amsterdam!”

“Great, well now we’d better find out exactly where we’re going. Can you turn on the sat-nav?” asked Coco.

I did as I was asked, and not even an hour and a half later we had pulled up outside our cosy little hotel on the edge of central Amsterdam.

Rather than Coco’s original plan of two nights, we spent four whole days in beautiful Amsterdam – riding bikes, visiting coffee shops and the Sex Museum, moseying around the town. And of course we had plenty of time for ourselves – just the two of us.

As we were packing our bags in the car on the last day we looked deep into each other’s eyes. For almost a minute we just smiled at each other. I think I realised at that moment that our odyssey was almost over.

On the way back it was my turn to drive. We made a brief stop in Hanover before carrying on all the way to Berlin. I wished I could stop time at that moment, but it just flew by. Before I knew it, we were back outside my front door.

Since Coco had to be at work the next morning, it was time for a very drawn-out goodbye. We kissed passionately and promised it wouldn’t be long until we saw each other again. And that was it: I was back in my previous life – my everyday life. Hello Berlin’s concrete jungle!

I was happy not to run straight into Daniel at home. I felt like I needed some quiet time alone first. I sent Coco a text and soon drifted off to sleep watching a nature documentary.

Once more it was my phone that woke me up the next day.

“H-hello?” I mumbled sleepily.

On the other end of the line a wide awake Daniel roused me from my slumber.

“Alright mate! Back in boogie town Berlin? Listen, I know it’s a bit sudden, but while you were away we managed to find an office to rent. Can you come over? I have to talk a couple of things over with you.”

I was amazed. Not even two weeks have passed and Daniel’s renting an office? And I know nothing about it?

“Anyway it would be great if you could swing by today. Bia’s here too. What about this afternoon? About four o’clock? ”

“Umm… yeah, sure I’ll come over! Nice one! Should I bring my laptop? ”

“Yeah, if you like. I’ll send you the address on Facebook, ok? I have to go now, it’s all a bit hectic here,” said Daniel in a serious tone.

“Alright then. See you later!”

That was a shock. Without wasting any time I got out of bed and went over to Daniel’s room. Sure enough, his desk, computer, printer, speakers – all gone!

“What’s going on here?” I wondered, “And what could Daniel want to talk to me about?”

I’d rather have gone straight over there to find out what was up. Those hours of uncertainty were not pleasant in the least. Around 3 o’clock, feeling rather tense, I made my way over to the new office. When I rang the buzzer it was Bia who answered.

“Hey René! I’ll buzz you in. Fourth floor.”

Daniel and Bia were waiting at the door to greet me. I got a coffee and began telling them about my crazy holiday. The two of them listened intently. It’s not the kind of thing that happens every day. It did nothing to dampen my impatience to know what was going on, but unfortunately I’m not the kind of guy who finds it easy to cut to the chase.

When I’d finished telling my stories there was a tense silence. It reminded me of a scene in an old Spaghetti Western.

“Smoke?” I asked the pair of them.

“Sure,” said Daniel.

We went out onto the balcony to roll a cigarette.

“There have been some changes around here, René,” Daniel began.

“Yes, I can see. How’s it going? What’s going on?”

“Well, you know that Bia has left Ableton and is working for us full time now. That means we have some reorganisation to do.”

“Yes, I know. And?” I asked flatly.

And… that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I know you’ve been going through a difficult time lately,” said Daniel.

“Ah, forget it… everything’s cool now.”

“I don’t believe you. You don’t have to play it cool, René. The last six months have been really hard on you… They would have been for anyone.”

I stared somewhat dumbfounded at Daniel.

“I think you’re seriously unhappy,” Daniel went on.

“I mean, recently your head hasn’t been in our business, or in your DJing either. Nikolaj Frost has hardly made any progress for a year and a half. You play at some party, maybe you have a wild night, then at ten o’clock the next morning you’re sat in front of your computer having to play the businessman. Those huge boils you got and all that… It just can’t go on like this.”

I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to object, but the words that had been uttered were still bouncing around my head in an endless echo.

“You know, René, I just have to know where I stand. Our baby is just on the point of getting bigger and we need you here. But if that’s the case, we need you to be at 120 percent, you know what I mean?”

“Yeah,” I muttered and looked meekly down at the floor.

His words were too disarming for me to even respond. What with 3000° Festival and the fabulous time with Coco, I’d almost forgotten what a serious crisis I’d been in before my holiday. Instinctively I put my hand to my head, where I could still feel a boil.

“René, you have a lot of talent and I believe in you. You can make it here in the company, you can make it as a DJ. But doing both at once – with this much going on – you’re simply not up to it. I need you to decide: our dream here – of our company – is it your dream too? Or is your other dream more important? That’s something I just have to know. Take your time, but two weeks from now at the latest, we need to have clarity on this. Either you show up with your laptop and say, “Business, here I am!” Or you come over and say, “100 percent music!” Whatever you decide, you have my full support. But follow through with it!”

As I set off home my head was still spinning with all kinds of stressful thoughts. Not in a long time had anyone given me such a talking to. At first I was annoyed with Daniel, but the more I thought about it, the more I could understand where he was coming from.

At home I sat in my room and listened to an old set of mine. All the events of recent years flashed through my mind: my first Fusion Festival – buying my own decks the very next day… my first gigs in my home town… how I used to go home at lunchtime during my civil service just to practise DJing for an hour… how my friend Melone persuaded me to come to Berlin to study audio engineering at the SAE – to learn how to produce my own tracks!

I spent the evening trawling through all my old sets and song sketches. With every second that passed it became clearer to me that I’d done everything up to now for one sole reason: I’d been pursuing a dream for a long time, and now it was slipping away. How could I have let it out of my sight?

When the last track played, I knew that I’d actually made up my mind years ago.

Suddenly full of joy I fell into bed and wrote a romantic – almost cheesy – text message to Coco. That night I dreamed a wonderful dream that led me through many countries around the world, and I woke up early in the morning feeling full of energy.

I wondered whether I should call Daniel, but I decided against it. I wanted to deliver this news personally.

Around 11 o’clock I was stood outside the office at Bersarinplatz, feeling in high spirits. I didn’t know for sure if he would be there, but there was no entry in the Google Calendar, so the chances were good.

I rang the bell and a moment later a voice answered the intercom.

“Hello?”

It was Daniel.

“Hello my friend! How’s it going? You gonna let me in?” I asked.

“Renéééée – that’s a surprise! Of course, come on in.”

The door latch clicked and I climbed the stairs with a spring in my step. When I was almost there I slowed my pace and soon I could see Daniel standing in the doorway in his slippers. He looked at me with a slightly confused but relaxed expression.

Before he could say anything, I stood right in front of him and said, with a care-free joy I had not felt in a long time:

“Music, Daniel… with all my heart, music.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

Crisis

Time leap! … read here what occurred 10 years before. 
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Just when I thought it couldn’t be going any better for me, things suddenly started going downhill.

We were in our shared flat, brainstorming in a meeting with Robert, just like Berlin start-ups do, when my phone rang. The “unknown number” on the display was far from unknown to me by now. Yet I was never sure who would be on the other end of the phone. I didn’t want to find out either. I hate unknown numbers! It’s not as if I call up perfect strangers! In any case, I started to get the feeling that some dark clouds were forming on the horizon. It was a bit like that feeling when you’re riding the tram without a ticket and you see the inspectors get on. Of course, I know right away I haven’t got a ticket. But at first I make out like I’m looking for it, just like all the other idiots without a ticket do, in the vague hope that a miracle might occur to distract the inspectors’ attention. There was something similar about this unknown number.

“Aren’t you going to take that?” asked Daniel.

“Nah, I’ll call back later.”

“Go ahead, we’re not in a hurry,” said Olli.

Maybe that was an omen. You’re meant to get some kind of warning anyway. I left the room feeling slightly irritated and answered hesitantly.

“Hellooo?”

“Good afternoon, Mr Frost. My name’s Miriam Punz from the firm Itelscore.”

She had a sweet voice at least.

“You haven’t responded to any of our letters up to this point. I’m calling to inform you that you have two more weeks to pay back your student loan before we begin legal action against you.”

Wow. It felt like being on your first date with your dream girl when she points out the gigantic mole on your cheek.

“Errrrm… come again? All of it at once? I’m paying in instalments. How much is it?” I stammered.

“The outstanding balance currently stands at almost 12,000 euros.”

I gulped.

“As agreed, when you finished your course the instalments were raised, but up to now you have not kept up with your mandatory payments.”

Fuck.

“So is this going to affect my credit rating?” I asked, gingerly.

“Yes, negatively.”

Suddenly it became clear that the sugar-coated voice at the end of the line was merely the disguise of a monster that had come to swing a wrecking ball at full force into my crown jewels.

When I walked back into the meeting I must have made a pitiful impression. I felt completely shell shocked, like a fish out of water. My worries seemed to be scrawled across my forehead by the world’s least talented prison tattoo artist.

“What’s got into you?” asked Robert.

Once I’d told them what had happened we sank into a collective misery. No one knew quite what to say. I was relieved when Robert said he had to drive back to Feldberg. Olli left soon after to meet his girlfriend, his “snuggle bug”. But I still wasn’t alone. Daniel and I spent the rest of the evening getting drunk in near silence, hardly uttering a word to one another.

“So we can forget about the loan now, right?” I asked Daniel.

“Hmm. The financing has been planned for three partners. We’ll have to talk to Mr Wuali,” he said.

To cut a long story short – when we went to our business coach Mr Wuali the next day and told him what had happened, he looked at us as if we’d just presented some intimate holiday snaps of our Iranian friends to some members of the Tea Party movement. After all, this was just two weeks before we planned to take out the loan! So that left three choices: we find a way to prevent my negative credit rating, we cut the financing plan to two partners (meaning I would have to work freelance), or we do without the loan altogether.

In the following meeting with Olli we decided that I would have to officially step down from the company before we took out the loan. It was as if the three of us had jumped out of a plane with one giant parachute and noticed during the descent that I was the sack of potatoes weighing everybody down. We had hit the ground with an almighty splat.

The next day I woke up with eczema all over my body. My skin was burning like hell and there was no sign of improvement over the next few weeks. Not only did I look like an angry rhubarb crumble with a itchy rash – the next piece of bad news was just around the corner.

After an argument with Daniel, Olli left the company. Time to wave goodbye to that loan. Although we parted amicably and were determined to keep the friendship intact, it still meant that Daniel and I had 30 percent extra work to do. In my case even more, since I was also busy with my DJ project and often had gigs that I didn’t want to miss for anything. The company required my entire energy and attention, my music needed time, and the debts I had amassed since my student days were manifesting themselves as dozens of unopened letters on my desk. I was at a loss. Never in my life have I felt such pressure weighing down on me. I fell into a state of numbness, as if paralysed. My body was letting me know that something wasn’t right. Soon I had boils the size of golf balls on my head and legs and I was hardly able to formulate any clear thoughts at all.

When I went to see the doctor about these symptoms, he told me that since leaving university I haven’t been properly insured and I would have to shoulder the costs of my treatment myself. When even your doctor flips you the bird in your time of need… I felt like the world’s most miserable sausage, bobbing around alone in the cold salty water. There seemed to be no way out. I spent a lot of the night loudly humming to myself so that I wouldn’t think about my situation quite so much.

Since we were drowning in work, Daniel tried to find someone to lend a hand, and soon we had Bia coming round once a week to help out. She had got a job at Ableton and was managing a centre for artist development in Kreuzberg, Now she was looking for a new project. Even though she relieved some of the workload, it also increased the pressure on me because now this “stranger” could see us at work. Naturally, you want to show your best side – not just sitting there with a pus-filled boil on your face.

One evening when I was on the phone to Robert, it must have been in May 2012, I just burst into tears and let it all out.  The crisis had been hounding me for four months, it was starting to feel like I was in the grip of a personality disorder.

“Man, you’ve got to get out of the house! Take a little holiday. Come and visit me. You can stay in the holiday apartment,” said Robert.

Since I couldn’t think of a better option, I cleared it with Daniel and the next week I drove back to my home village of Feldberg.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Find out how the story continues…click here