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.
“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.”
“As agreed, when you finished your course the instalments were raised, but up to now you have not kept up with your mandatory payments.”
“So is this going to affect my credit rating?” I asked, gingerly.
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…
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