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…

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The Village

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Silence is one of the few things that can really make me crazy, so life out in the sticks was never easy. I should have had an inkling that something wasn’t quite right a long time ago, but I didn’t have a clue. It was only when I found out by chance that no one in my family has the same blood group as me that I got a bit suspicious.  Suspicious? Yeah! Come on, I was 14 and had no idea what “phase” was.

Back then I was focused on other things. A cool moped, for instance. Better still, a car. Or winning the next match and climbing a place in the district league so that one day I might be sticking my own picture into this football sticker album I used to fill up so diligently.

In any case, I had my future mapped out pretty clearly: finish school, save up some money for a car, and in case the big break in my football career never comes, maybe the army. Those guys tended to have money in their pocket, a car with sports suspension and a girlfriend in the passenger seat.  All things that I was lacking, which was why I had to do something about it – get myself a part-time job! It was nothing to get hung up over. In fact, I was even happy about it. At least it would mean being one of the first in my year to start work!

When I applied for a summer job at the village ice-cream shop, my mum just said,

“If that’s what you want to do, go ahead!”

And I did! I mean, who doesn’t think ice-cream is cool? I liked the idea of calling myself an Ice-Cream Chef. It sounded kind of contradictory, like a “crash landing” or the “compulsory options” we had to choose at school. What’s more, it meant getting one step closer to the dream of having my own car.

You would always see the same people outside the ice-cream shop. Except in the summer, when tourists would come to our village to get a break from the city. That’s something I could never understand. There’s never anything to do here! Just dark woods, lakes and tedium. If I was in their shoes I’d stay in the city. Or go to the coast. At least there are proper waves there.

Anyway, I knew what to expect at the ice-cream shop. On the first day of the holidays I turned up on time at 1 p.m. for my first shift. My new boss was waving to me as I came up the street. He was probably in his mid-forties and was sat in the sun in front of his café, drinking a glass of wine and smoking a cigarillo – attempting to look Italian. My clearest memory is of his thin moustache, precisely sculpted across the contours of his upper lip. It made him look like a henchman from a low-budget mafia film.

Behind him a queue of around 20 hungry-looking people were eyeing up the ice-cream counter. Two girls from the village were behind the counter, trying their best to manage the rush of zimmer-frame-wielding customers. My boss, Frank, proudly showed me around the shop, which of course I’d seen hundreds of times since my earliest childhood. In my rather nervous state I was punctuating his every sentence with some flattering remark. I remember how my voice suddenly sounded terribly high-pitched and I began to stutter. But it didn’t matter. “Francesco” wasn’t listening to me anyway. He continued to show me around in his patronising manner.

“And this is where the ice-cream goes,”

he added, reaching for one of the empty tubs.

“That’s great! W…w…wow!” I stammered.

He led me into the kitchen where a guy wearing a hair net and an oversized face mask was shifting buckets around. When he saw me he made a face as if I’d just invited Mark Zuckerberg to join Google+.

“Robert,” Francesco called out, “this is René. He’s working for me now. Show him the ropes!”

Robert turned around, without giving me the courtesy of a glance, and responded with an affirmative grunt. The boss had hardly left the room when Robert removed his face mask and looked me up and down. I was surprised to see his long beard that had been fixed with a yellow elastic band.

“So you’re the next one,” he said.

“Yes,” I answered.

“Wash the ice-cream tubs.”

“Okay.”

Apparently Robert wasn’t the friendliest of colleagues. He was a couple of years older than me and looked quite different to most people in the village, with his baggies, beard and long hair. Every two minutes Robert’s work was interrupted by little bursts of rage that he underlined with selected terms from his swearing lexicon. I decided to not mention it and silently follow his instructions. Suddenly I started to wonder what was meant by “the next one,” and whether I really wanted to be him. I feared the next six weeks could be the worst of my life so far.

Fortunately it didn’t turn out to be so bad. The next day I took the early shift and Robert, to my relief, was in a much better mood. The fits of rage due to incorrectly skewered cocktail cherries, spilled liquids and other grave tragedies were not absent entirely, but he appeared satisfied with my work on the whole. The stream of orders from the previous day was now even accompanied by a welcome “please”. You still couldn’t really call it a conversation, but that would promptly change when the boss walked through the kitchen door shortly before noon.

He stroked his beard mischievously with his index finger and scurried to the back corner of the kitchen.

“Lads, come over here!”

He said in a conspirational whisper.

“I want to show you something.”

We followed him over to the dark corner of the kitchen. He waited a little longer to be sure he had our full attention. Then he stood up straight in front of us and began opening his shirt buttons from the bottom upwards.

Once more Robert’s words “the next one” replayed in my mind and I decided to use the next few seconds to consider my immediate options. But before I could decide what to do, a well-fed, hairy belly filled up my field of vision. And that wasn’t all…

“Take a look at this…”

His pinkish-red nipples were pierced with little metal bars and linked by a silver chain. The image of a pair of cocktail cherries immediately flashed through my head. Clearly pleased with our shocked faces he began to button up his shirt and left the kitchen chuckling to himself.

After staring at each other in disbelief for 20 seconds we fell about laughing!

“Perhaps the holidays won’t be so bad after all,” I thought, as we spent the remaining hours joking about our boss’s nipple piercings.

“Want a lift to work in the morning?” Asked Robert.

“Sure,” I said.

In the coming days Robert regularly came to pick me up. He drove a clapped-out red Ford Transit. There were so many empty bottles in the car, if you drove it into a lake there’s no way it would sink. We got on like a house on fire! Even though he sometimes insisted on calling me “Thorsten” at work and made fun of my career and car ambitions.

“Sports suspension? All we’ve got are cobbled streets around here!”

He mimicked the jolting movement of the sports suspension with a wide grin.

I decided to give my car plans some more thought…

TO BE CONTINUED… 

Time leap! … read here what happened 10 years later.

Das Dorf

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Die Stille ist eine von wenigen Sachen, die mich wahnsinnig machen können. Als lütter Dorpjung hat man es da nicht einfach. Schon viel früher hätte ich also ahnen müssen, dass hier etwas nicht stimmte. Einen Scheiß ahnte ich. Erst als mir durch kompletten Zufall auffiel, dass kein Mensch in meiner Familie die gleiche Blutgruppe wie ich besaß, wurde ich ein bisschen stutzig.  Stutzig? Ja! Come on, ich war 14 und hatte keine Ahnung, was Phase war.

Da erschienen ganz andere Dinge wichtig. Ein cooles Mofa zum Beispiel. Noch besser ein Auto. Oder das nächste Spiel zu gewinnen und in der Kreisliga einen Platz in der Tabelle aufzusteigen, damit man eines Tages sein eigenes Bild in eines dieser Fussballstickersammelheftchen kleben konnte, die ich so fleißig anhäufte.

Ich wusste jedenfalls ziemlich genau, wie es für mich weitergehen sollte: Abi machen, nebenbei ein bisschen Geld für das Auto ansparen und ­– falls beim Fussball nicht der erhoffte Durchbruch kommt ­– vielleicht zur Bundeswehr. Denn die Jungs dort hatten meist Kohle, ein Auto mit Sportfahrwerk und eine Freundin auf dem Beifahrersitz – Alles Dinge, die ich nicht hatte: Grund genug, etwas daran zu ändern! Ein Nebenjob musste her. Das machte mir auch nicht viel aus, im Gegenteil. Ich war sogar froh darüber. Immerhin wäre ich damit einer der ersten Berufstätigen meiner Stufe!

Als ich mich bei der Dorfeisdiele um einen Ferienjob bewarb, sagte Mutti nur „wenn du das machen willst, dann mach’!“.  Wollte ich! Wer findet Eis nicht cool? Das Wort „Eiskoch“ klang interessant; ein bisschen, so wie „Doppelhaushälfte“ und „Wahlpflichtfach“ interessant klangen. Außerdem rückte der Traum vom eigenen Auto in greifbarere Nähe.

Vor unserer Eisdiele sieht man immer die gleichen Leute. Außer im Sommer, wenn die Touristen aus den Städten kriechen, um in unserem Dorf Urlaub zu machen. Ich konnte das nie verstehen. Bei uns war nie was los! Nur dunkle Wälder, Seen und Langeweile… da würde ich doch eher in der Stadt bleiben. Oder zum Meer fahren. Da gibt’s wenigstens richtige Wellen.

Naja, ich wusste jedenfalls, was auf mich zukommen würde. Am ersten Ferientag ging ich pünktlich um 13:00 Uhr zu meiner ersten Schicht. Mein zukünftiger Chef winkte mir schon von weitem. Er war wohl Mitte 40, saß bei einem Glas Wein zigarillorauchend in der Sonne vor seinem Café und mühte sich, italienisch anzumuten. Am deutlichsten ist mir sein schmales Oberlippenbärtchen in Erinnerung geblieben, das akkurat rasiert sein Gesicht umspielte und ihn aussehen ließ wie einen Handlanger aus einem billigen Mafiafilm.

Hinter ihm wand sich eine Schlange aus ungefähr 20 Personen, die mit hungrigen Augen die Eistheke beäugten. Dahinter standen zwei einheimische Mädchen, die versuchten, den Ansturm an Rollatorfahrern so gut es ging zu bewältigen. Mein Chef Frank führte mich voller Stolz durch seinen Laden, den ich seit meiner frühesten Kindheit gekannt hatte. Ich war ziemlich nervös und kommentierte jeden Satz mit einer lobenden Bemerkung, wobei mir meine Stimme auf einmal furchtbar hoch vorkam und ich zu stottern begann. Doch das war egal. „Francesco“ hörte mir sowieso nicht zu, sondern schnappte sich in gönnerhafter Manier eine Eiswanne aus der Theke.

„…und in die kommt unser Eis dann rein“, ergänzte er.

„Das ist ja toll! W…w…wow!“, sagte ich.

Er führte mich in die Küche, wo ein Typ mit Haarnetz und überdimensionalem Mundschutz Eimer durch die Gegend schleuderte und ein Gesicht zog, als hätte man Mark Zuckerberg eine Google+-Einladung geschickt.

„Robert!,“ rief Francesco.

„Das ist René. Er arbeitet jetzt für mich! Zeig ihm mal, wie das geht.“

Robert würdigte mich keines Blickes, drehte sich um und antwortete mit einem bestätigenden Grunzlaut. Kaum war der Chef wieder verschwunden, zog Robert den Mundschutz herunter und musterte mich gründlich. Überraschenderweise verbarg sich darunter ein langer Bart der mit einem gelben Gummiband fixiert war.

„Du bist also der nächste“, sagte er.

„Ja“, antwortete ich.

„Wasch’ die Eisbecher ab.“

„Ok.“

Robert schien nicht der netteste Mitarbeiter zu sein. Er war ein paar Jahre älter als ich und unterschied sich mit seinen Baggies, dem Bart und den langen Haaren auffällig vom durchschnittlichen Dorfbewohner.
Im Zweiminutentakt wurde Roberts Arbeit durch seine cholerischen Wutausbrüche unterbrochen, die er mit ausgewählten Worten aus seinem Schimpfwortfundus untermalte.
Ich entschied mich dazu, nichts zu sagen und still seine Anweisungen zu befolgen. Plötzlich war ich mir gar nicht mehr so sicher, was mit dem nächsten gemeint war. Ich wusste nicht mehr, ob ich das sein wollte.
In mir keimte langsam die Befürchtung auf, dass mir die schlimmsten sechs Wochen meines Lebens bevorstünden.

Ganz so schlimm kam es glücklicherweise nicht. Am nächsten Tag übernahm ich die Frühschicht und Robert war zu meiner Freude um ein Vielfaches besser gelaunt. Die cholerischen Anfälle wegen falsch aufgespießter Cocktailkirschen, daneben gekleckerter Flüssigkeiten und anderer schwerwiegenden Tragödien blieben zwar nicht aus, doch er schien mit meiner Arbeit zufrieden zu sein. Immerhin wurde der Befehlston vom Vortag nun durch ein angenehmes „Bitte“ ergänzt. Eine richtige Unterhaltung konnte man das noch nicht nennen, doch das sollte sich schlagartig ändern, als kurz vor 12 der Chef durch die Küchentür trat.
Er streichelte mit schelmischem Blick den Zeigefinger über sein Bärtchen und huschte in den hinteren Teil der Küche.

„Jungs! Kommt ma’ her!“, sagte er in verschwörerischem Flüsterton.

„Ich will euch was zeigen.“

Wir folgten ihm in die dunkle Küchenecke. Er wartete noch einen kurzen Moment, bis er sich unserer vollen Aufmerksamkeit sicher war. Dann baute er sich vor uns auf und öffnete, mit dem untersten Knopf beginnend, sein Hemd.
Wieder schossen mir Roberts Worte von dem nächsten durch den Kopf und ich nutzte, die Zeit, um im Kopf meine Handlungsoptionen durchzuspielen. Noch bevor ich mich zu etwas entscheiden konnte, füllte ein wohlgenährter, behaarter Bauch mein Blickfeld. Doch das war nicht alles.

„Hier, guckt mal!“

Seine rosaroten Brustwarzen waren mit einem Metallstäbchen durchlöchert und durch eine silberne Kette miteinander verbunden.

„Cocktailkirschen“, schoss es mir durch den Kopf.

Sichtlich unsere schockierte Reaktion genießend, knöpfte er das Hemd wieder zu und verließ lachend die Küche. Nachdem wir uns 20 Sekunden lang entsetzt angesehen hatten, prusteten wir los.

„Vielleicht werden die Ferien doch gar nicht so übel“, dachte ich, denn die restliche Stunde verbrachten wir damit, uns über das Nippelpiercing unseres Chefs zu lustig zu machen.

„Soll ich dich morgen zur Arbeit mitnehmen?“, fragte Robert.

„Klar“, sagte ich.

In den folgenden Tagen holte mich Robert so gut wie immer ab. Er führ einen heruntergekommenen roten Ford Caddy, in dessen Innenraum sich so viele Pfandflaschen befanden, dass man bei einem Unfall im See hundertpro nicht sinken würde. Wir verstanden uns super. Auch wenn er mich bei der Arbeit manchmal stundenlang mit „Thorsten“ ansprach und sich über meine Fußball-/Bundeswehr- und Autopläne kaputtlachte.

„Sportfahrwerk? Hier ist doch überall Kopfsteinpflaster!“

Er ahmte grinsend die holpernde Bewegung der Sportfahrwerkfahrer nach. Ich beschloss, über das Sportwagenfahrwerk noch einmal nachzudenken…

TO BE CONTINUED…

Zeitsprung! … was 10 Jahre später geschah…kannst Du hier nachlesen.