On the opposite platform stood a fat boy he was about ten years old in a black garment like the martial artists wear and midriff bulges like well-fed pigs do. A glorified bathrobe with a colored belt. The boy’s belt was light blue, so he wasn’t a master yet. I smiled at the sight. Ätz noticed my pleasure, shrugged his shoulders and I pointed to the child. He laughed as he noticed.
“Yo Karate Kid” He shouted over.
The boy didn’t react.
“Kung Fu Fucker” I shouted over.
The boy didn’t react, but he heard us. He lifted his head slightly towards me and Ätz.
“You’ll find the Dragon Balls” yelled Ätz across the platform.
The boy looked up into our direction.
“Fuck yourself” He yelled over.
“Respect! Hey boy, kill ’em” I yelled across the tracks. The boy went into the bus shelter. I think he smiled. The train in the other direction arrived. The boy got on the train and he was gone.
We were still laughing. We couldn’t get a hold of each other. Weed was enough for me, I thought, and the alcohol – for the hard things I never felt ready. I just didn’t have the practice. I didn’t have the stomach. The mixed consumption was enough for me.
The scoreboard displayed yellow text on its grey borderline stand. It showed that our train would arrive in one minute. Ätz drew my attention to the brightly lit letters. It had been like that for five minutes and he said it is always stuck like that. The board would stay on one minute until the train arrived.
“They also stop the clocks, for statistics of course. At the end of the quarter, one does not want to look like the most delayed train in comparison to the rest of Europe.”
“If you say so”
I took out my cigarette packet from my pocket and lit one.
“Give me that,” said Ätz, and I flicked one at him. He lit his cig with a Zippo. I put away my plastic one.
The platform was greeted by a worn-out housewife, over 50 years old. She probably visited her post-pubescent children before her husband looked after the cat named “Schnucki”. While she was allowed to go shopping for dinner, which she prepares, afterward. She is allowed to watch her series, depending on whether her husband pays her attention today. Not that I would blame him, she doesn’t look like passion. The temperature on the platform dropped two degrees as she appeared. A guy on a skateboard almost slipped on the smooth path she left behind. She sat down with us and of course, we became aware of her cold presence, paying no attention to her. “Excuse me,” she said politely and waited till one of use acknowledged her existence.
“Yes?” I said, ready to give her all the information she might need.
“You can’t smoke in here.” My brain didn’t boot up. “This is a non-smoking station,” she continued, “Could you please go somewhere else to smoke?”
“No,” I said reflexively.
“No, I don’t want to stand up now. The train is coming soon. I’m almost done with my cigarette. You will survive it for a minute.”
“You can’t do this here.”
Ätz wanted to get up, I look at him and shook my head.
“Please stop,” I begged her, “This is ridiculous”.
“Your behavior, that’s ridiculous. You endanger yourself consciously, but above all the people around you.”
It was something buried deep inside me that broke out at that moment. The sight of her face was what I imagined a French noblewoman would look like, who executed a bee-keeper because his bees dared to visit the royal garden and seek her life. Her smugness collided with my sense of injustice.
“Watch out, you abused by life saddle-cloth, if I want to I’ll eat cancer without detour… and do you really think that this little smoke in a city of car exhaust fumes and waste incinerators does something to you!? Really, do you think that!? Then why do you dare to sit down beside us when the stench disturbs you so much!?” she didn’t answer, at least not fast enough. “Return to your miserable life and leave us in peace.”
“Non-smoking station… Marked areas…”, a sign mounted on an ashtray which no indication of its range, ”…Youth beyond help…No education…No respect…No decency…. Corrupted by technology…This generation can’t be helped.”
“Maybe cancer wouldn’t hurt you so much?”
“Excuse me?” even Ätz looked at me in disgust.
“Who knows maybe you will – out of pity – find back to your lost friends, reconnect with your family, maybe even your cat takes pity on you and that could be seen as a win for everyone simply because then you can play the moralizer with them.”
With my words, I blew smoke in her face and smiled with all my heart. My fingers were shaking. My chin trembled. I took a deep breath. I thought that was enough for the old woman, who desperately tried to grasp influence in this world, but she bared her teeth. What I underestimated was her maternal instinct, which didn’t let me get away with dancing out of line.
“You’re welcome to continue this conversation with the police.” She threatened me.
“Then call the executive officers, I’m thrilled by the thought that you are calling the Gestapo to live out your Orwellian dream of control because I’m blowing a little smoke in your direction. I mean, like I already said, you saw us smoking here, and despite that, you sat down with us, out of the blue, then you start this rant. My legs hurt and it’s hardly like the few yards are going to save you from my smoke.”
She didn’t say a word. Just stood up and walked away she looked at us both with a grim look.
“Read the new long-term studies, lady. Passive smoking is as dangerous as standing over a barbecue grill, get off your glorious crusade against cancer.”
Chang had rubbed off on me. She brought a platform between us. Ätz pretended he didn’t know me by now.
“What?” I asked him.
Disappointment looked down on me.
“Pretty hard of you, don’t you think?”
“Ätz, shut up.”
“What is it with you, you tone deaf borderline personality?”
“Ätz, again, shut up.”
“From one moment to the next from sunshine to rainy weather” he stretched his index finger into the air and turned on an imaginary switch, “As if someone were turning the lever of a cloud machine.”
“She just triggered me.”
“Good reason really…”
“Are you telling me she didn’t just try to blow off steam on a stranger, too?”
“Sure, but to make her realize what a waste of breath she is to you…”
“Yes just to me…”
My gaze wandered to the tracks. I listened to him and after he had finished his psychoanalysis, based on the fact of what I have already accepted quietly, I shook his ideas out of my head.
“What am I doing Ätz?”
“By sitting here with you?”
The tip of my cigarette turned on my shoe sole and the excess ash sanded in the grooves and fell on the tile floor.
“Do you feel like you want to run away?”
“Then I guess you’re not running anymore?”
The embers came away from the filter. I was holding a mixture of fired cotton wool wrapped in paper in my hand. The tobacco residue burned on the floor and gone up in smoke on the white tiles.
“It’s for sure…he’s not looking for me.”
“Was it ever about that?”
A deep sigh drove out of me. He’d been stuck in my guts for a long time, making my lungs heavy. Ätz gave me an encouraging smile and like back at the station he patted me on the shoulders.
“Why should he, Nat? You’re an adult.”
“Time’s running out.”
“Eight months” I repeated.
From the loudspeakers boomed: “Attention platform one. Train to Fickelstrudelstraße is arriving.” The platform broke into jubilation. A grandmother with her three-year-old grandson on her arm already stood up. I sat there and waited until the trembling tracks found peace and the heavy metal wheels passed me by. Ätz had got up and asked me: “Are you coming?” and with my hands, I lifted myself from the bench and pushed myself off the seat.
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