I had arrived here, but a small part still hung back. He hung out in the village, laid next to Martina in her bed and wished he had stayed. That part had to die, I knew that. It made me sad and the others noticed. Ätz said I only needed a distraction and dragged myself reluctantly to a dance club. I didn’t think it would work, but then I saw her.
She caught your eye immediately and I watched her all the time, thinking I could allow myself to look without taking too much of the attention away from Ätz. I couldn’t because at some point he noticed it and when he turned around to where my gaze led him, he laughed. She just sipped on a straw at the bar counter. The black hair of her two pigtails hungover her ears.
“You really don’t want that,” he said indifferently.
He turned back to me.
“Why?” I asked him.
He shook his head.
“Just believe me, you don’t want that. You better get one off the dance floor.”
“If you don’t give me a reason, except that I would leave you alone right now, maybe I will”
“If you really need it, I won’t stop you.”
“Yeah, then I’ll do it.”
“Well, do it.”
“I’ll do it”
“I won’t stop you”
“Don’t be a fucking coward. Just go up to her.”
“I want to finish my drink”
At the time, I was serious. But I drank one and then another. We laughed and drank together. It was almost too nice to be ruined by a woman. Inevitably our evening ended in a drinking contest and when he ordered Tequila, he showed me again where the city dweller could prove something to the country child. He didn’t care that the rural village had sent their worst man into the race, it didn’t diminish his triumph over me. I stopped at the fifth. Ätz celebrated his sixth shot and the superiority of the urban drinking liver with an obscene gesture. My gaze wandered to her, to the girl with the pigtails at the bar. The woman had beaten me before I even arrived. She kept drinking; probably till she was dead.
Ätz yawned. He announced that he was tired and got up from his chair. “I’ll hit the houses,” he said to me and patted me on the shoulder. When I looked at the bar, the woman was already gone. I had no reason to stay. I nodded to him and followed him out.
The atmosphere in the club was exuberant. Everyone was drunk. The music boomed and shook bone marrow. We got our jacket from the dressing room. I saw a guy puking into his half-full beer on the way out and then drinking from the top down. I shook my head and made a disgusted face. As an opponent of the waste of water, especially when it was enriched with hops, I admired his efforts but certain recycling methods made me question their usefulness. Despite my disgust, his environmental awareness seemed to enchant a young lady. Her tongue was stuck in his beer garnish dispenser when I got my jacket from the coat-check girl. Love really went through the stomach and there was nothing but lust when you were hungry.
We stood outside the club for a while. He went through his pockets. I meant we should go. We hadn’t forgotten anything. A guy in a garbage bag jacket (corr. quilted jacket; the comparison just comes up) approached us.
“Do you have a cigarette?”
Ätz pulled out his pack of HB’s.
“You too, Nat?”
“Yeah, sure. Thank you”
Drunk to smoke, it felt like telling God off. I took a deep breath and looked around among the people.
There she was again. The woman with the black pigtails. She staggered on her high heels over the cobblestones. In one hand a beer, in the other a cigarette. She drank and I inhaled a deep draught of cigarette smoke and concentrated again on Ätz. I wasn’t ready to go over there. Martina held me tight.
My friend had started a conversation with the stranger. I wanted to build myself in, but it was just “blah blah blah” and I didn’t know the guy and let Ätz have his babbling conversation. When I then saw a bouncer in a hurry and shouting “Hey” to the young woman with the pigtails, my attention belonged to her. I watched the two bouncers circle her. She dropped on the ground between them.
“YOU SCHITTY MEN SEASCH BUT ALL ON THE SAME SIDE”
She threw the beer bottle. It broke. Those present turned to her. The conversation between the Ätz and the stranger stopped abruptly. A guy who was blocking my view before went to the side. One of the bouncers trampled on a flame.
“Really, girl…again?” I heard from the gorilla as I got closer.
I don’t know why, probably because I was horny, but I interfered. I pushed myself between the two bouncers and her, stood in front of the men and tried to be as sober as possible: “Sorry, she’s with me, Warden of the dance club. She’s going through a hard time right now. I’m gonna keep it all with me for now, sorry ”
“Sure… Better take her home.”
“Yeah, sure, I’ll do it right away, bouncer-sir.”
I took her by the hand and indicated with my head that she should walk a little offside with me.
“Tough night, huh?” I said to her as she walked beside me.
Before we left the people behind, I looked over to Ätz, who just shook his head, then smiled and walked towards the subway.
“Amen to that. My friend, now exsch-boyfriend, caught him with a friend of mine. In flagranti WEASCH I walked in the door.”
“Not even the decency to do it anywhere else”
“Say it out louder, boy”
She smiled. We stopped. She came closer and we kissed. I grabbed her ass. It rested well in the hand. She pressed herself onto me, felt my erection.
“Then take me to my new home now.”
I thought she was joking, but since she didn’t tell me where she lived either, I left her in control. It was so easy, my 15-year-old I’d be amazed. Just give up your restraint for someone who is unequivocally not in the constitution to exercise control over anything and shouldn’t be dared to do so.
We drove to Ätz, he laid on the couch and was asleep, which meant I could have his room. He’s a real friend. I grabbed the wine, two glasses and we staggered into the bedroom together. We laughed at our clumsiness.
After a few glasses, our thoughts loosened up. She was willing to go eye for an eye with me that might have blinded the world but made me hard. And as soon as I opened the second bottle, I stuck her tongue in my mouth. She wrestled with me for dominance. I fought back. I picked her up, threw her on the bed. She had pink knickers. Cotton candy pink. Her pants landed on the floor, I stood in front of the bed, dizzy, wobbling back and forth. I dropped my concerns and we were on the case.
She was the second woman I slept with and the first whose name I didn’t know before. I lived better with it. Love stops at the station and waves at you, while you leave with the train. I’ve had enough of love. I wished Martina to get bored in that cowshed. I was here in a dirty city, always in free fall, and I never thought I’d enjoy being here. It was loud, I was nobody and nobody knew me. One in a million who hadn’t walked a path yet. Next to me lay a girl who didn’t know me and who had slept with each of my new friends. She had confessed it to me and when I later spoke about it to Ätz, he said: “Grow up”. Actually, I didn’t care. I never wanted to marry her. I didn’t even want to meet her friends.
But from one moment to the next, we laid there together in the darkness. The midday sun broke through a crack in the blinds. The light brightened her face and as I wrapped a hand around her hip, I was gripped by the reluctance. All those hands roaming around on her. I could feel them on her hip. The people, I could taste them in my mouth.
I got up to get a glass of water. Ätz wasn’t there. My getting up had woken her up. I came back from the kitchen with two glasses of water. She sat upright in bed, stretched out her arms and yawned loudly. The braids had given way to a smooth sea of hair. I sat down in a chair opposite her and gave her a glass of water. I wandered through the black waves. I did not get stuck to a knot. She was hella pretty actually.
“Thank you,” she said and smiled. Her hair wasn’t greasy at all. I pulled my hand back and watched her drinking.
“My name is Nathaniel” I introduced myself.
“Nice to meet you.”
I got up and went into the bathroom. I brushed my teeth. When I was about to spit out the toothpaste, she was standing in the bathroom door frame.
“Nathaniel, this isn’t your room, is it?”
“Have you put out your feelers yet? No, well snooped, it’s not my room. I sleep on the couch”
“Yeah I thought Ätz was sleeping here…resembling him.”
“Nathaniel, I’m a lady you gotta know.”
“Okay, Lady Alena of the drunken rage, what does your will desire most?”
“A lady is served, boy. Hopp-Hopp”
I canceled the tutoring. The underprivileged children would get along one day without their teacher and me one day without their money. I went shopping. Wine from Spain, that was expensive enough for a home game. As I returned she laid in bed. I served Spanish Red to Lady Alena in a wine glass, we had a pizza for dinner. We stayed in the room all day. Played us stupidly around with Ätz’s stuff. We ate stone oven baked pizza, delivered to our doorstep, washed down the crust with wine and vodka, loved each other between the pieces and talked, insulted, laughed and cried.
“Ah, Natilein. I do love you.”
“You’re crazy, baby, I like that. It’s attractive but take it down a notch.”
“Don’t you love me?”
“We don’t know each other. We fucked.”
“Wasn’t it good?”
“What’s that got to do with love?”
“I love every guy I’ve slept with.”
The bird jumped out of the cuckoo clock and now that I heard the tinkling I woke up.
“You’re crazy, baby” I smiled at her. The next day she was gone.
Even sometime after she left me, I found hair bands everywhere. In the chest of drawers, on the bathroom cupboard, under the bed, between the sofa cushions, laying in the refrigerator door. You get the idea. I found nine of them; if I counted them on her wrist, she had ten, but I didn’t dare estimate the exact number, because it sometimes happened that she wore one or two in her hair. I knew her for three days and if it had gone on like this, I was sure I could have equipped a whole brothel full of scrunchie-rubber-less whores at some point. My heart opened when I thought of the smiles on the faces of prostitutes when I could make their work easier because they no longer had to hold their hair themselves. But Alena was gone, I only had nine. If I took Alena as the norm, all the rubber bands in the world wasn’t enough for a single girl.
I called Ätz and he laughed. “I told you so” was all I understood under the laughter. In the evening he came through the apartment door. I sat there, watched TV and as soon as our eyes met, he started laughing again. I laughed because he laughed, too. Alena was gone.
We watched TV and smoked together, the pseudo-Russian and the Chinese joined in. My new free time, the tutor hours I had canceled again, I use according to the rules of the common rabble with grass, cigarettes, video games and to get to know my fellow low-lifers better. All three of them were special, so I thought.
When it came to the attraction of not knowing how strong the opponent was, Miro talked like a waterfall. Otherwise, he was even quieter than me. Above all, in the beginning, Ätz and Chang mainly led the conversations and Miro and I were reduced to an audience who only talked when they were asked to.
The black one and the Chinese one, what a dream team. They could talk about anything. The weather, the meaningfulness of the extra hole in the flap of a beverage can; “intended for the straw” as Chang noted; or that the pay gap between man and woman is just a myth and nothing more than a statistic trickery and propaganda of the elite to bring the gender differences in manager salaries to equal levels. Topics that are only really discussed without women and not soberly, like their favorite topic, the one that connected the descendants of Africans and Asians alike: racism was “exposed” to both.
Chang told me how he was at a Chinese takeaway with a friend. His friend was white, in front of him in the queue and they asked him if he needed a fork. Chang just got the chopsticks with the box, without being questioned. It wasn’t racism. Everyone in our circle was aware of that, so we laughed it off. Racism is a concept.
When I once drove home from one of my tutoring students to Ätz, a guy in the bus fell into a racist tirade. The passengers blinded themselves to him, looked away embarrassed and contemptuous. One could hear the thoughts of the inmates and all thought themselves “crazy asshole”, but none said it. Neither did I, because it wouldn’t do any good. You shouldn’t tell people what to think, it hardly works out even if you put the human in this world yourself. There were better ways to show them they were wrong than to tell them they are.
I once saw an interview from the Ku Klux Klan leader, John Lee Clary, about the black pastor who defeated the KKK after they burned down his church down. Thirty clan members gathered in a restaurant and the pastor ate a chicken. They came up to him and threatened him: “We will do to you, what you do with the chicken”, so the pastor grabbed it and kissed the chicken breast and the clan members were stunned by what the witnessed and started laughing. A huge chunk resigned after that. A black man defeated the Klan without raising his fists or his voice.
Ätz and Chang discussed for hours, always bringing the same arguments, the same fickle and the same lyre to the table. The jokes were always different, so one could at least listen without wanting to pierce his drumheads with knitting needles.
One was a lazy Chinese, who liked to smoke grass and philosophize about things, worked in his parents’ restaurant and spent the whole day on the Internet, the other was a drug-dealing addict, with charisma and charm, but is held back by his past, that didn’t hold any foundation to build onto. Both enough potential to make something of themselves, neither with the real desire to. I didn’t appreciate what Miro’s dream was like. I didn’t know if he had any at all.
“I always wanted to make movies” confessed Chang as we sat on the couch one night watching a movie.
“Why don’t you do it?” I asked him.
“Why don’t you have a real job?”
The weeks passed and at the start of the flu epidemic. Like every, the time had come. I realized, feverish and dying, that I couldn’t go on like this. I couldn’t go to the doctor. I wasn’t insured. That’s what happens when you don’t pay taxes or have a real job. So I had to hang up the tutoring in fear of dying off of a cold.
– STARTING Chapter:
The Romans Would Have Eaten Fries
PART OF: TOXIC 24/7
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