Our clientele were all made up by regular users, decent working people with a penchant for hollowness, that could only be alleviated by consuming mind-altering substances that twisted there boring short term solution of life into bearable conflict-ridden excitement, that promised more down the road. But there were weeks when marijuana sold like Bluetooth toilet seats. Everyone who wanted one already had one, and the rest saw it so far as nothing but a puffed-up gimmick, you could lose your mind over convincing others of its usefulness.
With our customers slacking, our Money started floating out. The scale of our lifestyle was excessive. We ate in restaurants in the morning and ordered vodka in bottles in clubs in the evening. We smoked the money in green, Ätz had discovered his fondness for white, and I mine for prosciutto and pistachios. We had gotten expensive. During the wait, the money was no longer enough to sustain our needs. The customers stayed away, and then Ätz came to me, asked for a fiver for cigarettes and I handed it over wordlessly. He came back with the new pack, lit himself one, gave me one and put forward a plan forward to me, speaking with cigarette smoke running out of his mouth..
“An acquaintance asked, actually more of a past regular customer. He would pay a lot more for it than what the actual value is, as long as the transaction is handled underhand, he asked if I know someone and I know off a place where we could get one easily and cheap and then sell it to my friend. That’s gonna be a considerable profit for us”
“Okay,” I said, and on the next day, we drove to the apartment building.
The man was evaporating the disease of his body. He stank of dirt and bad manners. I first noticed his fingers. He seemed to be chewing on them. They were all scarred with dental marks. His thumb was blue and bleeding black under his skin. He took turns assuring me that they all wore different tastes. His favorite finger was the right index finger, which was recognized by the tooth marks that formed a particularly dense pattern and no longer had a fingernail. He was an interesting guy, crazy without a doubt, but he didn’t have it bad here at all.
The apartment was noticeable empty. Much too big and much too free – a real estate agent would have called it minimalistic. Except for a couch with a reclining surface that provided space for 6 adult men, a living room table on which spoons, syringes, papers, filters, and various bottles laid around and which was full of weed crumbs, so that when you wiped it off, you could turn the dust alone into 5 violent or 9 weak joints.
In front of the television, which was also the last piece of furniture in the living room, there was a cemetery for lighters. They wore countless different motifs and colors. A mosaic of plastic and metal that was easily flammable. I took my empty one and threw it on the pile. It clanked. The junkie covered his ears and whispered: “I hear the chains rattling. They’re coming. ” “Who’s coming?” I asked.
Ätz gave him a worried look. The junkie didn’t hear my question. He just repeated louder what he just said, which caused me to turn and ask Ätz:
“What’s the deal with him?”
“Ever since he was 19, he’s been shooting everything he can get his hands on. ”
“And he is one of the greatest offshoots of the city? The guy looks like he belongs in a loony bin”
“He has clear moments. Wait a minute. ”
Ätz went up to him and slapped one over the back of his head. The blow was not firm, but firm enough to throw his head forward. I wondered what it would do, but to my surprise, his facial expression changed immediately. His eyes no longer stared into the void. He had his focus back. He seemed to be there now and after a short phase of confusion, he announced himself with a “What do you want here?” to me.
“Leksi?” Ätz told him to turn around. The junkie did what he said.
“Oh, it’s you, Anthony. ”
“Everything all right, Leksi?”
“The synapses are still firing if that’s what you mean”. He replied with a smile. Ätz replied, and the junkie went on. “Who’s your friend?”. I reached out my hand to him. “My name is…”
“Hold on a second”. The junkie stopped me in my tracks. He got up from the couch, wordlessly walked into the next room. I dropped my hand from the happy prospect of a handshake when I realized, he locked the door behind him. It took a minute, noise from another room and then he came out with a rifle in his hand. It was an old model. World War II, I suspected. I had once seen a similar gun in a film.
“That’s my baby”. He said proudly and drove his hand from the barrel to the piston. He stroked it more gently and with more love in movement than most men do their wives. If he could have, he probably would have put his dick in the barrel of that rifle, too. Speechless, I admired the obscure foreplay.
“Your name’s what again?” the junkie asked me.
“I haven’t introduced myself yet. I am Nathaniel. ”
“Ahh, Nathaniel. You can call me whatever you want Nathaniel. ”
He put the rifle on his shoulder. He aimed at me. I put up with that. If he wants to shoot, go ahead.
“Then I’ll call you like Ätz “Leksi” ”
Leksi dropped the weapon off. He kissed the rifle and then held it out to me. I briefly thought about whether Leksi wanted me to be tender about the firearm as well, but I decided against it. That was a little too crazy for me. Also, it seemed smart, that I didn’t want his baby to be disloyal to him either. I took her in my hand. I didn’t expect it to be that heavy. How a piece of wood, some metal, and a few screws could weigh so much.
When the Russians ran out of guns, they sent men with a fake rifle made of wood to their deaths. With the toy gun, they were so fast on their feet that they simply overrun the Germans. Easier climbing over the bodies of their comrades they had it with light weighted wood. I put on my rifle and aimed at the wall through the iron sight. I imagined one of the Russians jumping around in front of me and killing my companions with his glorified stick. When the man from the icy east was finished with their heads, he devoted himself to me. A warcry was roared. “Shoot” I heard and thought I didn’t hear properly. But his nod was an order, so I shot in the wall. The recoil was not an invention and my shoulder witnessed why people so often warned about it. I had never shot a gun before. The pain in my shoulders and ears almost made me slide the baby out of my arms, but somehow I held it by its hips, legs, head or fingers, you get the idea. In any case, I didn’t drop the rifle. Leksi, who neither seem to suffer any damage to the eardrums nor showed any respect for the hole in the wall, clapped his hands cheerfully before taking the gun from my hands. I used my freed up fingers and stuck them in my ears. I was hoping to get rid of the ringing like a toilet block. It didn’t help. Neither had a joint. The tinnitus was still there when Ätz discussed everything with Lex.
I wasn’t listening to them anyway. I enjoyed the quality of the weed and the colorful pictures that were running in front of my eyes. I laid back on the couch and counted the bullet holes in the ceiling. When I miscounted at forty-four and because the counting did not seem to come to a conclusion I stopped. The joint was gone, Ätz´s had pulled a line and Leksi’s cooking utensils were back at the table.
Leksi seemed to fall. He chewed on his fingers. The meeting was over. The plan had been discussed, albeit crooked, and precautions were taken, even if they deserved to be called sporadically. As farewell we shook the hands of each other, Leksi’s fingers were wet, mumbled “until tomorrow” and we got the door slammed behind us.
“Are you sure we can leave him alone?” I asked. Ätz looked at me confused, so I went on, “I mean, is anyone helping him?”.
I followed Ätz down the stairs. One floor below, he stopped.
“Noticed something? He owns the entire house”. He told me.
“All four floors?”.
“Every apartment. He rented them out to some people who never sleep there. ”
“I don’t know that for sure. But it’s a pretty good cover. The guys who move in don’t pay a cent, they have a home address and Leksi can launder his money in their name. ”
“Did he come up with that?”
“I’m telling you, he doesn’t need any help“.
I was brooding over the guy as we moved on. He didn’t quite fit with me. .
The next day we sat again in the apartment and waited. Ätz had Leksi promise him he wouldn’t take any hard stuff beforehand, so we smoked weed, watched TV and talked about what came to our mind watching the afternoon shit run down in front of us. Leksi had talked for about four hours and we sat around for four hours, waiting for this guy to show up.
After a while the TV and the associated commentary of Leksi and Ätz lost its charm, I started to look around, the apartment was empty, my eyes didn’t catch anything new, so I concentrated on Leksi. I noticed that he struck out briefly, repeatedly and without any control, with his index, middle and ring fingers. His left hand danced patterns and created a kaleidoscope of bruises and tooth marks until the fingers came to a stop again and the dead flesh rested on the sofa. I watched his hand do it a few times over the course of the day. It was absurdly beautiful, I looked at every time and at some point, he noticed my staring.
“Oh, that? The drugs, what can you do?”
He was happy. This man had a hand, he could not control and spoke of it with a look on his face as if he was telling me what Baby Jesus had brought him for Christmas. I thought about asking about his condition, but then I thought of the different reasons why it could make him happy and I let it slide. Talking about masturbation wasn’t taboo for me, but why would I talk about it with another guy?
“It doesn’t work very well. ”
“That’s not the only thing that doesn’t work so well with you anymore” threw in Ätz.
“What are you talking about? My dick still stands like a flagpole. ”
“I’m talking about your brain, you idiot. ”
Leksi laughed it off.
“God gave me two hemispheres of my brain, two parts reigning over their realms with different tasks to complete, able to pick up the slack of the other but god in his wisdom only gave me one tail. So…”
“You believe in God?” I was shocked.
“Since when, please?” Ätz remarked in a snide tone.
“Always have. You don’t know a lot about me Ätz, do you? I’m a converted Muslim. I pray every day towards Mecca”
“You don’t look or act like a devoted Muslim,“ I remarked.
“Oh, Neo, must. . . ”
“It’s Nathaniel or Nat short. ”
“Okay Nateeee” He pulled it extra long, “you gotta look like a sandnigga…“, Leksi turned to Ätz, “…no offense…“, Ätz grinned impatiently and nodded with distaste, “…to believe in Allah according to you Nat, or what?”
I didn’t quite know what to say. The question was stupid and without a doubt simply stated for passive-aggressive purpose, so I just shook my head. and smiled at him
“Say Leksi,” Ätz started to speak, to free me from the situation and prevent the occurrence of an unpleasant silence.
“Yes, my friend?”
“Which way is Mecca, you fuckin Mega-Muslim?”
Leksi ignored the undertone. He stood up, turned once to the left, then to the right, stopped in the process somewhere in the middle and pointed with his outstretched finger in one direction. With a winning grin on his face, he looked at Ätz, who answered him disbelievingly and shaking his head. “You don’t even know where the fucking main station is and you want to tell me that in that direction. . . ” he pointed in the direction that Leksi had shown him, “…Mecca lies?”
“You don’t have to believe me” he announced and let himself fall back on the couch.
“Yeah, I don’t, man. No offense”
“Why don’t you ask Ned here?”
“Yes, of course, Nat. Ehm, ask Nat here. He looks smarter than you, my black friend. ”
Ätz stretched both hands from himself and turned them so that you could see his palms. He shrugged his shoulders. “What are you saying now?” he asked.
“Well, he’s white. ”
“You’re are white too, and I don’t see you researching rocket science around here. ”
“All I’m saying is that the people of Norbert here. . . ”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Nate. Excuse me, you white men all look the same to me. ”
“I swear to you, Leksi, if I wasn’t afraid to knock the last brain cells out of your skull, I’d give you one right now. ”
“That’s why my head hurts!”
Ätz dropped his jaw, looked at Leksi with a sharp look and followed by his best “Oh really” look he made him understand.
“Oh, you would never do that, my Niggaboy. You like me way too much for that. ”
Ätz took a deep breath. Through the nose in, out the mouth.
“Can we not do that?” I warned them.
“Hey, sorry, man, I didn’t mean to mess with you. ”
“You have respect for him?” asked Ätz in surprise.
Leksi looked at him, hit the table with his fist and laughed:
“Look at his eyes. They are sharp, they observe, they estimate. One should be really afraid of such because one cannot read what they think.
“He’s not a gorilla-like you who hits his chest and lets his penis hang out.
“Hang out his penis?”
“You’re gonna have to puff yourself up like this, someday they’re gonna give you a stun arrow, and then it’s good night”. Leksi pointed at me. “He’ll live. You underestimate him. I’d let him live. ”
“Nat would certainly be overwhelmed with the instructions you always give?”
“I don’t think so,” Leksi said.
“Oh, and what about the three homeless people I was supposed to scare away for you?”
“You didn’t finish it anyway?”
“Yes, because as always, your orders were easy to wishy-washy” Ätz got angry. He slashed out with his arms talking.
“The problem is known” Leksi assured him. That didn’t calm Ätz a bit.
“Wow, and that brought me something? You didn’t even say that you already spurred them on and they had armed themselves in the meantime. ”
Ätz sighed. He just wanted to get some air. Leksi had got up. He took a few steps to the window and looked out.
“What do you want me to do, huh, kill her? Shall I do it?! Just get the gun and bang, bang, bang. All three dead“. He had shouldered an imaginary rifle, as he turned to us. He raised his arms against us to every bang coming out his mouth. Ätz looked worried and I tried to ignore the weirdo.
Leksi turned to Ätz.
“You’d better do it Ätz. There’s a little pocket money involved”
He seemed to misinterpret his restraint.
“I know you can Ätz. The killer is hidden in all of us”
Leksi laughed. Ätz breathed deeply. Leksi stopped disappointed. He was expecting enthusiasm, that’s what he was looking for. He waved his arms in the air, during the verbal outburst of his manifesto. To still arouse the desire, he spoke to me in desperation.
“Come on, Natter, I know you got it in you. I see the hate in your eyes”
“My name is Nat. ”
He broke away from us, went into the kitchen and drank a glass of water. I exchanged looks with Ätz. His eyes spoke what I thought, “Let’s go soon. ”
Leksi came back and sits down at the edge of the sofa to the table. He put the stuff around the table. He sorted it through, exchanged glasses for cigarettes. He prepared his cutlery.
“I want the shotgun, preferable in foreseeable future. Leksi, do you have another one or not?”.
“No”. He said while looking for a puncture-vulnerable vein on his right arm.
“Then fuck it. We’re leaving.”
“Goodbye. Your money is on the table”. Leksi said to him. He injected the whole syringe and let himself sink into the sofa. Ätz and I left. He counted the bills as he walked down the stairs. “It’s all in there” He announced and put the money back in his jacket pocket. We were on our way to the subway, I was kicking small stones over the pavement. Ätz seemed lost in thought. I walked a little behind him, looked at the graffiti on the walls. Nothing special about it. Just words.
“Why Leksi?” I asked him.
“When I first met him, even here in this apartment, there were four hookers with him. One was blowing his dick, while he threatened one at gunpoint and kept yelling to lick Siri. I guess another girl. It seemed so close to getting out of hand. Burned an image into my brain, one that had made him a name in my mind. ”
“Uh-huh,” I said short of words and tried to imagine the whole thing. Ätz laughed out loud.
“Fuck, that dude gets my blood flowing every time. You know, he is doing it on purpose, right? Trying to provoke you. Nothing means anything to him. It’s all just a big joke and we are the ones he is laughing about. He’s an imbecile, a self-imposed fuck-up. He chooses himself every time”
Ätz took a deep breath, we waited for the crossing signal to turn green. I looked at Ätz. Not convinced enough of his explanation, I guess because he kept on talking about Leksi. A guy he didn’t seem to normally talk a lot about.
“Sure you could argue, he earned his lifestyle by being smarter than us and now all that is left is just him and what he wants to do. I once thought it was a cry for help, I think it still is, but the truth about him, ultimately, I have seen women caring for him, he’d see only it as a weakness if you lowered yourself to his level trying to help him. He is the only one, who is supposed to be fucked up”
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