When it came down to the big crises and little depression I was always glad, that he was there. I had someone to talk to. That was more than I would claim to have had before. In the meantime, I started to need someone to talk to. Age convinced me, that my thoughts had gotten more complex and layered. Deeper. In practice, I mostly noticed it, because I couldn’t make myself a rhyme on how I got here. So, someone to talk wasn’t longer something optional. I needed someone to bounce ideas off. To clear my own thoughts alone would have been a goliath task. One lies and cheats himself. Somehow every day it felt like I was waging a war. The present against the future me and the future me was present every sunrise and before I went to bed, I knew he was right. The small crisis and great depressions Ätz left behind with me, though there was the other side to our relationship, the business-wise and unexpected events tend to cut into our money and just like that into our friendship as well. Every business goes through bad times eventually, some sectors die off completely overnight. Think back; about the mining industry, sawmills, soon farming and service jobs are going to be obsolete. Ätz and I didn’t participate in a race against technology, but we were self-employed. This meant no employees. We were on our own and we were the once, we had to worry about saving ourselves from being ruined. To be frank, it didn’t seem to worry me much at that moment which I am, looking back, still surprised about. I guess I had acquired a poverty instinct, a low bar for what I needed most and was enough, but Ätz got nervous when the money didn’t come in in bundles every week. He infected me with his concerns.
To be working with him on something as bluntly simple as drug dealing was curiously enough outstandingly entertaining. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t have done it for so long it if not for him. Trying to turn it into something to be enthusiastic about, he made it an effort to teach me the tricks, even though I fear that they were after all lost on me. But overall of what I wished to have learned from him from the first time I met him onwards, I had seen plenty of. Instinctively he was able to recognize the intention of the other person by his body language. I found out, that he didn’t choose to do it consciously. At least it didn’t seem like it. Charisma seems to be more natural. After all, I never spoke to him about it. I just admired it.
There was just one time his intuition seemed to lead him on completely. We hadn’t eaten in two days, which I guess was the reason why his third eye decided to take a day off. We were about to land a big score. A guy was willing to buy Kilo. That was more money than we had hoped to ever see back then, and it would have filled our war chest for a couple of months.
Because so much marijuana is not simply growing outside on the street, we plundered our deposits into our business and our savings to invest in a product, we already had a buyer for. Ätz even went to Chang to collect part of his debt immediately. He deducted it from his debts for the time being and promised Chang, should he need the 500 euros after the deal had been concluded, he would return the money to him. Chang agreed and six hours after we had the offer on the table, we were already on our way to get the weed. Problem was, we gave the bags to the wrong guy. Some passer-by who responded to the name we were supposed to use to address him and repeated, without him really acknowledging what was happening. “Do you know Yusuf?”. He nodded, we put the bag in his hand and when we noticed our mistake after Ätz phone rang, the guy was already long gone. Obviously, our client did not have a lot of understanding of our situation and we would no longer be allowed to do business with him in the future.
We didn’t have a cent left and when a sausage roll becomes a financial decision to consider, and when the purchase of a more expensive schnitzel roll threatens to drive you to ruin, you know you’re at the end of your rope. The account also goes in the other direction beyond zero. I learned that from experience.
Ätz and I were pretty screwed, but Ätz had an advantage over me. He had a new girlfriend and she took good care of him. She was a nice girl, but I didn’t burden those two. I couldn’t stand the cuddling in front of my eyes.
Nothing happened for weeks because of it. No business, no delivery, no sale. I even personally accused Ätz of forgetting about the money because of the pussy. Off all people him. He denied it, of course. And of course, I could have looked for a new job in the meantime, seen it as an opportunity to integrate myself back into society, instead of startling Ätz for money, but I just couldn’t get myself to write any applications and take a formal photo for my resume. So, I stayed hungry.
To distract myself from poverty, I went for walks a lot, thinking a lot about what I saw. The dilapidated facades of the suburbs did not show that a few kilometers further on, in the heart of the city, money had been earned and mankind had been driven forward. Here lived those who brewed their franchise coffee in the morning, looked after their children and scrubbed their toilets, and in the end, I was the hungry one, because I didn’t want it. I didn’t feel like I had too high a standard. No, instead I waited in renunciation. Easy to irritate, I was and hungry and hungry irritated. What good was it, that when I thought of cream slices, I actually thought of cream slices? I didn’t waste a thought on her.
I got dizzy for a few days, after that the hunger was almost a state of intoxication. The colors were more intense, life slower, people quieter. Hunger even disappeared. The only time I could feel him was when I saw someone munching. In the end, the savings measure did not make a difference. I ate less but smoked more cigarettes. Every cent I won on hunger, I blew out of my lungs as smoke.
At some point, I couldn’t take it anymore. I went to the soup kitchen, where I got send off with nothing. You had to prove you were homeless.
“And the fact that I have a roof over my head doesn’t change the fact that I’m hungry. You think I come here because I like the food so much?”
In this country, you were either homeless and got something to eat, or you had money and bought something. No one had a heart for a non-tax-paying and unsuccessful black economy employee. The society avoiding underclass is the one that starves in silence and food doesn’t exist for them without the will to change their lives. They drove me away. Heartless bastards on top. I tried stealing. I stole a tomato from a vegetable shelf in a supermarket and took some other items in my hand to leave at the register. I hated tomatoes, but only given the chance to steal tomatoes or ginger, I pocketed the tomato. The old woman in the yellow vest was overlooking her territory wearing her glasses. I ate the tomato raw, two corners further down the street and it held me up pretty well throughout the day.
In the evening I met up for a war council with Ätz in a park. He seemed well nourished in the dark light, his silhouette had pronounced curves. I pulled up my pants because they tried to slip off me. I’d forgotten to put on the belt I was wearing lately.
“I know how to get back in the game,” he said, “we just have to wait and see“
I didn’t want to hear that. I ate the bread with ham that he had brought with him packed in a serviette because I mentioned in the message that I was a little hungry. He also pulled four cans of beer out of his backpack and a half-empty bottle of Jack.
“Plundered from the misses”
“Better than nothing”
We sat down and talked and drank. To the future and about the future. For hours just us, the two of us talking, it felt like the days I’d arrived in the city. Finally, he patted me on the shoulder and I was too proud to ask him for money.
“I’m gonna have sex now”, he said to me and disappeared into the night. I drank the Jack Daniels, licked drops of the bottleneck on the bench and left alone, I set off by myself, thinking nothing is ever going to change.
I walked out of the park. On my way, I passed countless kebab shops. They were all that was still open and where the light was still burning for drunks and hungry like me. I pressed my nose against the big shop windows and watched the kebab skewer machine turning. I couldn’t spare myself the sight. Since the public traffic stopped at 1:30 in the morning, I had to walk the whole way. In the end, a taxi is nothing more than a luxury good, and my legs were supposed to be good for something.
I tore myself from my greatest desire and kept my head turned from the meat to the street. A man, in his mid-thirties, revealed only by his face, drove down the street in full cycling gear, including a bicycle suit and helmet seen at the races. He drove on the road marker, directly under the street lamps and the yellow of his elevator reflected the light. He was driving at a crazy speed. The lamps he mounted on the spokes of the wheel formed a full circle of light. Fascinated by the sight of the yellow glow, I looked after him driving past me. It distracted from the hunger, that blurred the colors, but also took my attention away from the street.
I think if I’d looked straight, I might have noticed. Some people can be spotted by their gait when they’re not planning anything kosher. He walked past me and all I noticed was someone passing by.
I didn’t react. My eyes were locked on the pavement and I didn’t think he meant me.
“Hey, man, come on. I need your help”
I went “Yes,” I asked “What do you want?” while I was walking.
He unlocked up to me, lined up next to me on the sidewalk. He had trouble keeping my pace, so he asked me
“Can you stop for a second?”
“What do you want?” I asked him and slowed my walk for a little.
“Hold it right there”
I stopped. He stopped. He took a knife out of his hooded vest. He pulled out the blade.
“Money” he threatened me.
“Or life?” I asked him. I saw him smile before the seriousness of the situation and my disrespect came to his mind. He came closer and held the knife to my chest.
“Man, just let it go. I’m totally broke.”
“Anyone can claim that. I would if that wouldn’t mean I get robbed.”
I pulled my wallet out of my back pocket. As I opened it, the flies flew out, I pulled the two wings apart like a curtain, stretched out the contents towards him and presented him with a single 20 Euro bill enclosed by a myriad of receipts.
“Give me the 20 Euro bill”
“Come on, you can’t take my last 20 Euros. What am I supposed to eat? Can’t you find someone who can afford to get robbed?”
“Okay, what about the ATM card?”
“I’ll show you, wait”.
I put my wallet away and pulled out my smartphone. I opened the online banking app and showed him the red numbers. Minus one thousand seven hundred and fifty-eight, written in carmine red.
“But I could take that smartphone off of yours?”
“Then can I at least keep the SIM card? I don’t want to go to the shop and get a new one. I find the experience of it so unpleasant.”
I gave it to him. He looked at it and when he saw the back of my phone he got angry.
“What am I supposed to do with this shit?”
A month ago, it had fallen to the ground and a drunken girl climbed on it. She hadn’t apologized, even had the nerve to laugh, but I was either too drunk or too enchanted by her laughter to get angry. My cell phone camera didn’t survive the collision with her boots. With the freestanding camera lens and the glass splinters that held up in a circle around it. More and more pieces had detached themselves over time. It also ensured that the light in my picture always broke in the glass. A natural grey filter was gifted to all of them. But I didn’t want to get a new one, apart from the fact that I couldn’t afford it,
That wasn’t much of a tragedy. It was rare for me to want to take a picture of anything. It just annoyed me when the moments came and I couldn’t. In the worst case, and only under the condition that nobody was present (I didn’t want anyone to have the idea to call the men in the jackets I loved), I could use my front camera under acrobatics exercises.
“Maybe you could sell the parts if you know someone ”
“I don’t know anyone”
“This sucks. Me neither”
I shook my head.
“I will not rat you out if you let me go. You surely will have your reason for doing it. But next time…maybe don’t do it close to a police station.”
I pointed down the main street. Three crossings down, the police station was at the corner. The cars with the police lettering were standing in front of it. It was one of the few buildings in addition to the kebab stands where the light was still burning.
“Oh,” said the robber in realization.
“Not that any of them really wants to walk around out here. The long arm of the law still loves to play around with himself in the bureau the most.”
The robber laughed, and I shook his hand, “Nathaniel” I said.
“It is all about reactive instead of preemptive. How about a beer, David?”
“I’ll pay. I still got 20€”
We went to the nearest bar. A smoky dive. I didn’t like the place, but I had good reasons to go there. Too many travelers, no regulars, no one who sat inside from the afternoon till late in the evening. No soul. I chose it in a hurry, before David decided to rob me again and because I knew the guy who owned the bar was a homosexual and liked me for my looks and would like to let me fuck him in the ass. I didn’t drive double-track, but there were drinks on the house, so I came here when the money ran out.
We sat down at a table. The bar was relatively empty. I spotted him and he spotted me. He waved at me and came up to us.
“Hey Jean, you alright?” I greeted him nicely.
“Who’s your friend?”
They shook hands.
“I have something to tell you. I’ll come right to you”, he laughed, “I have to finish the discussing with Dotto over there, who really thinks that women can play football as good as men”.
“I don’t know anything about professional football”
“You don’t have to. I’ll explain it to you later…”
He patted me on the shoulder. On his way back to Dotto’s table, he turned to the waitress.
“Bring the gentlemen two beers” I did hear him say.
Seated with my robber, downing beers and talking I could have said that drinking with David was interesting. He told me about his wife. She had no idea how he made the money. He used to be a night watchman, and she thought he was still doing it. He would still have done it if they hadn’t caught him one night taking a nap instead of watching the cameras.
“Nothing happens there all night. Five years I worked there, not even fell asleep and then once and they threw me out”.
His kid has type 1 diabetes he told me. The health insurance company would cover it, but no insurance without work. Insulin is expensive, and he wouldn’t let his daughter die. I listened to him, and the drunker we got, the more sniveling he turned. He even asked me to end his life, so he could finally stop running on the treadmill.
When Jean sat down with us the subject finally changed. I almost couldn’t listen to David anymore without telling him to “Shut the fuck up”. Jean sat down next to me and talked about football, gay saunas, and the problems to find a real man. David seemed to at least be curious. His mood changed, I guess he liked football a lot.
“Nathaniel, why can’t you suck dicks instead of nibbling pussies?” Jean said.
“For the same reason you flirt with me and I play along. I love insecurity”
He laughed. He moved closer to me and ordered a round of shots. We laughed and when we were drunk enough, I pushed Jean away from me, stood up and announced that I was filled up enough to go home now. Jean sighed disappointedly.
“Will you come back?” he asked me hopefully.
“When money’s short. You know.”
Jean laughed. David followed me out of the diner. He didn’t want to be alone with that faggot, as nice as he was to him. I wanted to leave him outside the restaurant, but he said to me.
“Nat, man, I can’t go home yet, it’s not 5 am yet. Please help me.”
“You don’t want your wife to get suspicious?”
“Bingo. She’d kill me. I just can’t pay my respects and she wants more. She won’t let me in if I come home stinking stupid without earning a cent.”
We went to my place. I had nothing more to drink at home, I got him and me beer from the sausage stand for 10€ and turned to my stock to roll some joint for both of us. I still had about 5 grams left, which corresponded to 50 euros investment in mental health and was bigger than the sum of what two people could smoke in one evening, without going hard. David told me what he was going to do now.
“Tomorrow morning, I will find a new job…and I will tell my wife…and together we will find a solution” David assured me.
I nodded off his plans.
“Do that, champ.”
In the morning I woke up on the couch. I opened my glued and encrusted eyes as the light of the sun was falling through the holes in the blinds. I really need better blinds, I figured. I looked up at the ceiling. There was nothing I could do about it. I had woken up. Awakened, but still in the mood to sleep, I decided to smoke a marijuana cigarette and then snooze into the dreamland again.
And resolutely I straightened up and was surprised that David was gone and with him all the weed. Fucking wanker. I searched the apartment for other objects that had been stolen from me. My radio was gone too. I went back to the table. My five-euro bill was missing. The bum had even plundered the pocket change.
Maybe I’ll catch him, I figured, maybe he’s still loitering in the street. I wanted to go in the hallway. I put my shoes on. Just as I was throwing myself a thin jacket on, it was raining, I saw grey and white paper lying on a wooden surface. On the corridor chest of drawers, there laid the five-euro bill missing from my wallet. There was a note next to it, saying:
“Sorry man, you got a good heart, but what’s the point of it in hard times”
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