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It was strange, the solitude did me good. I wrote a few short stories without beginning and end. One story about a cheese-spurning mouse and one about a rabbit father who cut off his paw and sold it to a fox to put carrots on the table for his family. They were nothing fancy, but they weren’t bad.
I had also stopped smoking and drinking for two weeks. I never became an alcoholic or an drug addict. No more of that. I was almost disappointed. Yes, at least I was still alone, that gave me stability and courage, but nothing to do. Nothing to brood over, nothing to experience and the summer I was out there and then it became autumn. At least on the calendar.
Early September. The children went back to school to learn for later life. Learning to learn. The days of my school days were not so long ago. A boy who was teased by his classmates while crossing the street reminded me of my own days in the classrooms. I watched him from my apartment window and thought; I had forgotten how to learn.
Just know, years ago I had not consciously decided against this path. I just didn’t want to study for years after I finished school and then drink wine from crystal glasses at fancy parties with other students and chat about family homes, travel or crystal glasses.
“You don’t want to sell your mind to the machine,” a high school dropout justified my attitude during the breaks when she didn’t put her tongue in my newest friend’s mouth. I had told Tom about my anxiety when I didn’t know what to do next and she slammed her mojito on the table and got in our way before he had even processed my words. I sighed preemptively even before I heard the mojito glass slam at the table.
He paid for her drinks. He paid for mine. I gave him back the money as soon as I could. As soon as I could work a day somewhere. Not her. She couldn’t afford it, but in that sense she paid in her own way, she just didn’t seem to be aware of it. The irony, when she thought she was free, also flew over her head in a high arc. Yeah, I was about to bang my head on the table when she said she’d never get hooked on anything. We would have been a good match, she and I, hypocritically down to the last cell, but she shoved her tongue down Tom’s throat because he had the money to pay for her mojitos. I drank my drink, thanked them, called it a night, drove home and the next day I took a number to enroll.
The study centre was packed. The applications for the winter semester were open. I looked through one of the folders that were lying around everywhere on the bar tables and waiting chairs. Most of those who were here already knew what they wanted to become, they exchanged their expectations and anticipation among eachother, but I went through the brochure from top to bottom – from African studies to business informatics – and everything I saw, I admit, triggered yawning boredom in me. The interesting subjects had an entrance examination and for those I came 3 months too late. So I decided on the most obvious: I could write, could tell boring stories in an exciting way and had the potential to become arrogant like one of the elite. Journalism seemed to be made for me. I signed up, got assigned a curriculum and went home.
“In three weeks we will start,” I was told and after three weeks, I had lost my motivation. If the guy who just sat on his ass for three weeks didn’t owe the guy who signed in three weeks ago, then I probably wouldn’t have gone. So I went anyway, because I happened to wake up and with the best will in the world couldn’t find anything better to do.
In retrospect, I had to realize that I had learned something important about studying in the first hour sitting in these higher halls of education. The first courses were a lesson in lack of pedagogy. The professor talked, showed us his slides, on which was written exactly what he told us, and I found it hard not to lose attention. I was sitting at the back, had arrived a little late, and the view over the crowds in the few weeks to follow often fascinated me more than the lecture I was actually here for.
The rows were filled with freshmen and old hands, for which one could by the looks screw name badges to the chairs. Unnecessary, as one quickly noticed, because only on the first day were they all there: On the first day they were all there: young, pretty women, fresh from their university entrance exams; old, weird washer women who wanted to take a try at life again; strong boys with gelled hair and in pretty, ironed shirts; there was only one old man and he looked as if one had to be mentally prepared to go for a defibrillator in case of an emergency; me in between, the 25-year-old with the holes in his shoes, socks and soles. Just by chance you can’t see through one. Shredded vest sleeves, but it was still warm outside. I felt like scum, probably because I was scum. Not in my heart, I thought, not when it was about something significant.
The university had nothing in common with school. In highschool, I knew exactly where my place was. I was a poor boy in tattered clothes, but neither one of the harder ones nor one of the soft ones…I was just poor and boring. People left me alone. And now a few years after the last day I had sacrificed to education, several small confrontations with the law and the world of work later, I was ready to learn again. I was sitting in a room where most of the people present were women who thought they had something on the line. So many from good homes or in their minds already fighting against fascism on the streets as activists, while they dabbled in drugs en mass and comforted every guy whose country was bombed by ourside or their own military. A blowjob from the editor of the super IN youth lifestyle magazine in the loo of a study party could not relieve the flames in Kabul, but at least the fuses in their skulls were calmed thanks to the kind gesture? The guys were not much better, but at least I was still as normal as I needed to be. That’s not meant as a compliment. I was tougher than any of them, which made me sad. I had holes in every pair of socks I owned, an 8 burned into my forearm, was smaller and scrawnier than the other members of my sex, but still knew that if it came to a verbal punching match or a good old fistfight, I could put them all in my pockets if I just fought dirty enough. Even with someone who could rely on a hidden martial arts past, I figured I had a good chance.
There was also a guy who everyone wanted to shut up, but at European universities you don’t punch each other in the face unless you meet in front of bars in the evening and see women reeklessly changing men. But nobody dared to forbid him to speak. Even the professor in his stupid approach did not completely deny him the right.
“You see, [Mr. Bass Trumpet], in practice you can’t do that because of [obvious limitations], but if you can do it and do it right, and you [ignore all the fundamental aspects that speak against it], I see how [your immature approach] could work.”
I think I was mentally down to my last plate. The frame had shattered right in front of me. The professor went on without saying much more. Bass trumpet grinned proudly. Then he looked at the bored and annoyed faces sitting around him. His pride slipped way, he nodded at the lecturer and sat down again. The professor continued and people picked up their pens again. One big simultaneous click and the paper was again dedicated to academic wisdom. Okay…a good half used their notebooks. Those who did not concentrate on what was happening before them anyway. They preferred to surf the net and only looked up from the screen so that the professor didn’t have to feel bad.
A girl in the row in front of me was browsing an online shop for new clothes. Some of them I could well imagine on her. She had a rather dashing figure, but was taken. In one of the breathing breaks from class, which I mainly used for smoking, I had overheard her talking about her relationship. She clicked the desired dress – a black one; highclass – into her shopping cart and switched to the side with the shoes. The cheapest pair was $85. I was giggling inside. “Eight times good food,” I thought to myself. The girl tapped her seat neighbor and friend on the shoulder, and showed her the items that she shortlisted. Three of them and her friend nodded off just one. The ugliest, I thought. Why women always ask women when it came to what men might like? Fortunately, she ignored her friend’s advice and chose one of the other two. Maybe she had style after all and only asked out of politeness rather than confirmation. I imagined her standing in front of me with her lightblonde hair, sugar-coated cheeks and brown eyes, wearing a blackhigh-class cocktail dress and four centimetre high shoes. Brushing herlips with the chimney red lipstick that made her face paler. How shesnuggled up to me and loosened my belt before she dropped to herknees.
My dick was hard. I pushed him down my left trouser leg. I shook my head to get rid of the fantasy. You’re here to learn, not to gush. I concentrated on the subject matter again, but the audience diagrams only suggested ironed out curves to me.
The professor told us something about “multi-media reporting” – page by page just text, enriched with sound, videos´ and animation. He tabbed from his presentation to the internet browser and showed us an example. One could already foresee that apart from other journalists and lecturers, who showed it to students like us before, no pig on this planet would be interested in it. The blizzards behind the text and the sound were quite nice, but they didn’t cope with the attention span of a goldfish and even I was quickly lost by the professor as he scrolled through what was known as the prime example and the embedded video footage that popped up. To my surprise, the editor even admitted himself that the whole layout was too much of a good thing when he closed the website. Bass trumpet swayed back and forth on the chair, as if it was about to explode. He pointed, the professor responded, he stood up and spoke.
Journalism was a very entrenched thing. It took me 3 months in descriptions to form an opinion and when I did, I started to hate it. This compulsion to tell a story that triggers emotions went against my grain. I saw no reason for it. No, it’s not enough for the papers that the sea level is rising. You also have to see Tscho Tschungu, the Polynesian boy who is threatening to drown on his palm island because of the melting ice caps, so that you understand at breakfast that you should be interested in his death. You’re supposed to break eggs over the frying pan while whales die and bees die, but as long as it’s in the paper, someone is going to care, right? Newspapers have been around for 400 years and have you ever looked out the window? The media can’t help it that we quickly get bored of the daily misery and need new cruelty to get the same kick. For most people it is already world salvation to do nothing but not stand in the way of salvation. Every man fights for himself. That’s okay too. Good people don’t always have to save the whole world, and if the newspaper does one thing with our favourite topics (murder, theft, manslaughter, corruption, sex, end of the world, personal fates, cannibalism and sport), it is to show us that this world perhaps doesn’t deserve to live on. All I had to do was walk past a newspaper stand and the headlines spelled it out for me: Cursed World.
You learn more about the world out there than in any classroom or university lesson. The everyday life of an mature, responsible, balanced person can knock the kneecap out of your sockets. . . and for the lame ones who couldn’t afford to correct their course, they just crawled along a little slower. Fuck it. . . I’m gonna stay down.