The thing I’ve always loved about being in the States is all the power and telephone wires wildly zig-zagging across the roads and ‘long – longing down – the highways.
Here in Germany, we bury them underground. We like it tidy, but it’s really just sterile, and it kills. And prolly a whole lot more reliable, ‘cept for whenever I try to pull off something fancy, turn on the second hot plate and pop the fuse out. The only blackout that I could remember had been a mere five minutes, barely long enough to organize some candles, and good for just one of Dad’s stories, a pretty short one.
That was until a week ago, when, with one last tickle in the electric stream only as much as a slight buzz, the power went out. Still laying in bed, I watched my fan coming to a slow standstill. The life outside kept flowing on uninterrupted, just the birds were chirping a tad louder. On my way over to the bathroom, I pressed my ear against the apartment door. The floor was filled with voices, and from all across the click-clacking of lifeless light switches. Morse code messages and our apartment complex an island sticking out into an ocean of air.
I floated through outer space taking a shower in absolute darkness and collected a terribly teenage nick while autopiloting the razor across my cheeks. I got two short texts out my dying cell phone and remembered Dad telling me about how land line phones fed by their own low voltage and our humming voices, would still work during blackouts. But the line was dead, and my old phone now even more of a relict than it had already been. It, along my whole life, hanging off my plastic Wi-Fi router with its army of usually rapidly flickering LEDs.
Adrift, not being engulfed in ones and zeros, I felt lost till I found my aged cassette player, unearthed two batteries out my now useless remote control, and still knew the trick how to rewind audio cassettes with a pencil. I began to feel adventurous and grabbed my still naked Moleskine, the pencil and Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha in its yellowing, and mysteriously missing first 24, pages. Sacrificed as toilet paper on another man’s island, I thought. The tittle tattle on the floor died down as the day progressed and the colors slowly washed out, just a click-clack here and there.
A box of matches, but no midnight noodles, ‘least no warm ones. I always end up munching a good chunk of my ramen right out the pack anyway, it shouldn’t be much of a problem, but coffee…. I raced myself down the fire stairs, the closing supermarket still flooded in obscenely fluorescent lights zoomed by. The coffee shop was whizzing, the barista punching in numbers. I made my face disappear in my latte and left. By the time I finally looked up, the undead blues of a hundred television sets were gleaming out of the apartments like nothing had happened.
I kept on reading anyway, paper and all, burnt my candle supply down to three. And for the whole week kept on eying my fuse box, trying to come up with a good excuse to fire up the extra hot plate, longing for the next one and to bring someone home for dinner.
I was alive while Kurt was still, but not really, not yet.
Nirvana’s Unplugged in New York is about the perfect album: the order of the songs, Kurt’s bits in between, everything; and every time when I’m drowning in my own melancholy.
Ses (See You), 2008
When fourteen-year-old Nete’s twin brother Noah is killed in an accident her world collapses. Months later, her parents decide to move to start anew. Nete, still deeply troubled by her brother’s death, begins at a new school. On the day she starts, a new boy, Jonas, also arrives. To everyone else he is just the new boy – but Nete is in deep shock at what she sees….
The morning Mom died is burnt in my head like the high scores into the screens of old video games sitting tucked away in the corner of the arcade; I can close my eyes, and it’s still all there.
The sunbeams pouring through the holes of my closed window blinds, my hands folded underneath my face, and I knew, every pore of my body just knew. It was April the second, Easter break interrupting 3rd grade, just three months since it started to hurt in her back, and two weeks after I saw her the last time. Driving home from the hospital that day, my sister and I, on any other day in an endless battle over the passenger seat and stereo, silently pressed ourselves into our backseats without any fuss, like Mom were just about to pop in. We stopped over at Burger King for milkshakes and simulating life.
Dusk particles hanging motionless in the air in absolute beauty, my breath holding for every car driving by. And then, the sound of our Volvo, a black hole in my tummy, Dad shutting its engine off, silence again, time stretching behind his hands still holding onto the wheel, the Earth rotating underneath. Finally the front door opened. I could hear my sister crying uncontrollably, and while his footsteps were approaching my room, I chose to not let the pain come any close, to not cry, to not make it hurt. I was already on autopilot when he sat down in Mom’s filled-with-a-million-bedtime-stories chair, still guarding my bed.
It’s you know, like Jesus: before and after Mom’s death, that’s my family’s AD and BC; the shit that puts you into a parallel universe. The sky could as well have been green and we wouldn’t have known it. For the first couple days, my sister, still in her mile-long tee-shirt, and I were both castled in our rooms. Dad, when I needed him to be a knight the most, battled it out with a mad nose bleed, while still fluffing up her side of the bed. I don’t remember the funeral ‘cept for all the warm handshakes, suffocating hugs, and looking like an hastily assembled preteen goth – it just zoomed by. And I did not cry.
Then the Aunties arrived.
And took us in tight orbits, all three of them - all teachers (and all aliens). I coudn’t breathe and books woudn’t do, I still had Mom sandwiched in between their pages. I’ve needed another escape, and to get out this damn place. So I began racing my bicycle through the woods – something that hasn’t left me to this day – outracing my thoughts, till my legs were falling off. You just gotta push the pedals hard enough. If lonely trees falling unechoed in anyone’s ears make no sound, no one better hear a crying boy flying across the forest, his green planet, either.
And I did not know what a picnic it had been compared to what was awaiting me Monday: school.
ennui en nuit.
Thank you. I believe a good chunk of it is simply the way English doesn’t make me see all my many mistakes spot on. German is full frontal and full stop. No wordplay, just planting commas, while my thoughts vaporize.
Sometimes I can feel like being my own archaeologist; laying flat, my eyes on the ceiling all afternoon and trying to remember, just remember. I am able to recollect whole days in their entirety, down to the middle school lunch, and then for weeks nothing, as if it never happened, ‘cept for scars and a pile of old TV guides. A black hole, and it eats me up.
The future’s actual archaeologists are going to have a field day when digging my small apartment out. For some ungodly reason the undead grey carpet flows all the way into the kitchenette, it never ends, and you already got a fair deal of the meals in my twenties sitting in it. If they luck out, they’ll unearth my porn shoebox too. And inside of my head: the porn cinema; faces loved, unloved, looping on rewind.
Painting my head out from the inside.
But it’s food that draws some of the strongest memories, and the reason I can’t stand Starbucks, for the way it tastes just the same no matter where. I prefer my coffee to be unique and with milk on top, even if it’s sometimes a little shitty, not some mile-long latte. Perfection doesn’t stick. At the same time, I don’t want things to change, hot cocoa still being a time travel behind my closed eyes.
Whenever we had something to celebrate, mom would fix some of her fried up pasta, and we’d all, dad too, request it a little bit burnt. Its been only an afterglow on the tip of my tongue for years, until I finally gave it a try myself, and being able to pull it off, to taste what I thought was lost forever since her death, fully consumed me. Sometimes even memories need a fresh coat of paint, or they’ll begin to slowly peel off.