As an exception in German: Schnipsel

Erinnerst du dich noch an das Chamäleon spät am Nachmittag? Immer an der gleichen Stelle, immer schneller als deine Hände. Überhaupt deine Hände. Schmal waren deine Hände. Immer hast du deine Hände vor der Welt verborgen. In den Tiefen deiner Hose, hinter deinem Rücken, in den Jackentaschen, deinen oder meinen. Immer wieder auch in meinem Schoß. Selbst im Schlaf noch verschwanden deine Hände unauffindbar bis zum nächsten Morgen. Erinnerst du dich noch? Einmal versuchte ich dich wohl zu fragen, wohin du mit deinen Händen wolltest, aber du hast aus dem Fenster gesehen, so lange bis ich die Augen schloss. Als ich aufwachte lagen deine Hände zwischen meinen Beinen. Unsichtbar und schwerelos, chamäleongleich,  gleichzeitig da und doch nicht zu sehen. Der Garten deiner Eltern, verborgen hinter einer langen Kurve, erinnerst du dich?  Du mit der Sense. Du mit der Hacke. Du mit dem Spaten. Du kopfüber gebeugt über eine Pflanze, die Hecke oder ein Blumenbeet. Aber im Garten deiner Eltern gab es nirgendwo eine Pflanze, die Hecke oder ein Blumenbett, nur die Wildnis, das hüfthohe Gras, die Berge voll Steine und dich, auf der Suche nach was eigentlich? Auf einem Stapel Steine, der Plattenspieler, ich weiß es noch ganz genau, denn Carlos Kleiber  dirigierte Beethoven’s Fünfte und du verbargst das Zittern deiner Hände vor mir. Nie wieder nach dir habe ich jemanden getroffen, dem Musik so unter die Haut ging wie dir, nie wieder bin ich Musik so ansichtig geworden wie an deiner Haut. Erinnerst du dich? Unter meine Haut wolltest du, doch meine Haut war zu dünn für dein Wollen und schließlich, als ich dich eines Tages im Garten suchte, sah ich, obwohl das gar nicht richtig ist, denn eigentlich sah ich nur deine Hände in den Haaren einer Frau vergraben, die fester und stärker schien, mit beiden Beinen auf der Erde, sicher begabter für das Leben als ich und mit einem Fassungsvermögen für dich was mir fehlte. Du erinnerst mich oft, chamäleongleich,oft nur für Sekunden an Dich und an mich.Immer wieder, deine Hände. Du erinnerst dich sicher nicht mehr an mich.

As an exception in German:Von kommenden Tagen

B. seufzt und nimmt noch ein Stück Kuchen. Der ist gut, sagt B. und ich nicke. Ich gehöre definitiv nicht zu den Menschen, die sich freuen wenn es  den Gästen schmeckt. Ich will gelobt werden. Vor allem für den Walnuss-Schokoladen-Kuchen, der wirklich ziemlich gut ist und von dem B.sich gerade ein drittes und nicht ganz, kleines Stück abschneidet. Aber dann seufzt der B. erneut auf und stöhnt als peinige ihn ein tiefer Schmerz. In Wirklichkeit ist der B. aber kerngesund. Nur kurz bevor er das Flugzeug nach Irland bestiegen habe, um eben mich zu besuchen, habe ihm seine Frau, die C. nämlich eröffnet, dass ihre Eltern die Festtage bei ihnen verbringen würden. Im Halteverbot stehend, hätte die C. dann noch nachgelegt: Zehn Tage lang gedächten ihre Eltern zu bleiben. Wie betäubt, so der B. habe er im Flugzeug gesessen. 10 Tage mit diesen Personen sei länger als die Ewigkeit. Im letzten Jahr, hätte die Mutter der C. sämtliche seiner Schränke geöffnet und sich nicht davor gescheut, die Krawatten des B. farblich zu sortieren, dann nach seinen Socken zu greifen und auch diese nach einem Farbschema, das irgendeiner fernöstlichen Philosophie entlehnt sei neu in der Lade zu arrangieren. Schließlich aber, der B. abwesend in der Küche, sozusagen als Höhepunkt des Ganzen, wäre die Mutter der C. dazu übergegangen seine Unterhosen und Unterhemden zu bügeln, zu falten und neu zu arrangieren. Der B. dem dieses Unterfangen dann doch zu Ohren gekommen sei, hätte fast der Schlag getroffen. Die Stimmung sei dann endgültig dahin gewesen. Die C. erzählte mir später, dass „Vertrauensbruch“ und „undankbarer Flegel“ noch die harmlosesten  der Anschuldigungen gewesen seien. Der B. schnauft nun vor Wut. Aber auch der Vater der C. sei ein unerträglicher Zeitgenosse. Nicht nur, dass er stundenlang über die Leiden seines Daseins als gesetzestreuer Steuerberater klagte und warmes Kulmbacher Bier zum Frühstück fordere, als sei das nicht genug des Elends, nein der Vater seiner C., sei der personifizierte Spießer. Berlin für ihn natürlich die Hauptstadt der organisierten Kriminalität. Den tausendfachen Beteuerungen des B., dass anders als in Südbaden in der Zeitung zu lesen, nicht beständig böse Menschen darauf lauerten, das Auto des Vaters der C. anzuzünden und restlos zu zerstören, habe er keinen Glauben geschenkt und stattdessen einen unmäßig teuren Stellplatz gemietet, natürlich nicht ohne tägliche Kontrollgänge zur Besichtigung des  Wagens durchzuführen. Der von B. initiierte Weihnachtsspaziergang sei von seinem Schwiegervater einzig dazu genutzt wurden, die Graffiti zu fotographieren: zum Beweis für den Skatklub daheim, der ruhig auch sehen solle, wie es hier zugehe. Der B. schnauft und schlägt sich mit der Hand  gegen den Kopf. „Komm“ sage ich,“ wir gehen ans Meer.“ Während wir am Ufer stehen und in die grauen Wellen sehen, frage ich mich doch mit leisem Bangen ob auch wir so werden, wenn wir älter sind.

Ob wir dann wohl auch in jedem Hauseingang einen Mörder wittern, lieber zweimal nach dem Riemen der Handtasche greifen und aus DER WELT Artikel ausschneiden, die beweisen, dass die Welt den Bach herunter geht? Ob dann wohl auch Leute, beim Kuchen essen über uns den Kopf schütteln werden, lachen und mit den Schultern zucken über uns als die wunderlichen Alten, oder ob schon jetzt Leute, die so alt sind wie wir, aber  mit ganz anderer Wahrnehmung der Realität genau so reden, sprechen und leben wie die Eltern der C.?

Surviving as a non-pork eater in Ireland (I)

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Surviving as a non-pork eater in Ireland is not that easy. The Irish love pork. It truly is everywhere. Here I discovered for the first time that such things as a combined Chicken-Pork-Sandwich really does exist in reality. I wouldn’t be surprised either if there existed such things as chocolate-pork-cookies or pork-flavoured ice-cream. You easily see: the stakes for a convinced non-pork eater are high. So enter the glamorous world of Read On’s attempts to keep up the spirits while not touching pork. ( My grandmother by the way even ate liver sausage in front of a rabbi visiting her). Well, I won’t. Today’s survival ration: Red Thai Vegetable Curry with rice. The vegetables I was able to uncover were: celery ( an all-Irish classic, eggplant, red peppers, onions, green peppers and maybe a mushroom, but I am not too sure of that.) The rice was okay, but Mrs Rajasthani would smack me with a soup ladle if I would say this in front of her. No I know, it has nothing to do with curry, however it was not the worst thing ever I had in the canteen. I know how it looks. I know. I really do know.

What? Red Thai Vegetable Curry with Rice

Where? The Buttery, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

How much? 4 Euro

Survived? Yep.

 

Periodensystem

Manchmal, vor allem wohl, aber auch nicht ausschließlich am Ende des Jahres sieht man sich selbst hinterher. Etwas müde von all den langen Tagen des Jahres. Noch immer ist der Schreibtisch nicht aufgeräumt, noch  immer stapeln sich Notizen aus denen wohl in keinem Jahr mehr etwas werden wird zu Bergen und am besten wäre es wohl einfach ein Fenster zu öffnen und all die Fragen verschwänden uneinholbar in der kalten, nassen Luft. Wieder bin ich nicht in Venedig gewesen, nicht einmal für ein Wochenende. Überhaupt bin ich diesem Jahr hinterhergelaufen, immer war das Jahr schneller als ich und lachte mich aus mit meinen Seitenstechen. „Wer wartet schon auf dich?“, fragte das Jahr und natürlich war niemand die richtige Antwort. Was bleibt ist nicht viel. Ein indisches Mädchen auf einem Fahrrad vielleicht und auch der scharfe Geruch nach Salz und Meer, wann immer ich das Fenster öffne, fern von allem in einem irischen Dorf. Gehofft habe ich nichts. Gelacht habe ich wenig. Die Worte sind schief und viel zu müde bin ich sie richtig wieder aufzustellen. Jede Schachpartie habe ich verloren, und aufgehört nach zwei Paar Ohrringen zu suchen. Einige Splitter sind in den Fingerspitzen geblieben. Meine Hände sind meistens kalt. Unter dem Eis ist das Wasser schwarz, sagte meine Großmutter und irgendwo auf dem Grund liegen meine Briefe an Dich. Schumann’s fünf Stücke im Volkston am Anfang des Jahres auf den Plattenspieler gelegt und auf dem ipod läuft immer noch Tom T. Hall. Kaum am Klavier gesessen, den Klavierstimmer nicht einmal angerufen, wenige Konzerte im Ohr behalten, nur einmal in der Oper gewesen ( das immerhin ist etwas noch nie Dagewesenes). In der Müdigkeit länger gebadet als in der Badewanne. Niemanden geküsst, nicht einmal in Gedanken. Jemanden gegenübersitzen, an einem grauen Nachmittag, der sich Digital Influencer nennt. Was das soll, denke ich und sehe zur Seite. Nein, sage ich,nein, nein, mein indisches Projekt braucht keinen Instagram-Stream sondern Damenbinden und gynäkologische Pads. Nun sieht er zur Seite, sichtlich verstört. Ein Periodensystem sage ich und finde das lustig. Er nicht und als ich gehe, sehe ich einen Schatten im Spiegel, der wohl ich bin und der wohl nicht nur von weitem einem Narren gleicht. Atemlos. Weiteratmen.

Sad at heart

I lost track of R. many years ago. From time to time someone of my old office told me of a conference where he had given a talk or of a summit where he had spoken. He is asking how you are doing, my old colleagues said. But I never enquired after R. nor told them more than the most common version of: „I am fine.“ I just turned around and left. I couldn’t care less. Once when the old office was not the old office but my actual workplace R. and I shared a room. R. was not good at his job. He was brilliant. Quick and always a step ahead of anybody else. In many ways he was a savant, it was always fun to work with him. It was better than fun, it was mesmerizing. I was pretty young back then, R. was not old back then and we both thought we would share this office for a long time. In the office they called us the twins and yes we were entwined in our convictions and in our desires and yes, we were as earnest as ironic in our ambitions and of course we were too young for the job we were doing. But probably such a thing as the right age doesn’t exist anyway. One day after we failed badly in convincing someone so absurdly important that we were right and he was wrong, we drank too much. Way too much. We sat on my sofa that I gave away a few months later and you looked at a picture hanging on the wall. An old black- and white photography. You stared at it for a long time. Then you said: „I don’t like Jews, you know.“ „You know I am Jewish“, I said and you nodded. „They control the banks, they control everything“ you went on. „All of them came from their Polish Ghettos, telling their children not to work with their hands. They told them, but I wasn’t up to listen any longer and showed you out of the door. „Go to hell I said“ and this was the last thing I ever said to you. From upstairs I looked down on the street you were still standing there and probably babbling on about the Jews telling their children. The picture that inspired your outburst back then shows an old woman standing next to an even older woman. The woman you were staring at is long dead. Her name was Chaya Zilkha. She belonged to the close circle of friends of my grandmother. She belonged to the „Auschwitz circle“ of my grandmother.While my grandmother of course was many, many years older than me, Chaya was old and she lived together with her even older mother in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Jerusalem. But old doesn’t do any justice to the age of Chaya. I don’t know the right words to describe her age. Her skin was parchment- thin and of a delicate white, as I child I thought she might be older than the quite old pyramids. She was prehistoric or antique or old as the hills, I don’t know, in my perception she was at least a 100 years old but again I do not know for sure. I only know for certain that she was old enough to be born and raised in one of the many Stetls once so characteristic for Central Europe. My grandmother and even my great-grandparents never lived in a ghetto. My grandmother never spoke a single word of Yiddish and my grandfather learned Yiddish not in his childhood but in Auschwitz. When I met Chaya, there were no more stetls left. Her mother was dead long. Chaya, a piano teacher came once a year to  Germany to visit my grandmother. She was a lively lady, who spoke an ancient version of German and who never called me something else than her little bird. But in a distinct way of looking out of the window or touching her forehead or picking up a fork it always seemed that Chaya was only alive in a quite narrow way, she resembled more a carefully preserved butterfly or an old hidden away silk-dress than anything else. Whenever she and my grandmother sat on the sofa and chatted, a certain sadness covered the air. Whenever Chaya and I played the piano together the unspoken question: „What am I doing in this world in the first place?“ floated through the air. Years passed and Chaya grew older till she left a world she never had truly inhabited. Chaya was never married, she lived in the same small apartment she had shared with her mother for years, and I don’t know what her parents back then in the ghetto have told their children growing up. I know that the stetl was burnt down by the Germans as so many stetls were burnt down in these years. None of Chayas brothers survived. Chayas father died. If there was ever a fiancée of Chaya bringing her flowers, he died as well. And I wished, oh how I still wish that Chayas parents and grandparents would have told their children to get away, to leave the stetl just in time, to work in a bank in Caracas or to write for a newspaper in New York City. But they never did. They never even got close to the chance. When my grandmother died I found the photograph of Chaya and her mother: fly away little bird, I still hear her saying.

I never went back to working together with R. He handed in his termination and soon after I left the office and the town. Last weekend I attended a party of the old office of my mine. It was much more nice than awkward and still the people working in the office are not just good at their job, they are witty and smart, ambitious and still believe as we did once that the world could be turned around just by the sheer force of will. „You know that R. is here?“, a former colleague said to me, but I didn’t know and didn’t care. Half an hour later you saw me and I saw you. I looked away.

As an exception in German-Licht aus, Licht an

Als ich ein Kind war: die Schatten auf dem Boden. Je länger der Nachmittag, so kleiner das Kind. Der Boden: Beton. Auf dem Beton ein alter, verblichener Teppich. Auf ihm die Schatten des Vorbesitzers. Der sei verschwunden, sagten die Nachbarn. Wohin sagte niemand, nicht die Nachbarn und auch nicht die Schatten. Niemand fragte. Meine Mutter, so fern wie die Schatten, das Kind auf dem Boden: ich. Allein, auf dem Boden, die Schatten und ich. Ich fürchtete mich vor den Riesen, die unter dem Bett lebten, in der Schattenstunde streckten sie ihre Beine länger und länger unter dem Bett hervor. Je näher die Riesen kamen, umso weiter rückte ich zur Tür. Da lehnten die stummen Schatten. Immer dann wenn ich glaubte die Riesen packten mich an den Zehen, stand ich auf und schaltete das Licht an und wieder aus. Nichts vertrieb die Riesen, so schnell wie das Licht. Aber schnell musste man sein. Licht aus, Licht an. Meistens fiel der Strom aus. Oder war ich nicht schnell genug? Die Schatten blieben, meine Mutter blieb ein Schatten, nie gewann ich das Spiel. Das Kind auf dem Boden, der Boden, Beton. Je kleiner das Kind, so größer die Schatten. Eines langen Schattennachmittags flogen die Steine. Flogen in die Fenster, schlugen gegen die Tür, erschlugen die Füße der Riesen, das Kind auf dem Boden erschlugen sie nicht. Meine Mutter, ein ferner Schatten. Dann fielen die Schüsse. Mein Rücken klebte am Beton. An jenem Nachmittag, der ein Schattentag war, kamen die Riesen nicht unter dem Bett hervor. Du kamst, in jenem Dunkel sah ich nur deine Augen vor mir. Ich erzählte dir von den Riesen, die unter dem Bett lebten, von den Schatten am Türrahmen. Wir zogen die Füße an, wir auf dem Boden, wir berührten die Schatten nicht. Ich gehe nicht zurück, sagtest du. Ich wagte nicht in dein Auge zu sehen. An jenem Schattennachmittag dachte ich wir trennen uns nicht mehr. Selbst wenn wir wollten, wie könnten wir uns trennen? Wir, inmitten der Steine und Schüsse, die noch immer fielen, einen ganzen Schattennachmittag lang. Von Ferne und in der Nähe. Wir auf dem Boden im Dunkeln. Plötzlich: welch eine Stille. Wir hören sie beide. Dein Atem ist bitter. Die Uhr an der Wand ist zersprungen, die Zeiger verzogen, die Zeiger stecken fest. Das Licht geht nicht an. Das Licht bleibt aus. Alles ist zerrissen, das sehen wir auch ohne Licht. Wir kriechen unter das Bett, da liegen schon die Riesen. Ist es geschehen? Schau mich an, sag es mir doch: ist es wirklich geschehen? Ich höre noch unseren Atem. Sehe deine Finger, die stärker sind als die Finger der Riesen. Alles andere ist ausgelöscht.Kommt schlafen, sagten die Riesen, es ist schon spät. Sie kamen nachts. Sie klopften an unsere Tür. Sie waren viele, vor uns lagen die Riesen, sie fanden alles, zwei Kinder fanden sie  nicht.  Noch heute beschweigen wir jene Nacht. Dein Haus wurde zerstört. Lange bin ich noch zu deinem Haus gelaufen. Du kamst nie wieder. Auch nicht zu mir. Die Riesen verrieten nichts. Dich nicht und mir nichts. Meine Mutter ein ferner Schatten, doch über sie, wenn ich es nicht schon sagte: rien du tout. Zwei Jahre später, verließen wir das Haus und die Stadt, der Teppich blieb liegen, noch verblichener, die Riesen, ich weiß nicht was aus ihnen wurde. Der Vorbesitzer blieb verschwunden. Am Ende gingen auch wir. In jener Nacht dachte ich wir trennen uns nicht. Wir haben uns nie wieder gesehen.Nein, ich habe eigentlich nur deine Augen gesehen. Das Licht ging ja auch nicht. Licht an, Licht aus, vielleicht war ich auch nur nicht schnell genug. Unter meinem Bett leben keine Riesen mehr. Die Schatten waren lang und länger, so lang wie an jenem Nachmittag, die Schatten auf dem Boden, je länger der Nachmittag, so kleiner das Kind. Die Schatten gehen nicht fort, gingen nicht fort. Licht aus, Licht an. Die Schatten bleiben in der Tür. Am 13. 08. 1998 war das Kind, das Kind auf dem Boden, 1o Jahre alt. Am 13.11. 2015,das Mädchen ist kein Kind mehr, werden die Schatten länger und länger, sie bleiben hängen zwischen den Lebenden und den Toten. Licht aus, Licht an.

Nairobi, 13.08. 1998- Paris, 13.11. 2015.

Questions, unanswered.

Why?

More prayers or no more g*ds?

More trust or trust no more?

Whom do you trust? Why not?

Why are there so many experts and what does a „terrorism expert“ wants to explain?

Why are we talking about ‚individual terrorists‘? Do those individuals live all by themselves?

Why is „angry young men“ another category of its own? Where are the angry mothers, desperate sisters, outraged fiancées, loud daughters, confident grandmothers, concerned aunts and out-shouting nieces?

How are the relatives, who lost their loved ones looked after?

Does someone protect them from the pictures?

Does someone protect them from the rumors?

Can they bid farewell in silence?

Who are all those men or women who are able to explain the world behind their notebook screen?

When I was in Pakistan it turned out I was really in Afghanistan, how do you all know about the borders of states that ceased to exist quite a while ago even when the map producers did not notice it yet?

Are you sure you know what you are asking when shouting for the introduction of the death sentence? In New-Delhi where I spend quite a lot of time, Yakub Memon the lone death row convict of the Mumbai blasts of 1993 was sentenced to death. The  execution was reported live on TV. Outside of the hospital a crowd gathered, they were shouting: „Hang them, hang them“. The Muslim nurses did not dare to leave the hospital that day. I paid for the taxis taking them home. Are you really sure, you know what you are asking for?

Did the media outside of Delhi and Karachi cover those events? Are you listening?

Who are they? Who are we? Is there an us?

Who are they?

What are our values?

Do they have any values?

Why do they dream of blood and death and never of warm hands and sunshine in the afternoon?

Are we defensive? Defended? Who defends us?

Do we live in cynical times?

If you call for a 17- foot high wall today, don’t you believe that there will be an 18- foot ladder by tomorrow?

Is Paris a stand-in for where we are right now?

If so, how do we got there?

Will there be a way out?

What does Beirut stand for?

How far from Paris is Nairobi?

Do we care? Really?

What do the policemen and policewomen tell their wives and husbands?

Who listens to the policemen and nurses, who asks if the doctors and psychologists get on well, today and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow?

Why?

When we, you and I, met in Kabul, you on your way to the south of the country and I on my way back to Karachi you asked me: are you afraid? I said: no. You said: me neither. We both knew, we were not telling the truth. I still am stubborn enough to say: I am not afraid.

Am I just a gambler?

Are you afraid?

What are you afraid of?

Do you read Voltaire?

Are we still here?

Before opening the fire, did the men in the car smoke a last cigarette, turned the radio louder and is there really, really not a bit of doubt before shooting people right into the face?

Why not?

Why?

Do we really want to know?

Are we allowed to hide away?

How to answer all the questions?

Stopping the clocks or 9th of November

On every 9th of November my grandmother stopped all the watches and clocks in her apartment. The old Longcase clock and the delicate silver watch, she wore as long as I knew her. She stopped the kitchen clock and the alarm clock next to her bedside table. Neither my grandmother or my grandfather went to work on a 9th November. They did not cook. they did not went outside. They did not listen to the radio and would not turn the TV on. My grandfather would not play the piano as he would do on every other day of the year. Neither my grandmother not my grandfather looked into the newspaper and if someone would ring their doorbell, they would not open the door. Even in the afternoon, they would not switch on the lights. My grandmother would stand all day long by the window-front looking down on the marketplace, where life run past as if it would be just another ordinary day. Silent she stood and never she uttered a single word. My grandfather sat in the corner of the old, green chaiselongue, his head buried in his hands. His eyes locked with the wooden floor, he silent and nearly invisible in the corner. Sometimes my grandmother walked through the room, just to return back to the window-front and from time to time my grandfather would get up to pace up and down the long floor. But he as well returned to his sofa corner after a short while. Both of them thought of the 9th November 1938, when they came with their hob-nailed shoes and banged open the doors. Both thought back of this very night, in which my grandmother stood behind another window, seeing her father kneeling on the cobble-stoned marketplace of another town, holding a toothbrush in his hand, cleaning the pavement. Jewish bastard cajoled the men and women standing behind him and my grandmother might have heard this behind the thin glass of the window. Later the men and women came up to the house where my grandmother grew up, they banged the door open  and threw the sofa that was upholstered in the same way as the one my grandfather sat upon over and started to search for goods they were in need of. They took the jewelry of my great-grandmother and bed linen, they threw plates and cups out of the window and took the silver forks and soup-ladles with them. They were well prepared. The women held open white linen bags while the men were opening drawers and searched for money. They slit open the portraits and shot into the lamps and when they finally left the apartment was not the same apartment anymore. The town was so little, it never had a synagogue and so no synagogue was burnt down on this day, the market place was so little that everybody knew everybody. My great-grandparents knew the families, who now slept in their duvets and used the bed-linen, my grandmother went to school with the girls, who now buttered their bread with the silver knives and her sisters stopped taking piano-lessons because a grinder axe had destroyed the piano. A couple of months later the family of my grandmother was thrown out of their house and till they were deported they lived in a house exclusively meant for Jews. Only my grandmother returned from Auschwitz. Only my grandfather returned from Auschwitz. But if they would be able to stop the time, my grandmother told me many, so many years later, when I stood in silence next to her, waiting for the day to pass by, if we would be able to stop the time just for this one particular day, when we wouldn’t turn out the light and making no noise at all, if we only would be able to stop this day passing, then maybe her father and her father-in-law, her mother and her mother-in-law, her sisters  and her husbands brothers would not have been found kneeling on the cobble-stoned pavement, would not have been spit at and beaten up, would have never left their house and the green, chaiselongue and would have never been forced into a train, they would certainly, be back, if only we would be able to stop this day happening. My grandparents waited and I waited with them. Always in the semi-darkness, always silent, no one ever came back. On the next morning my grandmother would set back the clocks, my grandfather would practice the piano, my grandmother peeling carrots and going to work, in the evening they would listen to the radio, my grandmother would not stare out of the window for hours and my grandfather would not sit in the corner of the sofa all day long- till the next 9th of November, which for sure would come in another year’s time.

The missing pen or in search for the principle

Twice I ring but B. doesn’t open the door. I bang loudly against the door again and finally a distressed B. looks at me. „Its insane, he says, five minutes ago, the pen was still here, you see right upon my desk, but now he has disappeared as if he had never existed. „Good morning B., I say, how are you?“ „Good to see you too.“ I couldn’t have opened with a more provocative statement. B. looks at me with astonishment: „don’t you understand: my blue pen is missing.“ Your blue pen is missing I repeat and still not aware that is a situation close to a Shakespearean drama I add: „so what?“ B. storms back into the apartment and shouts: “ DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND MY BLUE PEN IS MISSING.“ Alright, B. I obviously missed some part of this story. What is it about your blue pen? READ ON, B. shouts further:  IT IS NOT JUST AN ORDINARY PEN. IT IS MY LUCKY PEN. MY BELOVED PEN. MY PEN OF ALL PENS. I SIGNED MY FIRST CONTRACT WITH IT AND I INTEND TO SIGN MY LAST CONTRACT WITH IT.“ I must have looked stunned. Maybe because I sign with blue pens costing not much more than 50 Cents, but they always do their job very well. B. snorts like an angry bull in the arena. He looks even more distressed. Then we set out to search for the pen. It feels like a ground operation. I look in the fridge and behind the sofa cushions. I look in the fruit basket and in B.’s toiletries bag. I look in the drawers where B. stores his socks all neatly sorted  according to their color. B. races up and down the floor, he screams and howls while turning the apartment upside down. One hour later the pen is still missing and we both are in a desperate state of mind. B. accuses me of not looking closely enough and I am annoyed with spending a Saturday morning searching for pen. I try to suggest that we stop this obviously not too successful undertaking to get some breakfast but I could hardly have said anything more provocative because B. now completely lets his frustration overcome everything. He accuses me of missing empathy and negligence as if I would be able to easily abandon a dog and not just doubting to initiate a search and rescue mission for a missing pen. MY BLUE PEN IS MISSING, yells B. AND YOU HAVE NOTHING ELSE IN YOUR MIND THAN BREAKFAST?“Well I say, I am hungry. MY BLUE PEN IS MISSING AND YOU ARE HUNGRY cries B. and I feel like the worst person on earth disturbing this emotional rollercoaster with my banal and unfortunately loudly rumbling stomach. MY BLUE PEN IS MISSING yells B. again. But I really, really do know this by now. B. I say I don’t believe we are looking for a pen right now, but for something else I don’t want to get involved with. B. shouts again and screams his MY BLUE PEN tirade, but I already heard enough of it and think that I am not the right one at all to search for a blue pen for hours just to prove a principle right. Then I close the door and leave.

Berlin stories: Missing the grocer’s wife badly

Pale is sun but nevertheless it is the sun. I am nervously waiting and the sun paints golden circles on my knees. Outside two little girls are running by, screaming and giggling. Maybe four or five years old. They wear little red cardigans and throw leaves as high as possible up into the air. Then they try to hunt the sunlight. They run and run faster and faster while their mothers are sipping matcha latte. But the girls can not keep up with the sun, the sun now at the end of the year, doesn’t wait anymore and just disappears around the next corner, where maybe two little boys are already eagerly waiting to join in the game.  I wait and I am not good at waiting ( But who is good at waiting anyway? ) I drink fresh peppermint tea and I do not taste anything. Especially here in Berlin, where I sit in the moment, precisely I sit on a wrecked, old sofa, obviously the standard interior of Berlin cafés. They all in they chic-shabbiness look the same. They are all pretty boring. The people who sit their drinking fancy smoothies or aeropressed coffee, look pretty boring too. They sit in front of their notebooks and probably all dream from a life that is more exciting than the very one we all have. The people running those cafés look in a very disturbing  way all the same as well. They all look as if they would rather be anywhere else than behind the counter. Certainly,they all came to Berlin to become actors and Instagram stars, they saw themselves as young start-up performers or the next digital entrepreneurs. Maybe they thought they would write the next big novel, and the women all look as if the call from an agent in Paris is just a minute away. But neither the novels nor the agents ever showed up. The guy behind the counter wears a basecap with the imprint: OBEY. This is not ironic, this is just simply the truth. The girl that gives him hand, chats away in a corner and enthusiastically greets a guests that comes in accompanied by a big brown dog. She hugs the dog and clicks a picture of herself and the dog. She wipes her hand clean on her jeans and serves two pieces of cake to a customer. I see the grocer’s wife appearing in front of my inner eye and see the old coffee-machine and the heavy porcelain milk jugs, the freshly baked scones and the grocer’s wife famous eclairs you won’t find in all Dublin. The grocer’s wife wears a blue apron, I think not even once I saw her without it. But most remarkably the grocer’s wife knows all the names of her guests. She knows not only all our secrets but she is always up for a bit of good banter. Whenever you open the door to her shop, there is laughter and some good craic. No, there is no house music playing in the background, there is no iPad she uses to find out, how much two people have to pay for a coffee and a tea and if I would ever tell her the story of the dog and the woman and the hands wiped on the jeans, I promise she would get on a plane and heaven and hell would break loose. The grocer’s wife, who can drive me crazy in less than a second and who runs a tiny business in a small village in the Irish countryside has something I never saw in one single café in Berlin: commitment for what they are doing.