Let's face it, you learn a lot through life. Mistakes are lessons too, of course, you learn the best from mistakes.
But really. You'd rather learn without the pain, wouldn't you?
One hundred vignettes of six lives woven into a single story. Till POV throughout - mostly. This is as of June 2012 the darkest thing I've written and is honestly not for the faint of heart; I won't pretend that this isn't offensive. If you don't like death, for one (out of everything else discussed), this fic is not for you. Contains a lot of concepts and incidents that will make you feel uncomfortable. Proceed with caution and read all warnings.
Warnings: Till/Richard, meta concepts, slash, depressing content, political overtones in some, possibly unsavory depictions of real-life people within the families of the band (although not to children), severe angst, screwy formatting, heavy German usage at parts, possibly confusing narrative (constant POV switches), tastelessness, blasphemy. Some sexual content but not strong enough to warrant warning. AU-ish for a reason. Trigger warnings for abuse of humans and animals, discussions of death, and abusive relationships. I wouldn't categorize this as funny, and it doesn't try to be.
1. The Time When Your Mother Burnt Breakfast
When you wake up, you grimace in disgust; there's a smell drifting through the air, ashy, thick with smoke and almost tangibly delicious. A disastrous combination. Sliding the covers off your body, you awkwardly comb your hair and slip on a too-long pajama top before you silently pad downstairs to look into the kitchen.
Yout tiny feet go pitter-patter on the wooden steps as you stop halfway down and fit your six-year old self against the railings, peering down. You smell a very unpleasant burning smell, and see your mother coughing, waving away thick smoke desperately, almost weeping into her apron.
You run back up the stairs.
2. Blue Blanket
The man has been pacing the corridor just outside the maternity ward anxiously for the past two hours. He reaches for the pipe in his pocket but makes no effort to take it out or smoke it, the smooth coolness of ivory against his palm soothing his racing mind. When the nurse finally pokes her head out of the door and calls his name, he looks around in a startled manner before following her inside.
"It's a boy," she tells him as he stands by the bed; his exhausted wife is lying on the bed, but she looks quite happy to see him there. The man and woman share a little smile together. "did you decide on a name for him, Herr Lindemann?"
"Let me hold him," he asks instead, and is handed over the newborn baby to cradle in his arms for the first time. My boy, he thinks to himself as he sees the little child wrapped up in blue. The baby nestles softly to his chest, one starfish hand closing gently around the man's thumb, and he smiles wide. My son. My Dietrich.
3. Welcome To The New World
Your name is Dietrich Lindemann, although you will later prefer being called 'Till' following the diminutive form. You were born into this world in 1963, in Leipzig, far away from the coldness of the then three-years old Berlin Wall. Your parents are named Gitta and Werner Lindemann and at this moment in time, they love you very much. This is a difficult world that you were born into, and you will go through many happy times and many sorrowful times, but I can guarantee you, it's going to be an interesting ride. When happiness comes to you (and one day it will), you'll embrace it with a smile. When tragedy comes to you (and one day it will), you will stick your chin out and endure, rebuild and rebuild until it's all okay again.
But for now you are only very little. Sleep, sweetheart; there will be more to do for you in life later.
Welcome to this new world. It's nice to meet you.
4. Four Terrifying Words
Once upon a time-
Oh my God. This is going to end really badly, isn't it?
5. Bottom of the Well
That's a misleading title, because you never see the bottom of any well as long as you live. When you're four years old you're taken to learn swimming; it's a bit later than most children, but it's better than never learning at all. You get to it straight away, paddling and wandering all about the swimming pool with armbands on, feeling childishly happy as you should be feeling at this age.
You do have a moment, though, that'd have reduced any parent to a nail-biting panic. It's just something as simple as venturing a little too far towards the deep end of the pool, one that's corded off in case the children get in - but you manage to slip beneath the barrier and are submerged in the water completely, unable to find footing, drifting and slowly sinking. But you don't panic at all - just stare at the blurry lights above you, how everything sounds muffled and silent and ever-so-tranquil beneath the surface - and think that this is a nice place to be. Never mind that you're technically drowning. Luckily you're fished out and scolded by your mother, and have to leave soon afterwards; but your element has been awakened, you are a child of the water, the first gospel truth that you will live by.
6. It Runs In The Veins
Your son is a very strange boy, you decide when he's about five years old. "Till, come back inside," you call to him; he looks back at you from his seat in the garden, nods and picks up his notebook, obeying silently. He's not like most boys his age, never really wanting to socialize with a lot of people - but place him in the middle of a team sport and he'll perform admirably even at such a young age.
"What's for dinner, Mutti?"
He's also hyperfocused on a lot of things. Toss him into a lake and he'll tread water for hours, never faltering, always gazing straight ahead. Bestow responsibilities on him and he'll get them done in double time. But ask him about how his day went, or what he wants to do during the weekend, and he'll just look at you blankly and refuse to answer. A very strange child. He's living in his own world half the time.
"Eisbein. Wash your hands and help set out the table, darling."
Though, unlike his father - you don't think that's a bad thing. Children ought to indulge in their fantasies when they can. Besides, isn't your husband himself a little strange too sometimes? Isn't everyone strange to a degree? There's nothing to worry about, after all. It is this attitude that you take to your son that makes him much more appreciative of you.
Later on - much, much later on, over two and a half decades later, you'll visit your son and his young daughter at his place. You'll end up finding that he's sprawled out on the floor, exhausted from basket-weaving, while she's made a circle around his sleeping body and has written out 'This is my Vatti and you can't have him' with bits of willow and straw by his side - and then realize that your grandchild, too, is also profoundly strange. And you'll laugh as you pick her up and hear her complain about how her Vatti just fell asleep in the middle of talking, and remember fond times with your son when he was little.
One of your favourite sweets, simple and yet so filled with nostalgia. You never bother hiding you love for those things, well into your thirties and forties. It's also one of the first sweets you ever taste; you find it a bit tough at first, but soon the texture of gummy bears become curiously very pleasant to you. They're not like hard candy or chocolate (though you will also develop an appetite for them later), neither soft nor hard - they're filled with just the right amount of chewiness and tangy flavor.
This isn't too important, but it's a pleasant childhood memory. Better hold onto this one, because you won't get a lot of those during your childhood.
8. Tidal Wave
This is around the time that we have to establish that you are loved by both your parents.
Your father, however, ruins a lot of your childhood for you by benefit of being drunk half the time. You enter sports school at his coercion and for most part you think you're a good boy, but he evidently doesn't share this view. Truthfully, you're a boy very far from his expectations - he expected you to be stoic and well-behaved and either becoming an athlete or entering some kind of academia. You're instead growing up to be this half-sullen, half-dreamy boy who barely talks to people and just stays indoors most of the time when you're not practicing swimming. You study just enough, but without much passion. You're a disappointment to him, quite frankly.
Swimming is your release. And you don't mean that in the context of the sports school. You mean swimming an lake or ocean, indulging in the wide expanse around you. You feel free only during these times.
Your parents both love you very much, but you only half believe that. A pity, really.
9. He Doesn't Like What You Do (Or You For That Matter)
You like writing. It's an escapist fantasy for you, a world of different possibilities. Of course you're only about eight years old when you start - they start out as diaries, little statements about your life, that soon become expanded into fantasy, into stories and poems. It calms you. Make you smile. Allows you to think properly.
Your father doesn't like them, for whatever reason. It's even less comprehensible in hindsight when you consider that he, too, is (was) a writer. One for children at that. But either way your father doesn't like them so he tosses them in the fireplace and lights the fire and walks away while you sit there and watch them burn, your words becoming charred, crinkling up as if to escape its fate before burning up for good.
But even early on in life, you don't protest nor think that this is in any way anything to get upset about, seeing your works amounting to ash. Hey. That's all anyone ever amounts to in the end.
10. The Time When Your Father Burnt Breakfast
When you wake up, you grimace in disgust; there's a smell drifting through the air, ashy, thick with smoke and almost tangibly delicious. A disastrous combination. Sliding the covers off your body, you struggle with your still-oversized pajama top before you silently pad downstairs to look into the kitchen.
Your father is standing there, glasses steamed up and a vaguely disgruntled look on his face. He sighs and then dumps the smoking pot into the sink (filled with water). You'd stay to watch more, but you know he'd be on your tail if you got caught. So you run back up the stairs.
11. Freud Was Wrong
Not all boys resent their fathers because they have a Oedipus complex.
Sometimes papa is a bastard who beats you every night and that's why you resent them.
12. Approximately Three Nights Every Week
"I'm going to beat you. I'm going to beat you, boy. Daddy's going to beat you."
Work makes him drink. Drink makes him do that. Then he works again the morning after.
You usually just endure the beatings silently; you could cry, you suppose, but then he probably won't even hear you.
13. Nietzsche Was Right
You fight back, only once. And even then it's not even really a fight per se because you just want to go to bed and your father's drunk and letting you have it with the buckle end of the belt; at one point you just decide that you've had enough, you really have had enough, and when the belt comes down you dodge out of the way before grabbing it, tearing it out of your father's hand and hurling it right into the fireplace with a scream. You father stares at you like you've gone mad and you stare back at him with a feral snarl until he turns around and leaves the room. slamming the door shut.
You later retrieve the buckle afterwards to throw it away. He never beats you with a belt again; it doesn't mean that he stops beating you, but he's less frequent about it and he doesn't hit as hard as before. You don't fight him back either, you made the message clear enough that one time. Besides, you're too sensible to let yourself go.
Do not fight with monsters, lest you become one.
14. Gott Ist Tot
When your parents divorce, you are twelve years old and a very thoughtful (if somewhat gloomy) boy. You also decide right there and then that God doesn't exist. After all, if he existed, why does he make alcoholics abuse their family? Why would he let the Stasi sneak around, making East Germany a prison without bars (but with a wall instead)? Why in the world would the Holy Father, all-loving and eternal, inflict so much pain on his children?
People who love God are delusional too, you decide. You can't stand it.
God is the worst lover. Not only does he think he's perfect, he apparently actually is. If that's perfection, well, you're satisfied to be alone.
Self-satisfaction is but a contradiction, though.
16. Those Damn Teenage Hormones
You don't much like sports school. You love swimming, but being groomed as a potential Olympics athlete is not what you want. Your parents would be proud though - even your father would be - so you don't object much. As you grow older, though, and become more jaded and distant from people, you become fond of self-deprecation and deliberately doing things that your team coach disapproves of.
"That's it, Lindemann," the man shouts at you one day after you're caught hoarding porn magazines in your locker. "I've had enough of you and your bloody cheek. One more offense like this and I'm personally going to make sure that you will never get another position in a national team."
Your reaction to this is a shrug and a blank look, which riles him up so much that he ends up writing a letter to your parents, going into truly uncomfortable detail about how much of a miserable youth you are. The letter is forwarded to your father; when you visit him next, he's reading it, and even though you keep your face completely blank you aren't sure what's going to happen. He's still a dominating presence in your life, despite the fact that you are physically stronger than him now and can fight back much more effectively than you could back when you were younger.
But life isn't that predictable, and with a derisive snort your father simply crumples up the letter and tosses it in the fireplace. "You appear to have an idiot of a swimming coach, Dietrich," he says as he leans back on his armchair, staring at you. "teenage hormones. Nothing to be ashamed of. You can tell him exactly what I think of him, boy. Would you like some schnapps?"
17. Scar Tissue
Your professional swimming career ends before it ever really started. And it actually ends because of a genuine accident, not long after the porn incident. A badly executed dive from an ill-maintained diving board leaves you stunned and slowly sinking into the water, watching your own blood spilling out into the water from the gash on your stomach as your horrified teammates seek to pull you out. You can almost swear that you've been through something like this before, helpless under the pull of the water; but that was so long ago, and then the water was clear and warm and soothing. Now all you feel is the pain, the water slowly clouding into red, obscuring everything for the short amount of time that you are underwater.
Eventually fished out by your teammates, you are diagnosed with a torn abdominal muscle and are told that the scar will be permanent. That's your career over just like that. Your mother is distressed (predictably) and your father is livid (predictably), while your pain fades into apathy. And despite all this, you keep the peace, only saying that it was an unfortunate accident and then refusing to comment on it any further. No arguments this time.
There is still a lot you resent your father for, that much is true. You blame him for a lot of things, and vice versa. With the porn magazine incident, your father never said that he'd take responsibility for the consequences of you actually telling your coach what your father thought of him. And he is noticeably disappointed and angered when you have to leave sports school. But this time, you simply close your eyes and stay silent instead of lashing back at him; you don't blame him for getting angry because he never blamed you for that one time. Fair is fair.
18. The Triumph of 1776, Two Hundred Years On
You decide to move out and work as an apprenticeship eventually. After kissing your anxious mother goodbye and moving your things to the little apartment that you've rented out, you go and visit your father. It's probably going to be the last time you visit him as an obligation as his son; having declared your independence, you've freed yourself of that responsibility. By this time your parents have been divorced for nearly ten years, what's the point in hanging on when you just don't seem to be getting anywhere with your father?
He doesn't take the news well. "Living by yourself!" he hollers. "what's going to become of you, Dietrich? All this without doing any military service or trying out for university?"
"It's my life, father," you say coldly, before you turn your back on him with a shrug. You've had enough of arguing with him, so you don't, which only angers your father even more - this admittedly isn't the best way you could have informed him of the fact that you were no longer a child and thus no longer under his control, but it's certainly the fastest way. "and I fully intend to live it the way I want to. If that disappoints you - well, I can't say that I honestly care much about what you think of me."
"And really, father," you shoot back. "I think that I am much better off for that."
"Dietrich!" your father shouts; he sounds surprisingly sober and almost-desperate, but you let the door swing shut and don't look back.
You needed this freedom, and the brutality you possess from being so young helps, too.
You celebrate your independence by getting yourself a fish tank and two fantail goldfish. They aren't high-maintenance and are very quiet and elegant - but it's watching them bustle about, eagerly getting along with their lives and even looking somewhat content despite the limited space, that is comforting to you. It reminds you that one can find joy in everything if you have the right kind of mental state.
Never mind that your carpenting apprenticeship regularly leaves you with cuts and splinters everywhere, and that it's not quite a steady job at this present moment. You can come home, light a candle, and then just quietly watch the goldfish swimming in their tank. They ask for so little, get by well with so little - sometimes you do have to wonder, do the goldfish notice you watching them through the glass and think that you are the imprisoned one?
20. The Time When You Burnt Breakfast
You grimace in disgust; there's a smell drifting through the air, ashy, thick with smoke and almost tangibly delicious. A disastrous combination. Waving away the smoke, you cough out loud as you hesitate by the window - do you open it and let the smoke out and draw the attention of neighbors, or let it stay in and risk triggering the fire alarm? Then you wonder why the hell you even made that a choice, and open the window, breathing in deep lungfuls of air.
When the smell of charred breakfast is diminished somewhat you look back at the frying pan in the water-filled sink; charred black and the water clouded with burnt fragments of food and ash and God knows what else. You pick it up and frown, reaching for the scourer - but before you can reach it, you are suddenly overwhelmed with the strongest bout of melancholy and your hands drop back down, splashing the kitchen counter with dirty water as the frying pan sinks back beneath the surface.
Two weeks alone and you're not sure if you can really manage by yourself. You're so young after all, only just twenty, and even though you've been brought up in a single-parent household for most of the time that it mattered, you aren't actually used to being independent. Even the most minor stop of the gears makes you feel useless, make you want to run away, something as simple as finishing only five drawers instead of six at your job or burning the damn breakfast.
You can almost swear that your father's laughing at you in the background. Shaking your head frantically to rid yourself of the image, you run back up the stairs.
21. Seven Years' Bad Luck
Your father was really drunk one day and told you that you were hideous and if you ever found yourself a nice Fraulein to live with, he wasn't going to hold his breath and trust that she was going to be nice to look at. You just sneered at him and thought he was rambling meaninglessly then; besides, in the height of teenage rebellion, he wasn't exactly the first figure that you trusted for anything. But now that you're alone and at a stage where you're kind of meant to maybe look around for someone, his words come back to haunt you. You aren't exactly vain so your encounters with mirrors consist mostly of just watching the stubble on your chin as you shave; but today you're going to put this matter at rest. Good lighting, a large full-length mirror - you take a deep breath and look into yourself.
You aren't the most handsome man out there, that's for certain. But you aren't fishing for compliments, you just want to see that you're at least average. Your lips are set in a firm line; they're pink and delicate, somehow very unfitting to your otherwise-heavy and muscled figure. You have the faintest of acne scars on both cheeks and you think that your jawline is perhaps a little too prominent and your facial expression is entirely too blank and devoid of any emotion. You feel like you're awkwardly proportioned; your chest and arms are very large compared to your legs, although you do possess a swimmer's body to die for. The only thing alive about you are your eyes, but then - eyes don't speak for everything. You turn your head to the side to see if you can find anything of much note, but you can't. Just more vaguely-pockmarked scars. Raising your hands up to touch your cheek, you remember that your fingers are bandaged from splinters gained from carpentry work - and then you start frowning.
Maybe your father was right. Because...
... quite frankly.
You find your body hideous, too.
[you don't want to feel this way]
[so clearly it's all his fault]
Shut up! You scream. Out! Aus! Out, out, out get out you filth get out of my sight GET OUT RIGHT NOW YOU
You don't know who you're referring to anymore but then within seconds you realize and then you shudder and run out of the room
(because you told yourself to.)
why is your hand bleeding?
22. The First Butterfly
From that day onwards, you decide that you are ugly.
From that day onwards, you decide that no one could or ought to love you because of how ugly you are, and that you won't be loving a person back anytime soon. You sabotage your own self-worth, deeper - far, far deeper than you could ever imagine - and you're never really the same, ever again.
You still feel lust and pleasure and you can still write about those things, but you don't identify with it yourself. You sleep with a woman once and then think that the whole thing's not worth all the fuss, so you decide that you aren't interested in sex, either. Pretty jarring, especially considering the kind of career you're going to be in later.
23. Responsibility Is More Than Just A Word
You do end up being very glad for having slept with that woman, though, because you experience fatherhood because of it. You might be a misanthrope but you are by no means immoral or cruel, and when the news reaches you, you immediately say that you will care for the child. Joy or sorrow is not a part of it - the baby's your responsibility, and you're going to respect that. The thought of marrying and being a family doesn't occur to you, and she doesn't look like she wants to be tied down with a husband either (not at your age, you two are still so young).
But God forbid you inflict the pain your father inflicted on your childhood self on your child. You aren't going to be like that, no, not at all.
Your daughter is born on a rainy day. The exhausted and vanquished mother nevertheless falls to a satisfied slumber soon after the birth, without complications, and that's where you come in. The baby's wrapped in a blanket - not pink, not blue, but white. A girl, they tell you, and ask you if you want to hold her.
She is surprisingly heavy in your arms, heavy with life and a fully-functional body in miniature. You stare down at this being who you've had a part in creating - so little, and yet so full of potential. She's all soft and powdered too - and in your arms she stirs and clings to you sleepily, possessing absolutely no doubt that you are her father. She knows you from just your warmth and scent alone; from now on she'll follow you anywhere you go, and she will trust you and love you unconditionally as long as you care for her in return. Then you are suddenly overwhelmed with what feels like a mix of utter joy and an urge to burst into tears; you kiss and kiss her on both cheeks until they're both pink, eager to convey - oh, sweetheart, my darling child, I'm your father, it's wonderful to hold you at last, you're going to be the best daughter in the world. Holding your daughter, so helpless and quiet and sweet in your arms, you mentally revise your prior decision a little. You aren't interested in relationships nor do you love anyone romantically, but you do love your girl. That is a gospel truth.
She does look a little bewildered at being showered with kisses, though, so you stop and let her drift off. She shifts against your chest - gives you her first smile - and then nuzzles into you, relaxing as she falls asleep. Not even a day old and she's already given you her first gift.
Something thaws, and through the song of the rain, the beginnings of spring dawn within your heart.
You name your daughter Nele, short for 'Cornelia'. It might be too archaic of a name in its full form, but then it's the same with you, isn't it? Dietrich to Till. Cornelia to Nele. She seems to like it, either way. And maybe it's just you, but your daughter has the loveliest scent about her; especially around the top of the head. It's a difficult smell to describe, but you suppose that 'sweet' is the most laconic description you can give for it. It doesn't quite do it justice, but that's what it is. Sweet, with a mixture of baby powder and milk.
You always keep her cleaned, dry and well-powdered and every time you look at her you really do have to marvel at the spell she's put you under. She's just lying in your arms half the time, quiet and staring at you in the most curious manner (her eyes baby-blue, but you know that it will change and somehow it makes you feel a bit selfish when you want them to turn out green like yours), her soft caramel scent awakening more affection within you, day by day. When Nele grows up a little more, she'll love sweets; she'll pretend to be uninterested in them from about age ten onwards, not wanting to appear childish, but you know that her sweet tooth will always stay with her as long as she lives. And that's fine, because you have a notorious sweet tooth as well. Like father, like daughter.
26. Berliner Mauer
You and Nele are two halves, you decide. The fact that you have no brother or friend to become the other half of you speaks volumes about how lonely you actually are, but that's a digression. She is a happy, innocent and ever-so-beautiful little girl while you are a somewhat grim, less than innocent (and hideous, you always tell yourself) man. But while she is helpless and so reliant on the kindness of others to survive, you have scratched out a living of your own and you have become reasonably content in it. Both of you have so much sorrow to go through in life, but you have been through more than she has - and you'll do anything to help Nele.
But at the same time you are wary to bring her up in the way that you think is right, or in ways more familiar to you. One of the worst things that parents can do to their child is attempting to live through them, see themselves in their shoes instead of their own place, and you know this. Though you are infinitely more sensible than many parents would be when you figure out that this dilemma is something that you cannot decide a solution on immediately - it's something that you genuinely have to adapt to as things go along. There will one day come a time when your help alone cannot teach Nele how to live and function in the world; when that time comes, you'll let go of the controls and delegate yourself to keeping a watchful eye on her. It is a very sensible solution, that principle of adaptation, if you think about it - you might not end up with a 'stance' per se, but it makes you learn, it gives you the best chance of survival. That's how humans all evolved in the first place. I mean, look at where rash decisions got the West and East, slicing the two halves of Berlin apart, leaving two brothers helplessly lost and staring at each other through a mere physical barrier. That's no way to treat such a fundamental pair, especially if it didn't need to be a pair in the first place.
27. The Checkout Line
Life isn't all sunshine and roses though, when you consider that babies are very helpless creatures by default. Nele has been nothing but healthy and spirited but one night she starts coughing and sniffling - something that all babies go through eventually, the first visit by the common cold. You stay logical and give her the medicine needed for it, cool her forehead, and keep her hydrated. However now you're faced with a little bit of a dilemma - her mother isn't available at the moment, it's the middle of the night, and you're running short on supplies.
You ought not to leave your child alone. Especially when she's only about a year old. But right now you can think of nothing else to do - making sure that she most definitely is sleeping, you put on your jacket and run downstairs, hurriedly going into the first all-night shop that you can see. It's quite far down the road and it's not a place you've ever been in before; you nigh tear through the doors and hurtle down the aisles, quickly picking out everything that you need - diapers, baby formula, things that you feel like you're lacking at this present moment. The only person in the shop at the moment is a young blond cashier, who you're aware is staring at you most oddly as you make your rounds. Let him stare. It doesn't matter. You need to get back to Nele.
"Do you have any cigarettes?" you ask him; he tells you that they only have Marlboro. You don't smoke Marlboro but hey, why not. Money gets exchanged, he gives you the change, and feeling a tad apologetic for your brusqueness, you smile at him as you pick up your bags. "have a good night."
The cashier shifts a little behind the counter, clearly a little taken aback by your friendliness, but he seems pleased enough as he says "Thank you". When you get back, Nele turns out to be awake - but only a little grumpy that you left her alone. No accidents, no trouble. You kiss her forehead and murmur that you won't do it again, and by the time dawn falls, she's reasonably satisfied and asleep in your arms.
... That boy looked a little younger than you, too. Nice to see that young people are working harder nowadays. That thought makes you feel kind of old.
28. Good/Bad Riddance?
Thinking of your father depresses you to hell and back so here's a brief leap to some years later and the termination of that particular branch in this tale; one day you receive a letter in the mail and think about what it might be as you set it down on the table. Nele's out shopping with her mother so you're alone as you read the handwritten address; it's not a handwriting you recognize but it must be one of your relatives, at least you're thinking that as you reach for the letter-opener and slice the beige envelope open, two sheets of paper tumbling out, and suddenly you have to take a deep breath and pour yourself some red wine from a nearby bottle because whatever this might be, you really don't have a good feeling about this, and you are proven right ten minutes later when the wine bottle is smashed against the table and you slam the kitchen door behind you in anguish as the red wine - red as blood - soaks through the pages of the letter, smudging erasing deleting those four words that will haunt you for life: [
29. This is The Man That You Will Love Later (But Don't Tell Anyone I Said That, Shh)
But that's a story for another time, so we move back towards the present. Two weeks on and Nele's shed the cough completely, healthy and sweet and rosy-cheeked as babies ought to be. A relief. Her mother's come around to take care of her for a few hours, so you can afford to go on a walk until three o'clock that afternoon; you make your way to a nearby park, sit down on a deserted bench and finally get to smoking some of those cigarettes. That pack of Marlboro you bought two weeks ago still isn't finished - you pick out the penultimate one and light it, exhaling pearly smoke into the cold autumn air and letting out a long sigh.
"Do you have a light?" a voice asks, and a stranger stops beside you. You fish around in your pockets and pick out your lighter, flicking it on. Only then do you look towards the one who's spoken; he's shorter than you by a few inches, wearing a beanie hat, but you can swear that those blue eyes and blond hair are familiar. He gasps a little, apparently going through the same mental process as he stares at you.
"Oh," your eyes widen in recognition. "you're the..."
30. The Time When Richard Burnt Breakfast
When you wake up, you grimace in disgust; there's a smell drifting through the air, ashy, thick with smoke and almost tangibly delicious. A disastrous combination. Sliding the covers off your body, you put on a dressing gown - check on Nele, who thankfully doesn't look as if she's inhaled any smoke - before you silently pad downstairs to look into the kitchen. A young man with blond hair is standing there, throwing open all the windows and frantically scrubbing the kitchen clean; you don't know what he burnt, but have no time to contemplate on that further when he turns to you, cheeks flushed with embarrassment.
"You seemed so tired," the young man mumbles, uncharacteristically shy as he twists the washcloth in his hands. "I... uh... I just wanted to save you some trouble this morning, that was all. Go back to bed, Till, I've got this under control."
You could go back to bed but you don't. You stay and clean up with him instead, reassuring him that it's okay. By the time it's all over and Nele has been fed, it's near lunchtime and no food has been prepared, so you both just put on your jackets and head down to the streets - there's a convenient doner kebab stall about three minutes away, and that makes a excellent meal in itself.
31. Refer Back To The Checkout Line (This Is The Part Where You Laugh At Me)
Dein Name ist Richard Kruspe und du bist neunzehn Jahre alt. Du bist ein Kassierer; aber dein Beruf macht keinen Spaß, deprimiert dich und du kannst dich nicht entfalten denn du bist so jung und hilflos. Gott, hilfe," du seufzt. So einsam doch nicht allein.
Ein Kunde betritt den Laden und lauft so schnell er kann. Du siehst was er kauft: die Windeln, Milchpulver, zehn Apfeln, zwei Dosen Mais und - eine Packung Gummibarchen. Du findest das ganz lustig, er ist so groß un muskulös. Haben Sie Zigaretten?" er fragt. Seinen Augen sind meergrün, du hast noch nie so schöne Augen gesehen.
Nur Marlboro, wie viele wollen Sie kaufen?"
Zehn. Was kostet das?" er ist in Eile.
Ich nehme es."
Du nickst nervös. Er ist sehr schön, du denkst und du errötest. »Richard, denk doch nicht so viel,« du sagst selbst und du räusperst dich. Gern, ist das alles?"
Ja, das ist alles."
So das macht - zusammen - 28.70 Mark," er gibt dreißig. ...1.30 Mark zurück."
Vielen Dank," er sagt mit einem Lächeln. schönen Feierabend!"
Vielleicht wirst du ihn wieder sehen.
32. Crash For The Night
After that little awkward moment, you introduce yourself to the man. His name's Till, Till Lindemann, he's four years older than you. He's a rather quiet soul, but his way of smiling and talking is fascinating to you, and besides it's been so long since you had a talk like this with anyone. "Come to dinner with me," he says just before three o'clock; seeing as you have nothing better to do, you accept.
His home is clean and well-organized. You thought from what he bought the other day that he was probably married and with child, but it turns out that only the last part is true. He cooks you both a delicious dinner and then you talk for hours about the most minor things - you tell him that you're a young amateur guitarist living alone in Berlin, that you don't have many friends here and you're just scraping a living as a cashier at the moment, and he nods sympathetically. He too looks like a man who's been through many hardships.
Clock strikes nine and you ought to be going back home, but Till has a protective instinct installed firmly within him as a result of having a baby daughter. He asks if you want to stay the night, that you can have his bed - it's not as if he's going to be using it, when he's so busy with Nele - and again, you don't find much incentive to refuse. Nothing awaits you back at your own place anyway, except for your guitar which until today has been your only friend in this city.
His bed is a double, clean, warm and very soft. Much better than your own. His bed smells nice. He does too, come to think of it. You smile at the thought.
33. First Arsch
Till turns out to be a batteur and bassist, running his own little band in his spare time. You find this quite charming - you have that reaction any time you hear about underground bands that practice loud music. When he tells you this, you're excited at the very thought of it, and flash back to your own guitar. You bought that when you were sixteen in Czechoslovakia, not with the intent to play but to sell it back in East Berlin where you could make a tidy profit from it. Needless to say, that didn't work out the way you intended. Maybe it's just a fantasy, a mad idea, but you almost want to show Till your skills, perhaps he might-
"You said that you played guitar, Richard?" you nod. "excellent. We were just thinking about adding another guitar to the mix, too. I'm aware that you live fairly far away, though, so it's just a thought, if you want to-"
For a day or two you think he just offered out of courtesy, not with seriousness, but you say yes with an eager heart anyway. And true to his word, when you next visit Till, there's a man there with blond hair and two silver earrings who gives you the sunniest of smiles as you enter. "So you're Richard? Till's been telling me all about you! I'm Paul, I've got my own band in addition to this one - it's always nice to see fresh talent-"
Just a couple of weeks ago you were the loneliest person in existence, but things are kind of looking up now.