Sexy, AIDS and green
[This is an excerpt of a chapter of ONE OF US HAS TO GO. The part that relates to “AIDS and green” from the headline is not in this text.]
… … …
Mrs. Krausel was our new tutor and gave our first proper lesson. German. Nothing too difficult but also nothing too exciting for my taste. I tried to pay attention. It proved difficult. I was constantly distracted by something I couldn’t let go: Mrs. Krausel’s nipples. She seemed to have two smarties, sized XXL, inside her bra that were poking through her jumper. Mom didn’t have those kinds of breasts. I didn’t have any first sign of any myself yet, and I certainly didn’t want to get some that looked like Mrs. Krausel’s. I even hoped I wouldn’t get any!
I had said to Susanne, one day, that I wished to cut them off if that was actually possible. She had laughed about it.
I didn’t think boobs would suit me. I thought I was too boyish. Not that I wanted to be a boy, no. I just believed I appeared and behaved like one. Dad had always told me to be brave and tough. He hadn’t wanted me to cry in front of Mom, during the last skiing holiday, when I had hurt my arm after a little accident. He had pressured me to not even tell her, although I wanted to so badly. Dad said I was too big to cry.
I played so many rough boys’ games with my brother and his friends, whereas he never played with me and Sally.
After the German lesson, we had English. I was curious about it. My brother had said I was going to get an English name from the teacher. “Timothy” was my brother’s name. I was keen on a name without “th.” My brother and his friends said it was sexy when girls stuck their tongues out through their teeth! I’d watched carefully when he showed me with his tongue and was unsure if I’d be able to manage that without spitting.
“You’d better get used to it quickly. Otherwise you’ll start saying ‘ze’,” he had warned me.
I didn’t like that exercise. It was embarrassing. I thought adults use their tongues when they kissed on TV. “He’s got his tongue wrapped around hers!” my brother always commented.
It was bad luck when my new English teacher read out the list of English names for everybody.
“Katherine,” she told me, “that’s your English name.”
Dammit. There was no way I wanted that name. I didn’t want to have anything to do with “th” and “sexy”.
“Mrs. Krausel, can I please have a different name?”
“Don’t you like ‘Katherine’?”
“No,” I said, hoping she wouldn’t keep repeating it and put her tongue out right in front of me, while her smarties were only one arm’s length away from me. They were FRIGHTENING.
“Well, do you have one in mind?”
“Anne. Can I have ‘Anne’, please?”
Anne from a children’s cassette came to save me. I got her “unsexy” and spit-free name instead.
After the experience of that very first English lesson, we had a break of twenty minutes. Sonja and I went into the schoolyard. It was big. Roughly the same size as the one we used to know from primary school. I saw my brother with some friends of his. I smiled at him. He quickly looked away when he spotted me – his little sister.
At primary school, in my first year, he had approached me in the schoolyard during my first break. He had come to ask how things had gone and even to show me around. He was my big brother when he was seven, and I was six.
Now, he was almost twelve.
Was age the only difference? Or was it something to do with me in particular? He seemed embarrassed about me!
“Are you disappointed?” Sonja asked me.
“A little,” I understated.
Four lessons later, school was out. We went home by bus and my brother was also on it. Sonja and I were in the front, he stood in the back. He saw me and then faced the other way, not wanting me to approach him. When we got off the bus, he raced home a few meters ahead of Sonja and me.
I told Mom about my first day at high school and that I was Anne. I also pointed out that Mom was much prettier than Mrs. Krausel. Mom didn’t know I was particularly talking about her breasts. I also liked that she wore no lipstick. Mrs. Krausel’s lips had been bright pink all German-and-English-lesson-long. Mom never wore lipstick. And the one time she had sat topless in a sun lounger on our terrace during the summer break, I freaked out.
After lunch, I went into my bedroom to do my first secondary school homework. I also practiced “th.” According to my brother, I would sound silly if I only used my teeth with no tongue, saying “ze.” I didn’t want to sound silly. The problem was I didn’t want to sound sexy, either.
In the evening, after supper, it was almost time for bed. Almost!
The sun had set and clouds made it very dark outside. I went to my brother’s bedroom, because I needed to see if it was only at school that he wanted to avoid me.
His door wasn’t fully shut. I couldn’t see any light inside his room when I slowly opened the door. He was sitting on his little stool in the darkness, in front of the window. The shutter wasn’t closed. He was staring outside, elbows on the windowsill, comfortably resting his face in his hands.
“What’s out there?” I asked.
I went fully inside his room. His window was at the gable end of our house and faced a window of the gable of the neighboring house – Step-grandmother’s house. Through his window, he looked into her dining room.
“There you go. Look, you can see it live now. Not just on TV. He really must have his tongue wrapped around hers!” he said.
I stepped next to him. “Wow. What are they doing?”
I could clearly see it, but, somehow, I still asked.
Bertha, our step-grandmother, sat on the lap of a man who was in a chair at her dining table. His arms were around her back and sides; very tightly. She had her arms around his neck and shoulders. Their faces were close together.
“Don’t be stupid. They’re kissing. With tongues! And I bet they’re going to do some more stuff soon,” my brother said.
“So, they’re having sex?”
“Not yet, but let’s wait a bit. Just get your chair and sit down if you don’t wanna miss out.”
I was more than happy I was allowed to join him and pounced at the opportunity. I nipped to my bedroom, got my chair and came back to take a seat next to him. We leaned with our arms on the windowsill. His bedroom was still dark, and so we could see very well what was happening at the table in Bertha’s dining room.
My brother picked binoculars up from the floor. He held them in front of his eyes, looked through, then held them to me. “Here, you’ll see even better.”
I took the binoculars out of his hands and had a look through them myself. “Wow, they’re really kissing with tongues!”
“See. I told you.” He sounded proud.
I gave him back the binoculars. “And is this randy then?”
“Hmm, I don’t know. I just know that I wouldn’t stick my tongue even a millimeter into the mouth of any girl in my class.”
“Me neither. I mean, I wouldn’t kiss any of the boys in mine.”
Even though we weren’t interested in doing ourselves what the two in the house next door were, we kept watching.
My brother and I had seen our parents before when they gave each other a kiss on their lips. However, we had not seen them doing it with as much passion.
Bertha had a boyfriend we knew quite well. Bernd came twice a week to stay at her house; every Friday night until early Monday morning, when he left for work. He was also allowed to come on Tuesday nights, and then had to leave again on Wednesday mornings. Allowed, because he would have liked to live permanently with her, but when they had planned doing that some time before and moved all his furniture into her house, she spontaneously changed her mind and asked Bernd to keep his apartment in the city. He had to take all his stuff with him again and stick with the accustomed four nights per week at hers.
“And who’s that man?” I asked.
“No idea, never seen him before,” my brother said. “Maybe she fancies her old job again.”
“Her old job? What old job? I thought she’d always worked in that supermarket?”
I only knew Bertha wearing a white short-sleeved hip-long overall in a huge supermarket, using a little handset to stick price labels onto products before putting them onto the shelves.
“Don’t you know? She’s been a hooker!” my brother said.
“A hooker? I’ve never heard that word.”
“You can also call it prostitute if you want.”
“Prostitute?” I watched Bertha change her position. She now didn’t face with her back towards us but with her front.
“Yes, prostitute. It’s a bit more formal than ‘hooker’ I think. But it’s the same thing.”
“But I still don’t know what her old job is.”
“You really know nothing!” I ‘heard’ my brother’s eye-roll. “She had sex with men and then they gave her money for it.”
Although surprised, I wasn’t shocked. Bertha couldn’t really shock me. Not even with the things I was just seeing with my childish eyes. I didn’t love her, and I didn’t find her particularly nice. She was at times cold and, to me, too simple without much thoughtfulness. I knew she had fled the GDR many, many years before and left her then toddler girl behind. I understood, as a ten-year-old, the GDR and its regime was something that the people who lived there didn’t like. And that they were all forced to stay in their country.
I knew people tried to flee, and some had lost their lives while attempting it. I had understanding for Bertha wanting to live in West Germany, but not really for her being so unloving and leaving her little child behind. She didn’t know whether or not she would ever see her again.
“That’s what she did before? She had sex with lots of men? Like those women Mom says they have in that road in the city?” I asked.
“Yes. Bertha used to live in the red light road,” my brother said. “I thought you’d known that. And it was Dad’s father who got her out of there after Dad’s mom died. But don’t dare say anything about it to her. Mom says Bertha shouldn’t know that we know!”
“How did Dad’s father get her out?”
“He was one of her clients. And then she lived with him.”
I suddenly felt my blood surging through my veins. A myriad of questions rushed through my brain. It almost hurt.
I didn’t know either of Dad’s parents, but when I understood my grandfather had been going to buy sex from women, I had a different image of him all of a sudden. I had only known he had married Step-grandmother, because my real grandma had died, and that was why Bertha lived next door.
The show slightly changed. The new man behind Step-grandmother’s window became more and more engaged in the act between him and her on his lap. He went all over her body with his fingers. And just when he attempted to get them underneath her top, she stood up from his lap and left the table. Maybe the man didn’t know Bertha used to be a professional. He found himself dropped like a hot potato.
”Oh, she’s gone,” I said.
“No worries, she’ll be back soon. She’s probably going into the kitchen, getting him another course.”
“So you’ve been watching this for long?”
“For a while.” My brother grinned.
I asked him to give me the binoculars again. I wanted to have a closer look at the new lover.
He was having a drink. He sipped from a glass and then looked into it, seemingly enjoying what he had in his mouth.
“I don’t like him,” I said. “He looks greasy.”
“Yeah, but it doesn’t matter. As long as his cock is big. That’s the most important thing, they say,” my brother said, taking the binoculars out of my hands to have another closer look himself.
“Cock? That’s the penis, right?” I tried to make sure I got it right this time.
“And who are ‘they’ who say that’s important?”
“At school. It’s talked about.” He shrugged.
“Aha. And why has Bertha not put her shutters down?”
“She must think her curtain is enough. She doesn’t understand we can still look through it when it’s dark outside but bright in her dining room.”
I knew that Bertha was not the smartest person in the World.
Step-grandmother appeared again. She had a tray in her hands with some dishes on it.
“Looks like she’s getting desserts now,” my brother said.
Step-grandmother placed one of the desserts in front of the man. He smiled but didn’t seem very interested in it. Instead, he reached out for her. Bertha bent down to him, as he was still sitting in his chair. She kissed him on his mouth again.
“Come on, sit on his lap!” My brother sounded so very impatient.
“When has Grandfather seen her? Was Grandma still alive?” I asked.
“Yes, she was. He cheated on her.”
My blood felt as if it started to boil. I was actually in need of an Imaginary Comfort Bubble, but my brother was right next to me. I wasn’t convinced he would have understood the state I was in. His blood seemed cool and calm: “Come on now, Bertha. Sit on his lap!”
At that moment, the door to his bedroom opened. Mom came in.
“What are you guys doing there?” she asked.
“Mom, don’t switch on the light. You’re spoiling everything!” my brother said.
Mom came close. “Oh my God, what’s going on over there? Have you been watching this for long?”
“Only for a little while,” he said.
“Yeah, I can tell.” Mom saw we both had something to sit on. She laughed.
Mom seemed amused about the whole thing with Step-grandmother and her two children watching.
“Here, look through the binoculars,” my brother said, holding them towards Mom.
“No, thanks, I can see enough without. So Bertha’s got herself a new lover. Poor Bernd!”
Mom made us move from our seats at the windowsill, putting an end to the show. We had to go to bed. She switched on the light of my brother’s bedroom and closed the window shutter. I took my chair back into my bedroom and then searched for Dad, who I found on the sofa in the living room. He was watching TV. I gave him a hug and a kiss to say goodnight and went back to my bedroom. I got into bed and waited until Mom would come and sit on the edge of it to hug me and say goodnight.
Then, I switched off the little light by the side of my bed and lay in the darkness. My eyes were wide open. No way that I could go to sleep right away.
I needed to think about Step-grandmother and the new man. I couldn’t let go the fact that Grandfather had been her client. And that he had cheated on my real grandma. I didn’t know real-Grandma, but I still felt for her. I absolutely didn’t like what Grandpa had done.
A while later, Grandpa appeared in my mind. He seemed so real even though he was dead. But my dreams were always so very vivid; so very much linked to what had happened during the day.
I saw my grandfather walking down a road that was lined with lots of streetlights. They were all red. Women in short dresses and with smarties inside their bras came out from the houses around, approaching Grandpa.
“What’s your name?” he asked each of them.
They all answered: “Katherine.”
He smiled as they were putting their tongues out between their teeth.
I only observed the scene from a distance, but when all those Katherines formed a circle around him to enclose my grandfather, I went closer. I needed to rescue him from what he was doing. Only then, his face actually became clear to me, and I recognized who the prostitutes really had ensnared: Dad.
I started to run. I wanted to get to Dad as quickly as possible. I needed to save him! Only that I didn’t gain any ground as I was running. I kept moving in the same spot, seeming to be on a conveyer belt that moved in the opposite direction. Even when I tried harder, I couldn’t get close enough to Dad to save him from the danger.
“Take your green jacket off, throw it away and rub your sleeve against the wall while you run. That creates safety. It’ll rescue him!” Sonja shouted from somewhere.
“You mean using your techniques?” I asked.
There were a couple of nods, somewhere, and so I took off my jacket and threw it away. I rubbed my arm against a wall until the sleeve broke. My entire jumper unraveled and exposed my torso. The bunch of Katherines threw their gazes at my immature nipples and then disappeared into the darkness as the bricks of the wall had just scraped my skin to bleeding point. I opened my eyes.
My God. What the hell had happened?
I sat up in bed. I was breathing heavily. Soaked in sweat.
Did Dad go into that road as well? Did he see a woman for sex other than Mom? Did he take after his dad? Was he cheating?
I was desperate to talk to somebody. Mom wasn’t the right person. Because Dad might indeed have been like his father. Dad wasn’t right either. I never talked to Dad about my worries, anyway. Sadly, not even Sally was around anymore. She had recently moved away from my bedroom and now lived up in the loft in a big cardboard box for old toys. Sigh.
I blew up another Imaginary Comfort Bubble, slipped inside and stayed in there for the rest of the night. Only the next morning was I able to talk to somebody, when I met Sonja by the railway track on the way down to the bus stop. She was such a good listener.
© Copyright 2018 Author of ONE OF US HAS TO GO – All Rights Reserved