a Christmas carol of a sort
by Tobias Rohde
I don’t know where he came from. He was just there suddenly. A Boy of maybe 10Years. Ragged clothing and a worn down parka, that had seen better days and broader shoulders before it came to be the shelter of the Boy. He stood there on the corner staring ahead so intensely that i first took him for a lost kid, desperately looking for his mother.
A lot of people walked past and didn’t pay him much attention. After all, it was the start of December, and there where more people on the street then i ever thought where living at the place… the chaos of Christmas market had opened a few days ago. It was its maze of small shops, for whom little wooden huts had been erected all over the inner city, that attracted all those people into moving through the Gloomy, still more autumn then winter like weather. Wrapped in layers of coat, scarf and all that fitted them under, they all walked through the cold, wet air, that smelled of hot spiced sausage, crepe, waffles and caramelized nuts. At every corner, Spiced wine was spilled into plastic cups and over the gloves grapping them and into the thirsty throats of a thousand people, who moved, unattentive, past the little, so intensely staring face.
I myself had been dodging the crowd for just some seconds, to regain my courage to reenter the constant stream of people. I was crouching, leaning against a wall, in a not so tightly trafficked alley just off the main shopping mile. And i was still leaning there, when i suddenly had spotted the boy, his image flashing between the flapping coats of the pedestrians that passed between us on the road.
As i already mentioned, what really caught my eye was not his shabby but cute appearance, but much more the expression he wore on his face. His very intense gaze, searching, scanning through the crowds, the tip of his tongue slightly visible between his lips, his mimic tightened in concentration. He seemed to search something. looking in a child like version, like I’ve seen mathematicians staring at a blank page of complex algebra or the more grown up copy of a child, tying to beat a computer game or playing the flute for the first time. In high concentration. I regarded him for a while, before i finally decided to talk to the little one. I mean, we where approaching Christmas after all, and he did looked like he could do with some soup, but also, not to the least, i was rather curious about him.
I made my way across the road, carefully maneuvering to avoid a collision with one of the many passerby’s, who seemed to eager for the spiced hot wine to make way for someone moving rectangular to their current shop-attack-vector. But I made it, and stood in front of the boy i had observed. Closer Up i could make out some astonishing details i couldn’t have noticed before.
For example his clothes where old and shabby and badly fitting size-wise, but against first sight expectations they where neither dirty nor torn. Or say, where they were torn, somebody had sewed them up and put a patch on them. He didn’t had to little of those though. The knees and back of his Cordcloth trouser, looked like the pinwall of a mad Stickercollector, and even his parka, that fitted him more like a coat, had one big Squarecloth sewed on its back. He was wearing a cab. But not on his head, from where he had removed it shortly before, judging by the way his middle brown hair stood up. He was holding it tight before his chest, the fingers of both hands digging deep into the cloth, mirroring the anticipation i had percepted on his face before. The cap was not one of those modern baseball or kangoo caps, but a rather older design; an olver-twist kind of looking clothball, with a nibble on the top and a small peakshield.
His lace-up-boots where of the same old fashion, a little to big at the end, rather clownlike and made of brown, spotted, real leather, that looked like at least 4 men had walked a livelength on those, before he came to wear them.
But oddly enough, all those clothes somehow seemed to fit him. He was wearing them in a certain way and attitude, that you could hardly imagine him in anything else.
And he wasn’t smelly or too dirty. I thought that he actually looked like one of those sad portraits of a late 18th century working class child, that you sometimes come across in a ladies livingroom or over the wardrobe in a friends house. Oddly to clean for a streetboy in rags. He really looked, like had been painted there by some extremely skilled romantic-Arts-Painter, to mock my pre-christmas warm heart.
I shrugged off the irreal air my observations had given the whole scene and made my final move towards him. I wasn’t sure what to ask him, for i was certain that this boy was unusual. But before i could address him, he lifted his gaze, and looked at me. First i thought id saw anger flashing, but it disappeared so quickly i was willing to believe i imagined it. But when that first blink had passed, i faced a not less strange air. Him looking at me felt as if his big brown eyes seemed to penetrate my day-to-day masks, seemed to dodge the lies and subterfuge i was dealing with all day.
I froze for a moment. If it would have been darker and not so full of people around us, his gaze might have frightened me a little. But i shrugged that off, too. He was after all just a small boy, looking somehow lost.
Suddenly a lot of his tenseness seemed to fall from him, the fingers that dugged into the cap, loosened a little, and his face gave the smallest shadow of a smile.
It vanished as quickly as the anger i first had imagined, and he quickly looked away, into the crowd again. I realized that he seemed a Little overexerted with me standing in front of him like that, a twice as tall as him stranger and all. So i unfroze, made the last two remaining steps to lean against the wall beside him and looked into the crowd myself, for a little. When i spoke to him, first i was talking with my eyes still on the crowd, as if i would address no one in particular:
„I guess you haven’t just lost your mom, have you?“
Out of the corner of my eyes i could see him shaking his head rather hard.
„I mean, if there’s somewhere i could bring you, or point you?“
He pursed his lips and, quite soft this time, shook his head again.
I nodded and thought for a moment. Than I looked down at him. Time to make a bolder move. I mean, that was what i had in mind right from the start, wasn’t it.
„Want some Soup?“
He met my gaze again, this time looking much more like a 10 year old should. I could see the yes forming, but being held back inside by some uncertainty. But i saw that he would have liked to come, so i took the freedom to persuade him a little.
„I mean, its just a Block from here, and i made a Pot of my grandfathers recipe this afternoon. Its much to big for me anyways, because my grandfather used to cook for 4 People at least, and i always forget that I’m gonna eat it alone, when i take out his recipe to cook the stuff.
So, i would appreciate your help.“
I smiled. He looked at me. Inside i tried to to purehearted, showing the kid that he could trust me. And Trust there spread. Nearly visible, and trackable in the brown depth of the boys eyes, like some inner light that swept away his agitation. He blinked. He nodded. Then he put his cap back onto his head with a swift motion, then nodded again, turned towards me, nodded yet again and took my hand.
Coming from the crowded and cold winter-streets, the warm and quiet solitude of my flat was a sanctum of its own. I unlaced my boots, hung my coat and slipped into my awfully big, but nevertheless extreme comfortable fursneakers. Meanwhile the boy also unlaced his big boots and thus revealed an unmatched pair of socks, both with a neat collection of holes. One was made of thick, blue wool, with an handknitted appearance. The other was a colorful cotton Overknee. I Offered him a coathanger, but he merely gave it a half interested, half awkward look, as if he wouldn’t know what i meant, before he grabbed his own collar and shook his head in a very final gesture.
„Ok“ i said, Knowing that my flat and i where the same, in neverminding a strange boy in a Patched Parka, as long as he took his shoes off.
He was, still silent, but not to shy, moving carefully into the living room, looking around, scanning the pictures on the wall and the small choice of Books on the shelves, checking the view and all that.
I passed him and went to work in the kitchen. I put the stove on middle flame under the big pot of Grandpas most favorite Soup. I was stiring and trying to decide on the amount of water i should add into the already slightly reduced mass, when i was joined by the boy.
I made an inviting handgesture, suggesting him to take seat in my highchair. It was a foldable barstool, that i kept there, for those mornings i had to have an early breakfast. I then preferred to sit in my kitchen and to have fresh toast on the sideboard by the window. And as it did feel ridiculous to sit at the high sideboard on a normal chair, i had purchased the bar-thing foldable, that the boy was climbing onto right now.
I was stirring the fresh water into the soup and adding a careful amount of extra salt, when he managed to take that seat. I was watching him out of the corner of my eyes. He seemed to enjoy dangling his bootless feet from the highchair. ´As any boy would have`, i thought, and smiled.
The Boy sat there silent, dangling his feet and observing my whole kitchen, as carefully and detailed as he had done with the living room. I didn’t see the need to speak either. Just standing there and waiting for the soup to boil, didn’t feel awkward in the least, for the boy seemed happy not talking and i usually didn’t talk to the soup when i was by myself, so why start a conversation now?
A few minutes passed. From time to time i looked at him, and found him ever as interested in some part of my kitchen. I took the opportunity, turned, leaned with my backside against the front lining of the stove, and looked around a bit myself. Its amazing, how one can build a place, put all his stuff everywhere, and then barely looks at it. I haven’t had enjoyed the clock hanging in my kitchen in ages and found myself delighted when i saw him observing it. I followed his gaze, looked at the collection of cooking books, the mixer, my cute toaster, the rest of this mornings breakfast, my red towel, the handbuild cupboard and the cup collection on it. I knew i had all those things, but when had i last looked at them, instead of taking them for granted. I thoroughly enjoyed looking at everything like i would the first time id seen it. I just stopped getting to know my own kitchen, when i heard the deep and soft plops of a boiling soup behind my back.
I took two soup plates from the drawer and poured a good portion in each plate.
„You wanna sit at the table or eat here?“ i asked him.
He just looked at me. He did smile a little, but apart from that, he showed no reaction to my question whatsoever. Was he mute?
„Ok“ i said, coming through with a decision „lets just eat here“
My kitchen is equipped with a special drawer, that is not a storage-place, but a replacement for an extra table. I drew that, put the plates and two spoons on it and added a slice of bread and a glass of water each. I conjured a foldable stepstool from the small gap between fridge and wall, and sat down in front of my soup. It took me a second to realize the problem. Looking up at the boy, who was a little to far away from the surface of my drawtable to be comfortable eating, i smiled at him, and handed him the soup, the glass of water and the bread.
He smiled back, then started to eat. I would have expected him to be a little ravenous, and to dig away at the plate with his piece of cutlery, but instead he took his time with every single spoon. He seemed to eat not a plate full of soup, but a collection of unique spoonfuls of a rare elixir. He gave each portion its different appreciation. One he would look at from three different angles, another spoon he raised higher then usual and smelled its content. Or he would take one single piece of meat or vegetable into his mouth and chew for a long time, rolling it from side to side in his mouth, so that his little cheeks where looking really busy. He found a new routine for every single spoon. I nearly forgot my own soup, so fascinated was i by his eating habits.
And when i started eating, i found that like he had done for me with the kitchen, he now gave me an excuse to not just simply eat my grandfathers favorite recipe, but to remember why it was so. To enjoy it as a new experience, and to dig deep into all the memories i had of the taste, and all the different days and moments i had had a plate.
I was still drifting in a memory from my 9th birthday, when i suddenly was startled by a voice.
„I liked the soup“ The boy said.
his voice sounded somewhat familiar. Had i have heard it before? Or was that just my mind, making up an explanation for the pleasency of the tune?
„Want some more“ i asked.
He shook his head. „Thank you“ This time i listened more carefully, and found that what made his voice special, was that it had all the innocence, only a child’s voice could bear, but was yet somehow ripe with age or wisdom or something. A strange voice. But a pleasant one.
I stood up, collected both our plates and entered them into the sink. The boy sat there and was now watching me. A strange air of purpose surrounded him. I still was curious about where he did come from and what he was doing here. His appearance so oddly painted, his behavior so unlike what you would expect from a normal boy.
I took the glass i had left on my drawtable, leaned against the stove again and drank a sip of water. We looked at each other for a while. His gaze was much less intense then it had been back then, on the street. Still, i was quite sure here was a person, a child yes, but still someone who didn’t bother with shallow things. He wasn’t seeing just my face. And i was a little afraid to say something not meaningful enough. I smiled on that thought, bemused by my own lack of maturity in face of a child.
„You have a good heart“ he suddenly said.
Now, here was an overwhelming compliment.
He simply smiled at me. I think he understood how much, what he had said had both taken me wrongfooted and moved me.
After a while, that we had simply looked at each other and somehow gained more trust in the other person, i asked the boy:
„What where you looking for, back then on the street?“
He took up his glass of water and drank a gulp. Then he smiled meekly and said in a rather shy voice:
„Me?“ i stupidly replied, a little taken aback by his answer.
„Yes, you.“ and then even shier and more quiet he added: „Or someone like you.“
I raised my eyebrows as far as they went, then had a sip of water myself.
„Why someone like me?“ I mean, i most certainly knew he wasn’t referring to my special looks or the way i walked.
He looked away for a few seconds and screwed up his face in concentration. It looked like he was trying to find something behind his own eyes this time. Then he looked back at me and had an expression you find mostly on children, when they decided upon something.
„I am not an adult, you know. I cant try to explain everything i say. Its no good.“
I laughed. He was damn right with that one.
„Ok“ i said, still smiling. „I wont ask you to then.“
I emptied my glass of water, and then added with the clink of the empty glass hitting the kitchentable:
„But it still doesn’t satisfy my curiosity. You know, i wonder a lot what that boy is doing in my kitchen.“ I pointed at him with my empty hand.
He paused for a moment, then nodded, paused and nodded again, like he had done, before grabbing my hand and coming with me. only now, when he looked at me, i had much more the feel that this time he was going to take me along.
„I am going to tell you a story“ he said, and continued while shaking his head:
„But it is not an adult story. Well it is, but its not told like an adult story. It has sense on its own. I am going to tell it as it is in my head, not like you would write it down.“
I nodded. I understood perfectly well and i needed him to see that i was taking him seriously, not judging what i was going to hear by a grown ups measure. His facial expression reminded me of my nephew, when he had explained to me, why of course, this figure of that hero he was playing with, had a superiority over the one his friend was holding. I had relearned that day, that it is not the subjects importance to our ordinary world that made it serious. It was how big the Idea was in the childs mind. And the Painted looking boy in his too big a parka in front of me, as strange as he had seemed, now needed the same insurance for me to really listen, that my ordinary nephew had needed then, to really tell me about what was going on inside of him.
And i thought, that listening careful this time would educate me on more then just on the different invisible abilities of action figures and the fantastic world that existed around them in my nephew. I now would learn about the mystery of the boy in front of me. He had my fullest attention, and i might add, i was eager to hear what he was going to tell me.
And i think that it wasn’t before he had sensed that in me, that he was ready to begin his tale.
„There is a place. Its odd. OR it would be odd for an adult, odd for anyone who did spend to much time growing up.
I live there. Or I do most of the time. I have a house there. And a collection. You know what a collection is?“
His question wasn’t asked to mock me, like it would have if being phrased by an adult. It really was a question. He seemed to have a very special picture of what a collection should be, and now wanted to be sure i wasn’t thinking of something different. I gave him a smile, thought for a moment and then gave him an honest answer:
„I do think so,“
He paused. looked at the floor, then nodded and continued.
„I live there most of the time. but then there are days i am getting lost. i am loosing something. And than i need to work on my collection. and then i wait for a special time, and then i come here.“
„Here?“ I asked out of curiosity, not because i am a stupid grown up.
„Here!“ the boy answered.
„To collect you know?“
I simply nodded.
„Its a very special place i go. and i need to bring something back. For my collection. It is an important collection.
And this time, you can help me.“
Its not like i didn’t want to help the little one, but on how, i was still quite in the dark…
„Do you want to help me“ his eyes weren’t desperate or anything like it. He was clam and seemed to simply want to know about my attitude towards the general idea of helping him.
So i rethought what i was thinking just the moment before he told him the essential point:
„Good“ he smiled.
I smiled back. I wasn’t afraid that i had given in to a bargain i didn’t know the other end of. because trickery like this was an adult hing to think about, and i thought i was getting the hang of this. Child. whatever…
The innocence of it all spread in my thoughts and my heart and was somewhat relieving from the backstabbing i had to witness every other day in the streets.
„Good“ he repeated.
And then looked at me for a long time.
I looked back. Met his gaze and all…
Again this impression that he was able to take an X-Ray picture of my soul went over me. But it wasn’t like he was staring or made me feel uncomfortable. It didn’t press on me like a teachers superiority for example might have. It was much more his completely innocent understanding, his picturesque yet sad impression and above all, the immense veracity he seemed to have.
That simply gave me the feeling of being seen. Of finally being seen. i cant express it better. But it felt good actually.
I smiled stupidly and expectant, because i really was curious, and the question stuck to my mind: what kind of task could this 10Year old have for me?
Remembering the collection theme, my first thoughts where shallow and unfitting for him. Pictures crossed my mind of action figures, Trading cards and other Collectibles I’ve seen in the hands of youngsters these days. Then in a tenth of a second i found they didn’t agree with the boy and the situation and my subconscious talent for the dramatic dove into lost mothers, the quest for surrogate parents and finally to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, that every child i knew had asked about once.
„What are you collecting“
The Question was out before i really knew i was gonna ask him about that.
But i wasn’t ashamed, it was straight forward after all, and whoever was going to deal with me had to learn i was a straightforward person, no matter if fragile 10 Year old or cruel mid fifty boss… I thought that with an inner smile, thinking about the end of my last employment.
The boy simply looked at me for another second, and unblinkingly said one word.
Stories… that one word. The magical word. the „me“ word. The one very thing whose recognition had changed my live. My juggernaut and my god, My devotion, my obsession, my nemesis and my rescue…
I found out while i was talking to the boy, that i might have developed a habit of stupidly repeating things being said to me.
„Yes.“ He answered.
„I collect Stories! and you are going to write one for me.“
Well, seems like i wasn’t the only one here being straight forward.
I was about to ask something stupid. One of those Mindgame questions that people like to insult their intellect and maturity with, when they want to buy time. Something like why he was thinking i could.
But not only how i had pronounced `stories´ and the pictures it brought to my mind kept me from it. Also some of it might have shown on my face or in my eyes, in the way i shrugged my shoulders when his words had hit me like a whipcrack and a soft embrace at the same time. For he looked away, at the soup Bowls in the sink and then with a lot of insecurity in his eyes back at me.
„You are a writer? aren’t you?“
And there we go again, i thought. How can you define yourself as something? i hadn’t finished a single book. I had nothing to show. I couldn’t give him a
diploma or a publishers recognition to insure him, to take away his doubt, that i hated to see in his exceptional eyes. And still, against all my own doubt that other people had once managed to cast into my heart, against the grownups definition of truth and against better knowledge and education, i answered him the question that had haunted me deep in to my very dreams and into the reality of my bankaccount in other days. Against the fear of disappointment and the long trail of empty paper i had wandered upon, against all that, I told him what i had known to be true ever since i had first picked up a pen.
„Yes. I am a writer“
His smile was Back. the expression he had first shown when he realized me on the street. Purpose. And Relief. He really needed someone to help him. and hell, for all i could see, my answer just put a signature under his need.
And it helped me too. how long had i waited for someone to honestly ask that question, someone wanting not an answer but my answer, my truth, and made me focus on the real thing, made me grab beyond all the obstacles other idiots had left in the way, in my mind with their doubt and their stupid view on what was right and wrong and real and a dream…
But this boy had asked for my inner, for my heart and never demanded, but nevertheless deserved my utmost veracious answer.
Not only he needed to know, but i needed to know and to give in to that truth:
I am a writer.
„So“ I asked, with a smile, all his to command „what kind of story do you need, what do you want it to be about?“
Again he didn’t even blink or showed any sign of knowing what he was asking for, when he phrased another really simple sentence, another straight answer and, so i thought, simply asked for the impossible:
he said. and looked at me as innocent as ever.
I am sure i must have had looked somewhat caught in the act. I am very sure my high spirited I-am-a-writer attitude had given me a big-spirited, very Take-it-on kind of look, that must have been a very recognizable contrast to the face i had been gifted with, by his simple demand.
It took me a few seconds to regain my confidence.
I was glad he didn’t flinch or thwart me with some look. I was glad he didn’t ask me something like ´is that a problem´ or another of those question they ask when you take a second to consider, and that back you into a corner and take away your confidence too easily.
What could he know of my history with stories about love. About my history with love actually. He must have been as oblivious to the reasons i was living alone as he sure was to the fact that my not completing a book, not writing every day, not having written a single Word in over a year and also for having stopped to pursue this dream, that they all where all about that one item, that concept which had haunted me for so long, and that had not only been the topic of all my Tears, but also the theme of my Downfall… that word… Love…
I looked him in the eye. I felt the whole rat-tail of past problems and unsolved Knots gathering in my stomach. I felt the fear of facing them. And i saw his smile. And i remember that he was here because he had lost something…
„ok“ I said.
He climbed of the Highchair. He stood in front of me, a little more then half as tall as me, and observed me for a few seconds. I thought i could feel him X-raying my Soul and the heart he had just leaned on and landed a blow at.
„Thank you. It means a lot to me“ he nearly whispered.
Then he walked past me into the living room.
I could feel my fear getting feebler again, loosing the immense strength it had before i had given him my ok. It was now matched by a nearly as big eagerness, and the two of them seemed to melt into anxiety while i was standing there, looking into the pot with the soup.
So i am going to write about love, even if that might not be my subject of choice.
So, i am going to write!
I smiled. i turned around and followed the boy into the livingroom.
He was standing there, his eyes wandering over the various possessions i had acquired over the Time i had been living here. Acquired and doomed to decorate more or less meaningless spots of cupboard-space.
Things i once wanted to have… When i entered the room, he stopped looking around. Perhaps he had wondered what my collection was made of. Memories, maybe… I wondered myself if they where all necessary or just random objects i could not manage to throw away. Was all that worth keeping?
I refocused. He looked at me. Then he smiled, said:“Thank you“ again, turned around and sat down by the door, starting to wrestle his too large a boot unto his left foot. I watched him buckle up the worn leather lace.
„You could stay here, you know. I mean, i sometimes do have Visitors, and i have a second matress?“
He took the other boot and paused to look at me for his answer:
„No, that’s all right. I know i could stay, but i want to leave you alone. I´ll come back by Christmas.“
Which was by the way not an ultimatum. He had just told me when he would be back. He stood up and looked somewhat whole again, with the boots all the air of an 19th century painting had come back to him.
I smiled and simply said „good bye“
„All your stories are about love?“
He was halfway out the door when i startled him with my question.
he stopped and hesitated for a moment, his hand on the doorknob, level with his eyes. Unsureness slithered over his mimic for a Moment, before he blinked at me, then smiled, obviously already knowing that he was going to give me a mirrored answer: „I do think so“
Then he left, went out the door with a last smile. I wanted to ask him another question, cause i wondered: what is it that you are loosing, those times when you have to come here?
But i knew that this was a question, hatched from an adult kind of curiosity, our strange obsession with cause and effect and the laws we want o believe in… so i stalled it and only winked goodbye to the closing door, and his steps on the stairs in the hallway.
I picked up a fountain pen with all my will. I heard the frontdoor downstairs close, together with the pop of the Pen being unsheathed from its cap, and faced my worst enemy, and my sereenest Place in the world: the empty sheet of paper, and set out to write a story about love.
Another piece of paper crumpled up into a ball between my hands. another „Story“ ended its live in an arch, a thrown ball of frustration that met his kin on the carpet… i left them lying there, reminders of my failure.
What had i had in mind, giving in to this. Writer or not. i wasn’t meant to write about love—
I had tried different approaches. I had meditated over that stupid white rectangle and about the question i was trying to answer on it.
I had written down some notes and some poor beginnings. A dialogue, not fitting, the sketch of a lousy character that i had made up in my mind to answer me the question. A Mindmap on which i had collected all the words i had spontaneously associated with love: From Heartbeat to irrationally spend amounts of money, from Tears to hilarious laughter and from afternoons spend in bed, not a care in the world, to the most desperate hours in my live… i had written down loneliness and this and that and all that everybody knew who had experienced love before… A uninteresting but not very inspiring collection after all that after a few minutes had made the same arch from couch to livingroom floor. Like my relations they ended, a ball of trash on the floor, that i couldn’t get myself to throw out, and all that once was beautiful words was now crunched in an uncomfortable ball, that i couldn’t read from any more, but still stumbled over….
So why not write about that? What was love after all, in the end, i mean? wasn’t it a bunch of broken up relationships, broken promises to look back upon, a collection of change that never came and the mountain of small misunderstandings and unsolved hurts that had been build up in the commence of my relationships somewhat purposefully between me and some of those women i had surely loved? until it finally had blocked the view between us, and for whom i so had first vanished behind that certain mountain, out of sight, then out of their hearts until then they had vanished out of my live. Left. like they where supposed to.
And i could write a Story about the lies you tell the second time, the bend truth that i have thought and hoped would prevent the mountain from rising. But which had instead dug a rift, even worse an obstacle then the mountain.
I wrote about a lot of bitter things, that seemed to be the aftertaste of the sweetness of love, that went stale but couldn’t be brushed away, until you where afraid, that all those stale and bitter smell would scare away the next heart you’ll open up for, if ever you again could.
I stopped around midnight, consumed in my own memories and the all painted black postcards from my mind that i went to bed with, oblivious to the coldness of my sheets…
I didn’t throw the words away over my coffee the next morning. I reread them and decided not to throw them away, but to keep those lines. But i also decided that the boy deserved more then my filtrated frustration, that i deserved more, and that after all, a recollection of bad experiences wasn’t a story after all, but just an essay, and as where i do like essays, the boy had surely more love for a proper story…
I also managed to make out a second mistake, in my writing as well as in my thinking, my very attitude towards Love:
I hadn’t approached the feeling, but the institution it had ended in.
I had been all about relationships… not about Love. Love i thought, had nothing to do with it. The mountain and the rift and all the shit i had bothered with, were relationship crap, that i wasn’t willing to bother the boy with!
So i made myself a nice Pancake Breakfast, looked out of the window for a while, a cup of steaming tea in my hand, and then decided on a new approach.
I first threw away the Paperball-attempts on the floor, got myself a new pile of paper and refilled the can of my fountainpen.
Then i sat down and tried something new. For the lack of better ideas, i just made a new collection of thoughts and started to write about the things that you first feel, the new love, the bright light in your heart, the invulnerability, the all positive few on the world, the somewhat drugged state of mind, the deliria and the greatness that you feel, that idea, that with this new feeling in your heart you could well damn take on anything… anything…
Wow. Euphoria. Unlimited skies to fly in, and the bubbles of irreal feelings that those single, or worse, in longer tested relationships smile upon and say: „Lovers“ while exchanging meaningful, knowing glances of „Wait, it´ll pass. They’ll fall like we all did, they soon struggle, they wont last. wait“… wait! Is that all that you´ll have to do to see love pass away, like a headcold or a feverdream… Wait?
No, that was not what love was about, and the stories i could work that into, where not the ones i desired to write. Cause i could feel something emerge behind those thoughts, behind the bitterness and the memories, the bad experience and all that. A believe i had lost in the progress through live, and the traps i had fallen into, the mistakes i had made and the shaping claw of their consequences, that had left deep scars and cuts they had bruised me with and made me feel like pain was not only a part of live, but was what it was all about… I could a nearing dawn of hope, and i went to bed that night with a lighter heart…
I got up an had the list and the recollection of the bad in my hands before i even managed to go to the toilet. I sat down in my pajamas and thought about what i was reading, thought about what i had written, thought about what i had come up with to deceive myself…
When it comes to essential questions, as in questions not about something superficial, but about some essence, a core an inner, deeper truth, then it was annoying to answer in the obvious, to move around the symptoms and to touch only facades. It was important for me to punch through, and to look behind all the made up nos that i had protected myself with from the experienced consequence of the one yes.
Love was not about a delusion to start with, nor about the relations it had resolved in. It was not a construct of rules i had made up and that worked out to be wrong, nor about a drug that i had overdosed just to wake up in a stone cold turkey. It was inbetween. Under, over and all behind. More hidden. I had given up on writing, like i had given up on love, because i had approached it all wrong, with all the wrong expectations and experienced all bad results.
But how many scientists had given tried all wrong a hundred times, before finding the in the aftermath even simple solution, because they haven’t given in to the idea that the problem was unsolvable. If Love was a screw, and everybody i had seen so far was driving it with a hammer, how ignorant would i be to say that the screws were bad, instead of realizing that the hammer was not the right way to approach it, just because i had expected it to go deep into the wood…
because staying on the surface was easy. Denying that something might have been wrong with you was easy, was lazy. Giving up was lazy. And „Because“ was always a lazy answer to any childs question.
Better tell them, that you cant answer it… And on this one special question, the „love“-question, millions of poems and songs and movies and stories and pictures gave testimony of our fascination with that mystery, Because they all starred the same phenomenon… the same vague idea, the same strange notion… love… no one actually knew what it was about and the search for an answer, the will to find a way to express it, was proof of how important it was to every human being…
So i thought to myself: men, if you cant write about love, then maybe you are still a writer, but can you call yourself a poet…
So i thought for a wile and understood that my task was monumental, epic and unsolvable… until it came to my mind, that i actually needn’t answer a question, and i needn’t find an explanation, because that was not what he had asked me for… but that i simply had to write a story about it. And i laughed and decided, like the scientist i had metaphored my problem with, that looking at it from that end, the task was quite easy. And with that laughter in my head, i went to bed.
I got up the next morning, and finally started to write. And i picked a theme, that i knew the boy had appreciated and liked and that i found had many unappreciated similarities to love: And i wrote a story… about Soup and about the little boy i had made it for, and i ended it with a recipie!
My grandfathers favorite recipie:
Cooking starts with courage.
So the first rule is, only cook when you really want to!
And if you try and fail, if you find that it doesn’t taste, then don’t loose the courage to cook again. cuz that’ll make you a coward and never a cook.
Understand that It is not going to be that one pot and that’s it:
but that your grandfathers soup consists of you knowing the recipie, consists of the choice you make when you decide that it is time to cook it again, and is you never forgetting that you like to eat it… is every day you are hungry and go to shop for all you need then to do it this time. It is you serving and being served, it is you cooking, it even is you washing the dishes and it is after all, you eating not alone for it isn’t meant to be eaten alone.
You get the best results if you use everything you like, and even some of the things that you usually don’t like, for they might still taste very good in this soup.
Never try to guess how long it is gonna last or what the taste is going to be, even if its the same ingredients then the last time.
never compare the taste of the pot you had cuisined another time with this one present, for it will make you have expectations and they will keep you from appreciating the thing right in front of you…
As much as it is not meant to be eaten alone, its not meant to be eaten with a fork or chopsticks or a knife: So use a spoon.
And Enjoy every singe spoon. Never treat them as if they where all the same but find a new routine for each of them until the bowl is empty. And if your bowl is empty, and you’re still hungry, get a refill! And if your pot is empty and you’re still hungry, cook it again.
But if your Pot isn’t empty and you already don’t want it any more, then don’t panic. Don’t throw it away and tell others it doesn’t taste any more. Just don’t eat it for a day or two, and try again when you are hungry again… Because it if you forget to be hungry, you will forget how good it tastes and how good it feels to be full with it.
This is my grandfathers favorite soup, and it is my favorite recipie for love…
It was on Christmas eve, when i responded to a knock on my door, and opened it for the boy, i had waited for… He stood there, as painted as before, looking misplaced in the ordinary hallway of a this century city dwelling… I looked him in the eyes and saw his desperate search and the big hope that it might come to an end right here… And found the answer to my not asked question from the day he had left me, more then 3 weeks ago.
I understood what it was that he was loosing from time to time: Confidence! just like you, i thought. Just like we all do in all the things we love, just like we do with all our dreams and believes… And from that moment on I have been am glad that there is someone collecting…
I am glad we all are collecting. And i think i need to look at our collections more often, our reminders in who we love and who we are and who we wanted to be.
And when we loose it… well, why not come here and try to find someone who can tell or write you a story? Or at least cook you some soup…
When i handed him the thick envelope i had bagged the story in, he gave me his warmest smile yet, one unforgettable moment he just looked at me with all the admiration, anxiety, gratefulness and love, that a child can give with a gaze, especially when you hand them a gift, and this one moment, this expression was all the pay i had ever needed from him.
He took the envelope with my story. Said: Merry Christmas, and vanished.
Can’t say it better. Just was gone in the blink of an eye… like a ghost.
I had never wondered where he had gone, or where exactly he had come from…. i knew that my words now where part of his collection and that the place he collected them at was none of my adults minds business… I sometimes thought i might have imagined him after all, My Christmas boy, but i don’t really believe that.
For days i had done nothing but to write. Of course i had been sleeping and eating and all that. I had been for a walk twice, and had even managed to come up with a Christmas present for my brother, which was usually difficult, but apart from that i had spend most of my time writing. And i had been very happy. I still was. I couldn’t remember ever feeling so productive, enjoyable and free at the same time, then i had while sitting there and writing, thinking and formulating and being forced to shape my own mind around the words that i then could shape around the story.
I have been a writer ever since, and it was not so long into the next year, that i had finished my first novel and started to be a professional writer.
I am forever grateful for this boy, who made me become what i had always wanted to be, not by pushing or forcing me, but by asking me a simple question.
and even if not all my stories since then had been about love, it had finally freed my heart to write this one for him, which in a sense had made possible, all the others i’ve come up with since.
It had been a lot more difficult then i had thought, this first one, because my mind wasn’t free, and had not come quietly to shaping words, fit for a story. Compared to today, it took me quite long… but i have never felt that way. because the task filled not only my December, and the pre-christmas time, but also my heart, my mind and my soul to the brim with a sense of purpose i had not found in anything else… well maybe in love, but that is another story, for another Christmas…