Chapter 0:

Prologue: Rejected


Germany, Cologne, 1st of December, 1952

Yes. We use this simple word so often in everyday life, and it seems just as worn out to most people - myself included here. After all, it has lost its effect long ago due to the meaningless situations in which it constantly comes to fruition.

And in spite of all that, I stood there, everything about my body was trembling, and my yet so controlled manner of appearance, which I was always able to maintain up to that day, turned into merciless uncertainty, which now seemed to flow through every one of my veins. An uneasy feeling, which became noticeable at shorter and shorter intervals in formally unbearable heat explosions in my head, clouded my mind, I could hardly get a clear thought. But my deepest wish, my striving for this one word drove me, made sure that I stood exactly where I had to stand. It had become clear to me long ago that I wasn't a born “Prince Charming”. Charisma, the appropriate attitude, and of course attractiveness, a quality that many people in general look for - even if they don't want to admit it - are really only available to a limited extent with me. My lanky build, my disheveled hair, my rather little nose; with me little or nothing went together.

Every day, however, to look into her face anew, throwing a smile at me, and then again and again brushing back this one falling strand of hair with an indescribable elegance and filigree hand movement, all this completely made me left my constant doubts about me and my appearance behind me.

And so, after all this time, I managed to make the decision that I had in mind since the first time our eyes met. So I waited in front of the gym, knowing that she had just had gym class with Mr. Meyer. The sensation of the heat explosions grew stronger minute by minute, second by second; it really drove me insane to know that she would step out of here at any moment, and then, completely in dismay, as I was already now, I would ask her for a rendezvous.

My eyes clung to the concrete floor, I dared not risk a single glance through the glazed door into the interior of the hall. Admittedly, it was only possible to see an empty anteroom with adjoining hallways and cabins anyway, but I could have spotted her directly, which would have put me in too deep a panic. But then I heard voices, among them one that struck me as unmistakably familiar - it was her! My gaze, which until then had stuck to the gray concrete as if petrified, suddenly straightened up; my head couldn't defend itself against this sudden movement, it happened by itself.

With her usual casual, but sublime, and in a certain way graceful way of taking one step in front of the other, she moved directly towards me. She did not notice me standing outside the hall with a bouquet of flowers and my knees trembling. The cold, which was not uncommon for this time of the year, didn't make things any better. Not even the new coat, which I bought in town a few days ago, protected me from the merciless temperatures of this winter. I was slowly losing the sensation in my hands, and could feel a sharp pain spread from the heel of my hand to my fingertips.

Two friends appeared to be with her. I thought I had seen them before, but I couldn't remember properly; their faces were as forgetful as they were insignificant to me. Stepping out the door together I could hear her talking and giggling, and once again I saw her unmistakable smile. What could they be talking about? Suddenly an unexpected warmth flowed through my body, and made me forget my aching hands and my shivering body.

Taking a last deep breath of the icy air, full of courage I took a slow step in the direction of the girls, who had meanwhile turned to the right. And this step was followed by another. And then another. And another one. Meter by meter, step by step, I came closer to her. My focus was only on her, I had long since faded out everything else.

"Hey ... Lisa ...". At that moment I was unable to accomplish anything more with my broken voice. The word not only got stuck in my throat, it felt as if I had to push it out of the pit of my stomach all the way out of my mouth, but I didn't have the strength to do it.

"Hm?" Now she turned away from her friends and turned around. Like a figure skater, she performed a skillful twist on her right leg. Her black long skirt and her brown coat moved in sync with her, nothing went out of shape, and it was almost impossible to believe that a person would be able to do such a smooth pirouette as Lisa had just done .

"I ... well, uh, ... I just wanted to ask if ... uh, well ...". My embarrassing appearance became more uncomfortable for me with every stammered word that found its way out of my mouth. Her friends standing behind her were already starting to grin; they probably knew what I was doing here. Or at least what I, in my desperation, thought I was trying to do.

"Is everything ok? Sorry, but I'm in a hurry, so could you just say what you wanted to say?” Her steel blue eyes, which flashed out from under her fedora, looked straight into my eyes. Even if Lisa probably didn't notice, her gaze literally pierced me. It was as if she put a spear on my chest and increased the pressure a little with each passing second, and the blade was now beginning to close my entire interior tear.

Could I leave it like this? No, under no circumstances! So I grabbed the spear, pulled it out of my chest, and threw it aside. Concentrate again. Focus again. Pull it together again. One last time. "So. Lisa, I have a question for you. Would you…"

"Hey, Lisa!" A loud voice interrupted my repeated attempts to ask for a date. And that voice didn’t seem unfamiliar to me. Now I turned myself on my own axis, even faster than Lisa just now. And how could it be otherwise, after all, his deep and rough voice was unmistakable. He stood there waving and laughing. Georg, dressed in his stupid black leather jacket, which he always wore outside of school. The latest trend from America, he assured me.

Georg and I had known each other since kindergarten and got along well straight away. After that, in the same schools, we magically ended up in the same classes all the time. You could almost think that fate wanted to weld us together at any cost. Actually there was no need to, because our interests were completely different; while I was interested in playing the violin and taking photos, all Georg could get excited about was automobiles. Despite his parents' unwillingness, he could never get enough of tinkering with cars, examining different models, or just admiring them. If he combed back his hair, smeared with pomade, and proudly wears his worn leather jacket, then you would never associate this shabby rock 'n roll singer with someone like me. "Georg!" Lisa dived towards him, she had already left me behind. Somewhat perplexed, I directed my gaze to this scene, how the girl, which I actually loved, fell into my best friend's arms, how her face, which was looking at me so blandly before, now turned into a beam of greatest joy.

"Hey, hey! Now don't be so hasty,” laughed Georg while Lisa fell around his neck in her euphoria. I slowly let the bouquet of flowers, consisting of a lot of red tulips, which I clung to myself before, slowly sink; the courage I took vanished in that moment as quickly as the strength it gave me. Empty. That was all I could feel at that moment. No pain. No trouble. No nothing.

"Oh Tobi! That's a surprise! What are you doing here? Hey, cute flowers man! Who are they for?” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Georg and Lisa immediately return and head straight for me. "Come on, move! Stand up!” Screaming inwardly, I ordered my body to move, but nothing at all happened. My bent posture, in which I lingered for the last few seconds, did not want to dissolve. The two kept getting closer, they were only a few steps away from me. But none of it helped; my drooping head, my drooping shoulders, my drooping arms, they all decided to stay in the same position.

"Are you okay, man? You look so dejected …“ Georg was now standing next to me and carefully placed his hand on my shoulder, which was still hanging down. At the same moment in which he touched me, my body, which first became a soulless shell through the all-encompassing nothingness, was filled with a wave of hatred. Every single one of my heartbeats sent a flood of anger and rejection flowing through my veins, my blood felt like it was boiling. Guided by this surge of emotions, I jerked my head to the right and looked into the face of a startled George, who immediately withdrew his arm. The need to give Georg a punch was greater than any other feeling that I had ever felt in my life up to this point in time. My fist was already clenched and the sound of my teeth grinding and rubbing against each other must have been audible to anyone around.

Lisa's fearful expression, however, let my anger and hatred fizzle out in the same way in which they appeared. A cold breeze, which gently caressed my head, not only cooled my heated mind, but also my spirit. "I don't know what‘s riding you Tobi, but calm down!" I heard Georg's angry words and noticed them too, but in that second they were as indifferent to me as he was. "Sorry if I went crazy, I didn't want to," I lied in my hopeless situation. "I just had a really hard day today, you know how it is ..." I looked at his still uncertain face, which indicated that he still hadn't grasped the situation. The question of who the flowers in my hand were for only confirmed this to me, and I could no longer hold myself and had to start laughing. A painful laugh that wouldn't rule out a form of madness for me.

"Oh, those? They are only for a friend of my mother's, but I should give them to her personally, as a birthday present”, I answered him while I turned back to Lisa. "That's why I wanted to ask you, Lisa, if you could show me the way to Schönefeld, I just don't know the area that well." As this sentence crossed my lips, I began to smile very gently, almost as she always did. I couldn't stop it, it happened all by itself.

"The way to Schönefeld ...?" She stammered, looking just as incredulous as Georg. "I'm sorry, but I don't really know the way myself, it's a bit far from here." "Oh, well then it's not a problem," I replied with an inexplicable happiness, as if I could accept her answer, as if I could actually understand it. “I just look for the way myself. You two have a nice day then!” Turning around on the spot, and moving away from the gym, away from all these people, I walked down the main street where that hall was located. Lisa and Georg didn't seem surprised by my abrupt departure, they didn't even call me. And so, as I was walking down the street, I noticed snow starting to trickle onto the cobblestone. For some reason I decided to stop where I stood. After a few minutes, not only my shoes, but also my coat and scarf, and ultimately even my head, were covered in snow. Looking up, I looked into a completely gray sky, and held out my hand to the falling flakes. "And all I wanted was a single word ..." I whispered while a tear ran down my cheek.