Tag Archives: father

Far Too Happy

I loved her more than anything in the world and the wedding was rapidly approaching. Bianca wanted to organize everything with only her maid of honor and I was happy that I didn’t have to bother with any of the preparations.

We had been engaged for nearly two years and when we finally decided to finally get married Bianca was excited. We set the date and together we chose the location – a small but incredibly picturesque church set a few minutes drive into the forest near Bianca’s home village. Bianca had spent many of her childhood Sundays in that church dreaming about her wedding.

The church’s community had dried out and most of the Sunday services were now only visited by twenty or thirty people. The old priest stood at the altar and spoke so slowly that I felt an angry twitch in my fingers; I wanted to shake him; I wanted to scream at him to finish his sermon.

But Bianca seemed to love it. She stared at the priest with unmoving eyes and a wide smile while my eyes moved along the church’s high walls and ceilings.

From that day on, despite the nearly two hour ride, Bianca visited the church every week. Up until then she had not even been religious – but something about the priest fascinated her. Continue reading

A Bond of Blood

There is no force in the world that is stronger than the bond of blood. The bond of blood is that of parent to child and that of sibling to sibling. And of all the possible bonds the strongest is that between twins.

That’s why it’s so damn hard to even lift my fingers to write all this down. Because all our bonds have been broken; every bond of blood has become a blood-drenched bond.

And all of it is my fault. My parents warned me not to violate one of the unwritten rules of German culture – that if your last name begins with ‘S’ it’s first name cannot begin with ‘S’. SS, one of the initials that stands for the eternal German sin.

I thought that was folly. I thought if my child grew up outside the country nobody would mind.

“You are ruining his life.” Said my father.

I laughed.

That’s how the bond between my father and me broke.

Sammy and Jimmy. We chose the names because we liked them and because they sounded alike; they sounded like brothers that would be a team for life.

And they were a team. They did everything together; they even had their own secret language for a while. Sammy and Jimmy always took the fall for each other – a missing cookie? Both claimed to be the culprit. Someone forgot to write their homework – both claimed not to have done theirs. Ripped pants? Of course both wore it during the day.

Watching them made me proud. Watching them reassured me that I had done right.

They were smart. I say that with pride, but also because it’s true. They learned reading faster than any of the other kids in their class; they excelled in every subject.

We had a ritual for their birthday. We went to the bookshop and each could choose the smartest and thickest book they liked. Not the books for children or teens – the real, expensive, solid books; the ones they could stack on their shelves with pride.

They always chose the same type of book; they coordinated their purchase just like they coordinated the clothes they wore, the sports they played, and the friends they made.

On their thirteenth birthday we went to the bookshop again. I wanted to help them be more independent and sent each in one direction – Sammy to the left, Jimmy to the right. At first they didn’t want to; they wanted to stick together like always. I wanted to be a good father, to help them be independent and mature.

That day, without my knowledge or intent, I committed my second sin; I broke the second bond of blood.

Jimmy came back with a book on economics. Sammy came back with a book on philosophy.

Each read their books and then they exchanged and each read the book of his brother. But somewhere through that first book they changed.

Since the divorce, at the time they were just ten, I always made sure that we my sons and I had dinner together, just like I hoped that my former wife and my former daughter too had dinner together.

The all-male dinner table was the place where they asked me the questions young boys ask and told me the worries young boys have. And it was also the place where I first notice that they broke apart, that they had different opinions.

Jimmy began to lecture us on economics – price points, demand curves, later even game theory.

Sammy began to bombard us with philosophical thought experiments – if you shoot a man that would have died anyway, but in the process save ten others, are you still a murderer? In a world without color, could you understand the concept of red? And of course, his favorite: If your brain was exchanged with another man’s brain and then one of your bodies would receive a million dollar and the other would be killed – would you rather like your brain receive the money and your body to die, or the other way around?

We argued about the body switch experiment. Sammy said it was fantastic and everybody would choose to kill his own body and give money to the new body with the mind. Jimmy said that all this was nonsense; he said that none of that would work and any reasonable person would give the money to himself.

In my memory that’s the first real fight they ever had; the first real issue on which they disagreed.

At first I liked these changes and the variety in conversation they brought. I thought it was healthy that they had become separate – and, after all, they still worked together most of the time.

Maybe they would have found neither economics nor philosophy – maybe together they would have chosen books about something altogether different, like medicine or law. Either way, I can’t change the past. No matter how much I would give to be able to do it, even if I would give my own life for it – I can’t change the paths on which I pushed each of them by sending them in different aisles.

Sammy went into a downward spiral. His passion for philosophy led him to a passion for magic and then one for alchemy. He spent days and weeks hunched over old books, silently laughing to himself. He barely paid attention to school or friends anymore.

Jimmy seemed to become more open and social but mostly stayed similar in character to how they both had been. Then, shortly before their sixteenth birthday, from one day to the next they seemed to have become different people.

Whatever I tried, I just couldn’t help Sammy get back on the path. While Jimmy aced every test he tried, Sammy failed the first test of his life, then a second, then a third.

I asked Jimmy to help Sammy and as far as I could see Jimmy tried very hard to help. But all their tutoring sessions ended with fights; with Sammy shouting at Jimmy that it was all his fault and that he should go away.

Despite his efforts I think Jimmy helped even less than the two tutors I paid and the many hours I myself tried to help Sammy get back on track. Honestly, if anything, I think all those efforts made the situation all worse.

Sammy was bitter and angry most of the time – while Jimmy was cheerful and helpful in every respect. Sammy gained weight; Jimmy gained muscles. Sammy failed exams; Jimmy jumped through them with ease. Sammy locked himself in his basement, rereading old books; Jimmy went out and made new friends every week.

With 19 Sammy dropped out of school – while Jimmy went on to university. Sammy was fired from job after job – while Jimmy, a few months into his second year of studies, founded his first company.

Jimmy sent money and books for Sammy, he wrote letters of reference, and called in favors with old friends – but Sammy was on the wrong track and nothing Jimmy or I tried made Sammy any less angry or unsuccessful.

I remember the phone call I had with my own father, shortly after Sammy had lost another job because of ‘laziness.’

My own father said that it was my fault, that I had made a mistake by giving Sammy the initials SS. He thought that that’s how I destroyed Sammy’s life; that the shame and guilt had driven Sammy to failure; that I had set him up to be an evil and vile person.

I have to admit, nothing ever got to me that much; nothing ever hurt me more than to have my own father tell me that I ruined my own son’s life.

It hurts as much to admit that, in one way or the other, my father was right.

With 22 my son Jimmy sold his first company and founded a second.

With 22 my son Sammy got into a pub fight and lost one of his eyes.

With 24 my son Jimmy found the love of his life; with 25 they got engaged.

With 24 my son Sammy found a girlfriend that screamed at him for the tiniest things; with 25 he got a criminal record for beating her.

With 26 my son Jimmy sold his second company for more than 300 million dollar.

With 26 my son Sammy steered his second hand car into oncoming traffic.

Jimmy and his wife came to the funeral; so did Sammy’s mother and sister and I. Sammy’s girlfriend didn’t even send a card.

The women went to bed early. Jimmy and I sat at the dinner table that seemed too big for just two.

We sat silently for most of the time while one gin after the other disappeared in my throat.

“I miss Sammy.” I finally said.

“I miss my brother too.” Jimmy said.

“I guess your grandfather was right. I messed him up. It’s all my fault.”

“You didn’t mess Sammy up.” Jimmy said.

I shook my head.

“You remember,” Jimmy said. “All my alchemy books?”

I emptied another glass of cold liquid in my mouth and enjoyed the gentle tickling burn it left in my throat.

“They had some interesting stuff about twins; that we are connected by a bond stronger than anything else; a bond that is strong enough to even allow you to switch your bodies and to change fate. We had that bond.”

“You loved each other.” I said.

“Jimmy and I tried a technique from one of the books,” said Jimmy. “When we were fifteen.”


“Promise not to hate me.” Jimmy said.

“I could never hate you.” I said.

I didn’t know that was a lie.

“Do you remember how I always told you about the philosophical thought experiment? The one where you have to imagine that you can switch bodies?”

“That was Sammy, not you. You didn’t believe in it.”

“Right.” Jimmy said.

There was a thin smile on his lips.

“One of the alchemy books said that the fates of twins are linked; they are connected and they can influence and balance each other. And it gave instructions.”

“Instructions for what?” I asked.

“Do you remember the outcome?” Jimmy asked. “The outcome of the thought experiment?”

“Instructions for what?” I repeated.

“What’s the outcome?” Jimmy asked.

“One gets rich and one dies.”

“Right.” Jimmy said. “Instructions for that.”

He smiled.

“As said, twins have this bond. I proved that to Jimmy when we were fifteen.”

This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.

My Mother, the Protector

I will always remember my mother for how she was there for me. She was always there for me. My dad wasn’t a bad dad – he did all the basics, never missed a game. But my mom was my personal cheerleader, my best friend, my private tutor and my guardian angel – all in one handy, smiling package.

That’s how I will remember my mother. Not as the depressed woman, and certainly not as the pale wax sculpture in the casket. And whatever this thing might be – it won’t change how I view my mother. It won’t change that my mother was protecting me.

All my early memories are about her: The moment my ice cream fell and I was so upset that I cried; my mom just laughed, kissed me on the forehead and handed me her cone. The many times she brought me small gifts – usually pendants, small figures of angels or similar semi-religious stuff, just another way in which she was trying to protect me. And of course the many times she stood in the door, waiting until I fell asleep.

Maybe I was just a scared child; that might have been why she was so keen on being there for me. Maybe it was because I was an only child, the only son to a housewife and her always-working husband. Either way, I know I was what some might call “her meaning.” Even my dad said it, once or twice, that she only lived for me, that all she ever did was only because of me. In a way, on some subconscious level that I don’t want to accept, I think I am also the only reason they stayed married.

I never remember my parents as happy with each other. I remember both of them as happy – my father with his work buddies and my mother with me. When they were together there were no laughter, no jokes, and no playful teases – just mutual acknowledgement.

Maybe I also was the reason why they didn’t get along. I don’t remember much of my early childhood – except that my mother was always there and my father rarely was. They had different approaches to parenting. When I fell my mother came running, my father just scoffed. When I asked questions my mother answered extensively, with stories and descriptions and even small science experiments – my father just told me to either ask my mother or read a book.

I also don’t think my father liked the way my mother kept giving me religious figures – of saints and angels, small and big crosses, even Ganesh and a few Jewish items and a copy of Kitáb-i-Aqdas. My father thought all that was nonsense, likely pointless, possibly even dangerous.

Sometimes, at night, I heard them argue about me. They argued about my imagination and the fact that I was scared to sleep alone in my room. I heard my father scream that it was good for me to sleep alone – my mother argued back but, in the end, always gave in. I heard her promise not to go to my room, not to watch while I fell asleep.

Still, every night, she broke that promise.

I remember the fear I always felt at night, alone in that large room. There was nothing particularly wrong about my room – closets, windows, a few boxes, toys strewn on the floor, colorful paintings on the walls that I at some point covered with posters. And of course there were the billions of small religious items, all around the room but concentrated on the shelves and night stands next to my bed.

The pendants and angels didn’t help, but my mother did. I always felt scared, rarely fell asleep without her standing in the door. I was still afraid when she was standing in the door, and the constant cold seeping through the door made the room more uncomfortable. But, while I was hiding under my blankets and shivering from fear and cold there was nothing more soothing than to glimpse out of the covers and see her, leaning in the doorway.

She never left before I fell asleep. Occasionally, when I heard my parents’ bedroom door open – likely my father was just looking for the bathroom or going to get a glass of water, she left the doorframe to hide from him. I knew she just didn’t want him to get angry, she was always careful not to have any fights in front of me. My father, when he got up during the night, usually went to close my door.

But the moment the door of my parents’ bedroom had stopped creaking, the moment my father was back in his bed, she returned and leaned against the wooden frame.

My mother never had to stand there for very long – if she was there I was able to ignore the cold and the undefined fear seeping through my body. I always knew she only waited for me to fall asleep, but sometimes, secretly, I prayed that she would stay a bit longer, that her warm eyes would protect me longer. Sometimes, in my dreams, I even thought I felt her brushing my head or stroking my arms.

She really was my guardian. Even as a child I often thanked her for that.

I think her nightly visits would have ended. As long as I lived in that house my childhood fears never left me; I always felt uncomfortable sleeping alone in that room. But you can imagine that a teenager does not want to have his mother watch him fall asleep. A teenager wants privacy, wants to be left to fly free and without overbearing parents that still think he needs to be watched at night.

The truth is that the watching changed. At some point it wasn’t for me anymore, it was for her. That was when I was around twelve, when her depression started.

In a way that I don’t like to admit I still liked that she was there, at night, despite the horrible days we had. Maybe I actually liked to have her with me at night because of the horrible days.

If you have never had a close friend or relative with depression there is no way you can truly understand what I mean. I will try, but there are so many things that I just can’t put in words; so many confusing emotions of anger and fear and worry and hate and love and compassion, mixed in one big pot and poured over a rollercoaster – and you and those that you love are stuck in that rollercoaster day in and day out.

It was hard to be around my mother during the day. Whenever I was home, far too often, I locked myself in my room with books and games and the internet. But that didn’t stop her. Still she came in, with an exhausted and worried expression on her face. It always seemed as if she was checking on me, wanted to know what I was up to. But she never spoke, she just came in, did something pointless – like empty the bin that she emptied two times on the same day – and leave again.

But mostly my mother just sat on the couch, or lied in bed, with an expression on her face which looked more lifeless than the one she had in the casket. She stared at the ceiling, then cried, then spoke to herself about how worthless she was; how she had failed at everything; how everybody hated her; how she had failed even me; how she was too weak; how her husband despised her; how she couldn’t protect me; how she had no friends, no life, no job, no self-worth, no thing to live for.

Sometimes, on good days, she broke through the wall of depression. She would tell herself that she had nothing worth living for – and then her head turned and she looked at me and smiled. On some of those days we even talked.

No matter how deep her depression sank – the only thing that didn’t change was the way she kept protecting me. Sometimes it made me uncomfortable to have her stand in the doorway. During good days I brought that up, once or twice, but the moment I said that I didn’t need her to watch me she turned back into a state of despair; back into the depression.

That’s why I stopped saying anything. I knew it was okay, it was worth being the teenage man that still had his mother watch him fall asleep; it was okay to be emasculated if it just kept my cheerleader-guardian-mother a tiny bit of happiness.

I don’t know what would have happened if I would ever have brought a girl home. But I didn’t. I was the nerdy guy; maybe because she protected me so much and picked the fights for me that I didn’t dare to fight – or maybe she was my protector because I was so shy and nerdy that I was barely able to talk to new people in my class – where “new” was still new after half a year of joint lessons.

Two days after my 17th birthday I moved out. University was calling – my father, in his be-a -decent-dad-mode, had saved enough to pay my whole studies and even my own, non-shared room. I think I actually would have preferred a shared room, and my mom would have liked that – the knowledge that somebody else was watching me in her stead. But I never dared to say anything, and maybe somehow I also hoped that someday a girl would come home with me – and a shared room was just not the place for that.

My time at university was great. I had good grades, made new friends, became a different person; even my fear of sleeping alone disappeared. What kept me earthbound were the news from home, the brief phone calls with my dad and the rare but long phone calls with my mother. With my father we always just talked about my mother, how she was, how her medicine was not taking effect, how they had another fight. Those phone calls with my mom were of a different kind – without a break she asked about me. She asked how I was, whether I was safe, how my grades were, if I had made new friends, whether I was sleeping well, and of course she always asked whether there finally was a girl. She rarely talked about herself.

During those four years I only came back a few times, and never longer than a week. To my parents’ dismay I never brought a girl home; half because there was nothing too serious and half, I am honestly ashamed about that, because I was worried what impression my depressed, starvation-thin mother and my clinically distanced father would make on a girl that I liked enough to bring her to their place.

So those days that I spend back at home I slept alone in my old childhood room. And with the room all my fears returned. Those fears were never distinct, never of something specific; they were always general and vague, like an impending sense of doom or like the premonition of a dangerous, life-threatening event.

What helped me those few days back home was my mother.

One night I nearly cried myself to sleep out of happiness and sadness and self-loathing. I was the adult man in my prime years, lying in my bed, scared of nothing – and there my depressed, sick and weak mother was standing in the doorway watching out that no monster could get to me. In that moment, from that realization, I felt so much guilt and happiness that I didn’t know which emotion my tears were for.

After university I rarely went back home; and when I did I didn’t stay the night. I always found a good excuse – a way to combine the visit with a business trip and a hotel nearby. I felt the guilt, but I also didn’t want to feel that weak again.

My mother died when I was 27.

I went back home for the funeral. Despite everything I felt I should stay with my father; I knew that behind the veil of distance was an emotional, loving man that lost the love of his life. He might have lost her a first time many years before, but losing her a second, irreversible time would hurt him even more.

I was wrong.

At the funeral we sat next to each other. He threw the first shovel, I threw the second. We stood in line, shook hands over hands of people that came more out of guilt – guilt for leaving her alone when the disease came – rather than out of care. They left her alone, just like me, and every clam hand offering condolences felt like another nail stomped into my heart.

The “guests” left. I wanted to accompany him home, to stay with my father, to maybe rebuild a connection we lost decades before. He refused.

“You can’t.” He said. “She did this all for you. All those years she suffered just for you. Her depression was just because of you.”

My legs gave in under my body.

“What?” I whispered.

“You can’t come.” He said. With that he walked off.

It’s strange when you are in a city you’ve known all your life, you know every street nearby and call all the hotels you ever saw and then some more you find online – but you can’t find a single vacant room.

By the time I realized that I would be left without a roof there were no friends that I felt comfortable calling; no friends stay close when you haven’t been around for ten years.

I rang the doorbell around 9pm. He was drunk when he opened the door. He didn’t believe me, but he let me in.

My father fell asleep with the whisky in his hand.

I made my way upstairs on the old stairs and old fears began to creep back into my body. I felt the cold. I felt the terror. I tried to ignore them.

The angels and gods and holy books and saints of several religions were still spread around the room.

“They never helped.” I said to myself. “And she can’t help anymore.”

Then, for the first time in years, I cried.

I was in bed by ten, with the covers over my head like a scared, 27 year old child.

I felt the fear increasing, felt it growing into terror.

My arms and legs were shivering.

“No protector tonight.” I whispered to myself.

Just then I felt the cold draft.

I knew it couldn’t be real; I knew it couldn’t be her. Still my body moved, longing for that reassurance of my mother watching over me. I knew it was pointless, meaningless, still I moved my head out of the blanket, just the way I had always done. I opened my eyes.

The door was open. A thin, bony figure was leaning against the doorframe.

“Mom?” I asked.

The woman’s grin widened far.

Not her. Screamed my brain.

It’s never been her.

This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.

The Square Window

When I was seven a burglar broke into our house. I remember coming home that day, after my mom picked me up from primary school. She unlocked the door and I ran upstairs to go to the bathroom.

The whole upper floor was a mess. Every drawer was emptied on the floor, out clothes were ripped out of the wardrobes, even suitcases and mattresses were cut open. But the worst for me was seeing the open window in my sister’s room – the way it stood open, innocently and perfectly still, with the trees silently moving behind the open frame. I stood there for what felt like ages, until I finally managed to scream and my mom rushed upstairs.

I don’t remember much of the rest of the day. My parents stored me with the neighbors while the police searched the house and took the report. Mrs. Vateva gave me cookies and milk, I remember that. And she told me stories and read books with me and smiled and laughed. But I don’t think I relaxed – the whole time all I could think about was that window with its square white frame.

In the evening my parents picked me up again and my older sister was back at home too. Ekaterina and I refused to leave because we were scared that the burglar would come back and steal us. Ekaterina was thirteen back then and I remember feeling sorry for her. I told my parents that she would be the first one that would be stolen because the burglar had come through her room.

I think we all spent a few nights together in my parents’ bedroom, and at some point we again went back to our old rooms. My sister slept with her door open, but my open door terrified me. The house was old and there were always noises downstairs during the night – noises like creaking floorboards and stairs, and the wind was strong and rattling on the windows. I couldn’t sleep like that and I thought my window was safe; there was nothing to step on outside of it.

A few weeks later I overheard my mother on the phone. I don’t know who she was talking to, but she was very upset and talked about the burglar. She said that he only took some money that they had hidden in a mattress, and else only an old watch that my grandfather somehow got in World War II. I don’t remember the watch, but my mom said it was precious, invaluable even, and in my country it was sure worth a lot of money. Still it was strange that he only took the watch, not any of the other watches or my mom’s jewelry.

Nothing else happened, but since that day I was scared of my sister’s room. Even when other people were inside the room with me I felt uncomfortable, as if someone was watching me. And nightmares started hunting me; I dreamt I was in my room, or sometimes in my sister’s room, and there was a man standing at the window, staring at me. He never did anything, I think. He only stared.

I must have been around nine when the nightmares changed. They had become rarer, I only had them about twice a month at that time, but from one night on they changed. From then on I had the impression that there was someone in my room with me. I never saw him, but I felt a silent body standing in a corner of the room, and sometimes he walked around. Once or twice he even touched my bed. I felt this tiny, faint movement, as if someone was pushing against the mattress.

I’m not sure whether I was lying in bed and feeling all that, or whether I was dreaming. It was confusing, I felt stiff and cold, and it felt as if I couldn’t run. I never screamed and I never opened my eyes, not just because I was scared, but also because it was impossible. It was as if some intangible force was keeping my eyes and mouth shut. But it wasn’t like my nightmares before. I didn’t wake up bathed in sweat. I was just lying in my bed, unable to move or look or scream, and felt him standing quietly in a corner, or slowly pacing through the room.

I told my father about the man, but my father only played it off as nightmares and said I should grow up and not be scared anymore. My mother was more understanding and she promised to check on me. I don’t know if she did, I never heard her open the door, but the man didn’t come for a while, and from then on he only returned a few times per year, maybe every two or three months. But still I couldn’t move when he was there. I couldn’t fight it. And I never told my parents again because I didn’t want to make my father angry.

I was eleven when my sister went to university. My father wanted to transform my room into an office and so I had to move into my sister’s room. I didn’t like that but my father made clear I had no choice.

The first night in that room my nightmares returned fully. At first I couldn’t fall asleep; all I could think of was the big, square window at the other end of the room. I stared at it for hours, and at some point I drifted off into a shallow sleep.

The nightmares were exactly like those when I was seven. I was lying in my bed, my eyes closed, but somehow I knew there was somebody outside the window. With my eyes closed I saw his blurry face smiling and I knew that he was touching the window.

Three nights went like that – I stared, terrified, at the window, until sleep took me away. Only that sleep didn’t take the window away. Instead it threw the window right in front of me and placed this man behind it, with his black hair and blurry face. And still I couldn’t move. I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t even open my eyes. All I knew was that he was there, watching me.

It might have been the fifth night, but I think it was the fourth; the fourth night in my new room. I stared at the window again. But the previous nights had exhausted me. I must have fallen asleep fairly quickly, not even ten minutes after I went to bed. And I had some solid sleep, at first.

It must have been in the early morning hours when I woke up again. Or maybe I dreamt that I woke up, I’m not sure. Either way, I was lying in my bed and felt incredibly cold. I felt a draft in my room. And I heard him again, the slow, steady footsteps, pacing at the end of my bed.

I was frozen in fear. I remember I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t move any of my muscles, not even open my eyes.

He paced at the foot of my bed for a few minutes, and I was still lying, silently, pretending to be asleep and at the same time trying to move just any part of my body. Then the footsteps came closer. They moved along the side of my bed, deliberate and with even less noise. I heard a deep, slow breath above me, close to my face.

My heart was racing and my whole body tense, but still I was pretending to be asleep. I heard clothes rustling and then, just for a second, a warm hand brushed over my cheek. I was holding back tears and I could barely breathe. I think my heart even stopped beating for that second.

The footsteps quickly moved to the other side of the room, there was more rustling and I heard the window fall shut and being locked. But the footsteps were still inside, they moved towards the door, the door opened, the footsteps moved outside, the door closed and then I didn’t hear anything.

I just stayed in my bed. I was too scared that he was still inside; I didn’t dare to move for a long time. At some point I finally opened my eyes and jumped out of bed – but the room was empty. The moonlight was bright; I nearly saw every corner – and nobody was inside.

For the rest of the night I had my light on and read a book. I tried to convince myself that it was my mother; that she had checked on me and aired the room while she was inside.

I never got to ask her about it. In the morning I just didn’t find the right moment to ask. She was busy making breakfast and I was sitting at the table, scared and wondering what I could say. I didn’t want her to think I had another nightmare because she told me she would bring me to therapy if they continued.

At some point my mother left the room. Then I heard her running upstairs and when she came back down she rushed me to finish breakfast and told me that we had to leave. It was earlier than usual, but she said she would drive me to school that day and I definitely didn’t want to refuse that offer.

At school everything was normal, except that I was exhausted and nearly fell asleep during my lessons. But the return home was strange. My mother picked me up, like she always did when she got off work early. She told me that I couldn’t sleep in my room again because my father had spilled some paint and the fumes were too unhealthy so I couldn’t sleep in there.

I thought it was strange, but I didn’t question her. I didn’t want to sleep in that room anymore, but my parents didn’t let me sleep in my old room either. I slept with my mother in my parents’ bed and my father slept on a mattress near our feet.

Two days later we moved most of our stuff to my grandparents. My father said that he found asbestos in the house and that we would have to sell it.

And so we did. After a bit more than two months with my grandparents – my parents still drove me to my old school – we moved into a new house in a different neighborhood.

I’m 23 now and just finished university. Last weekend I went home for a visit. Ekaterina was there with her husband and we drank wine and had a nice meal with my parents.

Somehow we got to talk about our old house and I asked my parents whether the new owners knew about the asbestos.

My father shook his head and, after another glad of wine, said that I was old enough to know it now, that there had been no asbestos and that they had only lied to me to protect me.

That morning, when my mother left the kitchen, she saw a ladder leaning against our house. A ladder, my father said, that led straight to the square window in my room.

This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.

Small, black, wrinkly

Last weekend I visited my friend Patrick. Back from our student days we have a tradition to bring groceries whenever we visit each other. What was once a useful exchange – beer and food for a few days of basic supplies – is now a mere running joke. As Patrick told me of his newfound love for baking I brought him the ingredients for a cake.

We laughed and hugged, Patrick pushed a beer in my hand, and I reciprocated with the loaded plastic bag. In the kitchen he reached inside the bag, pulled out the flour, sugar, butter, cocoa powder and raisins – and froze.

“Fuck”, he said.


“Nothing, nothing really. You should really take those.”

Patrick quickly handed me the raisins and, confused, I threw them into my backpack. Continue reading

The Green Room

I have to warn you straight away: This story does not have a happy ending. When I met Alp he was already a broken man. There was nothing left to repair.

The account below is an attempt to trace the last months before Alp came to us. But Alp himself barely speaks, and if he does it is a mere whisper. Often the only thing he repeats is ‘Not the Green Room’. There are holes in this story, things we don’t know for sure and likely never will know.

In March 2012, shortly after his 17th birthday, Alp confessed his homosexuality to a friend. It’s the first record we have of something in Alp’s life going ‘wrong’, and by wrong I mean not according to his father’s plan. Continue reading