Which book you want ended differently

Still me Just different

Prologue high heels
1.
The evening before the house inspection, Michael and I discussed what still had to be organized. He took a few things with me that I would need in Erfurt over the weekend. Michael himself wanted to drive from Kienbaum the next morning and be in the fairy tale settlement an hour before me if possible, so that the others wouldn't stand in front of the locked door. The people from the sanitary facility, who had agreed to deliver the new bed at the last minute, and Daniel and Jörg: the responsible physiotherapist and the clerk who would decide whether our home was still an option for me.

When Michael was gone, I put the things on the bedside table that I couldn't forget that morning. Tablets, catheters, needles for thrombosis syringes. At the end of my foot were the shoes that my friend Lisa had brought me to the hospital that morning. White sneakers in size 40. I originally wore a size 37.5, but after paraplegia you need more comfortable shoes because you can no longer feel the pressure points and you may be sore. I set the alarm clock for 6:00 a.m., which was nonsense, of course, because I already knew that I would not sleep with excitement.

Breakfast usually came at seven. I had ordered it earlier today, and I kept checking my watch, my finger on the call button in case they forgot me. When the food was brought I wolfed it down as quickly as possible; I hadn't planned more than fifteen minutes for it. There was little that I could contribute to the day's success on my part. The bowel management would take some time, I had to calculate an hour.

Ecki and John came at 9:00 a.m. John was a two-meter guy who often talked about his guitar course and whose son was also active in cycling. Ecki was a short, strong and calm man.
They stood around the room for a while, wondering how we should do it. A ward nurse came up, gave me a skeptical look and, after a moment's hesitation, joined the discussion. She ran around the bed, rattling the ambulance bed that Ecki and John had rolled in.
My sitting time was a maximum of two hours, my body was not yet further - my skin, my circulation and muscles still had to get used to the constant sitting. After two hours at the latest, my stomach and back no longer held me upright. The drive from Berlin to Erfurt took three and a half hours, which was too much and, above all, would have meant that, if I took the time, I wasn't allowed to sit for a second after arriving. I had to spend the trip lying down to save my strength for the house inspection, and therefore the ambulance with Ecki and John.
The question now was: How do we get Kristina Vogel off the bed and onto the lounger? The nurse went to get a sliding board, while Ecki and John raised my bed completely so that I could at least come close to level with the cot. I could hardly help; the wheelchair training, in which I was taught the basics, had only started a few days ago. The three of them fumbled with me for what felt like an eternity, moved me over to the couch as carefully as possible and then adjusted the cushions for a second what felt like an eternity so that I was in the stable side position. A second sister, the fourth person in my cramped room, came in from outside with a pillow roll that was clamped between my legs to protect against pressure points.

It was another half hour before I was in the car. Everything was packed and tinkered with, the bags stowed away. Ecki, the quiet man, was supposed to sit in the back with me. It was 9:45 a.m., I got fit right on time, they let me drive. I was happy and nervous at the same time. The first hurdle was over, the first stage was behind me, I had lasted three months in the hospital and I couldn't wait any longer. I had to leave this room at least briefly and return to my life on a trial basis.

I could see where we were on Google Maps, but that quickly got boring. The red dot was creeping across the map. When I was lying down I could see the treetops from below through the car window; it was a mild September day, the shadows of the branches flickered evenly over me. Michael was driving the route in his own car at the same time, and I was worried that he would be late and not be able to meet us. The sanitary facility would then take the mattress and the shower wheelchair back with it, and the clerk and the physiotherapist would stand around in a bad mood, they would talk to Doreen, our architect, whom we had asked to discuss the possible renovations. Of course, the best thing would be if Michael received the new bed and wheelchair while I was still on the road, then he would assemble both in advance and we could show the compulsory stuff at the time of the assessment. I sent him a text message. I waited a moment. I sent him another one straight away, twenty in all.

And when we arrived in Erfurt, my heart jumped. I could see the first treetops, the course of the road seemed familiar to me, I no longer needed Google Maps to know where we were going. I knew which traffic lights we were at and how long the red phase lasted. From the city center we drove to Windischholzhausen, past the sports clinic and the semiconductor plant, up the slope to the fairytale settlement, and I now recognized individual images, the tops of the birch and maple trees, which I had often passed before the accident and which looked like Moved in the wind back then. For a brief moment I was lucky. It really happened, I drove home. We turned right into the fairytale settlement, rolled past the other streets, along Sterntalerweg, past Rapunzel and Frau Holle, we turned again and stopped in front of our house.

Ecki, who was sitting next to me, bent down to the rear door of the car and waited. I wondered why it didn't open. It took a moment, then the double doors were pushed aside and John stood before us, his head dark against the blue sky. I heard voices. There were already people there. I heard Michael. They would have to be patient for at least a moment, I had to go to the bathroom urgently, I had already exceeded my time. The cot was pulled forward and unfolded, the light was surprisingly bright, and I wondered how they were going to get me into the wheelchair. Everyone was there, the appraiser, the physiotherapist, the architect - Doreen, who looked at me and saw for the first time what she had already heard. I could look past her into the hallway where the parcels from the toilet block were leaning against it. Bibbii came to me, Michael, who was hardly called that by anyone. I had started with the nickname at some point, and the rest of my circle of friends had adopted it. Anyway, Bibbii reached under me and simply lifted me into the wheelchair.


2.
I had never noticed that our old box spring bed was so high. I leaned over the edge and saw the wooden floorboards at a dizzying depth. How should I ever get up from the wheelchair on my own? The new frame from the sanitary building was still packed in the hallway on the first floor, and the back section of our old bed couldn't be set up far enough for me to catheterize in it. It didn't help, Michael had to sit in the bed as a backrest and hold my back.
"Ready?" He asked.
And I said: "Done."

On the first floor the inspection team stood in a row, clerk, physiotherapist and architect. We decided to start in the basement, so Michael, who had just dragged me down from the bedroom, carried me down one floor. Doreen brought the wheelchair.
I had a little respect for what to expect. Michael and I once saw a report on television about someone who owned an infinite number of shoes.
"Look at this," I had said. "What does he need so many shoes for?"
Michael had laughed: "You of all people are asking that?"
It was the first time I went to the basement to count my shoes. The collection was spread over three Billy shelves, over which we had installed lighting to put the shoes in the limelight. There were actually quite a few.
When we got to the basement as part of the sightseeing tour, I looked at my feet, which were still wearing Lisa's sneakers. We hadn't talked about whether she'd just loaned the shoes to me or given them as a gift for the first time in my new life. If I could believe the people in the hospital, the sneakers were now the only pair of shoes I still owned. I would no longer fit into my old size, and the high heels, my countless high heels, I would no longer be able to wear anyway. I tried not to think about what the total cost of the two hundred pairs.

Jörg and Daniel stood in the bathroom on the upper floor and explained that the shower was not convenient for me. We had installed a bench at the rear end, which took up some space from the actually square cabin. The standard shower was 1.20 meters long, but only 90 centimeters after our installation, which was the point of discussion now. To get in with the wheelchair, 30 centimeters were missing. Michael and I, however, had always sat very happy together on the shower bench. I found that it still had to work now.
You will see that, I thought, how it all still fits.
Michael came in with the shower wheelchair he had assembled downstairs, and I drove into the shower stall and found it didn't fit.
The shower was too small, noticeably too small for the brand new shower wheelchair.
"That works," I explained. “You can see that. It fits in here, the damn chair. "
Nobody said anything, and an anger arose in me that I couldn't control for much longer.

We went to the dressing room, which had been my dream when it came to making girls. All the cupboards there were now too high. I couldn't get my clothes. The drawers were too high, the hangers anyway, and we went back into the bathroom and considered how the shower could be enlarged there, discussed that the window would probably have to be pulled out, and then Daniel and Jörg snuck around the free-standing bathtub around that had been sinfully dear and that I could no longer get into under any circumstances. It was considered whether you could install a lifter or tear out the bathtub or, if you threw the bathroom on the container anyway, then do the bathtub differently.
There was a second bathroom door that led from the bedroom and was only two feet wide. Michael wanted the additional connection from the bedroom to the bathroom so much so that you didn't have to constantly walk down the hallway. And that door, Michael's door, was too small now. I tried to get through it at an angle several times, but it was too narrow. It felt like I had later screwed up Michael’s door.

And the stairs were total crap. A lift would not attach to the stairs. We would have to move the office on the ground floor, then an elevator would come in, but we would have to tear out the underfloor heating because there was nowhere else to drill into the floor. You'd have to tear out a wall on the kitchen side if the elevator got there.
We went into the lower bathroom, went out again, no, none of that worked, the whole house didn't work.
It never stopped. My home was being demolished piece by piece, although it was only just finished and the botched construction phase almost cost us the relationship.

In the living room, my friends Lisa and Max, who had a key from the house, had hung balloons and a large sign everywhere: Welcome back! We stopped with the tour team in front of a Minion balloon. The little fat bob. I had always found the Minions to shoot. My sewing machine was on the small table in the niche in the living room, and I recognized the fabrics I had laid out months ago to sew our curtains. I had originally thought that I would only be gone for a week.
The flower boxes stood on the balcony next to the unopened sacks of potting soil. Daniel and Jörg went to the balcony door next to me, and I knew right away that the best thing to do would be to blow up the porch with the slippery decking.

While we were saying goodbye, I noticed that Doreen was getting close to it. She knew me a little better than the others - she designed the house for us. In my case, the switch flipped immediately. Doreen saw me sitting in front of her in a wheelchair, I noticed how hard she had to swallow, and immediately I wanted to make it easy for her. As an athlete, you also learn that for the press conferences: always remain objective, just don't get personal. We shook hands and talked about when we'd see each other next.
I said goodbye to Daniel and Jörg. We arranged to meet for a follow-up discussion at the accident hospital in Marzahn.
The meeting ended on a conciliatory note. The appointment couldn't have been better. The aim of the tour had been to show me what life would be like outside, well, such a change would not be pleasant for anyone, the reviewers said.
I nodded.

Inside Michael wanted to make something to eat. He hit two eggs in the pan, his energy wasn't enough for more. I wanted to make myself useful, meanwhile, empty the dishwasher, so I drove past the kitchen island to the back corner. I opened the flap and leaned forward to pull the first plate out of the strut in the upper basket, and suddenly I had to hold on to the wheelchair. It took infinite strength to bend down and lift the plate. There were no muscles in my body to support me in this movement.
And then it was over. The dishwasher. They were all right. It wouldn't work. My home stopped working. I was disabled now. My previous life was over.


3.
The next morning it was better. There was a bit of a routine that seemed familiar to me. I woke up in our bed at home with Bibbii, the old stinker, lying next to me. And Alexa rang the bell. The can said: "Good morning, get up!"
How I could be happy about it. As I could say: "Alexa, wake me up in ten minutes."
I actually missed that.

I later realized that the situation was not that dire. For example, I didn't have to buy summer shoes two sizes larger, as they would also fall off my feet as a wheelchair user. I had always dressed nicely and that would not change in the future either. I would just find out what was now unlike before. A paralysis was not that different from the other events in life, some things had to be changed, others remained. I just had to believe that it was going ahead. That was my credo, I wouldn't give it up.

Michael finished breakfast, picked me up and carried me downstairs like a baby. It was so warm that we could have breakfast outside, on the porch with the decking that is not wheelchair accessible. The rays of the sun fell on my face, I heard the birds. Michael had made pancakes wonderfully, and I fought down the feeling that I had contributed too little to this happy moment, helped too little. It might not have been decisive. We sat on the terrace and it was nice that I had the freedom to do so for a day.

Later the closest friends came by: Max and Lisa and Pierre. You were one of the few people I was allowed to keep in touch with during the first time in the hospital. We had set up a chat group especially for this: Pummelfee on four wheels. Sabine, my sister, came along too, and we decided that we would have a barbecue. The men drove off to do the shopping while Lisa and Sabsi prepared the table and I called out to them where everything was to be found. The two of them fired up the grill on the terrace, and I sat in the living room and made a long neck out of the wheelchair, as it should be for a good Thuringian: You check whether the ladies can get the money.
How was it going to be with the terrace threshold, which must have been five centimeters high? Would they have to carry me there every time? In contrast to the day before, when we walked along here with the reviewers, none of this no longer seemed insoluble to me. My friends were there. We'd sort it out somehow.

At dusk it felt like it used to be. There were a couple of friends who had known each other for a long time and ate something together.We talked about what had happened in my life and what the others had experienced. With the people who were so close to me, I was able to take it upon myself to be a little proud of myself. Proud of what I had achieved, of the long journey that lay behind me and behind Michael.
It got dark, and with the dark it got so cool that I immediately began to shiver.
Pierre hit the table and said: "You know what, we won't let the evening be spoiled, we'll go to the METRO and buy a patio heater."
I couldn't stop laughing so quickly at this thought, as he and Michael were sitting in the car and a little later were back on the terrace with the giant device.

When the neighbors came over to hear our voices, we probably gave an idiosyncratic picture. The patio heater was running, we still had a gas bottle in the cellar from the construction phase; the crazy thing worked so well that Pierre was now sitting on the terrace in shorts and a t-shirt. To be on the safe side, I had Michael's jacket around my shoulders. In our absence, the neighbors had often taken care of the post and checked the house, and with a glance at the patio heater they said what everyone would have said in this situation: "What are you doing there?"
And they didn't say what most had said in the past weeks and months when they walked into my hospital room. They didn't say what almost everyone said when they first saw me in a wheelchair in the near future. It was such a normal barbecue evening that the neighbors grabbed a beer and forgot to ask about my paraplegia. Even I forgot the wheelchair. It wasn't a big deal for a few hours. I was still me, just different.



Part 1 The Tsar's Daughter
1.
It's hard to tell where my story begins. My grandmother was abducted from Bamberg to the Ukraine, from where she went back again to end up in Kyrgyzstan later. She doesn't like to talk about time, which is why it is not even known who exactly abducted her. It is how old people like to be - if you ask them about the bigger picture, they tell you about a blue jacket or the memory of a cornfield in May. And even that she only does at Christmas and never for more than two minutes, and when she reaches the cornfield she says: "So, dear ones, now there is food."

My mother was born in Kyrgyzstan. She was married there to my biological father, who was in the army and constantly on the move. At some point it came out that he had cheated on her, and mom decided to take her little Kristina and leave the country. My grandma tells, and she can now clearly remember: that they would all have left much earlier if my mother hadn't wanted to stay that long - because of him. My grandma was there right away, took Grandpa with her, my aunt wanted to go to Germany too, and so we all traveled back to where we belonged, as grandma called it.
That was in the summer of 1991.
My mother was twenty and didn't speak a single word of German.

For the authorities in Germany it was not quite so clear about the affiliation. We weren't Russians, had no Kyrgyz roots, and we weren't real Germans either. We had to go to a reception center in Kindelbrück in Thuringia and stayed there for two years. There are one or two baby photos of me that were taken in Kyrgyzstan and that show my mother and biological father: two young people holding a baby in a white dress into the camera. Otherwise, all pictures come from the reception camp in Germany. There is a photo of me and my grandpa in which we are relaxing on the bunk bed in the camp. I'm a cute face, he with his big construction workers' hands, which, as it turned out later, I had inherited. Grandpa suffered from a nervous disease, which of course I didn't know yet and what can't be seen in the picture. He was my darling, Grandpa, and the photo is now on my desk in front of me.

The first memories that do not come from a photo are connected with the kindergarten in the reception center. There was a childminder there who fell in love with me and carried me around in the afternoon even after the official care hours. Her husband came in after work in his blue worker's dungarees and was also enthusiastic about the child. These two were now my found parents, Helmut and Viola, and when after a while their professional situation changed and they no longer had the time to come to the reception camp every day, I went to their weekend every two weeks. Kindelbrück was tiny, in fact Helmut and Viola lived barely five minutes away from the refugee home, yet the weekend trips always felt like I was going on a trip. I kept the rhythm of visits for a long time, for many, for many years.


2.
Helmut had a company for heating technology. Next to the house in Kindelbrück, the two built a warehouse in which I could play between the spare parts and slide around on the pipes. I grew up between sawdust and strangely shaped metal parts, the function of which was a mystery to me. Viola helped out in the company, took care of the paperwork in the office for Helmut, and only later, when the company grew and someone was hired for accounting, was she able to resume childcare business.
Helmut and Viola treated me like their own child, even though they had two children of their own. The two of them were older than me, soon began their studies, and disappeared from my life when I was six or seven. I was alone in the sanitary facility, a loner, but there were three dogs: Poldi, a little mixed breed, and two sheepdogs named Erus and Sarah. In the mornings I walked with the shepherds like the boss through the village and down to the Wipper, a tributary of the Unstrut. They were huge black animals with light brown accents that, strangely enough, obeyed me little creatures - my parents still tell today about how I ran around with the two monsters and the neighbors shook their heads. Today you wouldn't let a small child go alone anymore, but then it was normal for Helmut and Viola. Kindelbrück was a tiny village with hardly more than 2000 inhabitants. What should have happened there? I disappeared after breakfast, I was no longer seen, and for lunch I was back in the yard with my two dogs.

Helmut and Viola seemed fantastically wealthy to me. In our reception camp in Kindelbrück and then in our family's first apartment in Sömmerda, we weren't exactly financially strong, and in comparison, my life with Helmut and Viola seemed like an episode at the court of the tsarist family. Even then, there was a computer in the office of the plumbing company that I was allowed to play on. Windows 97 - that was the first operating system that I was aware of. When I started school and learned to read and write, I put together my own version of the BILD newspaper in Microsoft Word, which I then printed out on continuous paper. Smelly dogs after rain in Kindelbrück! No dessert at Helmut and Viola's for three days! I also got my first CD player from Helmut and Viola because there wasn't enough money at home for something like that. There was no doubt in my mind that the two were millionaires. They had a swimming pool behind the house, they took me on vacation to Croatia and even to Paris to Disneyland. Today I assume that the heating store was simply going well for the conditions at the time. Presumably Helmut and Viola had relocated all the pipes north of Erfurt after the fall of the Wall.

At the beginning, Mama had met a man in the reception camp. His name was Peter, also a Russian, my mother didn't speak any other language at first, and at that time Mama and Peter were just a couple, they were together for as long as I could remember, and I didn't know that they would only meet after arriving in Germany had met. Peter was my dad, which was never questioned.
My parents got on well with Helmut and Viola and also came to visit the farm on Saturdays in summer. They brought with them my little sister Sabsi, who was born three years after me. We all sat together at a barbecue and it was as if we were one big family. There was no envy of Helmut and Viola, or even fear that they might take my parents' child away. Everything that happened in Kindelbrück was relaxed and friendly.

I still remember how we once went for a walk together at the Wipper down in the village. The adults talked like adults do when too many of them get together, and it was so boring that I was glad to have my two large sheepdogs. I ran forward a little, threw stones and sticks, which Erus and Sarah then fought over. When we got to the river the adults were out of earshot; it was a mystery to me how it could take you so long for a route that we had walked so often. I descended the embankment, tried to look into the tunnel formed by the strangely crooked trees over the river - and fell into the water.
To my surprise, the current was strong. The river had looked calm and lifeless from above, but now I was instantly carried away. I couldn't breathe, I was under water, I was completely to myself even more than usual on the days, and I wondered how the adventure would end and where I would reappear. I heard Erus and Sarah, the barking of the two dogs, saw their black shadows next to me in the water, they bit into my clothes, pushed and pulled me with them. They actually managed to get me against the current to the bank, where I could hold myself and crawl on all fours in the grass of the bank.
That things didn't turn out well and that I wouldn't have turned up at all without the help of the dogs, I only understood when my parents, together with Helmut and Viola, found me wet in the bank grass and clapped their hands over their heads in horror.
It was the first accident that could have been fatal. Some of them would accumulate in my later life.

When I was eight or nine, Helmut and Viola had to expand. A second warehouse was missing, and a larger office was needed, which is why they decided to completely rebuild not only the functional buildings, but also the day-care buildings and the residential building on the other side of the street in Kindelbrück. I now got my own room. And more than that, much more - I got two rooms, a living room on the ground floor that I could furnish according to my own ideas, and my own bedroom upstairs in the house. Each of the rooms was determined to be twenty square meters. I spent a wonderful time with Helmut and Viola, an immigrant girl's childhood dream, and the only big mistake they made was, so to speak, that they gave me another gift: my first bike.
It was Helmut and Viola who taught me to ride a bike, not my parents. I started cycling, soon trained on the weekends too, and couldn't find the time to come to the farm on a regular basis. Gradually we drifted apart. We didn't talk about them, not even later, they just disappeared from my life. I disappeared from hers.

Erus and Sarah weren't the youngest anymore when I walked with them through the village streets of Kindelbrück like the boss. They died and Helmut and Viola had to get two new dogs. I learned the sad story from the newspaper: Viola was attacked by one of her dogs, absurdly on her own birthday, and she was killed in the process. I couldn't attend her funeral because I was going to a competition somewhere in the world. For many years it was typical for me that I was absent at home during the most important moments.

Then when I was sixteen or seventeen after a training camp I was a bit idle and went to visit my parents' apartment in Sömmerda. I sat around restlessly on the sofa because I had to think of Viola and Helmut, of my foundling father, who was now alone. I decided to get on my bike and go to the farm in Kindelbrück. In the garden in front of the house I saw Poldi, the little mongrel, otherwise everything seemed to be quiet. I got off, leaned the bike against the fence, and opened the gate. Poldi recognized me immediately. I rang the doorbell, even ran around the house, knocked on the window.
There was nobody there. And what should I have done?
I stroked Poldi again, went back to the street and continued to ride my bike.


3.
The three-bunk bed, which has made it quite famous in my family, was on Thomas-Müntzer-Strasse in Sömmerda. This is where my parents moved when they were finally allowed to leave the detention center. They had been given a small apartment in a rental block, in a reserved apartment building with four floors, not to be compared with the endless landscape of prefabricated buildings elsewhere. The apartment had a parents' bedroom, a living room and a small children's room in which my sister and I shared the two-story original version of the bunk bed. When I was nine years old, my second sister, Jessica, was born and my parents had to cede the larger bedroom to us children. And since the new room wasn't big enough to fit three beds side by side, my father went to the hardware store, found some slats and tinkered the third floor with the bunk bed.

I was allowed to sleep at the top and was happy with the upgrade. It was the tightest floor - the bed was built so close to the ceiling that I could just sit on my mattress - but I had my own bedside table with the top of the adjoining closet. I never had to make my bed because nobody noticed how I was doing anyway. I had my peace when I retired up there under the ceiling.

It was difficult for my mother to find a job with her Russian background and strong dialect. At some point my father started his own used car dealership, which, to everyone's relief, went so well in the 1990s that Mama was able to take over the bookkeeping as a self-appointed office clerk. After work and at the weekend they drove to our allotment garden, where they grew the vegetables themselves and looked after the rabbits, which had to be looked after and later slaughtered. There was so much to do that they regularly stayed overnight in the garden with little Jessica, and I was the oldest in the apartment, taking care of the house and looking after Sabsi. In the summer we sisters would pick grass for the rabbits and help pick vegetables in the garden. We always worked.

Time for meals together was therefore rare. When we went to school, my parents often lay in bed exhausted. Sabsi and I dressed alone, almost identical clothes every morning, because my mother liked to buy everything twice. Whether she just found it practical or actually cute was hard to say. I myself was not very enthusiastic about the twin look; Sabsi, as a little sister, on the other hand, thought our appearances were cool.
At lunchtime, I would occasionally prepare meals for my parents. I made a good bean soup I thought. However, when mom and dad came in from the used car dealership, they discreetly pushed the plate aside after a few spoons. I understood the bean soup wasn't as good as I thought it would be. But I was also offended, after all, I was only eleven years old and had gone to a lot of trouble for the soup. My parents called me into the small bathroom that evening, where they went to smoke, and complained about this waste of time. The apartment should have been vacuumed and the laundry ironed and all I was doing was taking care of the beans! I got what they meant, but I found my parents - at least back then - a little ungrateful.

Sabsi and I didn't get any pocket money. I pondered forever about what I would buy if I had money like the others in my class. These Diddl mice - Diddl bags, Diddl paper and Diddl erasers - were in vogue back then. During the long break everyone sat together and exchanged their Diddl treasures, and I didn't have the smallest Diddl pin. Nor did it look like anything could ever change about this state of affairs. That's what I found worst: that I was stuck and couldn't do anything about the unjust distribution. So I decided to help myself.
There was a small shop for school supplies and stationery in Sömmerda, and I wanted to steal two Diddl pads from there. That was the big goal of my longing: two writing pads with mice on them. I thought that if I had the blocks and if no one wanted to swap them with me, then at least I could use them in class.
The shop in Sömmerda was unfortunately one of those shops where a bitter salesman stands behind the counter and never even thinks that the eleven-year-old girl who enters his shop is a serious customer could. I was caught before I even got to the shelf with the blocks on it.
My parents had to come from the used car trade and pick me up from the grouchy salesman, and in the evening I had to go back to the bathroom with the smokers and hear that there was too much to do here for such foolishness.

I wanted a chewing gum watch for my birthday. Back then there really were working quartz watches with a secret compartment in which a piece of chewing gum lay. What a dream. Anyone who owned such a watch could open their watch as a secret agent even as a lost loner in the schoolyard. Because my criminal career was over, I persuaded my mother to give me the chewing gum watch for my birthday. She listened but didn't say much, so I repeated the sermon for a few days until I could be sure she got the message.
On the morning of my twelfth birthday, I got up alone, made breakfast for Sabsi and me, and went to school. I spent the afternoon waiting for my mother. It was evening, we ate supper, then she came in - and, overtired, threw the clock on the table. Without wrapping paper, she just said: "Here, child, your present."
I don't know why she was like that sometimes. Whether she had argued with my father or felt overwhelmed in moments like these. Nevertheless, it was an ambivalent situation for me: I had got exactly the gift I wanted, at the same time something seemed to be wrong with my wishes. I wondered if wishing was forbidden. But the longer I thought about it, the more certain I was that the wish was not wrong in principle. My wishes were okay and so were the wishes of the others. I couldn't blame classmates for getting what I myself longed for in vain. And I couldn't blame my mother for her moods, which probably had to do with the fact that she too made a wish. The wish was good and right, it was just unjust the way the world handled it.

Sabsi and I mostly had a good time. Everyday life at home made classmates forget about it by the afternoon at the latest. As long as we were alone, it was not noticed that we had no money and that the apartment was a bit small. Only at family celebrations did the view open up, we went to christenings and weddings, were put in the festive version of our twin outfit on these occasions, and then we slept on the mattresses, which were used as an improvised place to sleep by the adults in a strange room were worn. We slept in large houses and in the side wings of the rented ballrooms, and suddenly the ceiling was missing, which at home in the three-bunk bed always hovered over me at arm's length. I stared into the distant darkness that seemed like the promise of other possibilities.