Christoffer Krug was born in Cologne in 1979. He worked as a cleaner, roadie, paramedic, studied medicine in Giessen and New Delhi and works as a doctor. He was editor of the magazine "in weiß" and writes poems and children's books in addition to novels. The father of three lives in Giessen.
More books by Christoffer Krug:
"Come on, paint me a wound", Poems 2010
"Paul sagt AAAHHH", children's book 2018
"Bevor wir verglühen, "Tales 2019
"Das Herz ist auch nur ein Muskel", poems 2020
Editing: Stephanie Jana
1st Edition 2020
Set from the Bembo Regular
Bibliographic information of the German National Library: Deutsche Bibliothek lists this publication in the German National Bibliography; detailed bibliographic data is available on the Internet at https://dnb.d-nb.de.
It smells rancid. I'm on a plane. A puddle of saliva is on my headrest. I must have fallen asleep. Dinner is served. The flight attendants drive the catering trolley through the far too narrow aisles. The trolleys are made of baked dough, they bump against the edges and crumble a little further apart at every narrow spot in the aisle. The flight attendants communicate with each other with duck looseners, but the chief steward answers with a kazoo. What’s going on here?
We're flying through turbulence. When I go to the bathroom, I see a member of the flight crew tied up in the rear of the plane. She was tied to the toilet door with strawberry strings and unrolled liquorice snails, so that I find it difficult to open the door. The toilet is surprisingly spacious. I wash my hands and sit down in a basket chair hanging from the ceiling. Single drops of water run down the sink and fall to the floor. The ground slowly dissolves.
Now I see through everything. First of all, the plane is made of sugar icing. Secondly: there's a terrorist on board. I'm going to crash into first class and try to expose him. I succeed immediately. It's the SENATOR.
He has already stood in a corner, opened his pants and wants to start peeing. I jump up behind him, prick my outstretched index finger in his side and call out: "I've got you figured out SENATOR: You want to pee a huge hole in the sugar plane wall and make us all crash!
A person can recognize hundreds of smells during a lifetime and store many individual scents in his memory for the rest of his life. In my head, the number of smells that have been smelled and accumulated in my life so far has at least doubled in the recent months.
Shit, sweat, dust, spices, disease, poverty, garbage, cows, tea, monkeys, cigarettes, the back of an elephant.
The smells are all on me and they are also in me. Under my arms it smells like cardamom and curry, my clothes smell like the street dust of a city of millions. And the moment the airplane door opens and the dry, cold wind blows the autumn air into my face, I know that I have come back. It smells different, somehow stale, the air here has no smell of its own. It smells sterile, not of laughter, not of life, not of suffering and not of love. The old, fat Germany simply smells of nothing.
I collect my things, stuff my MP3 player into my backpack, put on my worn-out sneakers and search the floor under the seat to make sure I don't leave anything lying around. The last 45 minutes on this plane were like a time travel back to the 1970s. The replacement plane from London to Frankfurt is an older model. Outside probably well maintained, but inside it is completely in orange and brown. The carpet has orange circles with black dots and looks like it has 100 eyes. In this way the plane is the perfect backdrop for the scraps of thoughts that have been circling around in my head for hours. I am back in Germany. Actualy I should be happy or relieved. I am not. No one is expecting me here, and therefore I don't have high expectations of my own return.
My left arm is not usable and hangs in a small noose. If I move it too often, it immediately starts throbbing again. The fingers that stick out at the front of the bandage are red, warm and slightly swollen. In Delhi the bandage had been white for a few minutes, now it is ash grey.
I've been up for hours. In Delhi I almost had to fight for my boarding pass in a small turmoil at the counter to even get a return flight. Now I am infinitely tired.
I did not really miss Germany and my hometown Hamburg. It is said that the hungry always have food pleasantly in their nostrils, while the satiated feel aversion. When I breathe in the humid and cold autumn air, I almost feel sick.
Slowly the plane empties, I stop in an alcove and wait so that I don't have to be bumped into by anybody in the corridor. The painkillers are used up, and every active or passive movement of my arm immediately sends pain impulses to my brain to remind me of all my mistakes and clumsiness. I have to find a pharmacy quickly and get the strongest possible remedy.
My crumpled passport lies lost in the big hands of the Immigration official, who leafs through it indifferently back and forth. He holds the passport up and his gaze oscillates between my photo on the first page and my face. He sighs audibly, closes the passport and pushes it over the counter. As I leave, I watch from the corner of my eye as he wonders about the red colour on his fingers and rubs them suspiciously. I have almost passed the passport control box when the side door opens again and an official tells me to turn around. In his gaze I read:
You know exactly why!
A couple behind me starts whispering.
They want me to show my passport again.
"Surely you realize that your I.D. is a federal document! How's the paint getting in here?"
I shrug my shoulders. I don't feel like explaining something I know they wouldn't understand anyway. I can hear the man behind me explaining in a teacherlike voice to his companion that in some countries it is even forbidden to stain banknotes and that you can be arrested if you do not treat your passport well.
My passport's almost falling apart.
His companion giggles excitedly, and when I turn to her, she gives me a pitiful but stern look with her arrogant eyes. Let them arrest me. I don't care if they arrest me.
Of course they'll let me go after the lecture. The baggage carousel is already making its rounds when I arrive. My luggage is shrunk down to a little grey duffel bag. Most of what I thought was so important was lost in India. It feels so good to travel with light luggage.
In the arrival terminal I find a pharmacy and buy a box of tablets. I take two of them still in the shop and swallow them laboriously without water. The pharmacist stares at me as if I were a junkie pushing heroin in her shop.
I hardly know my way around the station at Frankfurt Airport, but the infallible German signs with their beautiful, clear and factual inscriptions show me the way to the long-distance train station a few floors down. Everything is modern, everything is clean, many things shine. I walk through the tubular halls straight on and on, like a hamster lost in a gigantic pneumatic tube system. How does someone feel who has never seen all this in its glittering splendour and sober functionality before?
I just want to sleep. Standard question for testing depressive tendencies: Do you sometimes have the desire to fall asleep and not wake up again? Answer: I wouldn't care if I could just sleep.
The queue at the ticket counter consists of three people. A businessman with a grey coat over his suit and briefcase looks at his lush Omega Seamaster and blows the air between his teeth in a stressed way. I have to grin inside. I got used to much longer human snakes. They are in themselves an immeasurable luxury. A sign of discipline and order in chaos. From the type of queues you can tell the nationality of the people. I have to grin again when I think of how the lady at the ticket counter would react to a siege of 100 menfrom India with similar moustaches.
My scratched Visa card pays for the ticket to Hamburg. 106 Euros for the luxury of a four-hour and five-minute trip. It doesn't get any faster.
I am cold. The skin on my hands is flaking, and for the first time I start to feel dirty in this environment. When I go to the toilet, I look in the mirror again after a long time. I might as well hold the cover of some magazine in front of my face. Never did I expect to become such a stranger to myself. Only now do I understand the looks of people on the plane, at the counters, in the pharmacy. I look strange. My face is brown. But it does not have the average tan of a nice holiday, it looks leathery, shiny and tanned. Skin areas with old mosquito bites on my neck have been left lighter. My eyes look like they were made up with an eyeliner and the cheekbones have become more prominent. But the most impressive thing for me is that the man in the mirror has a beard. When I used to stroke my face, I always felt a thin layer of fluff covering my chin and upper lip. But now everything is overgrown, I can no longer see any free skin between my upper lip and neck. With both hands I scoop water into my face. I don't dry myself off, but go straight out into the cold, draughty platform tunnel. The piercing cold in my face revives me briefly.
My mind is racing, the painkillers are starting to work. The gradual fading out of the throbbing pain has almost a euphoric effect on me. The ICE Stuttgart enters quickly and stops almost silently, without making squeaking noises when braking. I involuntarily have to think of something gentle. The gentlest thing I can imagine at the moment is Alex and Nora. Alex and Nora are my friends. I helped them, and they were there for me. That's what friends do for each other. Positive energy doesn't get lost. I hope they're okay now. They really deserve it.
I choose a nice compartment and hope that I will stay there alone. The linen bag is standing on the place next to me, heaving it up on the luggage rack, I don't see myself in a position to do so. So I can lean sideways against it. With the correspondingly tightly stuffed contents, it conveys the feeling of a big, strong friend to whom one can lean calmly.
The train starts slowly, hardly noticeable.
Never before have I felt that my thoughts could no longer obey me. My brain and all my memories are like a film reel that got tangled up when I played it. Individual, faltering images appear on the screen, but everything is completely blurred by the careless efforts of the projectionist to thread the film roll back in correctly as quickly as possible before the cinema audience goes on a rampage and demands its money back. The film has three main actors. Two of them are really important. The third one not so much.
I'm the third.
I feel in the pocket of my dirty fleece jacket and find the iPod. The screen doesn't work anymore, but if I try around long enough I can still activate the random function. I lean back against my luggage and close my eyes. There is something good about blindly operating an iPod with a broken display: chance is then my DJ, and he almost always shows excellent taste in finding the right songs for my moods.
Play and Rewind are close together. Just like my life. The music starts. The memories of the most moving moments rewind. The journey begins again.
First comes a simple bass run. I imagine the band getting on stage in the fog, with the lights off, one by one. The guitar is added, the distortion is already turned up to the limit, but the thumb still dampens most of the strings. The drums start with the snare and get louder and louder. Everybody plays in the same rhythm. Only two bars. Three people stand together on stage in the dark, they understand each other without words. It only takes one look at each other, and in the next moment, when the spotlights are completely turned on, the full sound blasts out of the amplifiers. The first song line, which can only be screamed because all the accumulated energy is discharged at the same time, sounds through the headphones:
Is that a leaf in your hair, or the autumn that's inside me?
The air smells of seaweed. It's warm and I'm sitting on a harbor wall. My legs dangle down. When the water comes in a small wave, it gently touches the soles of my bare feet. A ferry slowly drives backwards to the pier. The tailgate opens and shows the interior. Everything is pink. The walls are covered with plush cushions, the floor completely covered with thick mattresses. Asian looking helpers tie the ferry to the ramp with thick ropes. In doing so, they often stumble, because the soft upholstery always gives way and the workers sink in. A delivery van drives backwards up to the ramp. The door is opened and at the back a small pink elephant trots out. The elephant trumpets loudly but bebecomes quieter and quieter as the loading hatch closes. The ferry slowly departs. My feet are completely washed by a wave.
I had heard from many people that Indian Airlines was not exactly the most reliable airline. At least it was the cheapest for the outward flight. I had already been four hours late. Two hours were still ahead of me, according to the big ads.
Airports have always held a certain fascination for me. They are hubs of extensive air connections that span the whole world in large networks. This is where everything came together. Travelers, seekers and: escapees.
My little notebook lay unfolded on my legs. Meanwhile I was sitting cross-legged for so long that my feet started to tingle. I put the backpack behind my head and stretched out completely. For the hundredth time I opened the e-mail that I had saved as a file on my desktop: a scanned document, impressive letterhead, clear words in the cover letter. None other than Johann Wolfgang von Goethe looked down at me confidently from his emblem frame. The director of the institute in New Delhi had expressed himself more than elected, probably he had to write like that when adorning himself with Goethe.
"Dear Mr. Kemper,
With regard to your numerous letters of the last months, it is a great pleasure to inform you that you have been accepted as guest editor. Your employment is initially on a trial basis and is limited to six months… " - and so on
My brilliant plan had worked. For weeks I had been pestering the institute in New Delhi with my application letters. I didn't care that in the end it was probably only my father's letter of recommendation that made the job easy. Even during my journalism studies I had wished for nothing more than to work abroad and, at best, to be on the spot and report when history was being written somewhere. The prospect of helping the Institute in New Delhi to represent Germany sovereignly abroad was not quite what I had imagined, but it was at least a start. I knew that I would live in a magnificent city.
Other people, other food, other thoughts.
For four months I had been waiting to leave. I had had my exams in my pocket for a year, and slowly I felt the subliminal pressure from my parents to finally stand on my own two feet.
The idea of a regular reporter's job in some cramped office in Germany, which is the same every day and probably boring without exception, frightened me. Up to now, the important course of my life had always set itself. To call it coincidence would probably have been too much. If I believed in fate, it would probably be the reason why I was now sitting and waiting here.
Because sitting, waiting and doing nothing was’nt my kind of thing, I started writing texts and columns about Germany very early. I knew that I would be given enough freedom on the spot to choose the topics. Over the weeks a nice number of articles had already accumulated. In my mind I saw myself briefly visiting the institute in the morning and delivering some small proof of my commitment, and then exploring the city and the country from noon on. Of course I would participate in the usual socialising appointments, but that would be it. For me it was only a means to an end. Paid accommodation, a small salary and half a year in India. So my plan was about to be implemented and I found it brilliant.
If you had to choose a sound to go with that feeling of wanderlust, for me it was the rattling sound of the name changes on the departure boards: Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Cape Town, Taipei.
These names have fascinated me ever since I was a child and had visited this airport frequently with my uncle. Here you could meet people in turban, old men with long white beards in caftans, or tall Texans with cowboy hats and boots. Even a short stay in the terminal was enough to sniff the air of the big, wide world.
At the gate sat about 200 passengers, most of them resting in themselves and quietly, a few individuals in ties and suits walking up and down nervously.
Cell phone sounds. Echoes of their voices.
It was just 11 o'clock in the morning and a good part of the business people had sat down at a bar. They were drinking Bitburger. I watched them and after thinking about it for a while I decided to buy one. But I felt so stupid and observed that I just threw the beer into me and then took my place on the floor again. I had quickly counted the money and put it on the table. The waitress stared at me in surprise.
Slightly intoxicated at 11: 00 a.m. Not too bad, actually.
Diagonally opposite sat a woman who was about 30 years old and had long brown hair. I had noticed her when I checked in. Of the few Europeans standing in line, she was the only one not wearing trekking trousers or a tropical functional shirt. She was simply dressed quite normally. Her legs were in slightly worn jeans, and she wore worn out blue sneakers and a green fleece jacket.
She looked very natural - and that made her pretty.
When she looked in my direction again, our eyes met.
She had a narrow face with fine features, her eyes looked tired. As hand luggage she only had a thin, tubeshaped and waterproof bag, like the ones used for canoeing. When she noticed that our eyes met, a short smile flew over her face, then she turned her head away again and immersed herself in her book.
Until the whispering voice of the flight attendants finally called for boarding, I had fallen asleep twice. Three quarters of the queue at the gate was already in the belly of the plane when I got up and lined up too. I stared straight ahead.
There she was again. Right in front of me. She was reading and, absorbed in her reading, pushed her bag forward with her foot. Then she briefly closed her book and looked around.
"You like Gonzo?"
She looked at me at a loss.
"You read Hunter S. Thompson." And I pointed to her book.
"My favorite writer."
Now she smiled too.
"Yeah, I just started, I don't know what you mean by Gonzo."
She showed me with her finger that she had only read about ten pages.
"But you're right, the preface alone is unique"
She turned the pages over a few times. In the meantime, we were just about to enter the gate. Again she took the book and said:
"He compares writing to sex. It's only fun for people who don't have to do it. “
I replied amused:
"I know, and then he writes in comparison, old whores don't have much to laugh about."
Now she smiled. I had to laugh too.
"There is of course a great truth in it," I said with a humorous undertone.
Actually, it was completely true and was true for me in any case. I hated having to write and under pressure I mostly produced only incoherent texts that even I wouldn't have wanted to read a second time. Not exactly the best quality for a journalist.
Then she stood in front of the gate and was asked for her boarding card.