12/16/14

Bodies (15)

Standing at the railing, side by side, with the sea spread out around us like a sparkling, moving carpet, we watch the rising sun bathe the fresh morning in unreal hues.
“We’ll soon be there,” Hazim says. A new shade of sadness seems to have crept over him.
“Uh-hu,” I answer.
“I’ve prepared working clothes for you. So that you can disembark unnoticed. It’s a small harbour, but still.”
“Won’t it look odd anyway? I mean, a Turkish boat landing in Cyprus?”
“Not if the captain is Cyprian. And Costas is.”
“Oh. But I heard you talk to him…”
“Well, I speak Greek.”
“Really? I didn’t know that.”
“There are many things you don’t know.” Hazim shivers. He looks exhausted. “One of my men will come to pick you up and drive you to the airport. He has your money, by the way.”
“My money?”
“Well, Murat was told not to pay you. But he asked me to pay you nonetheless. In cash.”
“Oh, I didn’t worry. Not about the money, that is.”
We remain silent for a moment, and Hazim’s dejection becomes almost palpable. I try to hold my tongue, but can’t. “You know… I’d love to ask you to come with me. But I won’t.”
Hazim turns to stare at me, surprised. “Why?”
“Because I know you will refuse. I understand your reasons. At least, I think I do. But…” I have to clear my throat. “… but I don’t want to be turned down by you.” I can’t look at him. “I’m not sure any of this makes sense,” I murmur.
He sighs. After a minute, he asks, “What’s your Big Dream, Marc? You know, with capital B and capital D? The one thing in life you really want to do?”
“I don’t know. Nothing, I guess. I don’t dream. I’m too busy coping with real life.”
He snorts. “That’s what you really believe, I reckon.”
“And you? What’s your Big Dream?”
He thinks for a second. “Nothing fancy. Find myself a family. No matter how that family turns out to be. Maybe open a little restaurant somewhere. Just live a normal life.”
“Define ‘normal’,” I can’t refrain from saying.
He shrugs. “I don’t care about definitions. They’re just little drawers for stupid people.”
I lay an arm on his shoulder. First he stiffens, but then he relaxes. We listen to the splashing sound of the waves and the morning call of the seagulls. I’d like this moment to last forever. Knowing that, like all those wanton moments allowing you to be yourself, it will pass in a flurry.

The young woman behind the Lufthansa Business Class counter flashes me a broad smile while she’s checking my air ticket. “Guten Tag, Herr Brehmer,” she says, opens the passport, barely looks at it, then closes it again and pushes it back toward me. “Haben Sie Gepäck?” She starts to press some keys on her keyboard.
“Nein, nur mein Handgepäck,” I answer. For once, I’m glad that all those ghastly years in various Swiss boarding schools have left a positive trace. I speak fluent and accent-free German, which is priceless. Only those forced by birth or happenstance volunteer to learn that difficult language.
“Kein Problem, Herr Brehmer.” She sticks a tag on my brown briefcase: “Hand luggage”, then draws a circle around the boarding time and gate. “Boarding ist um 17 Uhr 20, Ausgang B14. Wir wünschen Ihnen einen angenehmen Flug.”
“Besten Dank,” I reply, picking up the fake German passport and the boarding pass. I’ve got ten minutes left; just enough time to pass the security check and proceed to the gate. I catch a glimpse of my reflection in a Duty-Free-Shop-window and have to stifle a laugh. My hair has been cut and parted on the left, I’m close-shaven, wearing old-fashioned glasses, a cheap, beige business suit and really ugly loafers. I’ve never looked more hideous.
The security check turns out as superficial as Hazim promised. The guy x-raying my hand luggage avoids looking at the screen when my briefcase filled with euro bills passes. I sigh with relief. I’m back to normal, things run smoothly again. The last few hours of anguish will soon be an unpleasant memory, nothing more.
Just before I get on the plane, I switch on my mobile.
The text message I discover is clear and precise. Will I ever find smoothness and normality again?
this time, you escaped.
but we will get you.
soon.
 
END OF CHAPTER
The chapter "Bodies" is part of the novel I'm currently writing…

12/10/14

Bodies (14)

An hour later, Hazim climbs upstairs. He talks to the sailor, then comes back with two bottles of water. He hands me one. “Drink. The trip will last some time,” he says and takes a swig. He’s still standing, clutching his bottle in one hand, holding on to the hull with the other to steady himself.
I glare at him.
His face remains in the dark, but I think I see him glare back.
I gobble down some water. Then, I pat the mattress and say, “If there’s a long trip ahead, better be confortable.”
He just sends me a wary look before sitting down across from me again. “If I appear cranky, I’m sorry. I suppose the situation must be tough for you, too,” he mumbles.
I didn’t expect kindness, I wasn’t prepared for pity. There’s a sudden lump in my throat. “Thanks,” I manage to say. “I’m cranky too. And tired.”
A soft smile creeps up on Hazim’s face. “Try to rest, okay?”
“I can’t. Whenever I close my eyes, I… I see the face of that guy again, you know, the guy from the bar… He seemed so hostile, so determined to hurt me…”
“Once we’ve reached Cyprus, you’ll be okay.”
“Will I?” I think for a moment. “It’s strange. Here I am, sitting in this cabin, unable to do anything. And yet. I still get the impression that I’m running. Running away from I don’t know what, running I don’t know where. But running… running for my life.”
“You don’t know what it really means to run for your life.” Hazim’s voice gets a shade darker. “I’ve been running my whole life,” he murmurs.
“Why do you say that?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Well, maybe you should? Some things are easier to bear when you share them with someone.”
“You really think that?” He shakes his head. “Not me.”
“But…”
“Drop it. Please?” Hazim changes position, his flashy boardshort tickles my bare calf.
“Uh, okay, sorry.” I say. “Sooo. Tell me: how old are Murat’s sons?”
“One’s twelve, the other fourteen. Why?”
“Just like that. Wanted to know why we’re dressed up in kiddie clothes.”
“What?” He seems to be caught on the hop.
“Well… you look ridiculous—you know that?” I can’t help but snicker. “Those garish colours! And that T-shirt! It’s several sizes too small for you!”
“You think you look better?” Despite himself, Hazim giggles, too.
“I know! I’m horrible, thanks to you and Murat. Can’t he buy his kids decent clothes?”
“Frankly—you’re such a snob!”
“You call me a snob?” I box him on the shoulder.
“Don’t you punch me!” he growls. I’m not sure whether he’s serious or just playing.
“Why not?” I box him again, a bit harder this time.
All the sudden, he pounces on me and tosses me on my back. He seizes my hands, blocks my legs, pins me to the floor. I try to get free, wiggling and rolling from side to side, but his hard body lies on mine. I can’t move, I’m barely able to breathe. “I said, ‘Don’t!’” he hisses in my ear.
From this close, his melancholy eyes look like huge, black wounds. I smell his perfume, his personal scent, feel his pulse, his skin, his body all over mine. I stand no chance against him; that’s why I pretend to give up and go limp. “Okay,” I whisper. “You win.”
Hazim lets go of my hands but doesn’t move off me.
I expected this to happen, somehow. I never expected this to happen, too. Everything seems very clear now. Things fall into place with an astounding coherence, every piece and detail makes sense.
Despite myself, I touch his hair, the corners of his eyes, his chin. My lips brush against his, then insist ever so softly.
“Don’t!” he whispers. But he opens his mouth and allows my tongue to slip in. My hands glide down, inside his T-shirt, move upwards. His chest hair makes my fingertips prickle. A wave of desire rushes over me, which I try to fight as hard as I can. I must stay in control, that’s what I always do. Control my body, control other bodies. It’s my job to act that way.
“Don’t!” Hazim whispers again. He doesn’t mean my fingers, however, he doesn’t mean my lips, he doesn’t mean my body. No, he reads me like an open book, and he wants me to let go.
These two words open a hidden door I didn’t even know existed inside me. I don’t pretend anymore. Kiss him harder. Moan. Truly give up.

12/7/14

Bodies (13)

Downstairs, I discover a windowless cabin reeking of fish and diesel fuel. A narrow space with empty shelves, an old, stained mattress on the floor, a small lamp dangling from the low ceiling. The putting and chugging noise of the boat’s engine seems to leave no place for anything else.
Holding my nose, I let myself fall down on the mattress and groan. My back is aching, my shoulder muscles are knotted and as strained as tightly wound guitar strings.
Across from me, Hazim settles on the edge of the mattress, leaning back against the inner hull of the ship. He gazes at me, a sad, thoughtful shadow on his face. Or maybe it’s just a trick of the light bulb swinging to and fro with the roll of the waves.
“Where are you taking me?” I want to know when I have gathered the courage to ask again. My voice is trembling. “There’s an airport in Alanya, isn’t it? Or do we go up to Izmir?”
“Neither, nor. You’re not safe in Turkey,” Hazim answers. “You’re booked on a flight from Larnaca to Paris, tomorrow.”
Larnaca, Larnaca… that rings a bell. But it takes a second before I realize… “Cyprus!” I cry out, unable to hide my surprise. “We’re going all the way to Cyprus?”
“Yes.” With that, Hazim closes his eyes and starts to breathe in a steady rhythm.
“You’re not going to fall asleep on me, are you?” I protest. “You owe me an explanation or two, don’t you think?”
Hazim opens his eyes again. He looks weary and even sadder than before. “I owe you an explanation? Are you kidding me?”
“Not at all! Why did you embark me on this extravagant flight? We should’ve stayed at the hotel, we should’ve called the police! Plus, I scheduled a business meeting with Murat—what am I going to tell him now? That I ran away from… some ludicrous fantasies his bodyguard invented? Come on, I want facts!” I pound my fist against the mattress.
“A business meeting with Murat… As if he cared about that right now! Anyway, he has left for Ankara,” Hazim says flatly. “You want facts? You sure you can handle them?”
I don’t understand. Therefore, I simply nod.
“Okay then. We both know why you’ve come to Turkey. Because Murat sent you a mail telling you he wanted to discuss your Tunisian project. But that was only a decoy. He knows all he needs to know about that luxury whorehouse. Why, he even met that Italian chick yesterday, in Antalya. Alessandra something. You know—your so-called friend.”
“Di Forzone,” I correct him. My voice is calm now, almost dreamy. “Her name is Alessandra di Forzone. She’s in Turkey?”
“Yeah, she is. Or rather, was. Whatever. The real reason Murat asked you to come is that he was forced to. Someone wanted to lure you out of the relative safety you seem to benefit from, in France.”
“And you know who…?”
“No. Murat wouldn’t tell me. For my own safety, he said. But it’s someone very powerful. They must be if they have the means to make Murat do their bidding.”
The boat sways and rocks. I follow the smooth movements, feeling my last certainties crumble away one by one. I’m caught up in Shostakovich’s famous Cello Concerto, that’s what I am. The image of someone on the run comes to mind. How fitting! The fatal and hopeless escape run of a man pursued by a hostile crowd, a whole nation, the whole world, all brandishing tools and weapons, eager to get him.
What is this nightmarish booby trap I have walked in, anyway? Could it be nothing more than the product of Hazim’s imagination? How am I to be sure of what to believe?
“How come you know all this?” I ask.
He shrugs. “It’s my job to be informed. Knowledge is the core weapon if you want to survive. Before taking his plane to Ankara, Murat has taken a great risk, too. He must be really fond of you, you know. He sent me a last-minute warning telling me there was trouble ahead. And charging me to get you safely out of the country.”
“Why would anyone want me to be in trouble? I’m so not important!”
Hazim shrugs. “I already told you: I don’t know. My guess is money. There are many reasons to pursue someone, but ultimately it’s always about money.”
“But I don’t have money!” I shout.
“More than most people, surely… But maybe you’re right. Maybe they’re not after your money. I really don’t have a clue.”
Neither do I. “How do I know you’re telling me the truth?” I ask.
“You don’t.”
He’s right. But do I have a choice? I’m trapped in the womb of this ship, barely in control of anything. “I guess I should trust you…” I state, exhausted.
“No,” Hazim replies. His voice carries an urgency I haven’t heard before. “I know you can trust me. Always. But you don’t. You mustn’t trust anyone! You hear me? Not anyone!”
His words strike me as odd. Why does he say I can always trust him? Why does he warn me at the same time? What’s his agenda? And why is it that everybody and everything in my life seems to result in me mulling over incomprehensible things?
I don’t know what to say. Therefore, I cross my arms and concentrate on the brownish stains on the mattress.
They could be anything. Red wine, rust, or blood.

12/3/14

Blanket

Today feels like a blanket.
Someone has closed
rain curtains on reality.
Dripping bushes stretch their roots
up to a motley sky
and bury leafy heads
into fat brown soil.
Fickle winds whistle
like ripe kettles
through cross-eyed streets.
The central heating exhales
whiffs of burnt dust,
and drowsy minutes
end in Friday yawns.


This poem has been published in my second poetry collection "the solid and thoughtful cow", available for Kindle or in paperback format

11/30/14

Bodies (12)

At one moment, we turn left and jolt down the bumpy trail that leads to the tree house settlement. After a few metres, the car’s headlamps shine on a pair of faded tracksuit pants, a naked, male chest, a familiar face. I recognize the lazy smile: it’s the young, Turkish guy who has welcomed us to his community of leftover hippies a few hours ago.
Hazim steps on the brakes, stops the engine and lets the car roll behind a bush.
When we get out, the young guy hasn’t moved.
“What are we doing here?” I whisper into the darkness.
“Sessiz tutun!” the guy whispers back. I discern his vague contours, the movements suggest he’s putting a finger on his lips.
Then he switches on a little torch and leads us downhill. I can hardly make out where I put my feet; more than once, I stumble. Yet I don’t complain. I feel beyond complaining, beyond anything. Once intangibility has swallowed you, there’s nothing left. Only blind obedience. I hope the guys around me know what they’re doing. Because I bloody don’t.
Slow steps crunch on dry earth and gravel. I hear odd whistling and rustling. Strange insects and animals must be haunting the dark lands. I can’t see them, but I sense their presence. I feel their preying eyes on me. Eyes of beings that don’t care about me, that don’t want to know who I am, what I am doing, who just wait for me to get the hell out of here, the faster, the better. This is not my place.
And reality slips one stride further.
When we get closer to the settlement, I hear other noises: a crackling campfire, people chatting, a David Bowie-song echoing through the night like the thread of a dream. “Man is an obstacle, sad as the clown—Oh by jingo—so hold on to nothing, and he won’t let you down—Oh by jingo…” A melancholy and muted voice, a softly strumming guitar.
All of a sudden, my chest feels heavy. It’s one of those moments where I’d like to lie down on the ground, stretch out my limbs and let myself fall up into the sky. One last, noiseless explosion, and my atoms could scatter and become invisible dust…
A dream. This must be a dream. A bad dream, a nightmare, whatever. All I have to do is follow the flow. Until I’ll wake up. One always does. Eventually.
We slow down, we turn left. On tiptoes around the settlement, in a large semi-circle, careful now, you must not step on a dry branch, the cracking would give you away, move on, move on, there you are, that’s the forest. Inscrutable and opaque, inarticulate, but I welcome the darkness like a blanket.
At last, we reach the beach. Inky waves come rolling in, gentle but mournful, attacking the shore with dogged determination.
A dinghy is lying on the pebbles. We take off our shoes and heave the dinghy into the water. The young Turk pulls out two oars from the bottom and starts to paddle around the high and glistening rock to our right. This is how it must be. Any other action, any other progression is impossible.
Fifteen minutes later, we approach a little fishing boat with a cabin at the bow, the broad silhouette of a man at the stern. When the dinghy bumps against the broadside, the silhouette leans over to help me up. Hazim follows me. He exchanges a few mumbled words with the sailor, who disappears in the cabin to start the engine.
“Hazim!” I whisper. “Where are you taking me?” I have to ask this question. There will be no answer, I know it. But I’m playing a role in this play, after all. Only as an extra, but even extras are given lines if they behave.
“Let’s go down, first. We must not be seen.” Hazim grabs my elbow and drags me into the cabin. I’d like to wave goodbye to our young Turkish friend, but when I turn back, I discover that he’s already returning to the beach.
The sailor nods at us and opens a small trapdoor next to the rudder. A fishy smell drifts up to my nostrils. “Come on!” Hazim pushes me down. “You go first.”