First Blog. A story from the past.
The early 90s. Kreuzberg, Berlin.
To me, Hans-Otto always seemed like such a nice lad. A stringy boy with a shock of blonde hair. He worked the coat-check on one of my rock n roll club nights. One of those rare sorts whose smile can light up a room and tell you there is hope for the world. Just to demonstrate the kind of boy Hans-Otto was, on one of the quieter evenings in the club when we were discussing books, the bar girl asked him if the was any one quote from literature that he was especially fond of. I thought it kind of sweet that Hans-Otto picked the famous line by Anne Frank, regarding everybody being really good at heart. It’s not something I agree with, but at the time I liked hearing it.
I hadn’t heard from him since I stopped the rock n roll nights in favour of cabaret, which involved changing personnel and venues, but was happy to hear from him one evening when he called me and proclaimed his joy at finding employment.
“I’m working for a kind of a massage parlour driving the girls to and from their appointments,” he declared.
Without hesitation, I advised him against it. “One way or another, this will get you into trouble. I’ve seen it happen Hans-Otto. That world is not for you.” Did he listen to me? The hell he did. And so it goes . . .
One month in he’d started to befriend the girls, ordinary girls it seemed, primarily middle class young ladies from out of town, who’d hit the big city with foolish dreams and were now too proud to call home and ask their parents for money. For some there’s something about the act of grovelling to parents which makes it an option not to be considered. Then they get on the game, the money comes in and it becomes an occupation.
One Sunday night at 2am the phone rang. Hans-Otto. He faced a difficult decision. I told him to give me a minute whilst I gathered myself. Took the cell phone into the other room and left my girlfriend sleeping. “Alright,” I said. “What’s up?”
An older and rather motherly call-girl who it was his lot to chauffeur from date to date needed his help. The police had served her a subpoena to be a witness in a court case involving a serious crime. It involved some unsavoury types, including her boyfriend, and she was desperate to avoid testifying. A brutal attack had taken place on New Year’s Eve and she wanted him to go to the police station and sign a statement declaring she was with him that night. This would get her off the hook. What should he do?
“Don’t do it!” I repeated the order for effect, to wit no response was offered. “Are you listening to me? Do not do it.”
Did he listen to me? The hell he did. The next evening it was on my mind so I called him.
“It’s no biggie Peter, for Christ’s sake,” he quipped nonchalantly. “I went to the station and signed the form, was in and out in five minutes.”
And at first he was right. Nothing did seem to happen.
Three months later I walked into a bar with my girlfriend and saw Hans-Otto sitting alone, drink in hand, looking very depressed and even somewhat shaken. I slapped him on the back, and asked him, “Why so serious?”
The police had found out that the lady of the night wasn’t with him on New Year’s Eve and he’d been charged and found guilty of perjury. He was due back in court that Monday morning where his solicitor had told him to expect to commence a prison sentence of ten to twelve weeks.
And so it goes…
Hans-Otto glared at me and asked me straight out, “Why didn’t you stop me taking up the position when I told you about it?”
I put down my drink, turned and faced him. “Well I did Hans-Otto but I think you’re asking the wrong question, which should be this. When considering her cover story and who she could convince to lie for her, why did the lady pick you?”
He considered his answer. Frowned. “I don’t know. So tell me.”
“Because you’ve got a good heart in a bad world,” I replied. “Now grow up.”