After Yvonne left, they just didn’t talk about her. Alex thought it was their father’s compulsive need to control everything, Yvonne said that it was their mother’s ability to pretend that everything is alright. Yvonne left for her hippie commune a couple of weeks before Alex had to serve in the army and he viewed it as a betrayal.
“What do you mean, betrayal?” – Yvonne asked. Her and Alex were sitting on a windowsill a night before her departure.
He looked at her as if she was a bit daft.
“Don’t you want to work with Dad?” – she smiled and took a sip of stolen beer.
He looked at her as if she was a lot daft.
“Oh yes, serving in a military with my father. Amazing. Dream come true.” – Alex rolled his eyes. “I’m not sure I even want to serve in the army. It seems wrong somehow”
“Well you can always choose to do something else. I would take you with me but..”
“You hate me”
“I don’t. You just don’t believe in our ideals. And you always call commune a hippie nonsense”
It is a hippie nonsense, Alex thought, but decided not to say anything. Nowadays his sister was the only person who could kind of understand him and he didn’t want to piss her off.
“Maybe you’ll like the military base” – Yvonne said and held his hand. “Find some new friends. a nice girl”
“I don’t want to make friends with these stupid soldiers”
“Maybe you will like it”
He didn’t like it. The military base was nothing like home – it felt impersonal and squeaky clean and unfriendly. Everything was done by the protocol and Alex was yearning for something more, for something real. He didn’t find any friends, all of them seemed to view him only as the general’s son who didn’t do anything to deserve his position. So, he would spend his evenings reading books in near darkness, trying to understand Yvonne’s point of view, why was she so damn set on leaving them, leaving him. How could she put her ideals above her brother.
He started with the books Yvonne left for him, then going further, reading books that were generally frowned upon. Obtaining every piece of information and feeling the knowledge seeping through his fingers and finding himself agreeing with some points he knows his father could never agree with. It made him feel like a rebel. It made him feel like he was doing something important. It made him feel like Yvonne.
One day, a couple of months after he arrived to the base, an officer came into his room and told him make it look presentable – his father’s oberleutnant was coming today and was going to live with him.
“Why does he have to live with me?” – Alex asked his father during lunch. “There is plenty of space elsewhere”
“Because I want him to have a good influence on you, Alexander. Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing by yourself. Reading all these books won’t do you much good” – nonchalantly answered his father. “Maybe you will like it”
Alex tries not to like Moritz but it was too damn hard when the guy was just a personification of an overgrown puppy who doesn’t know basic things and seems permanently confused. Moritz is adorable and funny and curious about everything and Alex gets the same feeling he got when his sister would bring boys home and he would look at them from the top of the stairs endlessly intrigued by the possibilities. Moritz asks about Alex’s father and Alex knows he should keep his mouth shut but Moritz’s eyes are sparkling and he has this stupid lopsided smile and his presence makes Alex feel a little bit warmer.
So he talks and he talks and he talks.
He talks about his childhood filled with tears and restrictions and lonely evenings spent with homework.
He talks about his mother, his helpless stupid mother who chose an illusion of happiness over real happiness.
He talks about his sister, the only real warm thing in his life, whom he never felt close to, except for those nights filled with screaming and broken glass and hiding under a bed.
He talks about his father. He can’t seem to shut up about his father. The years and years of resentment being brought to life by Moritz Stamm and his damn big understanding eyes.
Alex tells Moritz his entire life story and tries not to feel hurt when he gets nothing in return. Moritz’s past is a mystery to him, a mystery he desperately wants to know but can never get enough courage to ask – where did he study, what is his family like, what does he think about the political situation, does he have a nice girl back home and does he get the same feeling in his stomach when it’s a middle of the night and they lay in Alex’s bed and whisper about nothing and somehow about everything.
Alex is easily infatuated with Moritz, spending every minute with him, hanging onto his words like a prophecy.
“You spend an awful amount of time with Stamm, don’t you?” – his father asks during a family dinner.
“He’s a good friend” – answers Alex, casting a quick glance towards his sister.
“Yes, Yvonne seems to think so too”
“He’s very charming” – Yvonne smiles into her glass and looks at Alex. She didn’t have to say, “Don’t you agree” but he heard it as clear as day.
“A very proper young man” – agrees his father. “Maybe he will show you the right way”
Moritz doesn’t show him the right way, but encourages his activism. When Alex reluctantly says that he wants to visit a lecture at the Bonn university Moritz seems to not even care how controversial it is, but encourages him.
“Maybe you will like it”
Alex doesn’t like the meeting at the university. He loves it. Being surrounded but so many people who actually think like him and they are actually doing something – not just spend their days wishing they could do something great.
He is enamored with everything – from their slogans to their passion to their leader – professor Tischbier. Tobias is a quick substitute for Moritz – he seems grander than life, absolutely captivating and Alex finds it hard to breathe when he’s around. After a few meetings, Alex seemed to catch his attention and he is swept into the life of his political group and he finally feels like he’s doing something useful. Tobias is the light of the group and everyone wants to speak to him and know his opinion but sometimes he leans into Alex and listens to his stupid ideas and to have his full attention is intoxicating.
He puts his hand on Alex’s shoulder when they sit together, and Alex feel like he’s on fire.
He dismisses his friend (very close friend) in order to explain something to him and Alex can’t help but smirk at the poor guy.
He gives him tickets to a movie and says that they should see it together.
“Maybe you will like it”
Alex doesn’t like the movie, he has no idea what it was about.
He spends the first fifteen minutes panicking about saying something stupid and embarrassing himself and not living up to Tobias’ expectations.
He spends the next fifteen minutes watching in slow motion the movement of Tobias’ hand towards him, his knee, his thigh, his hand.
The next fifteen minutes he spends in an alley behind a movie theater dry heaving and clawing at his throat and wishing he wasn’t so damn weak.
Later, much later after going home and looking at his reflection for an hour, after his quarrel with his father, after aimlessly walking around the streets, his legs bring him to the only place he desperately didn’t want to go.
He sees Tobias and his knees go weak and his head starts spinning.
He comes up to Tobias and he feels like a moth flying too close to the light.
He kisses Tobias and he lets himself be absorbed by his light.
Tobias smiles into his mouth. Tobias takes his hand and his bag and leads him to the house and throws him on the bed and takes off his clothes and with that all of Alex’s common sense. Tobias whispers in his ear: “Let me try something. Maybe you will like it”
And he does like, loves it actually, desperately and dangerously like he’s found something he’s been searching for his whole life. But Tobias leaves before Alex wakes up so he digs himself in his clothes and his smell trying to bring something they had the night before. Then Tobias comes back and kisses him like he means it like Alex wanted to be kissed for the longest time. Alex feels a clawing in his chest and can’t swipe a silly smile off his face and is this what love feels like? Is this what Yvonne was reading about in her girly books as a teenager? It must be love if he can’t breathe next to him and wants to be closer, so incredibly close so they become one and he could weave a nest inside Tobias’ chest.
But it can’t be love if Tobias is screaming at him and tells him all the things he hoped to never hear again – come back to the base, play nice to your father, don’t waste your life away. So Alex screams and cries and leaves – to the only place that still has a bit of love and warmth – his sister’s arms.
Later, much later he is back where he started. He is at the base again, he’s wearing the uniform again, he’s doing as ordered again. Moritz smiles at him as if he knows what he’s going through and after the day at the bordello Alex feel incredibly close to him, maybe closer than before. There is a line of protesters in front of the base and everyone is making jokes that they’re here for Alex. Moritz doesn’t laugh, he smiles his stupid lopsided smile and whispers: “There is nothing left to lose. Maybe you should go there. Maybe you will like it”
So, Alex throws his conscious to the wind and into his father’s face. The protestors make him feel alive again, seeing Tobias makes him feel stronger than ever. And then it all comes crashing down.
Of course, it wasn’t love, thinks Alex, how can it be love when he never wants to see me again. When he gave me a decease. Of course, it wasn’t love when Tobias walks away and all he feels is pure fear for his life.
Then, he leaves the base and the protesters behind without a second thought.
Then, a nurse tells him he’s very likely to die.
Then, a man with a nice suit and not a nice smile tells him that the only man he ever came close to trusting is a spy.
“We are starting an investigation into Moritz Stamm” -says the man, gathering his papers. “You should help us with the evidence. Maybe you will like it”
Maybe he will.