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Frau Möser

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Berlin had changed a lot in the last century, and Frau Möser had been through it all. She was born during World War II, and even though she was a baby, she remembers those years vividly. After the war came the peace, and after the peace, the Wall. She was there when they tore it down. She danced, she sang, she celebrated. Life in Berlin would never be the same again.


The city that once had been the center of the world was now a multicultural, never-sleeping metropolis that was home to almost all nationalities and ethnicities on the planet. She was now eighty years old and lived alone in the apartment that had been her home for almost fifty years. Her husband had died, her children had moved away. Luckily, the neighbors were nice, and they had a nice community where they all cared for each other.



She still remembers the day Maria and Jano Belin moved in. They were carrying a quite big TV up the stairs when she almost ran into them. Surprisingly, they were extremely nice about it and introduced themselves as the new neighbors from the second floor. They were a young and good-looking couple and brought her cookies a few days after, introducing themselves.


The Incis and them clicked instantly. She could often hear them all across the hall, at the Incis’ home, having dinner and playing games. After a few years, both couples got pregnant and had children, only a few months apart. As if they had planned it, as if it was meant to be. A very loud blonde called Sascha was born in the middle of August and Ismail, a beautiful, dark-haired boy with curly hair was born the first week of October.


She was delighted with having children around again and could not wait to see them grow up before her eyes.


It was a cold and moist November afternoon. It wasn’t even six o’clock, but the sky was dark already, as it was always in Berlin during this time of the year. She was in the garden watering her tomato plants and picking some cucumbers for dinner when the two kids walked inside the garden from the street, followed by Ayla Inci. The families took turns bringing and picking up them from kindergarten, and she could hear them in the hallway every morning waiting for the other one and leaving.


Ismail and Sascha loved to sing first thing in the morning and she had gotten used to eating breakfast to Rolf Zuckowski songs sung badly by two three-years-olds. However, she found them very sweet. They were both very talkative and were always extremely curious about whatever she was doing, especially when she was working around in the garden.


“Frau Möser, what are you doing?”

“I’m picking up some vegetables for dinner tonight.”

“We have plants in our kindergarten too, we planted some flowers today!”, Ismail said cheerily.

“But they will not grow until spring”, continued the other boy, “so we have to wait”. 

“It will be a nice surprise when you can finally see them. Beautiful things take time”, she replied, and greeted Ayla. She nodded amicably, and she offered her an eggplant from the garden. 

“Come on, kids, it’s late. Good evening, Frau Möser, and thank you again”. They disappeared into the building, she followed after a few minutes. 


God, how she missed her grandchildren.


The Easter holidays were in full bloom. Half of the building was away, half of Berlin was away. Frau Möser was happy, her daughter and grandchildren had actually come to Berlin and were staying with her for the week. Anna and Jonas were young adults, so they spent most of their time partying or sleeping. Her favorite time of the day was when she got to sit on the balcony with her daughter, having coffee, and enjoying the nice weather after a long cold winter.


The Incis and the Belins had not left for the holidays, so the two kids spent their off days playing in the garden. While she explained all about their families to her daughter, Frau Möser watched the kids play happily with the mud in the planter boxes. It had rained that morning, and that made the perfect opportunity for them to play one of their favourite games: Mud Towns.


“That kid’s gonna be a gardener”, she told her daughter, referring to Ismail. “He is so interested in plants. Always asks me about what I’m growing. Sometimes he even tells me the names in Latin!”


In Mud Towns, Sascha was the builder and Ismail was the gardener. The game was easy, they had explained it to her once one time they were all in the garden: Sascha built the houses with mud and wooden sticks, and Ismail, or Isi, as he called him, collected leaves and sprouts that decorated them and made them look nice.


It was mesmerizing to watch them play. They understood each other so well and could have so much fun with the littlest of things, spending hours in the garden until their parents called them from the balcony.


“You make a good team”, she had told them, “when I no longer can take care of my plants I’m gonna leave them to you”. They looked at each other happily and did a high five.


Umut, the Incis’ younger boy, had told her about it one afternoon she was babysitting him: “I think they don’t want to live together anymore. Sascha’s dad is gonna move away”.


She had suspected something, of course. In the last few months, their kid was spending more time than usual at the Incis and she could hear the couple yelling at each other every other day. She was worried about how all of this could affect Sascha.


There was an afternoon when he heard the two boys talk to each other. They were pre-teens already, with all that it brings: weird stubbles, hairy arms and legs, attempts to be cool and trying too hard to leave their childhood behind. The boys were standing by Ismail’s door, presumably back from school, and she could see them through her peephole. She felt like a nosy old lady, but wasn’t that actually what she was?



“What’s up?”

Sascha didn’t reply and started to tear up.


“My dad is moving to Frankfurt. He has already found an apartment and is moving out next week.” That poor boy, how much time had that been bottled up?


“Like, I didn’t expect it to go this quickly. I feel like so much is going to change now…”

“Are you going with him?”

“What? No, I’m staying here. I would never leave. But I’m gonna go visit him and stay with him during the holidays”

“But Frankfurt sucks.”

“I know.”


They didn’t say anything else. Ismail hugged him, and Sascha started to cry. That was her cue to go back to the living room.



Frau Möser didn’t like Ismail’s new friends, especially the blonde one. They were loud, annoying and obnoxious. The first time they visited they almost broke the plant she had by her door. 

“They are teenagers. You were like this once, too”. She tried to convince herself to give them an opportunity, but the first impression was already there. She was too used to the quiet.


Ismail and the blonde one once came in at three o’clock in the morning. They were playing loud music on a phone, what woke her up - being an old lady had turned her into a light sleeper.


“Dude, turn the volume down! You’re gonna wake up the whole building”, Ismail said between laughs.


Maybe the blond friend was going deaf because he did not react and turned the volume up instead.


“Turn it down!”, repeated Ismail, now visibly annoyed, “Consti, dude, turn it down. There are old people living here”.

“Okay, man, chill!”, he mocked him. “I didn’t know you were an old person too”

Ismail looked upset. He was not expecting that reaction. “I think… I’m gonna go to bed” 

“What? Really? You bring us here to get beers and now you want to sleep?"

“I can give you the beer if you want. I’m just tired.”

“Dude, I thought you were cool.”


“Whatever”, interrupted the other boy. “Booooring. I’m leaving. Hit me up tomorrow if you don’t spend the entire day drinking tea or playing guitar”.


The blond boy -Consti- left abruptly, without giving him time to reply. Ismail looked upset and confused. He checked his phone, took a look upstairs and went home.


She definitely didn’t like Ismail’s new friends.


It was a humid September afternoon. Autumn was quickly coming to the city, leaves were starting to turn brown and she was feeling the cold in her bones. Especially in her knees.


Ismail and Umut were helping her carry her groceries upstairs when they ran into the Belin boy. He had been away for the summer and she hadn’t seen him in a while.

“Hey”, he said, in a very cautious voice.

“Hello, Sascha! Long time no see, how are you?”, she replied.

“Hi”, said Ismail, quietly. 

“Very good, thanks. I was just leaving to the youth center.” 

“Your mother said you’re studying to be a carpenter, right? It suits you.” It really did. That boy had always been into building things and repairing broken objects.

“Yes. I really like it.” He smiled, then turned to Ismail, “What’s up?”

“Not much. School and all that”

“You could come by the youth center sometime. I think you’d like it there”

“I… have a party tonight.” Ismail looked away. He looked ashamed of something she did not understand.

“Okay, cool then. See you around, I guess”, Sascha replied quietly. He ruffled Umut’s hair, wished everyone a nice day and left.


Ismail looked taken aback. “Are you two not friends anymore?”, she dared to ask, “you used to play together all the time”.

“I honestly don't know”, he replied, and went silent. 




She used to say that having lived in Berlin since the 1940s, she had already experienced everything and nothing could surprise her anymore. However, she was not expecting a pandemic to come and turn the world upside down. At her age, she liked to spend most of her time indoors. She was not afraid of death, since she had already seen and done everything. She just refused to die of something completely avoidable.


The balcony was her window to the world. How many things had happened in that garden? She didn’t plant vegetables anymore as she had trouble walking, but she liked to observe the plants and the flowers and whoever was passing through.


Berlin during the summer was something else. It was a warm, beautiful day of August and the Incis and the Belins had been grilling in the garden, apparently celebrating Sascha’s 18th birthday. The three adults were chatting and sipping wine at the table they had placed outside, covered in Turkish food and empty cake plates. Umut was playing some video game sitting next to his mother, and Ismail and Sascha were sitting on a bench, a few meters away from their parents, playing guitar and singing, looking visibly happy.


They had grown out to be handsome young men. It seemed like this year they had become close friends again, as she kept seeing them together all the time. It was either Sascha knocking on the Incis’ door or Ismail going up the stairs. Or both of them going down to the garden where they would just hang out, play guitar, check plants and trees or drive away on Sascha’s cargo bike from his work.


Umut would join them sometimes. He was growing up fast and would soon be taller than his brother. He always looked so pleased to be hanging out with them. The younger boy wasn’t as interested in music and landscaping as the other two were, but he would listen to whatever they were saying in awe, just eager to learn new things and happy to hang out with them.


A laugh made her come back to reality. Whatever had been said, had been very funny because the two boys could not stop laughing. Their parents smiled at each other with knowing looks and kept sipping on their wine glasses. 


The fireworks had been going on all night and she couldn’t sleep. As she got up to get a glass of water, she noticed through her peephole that the hallway light was on. Who could it be this late?


It was Sascha and Ismail -Isi, he had told her last week, when she knocked on their door to wish them a merry Christmas-, walking hand in hand and visibly tipsy. 


This was not news to her. She had seen them kissing last week, on Christmas night, when they also came home late. That, somehow, had also not been a surprise. She had always felt that those kids were connected somehow, made for each other, and nowadays boys get with boys and girls with girls or so her grandchildren keep telling her.


She was happy to see them happy. They both brought the best in each other, there was no better match.


They stood close to each other by the Incis’ door.

“Happy new year”, they kept whispering to one another, between laughs and sweet kisses.

“Does your mother know you came?”, Isi asked Sascha.

“Yes. But I told her I might sleep at yours.”


“Good”, repeated the smaller boy, mocking the other and making him laugh.

“Sascha. You’re the best. I love you”

“Maybe I am”


“And I love you too”

They kissed again, slowly this time, hands meeting ribs and necks, melting into each other.

“Good. Let’s go inside now, we don’t want to wake up Frau Möser”