International Writers Magazine: Life Stories
Stories. I used to think they are a
part of this world, of reality. Now I realize they are only a means
to make you feel better or worse about yourself and to justify the
love or hatred you feel for your life and the world. Im so
scared. Scared that someday I might find out that human happiness
depends on living lies and never confessing the truth. But if there
are lies, will there be a future?
to hate my father again. Why can we still not get along? After the fight
I sit in my old room for a while, sit down on my bed and watch his cat
play with its latest victim. I realize I feel exactly the way I felt
when I was six, twelve, fifteen years old. How adult can you get when
you never say goodbye to the past?
Dusk has arrived early today, the sun has vanished behind some grey
clouds, and the air that fills the room through the half-open window
smells of rain. It reflects my discouraged mind. Im still hearing
his voice in my head, shouting at me with contempt. The way he looked
it wasnt him, those eyes werent his. From early
on, Ive heard everyone describing him as brave and selfless, because
he put his own life at risk during the war to help others. Im
sick of hearing it. Even mum refers to it a lot, telling me how much
Im like him and how important it is to be a good person. I remind
myself of his past so often, but its of no use. I cant help
but think that she needs it as an excuse to stay with him. The thought
of loneliness has always scared her.
Walking up the stairs to the attic, I feel observed, expected, condemned.
Stop it, youre getting paranoid. I quickly climb up the last steps
and open the door, but the feeling gets more intense. I stare inside
the room. Its bright up here, with no parts I wouldnt be
able to see from where Im standing. Not scary at all, still theres
something murky about the whole place and me being here.
I move to the middle of the room where all the boxes are standing, covered
in dust and some spider webs. I start opening a few cartons and look
inside them, but no luck. I search harder and harder until, eventually,
I realize that I wont be successful, I will have to disappoint
her once again. I wont find what she has asked me for. What I
find instead is a lot of old boring stuff from the Third Reich. I lift
the carton and put it down to my right to get access to the last one.
Again old stuff from the war. Underneath, some photos of him and Mum.
I take them out and look at them. How did they manage to look so happy?
I cant believe they might have ever been happy together. Tears
well up in my eyes, and I quickly turn to the next photo. I start to
shudder. A Jew being forced to dig his own grave, five SS men standing
behind them, laughing to each other. The picture was probably taken
by my father or one of his companions in the resistance movement. I
begin to wonder how much cruelty they must have seen. Can this make
me feel something for him again? Something other than hate? I take a
closer look at the sadistic faces of the SS men. What went on in their
sick minds? How could they enjoy those things?
When Im back in my room, the whole world has changed, and I feel
like I should have never gone upstairs. Suddenly things are much clearer
and still so confusing. I look out the window again. Its started
to rain. The cat has disappeared, the mouse doesnt move anymore.
Are all humans just like cats and mice? I dont want to hurt others
and I dont want to be trapped and pushed around, but there doesnt
seem to be any place in between the two, even if everyone tries to believe
He couldnt fool me.
Will I dare to tell him? Will I dare to tell her? Or does she know?
Was hat why she sent me up there? To finally learn the truth? Only one
of the men in the picture did not show his face to the camera. Maybe
he knew they were being photographed? Might there be a chance he wasnt
enjoying what he and the others were doing? I felt I was hoping too
much again, trying to make myself believe that some of them werent
as bad, did it only out of fear, out of shock at everything that was
At first, he just seemed strangely familiar to me, even though I only
saw his shape. Then, I noticed the chain the man was wearing. I kept
looking at the photo for a long time, only staring, feeling nothing.
I cannot move. I cannot put it back. I try to convince myself it is
not his chain. Not him. I begin to feel weak, stupid, helpless. I wish
Id never seen it. Ive worried about her for a good reason,
but now, surprisingly, I actually worry about him. Why did he do it?
I need this answer. Or, maybe, I need to accept that he would never
let me find it. Did he ever think, even for a second, that he might
be despised for it later on? Didnt he expect someone to find out?
Nobody was interested, no-one wanted to hear what he was so eager to
tell about his past, but still he lied. He told a fairy-tale that made
everyone smile, gave everyone hope, made everyone believe humans can
be good, decent, selfless. He became the hero figure in our little village,
useful to mention whenever you were in conflict with someone who was,
in your eyes, behaving selfishly (or not sufficiently to your advantage).
This feels so different from anything Ive felt before.
I wont forgive him. The hope he gave me years ago cant justify
But what if Id never found out? Would I not be happy, living a
lie I wouldnt know about for the rest of my life? Asking myself
those questions, I realize its too late. I try to think of my
mother, how pleased she looks whenever he tells those lies about his
past, but it doesnt help.
I rip off the chain he used to wear. The cross falls down on my foot,
and I pick it up. I dont know how long Ive been wearing
it. He gave it to me when he still liked me. He told me he wore it "during
those bleak times".
I will not forget this, and Ill tell whoever can bear the truth.
Or will I? Might this disillusionment fade away before it can make me
act, and Ill be like all those people I despise, deciding to repress
the past in order to focus on the future, even if there really isnt
Lisa Timmermann December 2007
lisa.timmermann at gmail.com
Kit got out of her car and immediately felt like killing someone when
she saw Jonathan sitting on the stairs of their school and flirting
with her nemesis.
Lisa is studying for her MA in Creative Writing at the University of
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