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The International Writers Magazine: Life Stories

Lisa Timmerman

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. I’m 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?

I’ve decided 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. I’m still hearing his voice in my head, shouting at me with contempt. The way he looked at me … it wasn’t him, those eyes weren’t his. From early on, I’ve heard everyone describing him as brave and selfless, because he put his own life at risk during the war to help others. I’m sick of hearing it. Even mum refers to it a lot, telling me how much I’m like him and how important it is to be a good person. I remind myself of his past so often, but it’s of no use. I can’t 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, you’re getting paranoid. I quickly climb up the last steps and open the door, but the feeling gets more intense. I stare inside the room. It’s bright up here, with no parts I wouldn’t be able to see from where I’m standing. Not scary at all, still there’s 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 won’t be successful, I will have to disappoint her once again. I won’t 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 can’t 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 I’m 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. It’s started to rain. The cat has disappeared, the mouse doesn’t move anymore. Are all humans just like cats and mice? I don’t want to hurt others and I don’t want to be trapped and pushed around, but there doesn’t seem to be any place in between the two, even if everyone tries to believe in it.
He couldn’t 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 wasn’t 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 weren’t as bad, did it only out of fear, out of shock at everything that was going on.

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 I’d never seen it. I’ve 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? Didn’t 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 I’ve felt before.
I won’t forgive him. The hope he gave me years ago can’t justify anything.

But what if I’d never found out? Would I not be happy, living a lie I wouldn’t know about for the rest of my life? Asking myself those questions, I realize it’s too late. I try to think of my mother, how pleased she looks whenever he tells those lies about his past, but it doesn’t help.

I rip off the chain he used to wear. The cross falls down on my foot, and I pick it up. I don’t know how long I’ve 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 I’ll tell whoever can bear the truth.

Or will I? Might this disillusionment fade away before it can make me act, and I’ll be like all those people I despise, deciding to repress the past in order to focus on the future, even if there really isn’t one?
© Lisa Timmermann December 2007
lisa.timmermann at

The Virus
Lisa Timmermann

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 Portsmouth

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