Friday, May 07, 2004


This will be a modified old diary entry from March 5th, 2002. I know, another depressing post, you guys have to be really sick of it by now. I promise I try to come up with some uplifting stuff in the near future.
But, actually, I don't find this one as depressing as it may seem, because, bizarrely, something good came out of it.
These days I had to think much of my childhood, and of my buddies Dave and Hardy, and how amazing they made those days back then.
Occasionally I tell this story, because it has marked me. It has shown me what I had, and it has shown me who my friends are. Separating chaff from the wheat, there you have it.

Two years ago, when I still worked with the magazine, I suddenly had this impulse to call my old sandbox buddy Dave. It was weird, I felt I needed to call him.
I had forgotten that he had given his cell phone to his brother. so I caught Ray, and Ray told me that something had happened, and I could hear in his voice it wasn't anything good.
"What is it??" I urged.
"Call David!", he just said. "It's something he should tell you." He gave me Dave's number, and I dialled it. David picked up, and he was surprised to hear from me because we hadn't talked in ages, but especially because he had tried - unsuccessfully - to call me all day the previous day.
"What happened?" I asked.
David was silent for a minute. Then he said: "Hardy is dead."
My breath stopped. And this weird thing happened to me again, the same thing that happened when I heard about my dad's accident. That steel wall that went down around me.
David told me what happened, and I listened to him like the weather report.
Hardy has died half a year earlier. Of a brain tumor. David had just heard of it two days before we had this conversation. Even the way it came out was bizarre. Hardy's parents and one of Dave's old school mates' parents are neighbors and friends. So one day they were at Hardy's parents' place, with their son,
and casually began to talk about Hardy. They mentioned his death in a way like people mention a long-known fact. Except that Dave's buddy didn't know of it. "Hold on, wait a minute!", he apparently interrupted. "What was that??? Hardy is DEAD????"
"Didn't you know?", asked his parents.
"No, I fuckin DIDN'T!", he screamed. "When was I gonna hear about it???"
It was a complete and utter shock, and he called David immediately. Dave immediately burst out in tears.

The thing is, all of us hadn't seen Hardy in ages. It's the way it happens with old school friends. Eventually we have to go our separate ways, and we come to accept it, but that friendship never dies.
So when you meet, the 12-year-olds in us are still connected, and we get excited and silly and dig out old stories whenever we meet up again. Some things never change.
I hadn't seen Hardy in so long. I think the last time I saw him was when I met him in the street about five years ago... then before that I had just returned from my au pair year and had asked him to give me drawing lessons, because Hardy was the biggest artist ever. He had his first galleries at age 16. And still he failed the art class at school. We were all pissed off about that, because Hardy was a wunderkind in that respect, and it was an insult to him to draw the simplistic stuff they made us do. They knew he could do it... he just didn't do it because he must have found it so pointless. He did real art in the meantime... but that wasn't what the teacher had asked him to do. Shows how little the education system can say about someone's abilities.
He dropped out of school eventually, but in the end he still managed to go to Russia to study art at a prestigious art uni at St. Petersburg. He told me about the life in Russia. About how cold it would get, and how little people had, and that they would still share everything with their guests. Hardy had found that so humbling. I remember how he pissed off our Russian teacher at the time (who had a Missus Tingle reputation at our school, generations of students hated and feared her. I will tell these stories later), and how she kept telling him what a loser he was. What a kick in the face it would be for her, finding out that he moved to Russia and managed to cope just fine without her lessons.
And that day when Dave told me, I also found out that he had gotten married there.

Years later, I still can't believe Hardy is dead.
We were three in the gang, it was Dave, Hardy and me. Dave and Hardy were the two class clowns, the near-dropouts that were so much fun and of whom everyone told me they are bad company for me cos I got good grades and I let them distract me in class. But screw school, I think my childhood would have been poop without their company. My happiest memories were from that time I spent with them. Gosh, I got so many stories about what we did together. It still makes me laugh.

Hardy was the weirdo type in our school nobody wanted to have anything to do with. He was an outcast. I didn't like him before he came to our class, which was 6th or 7th grade, and that was my stupidity. I will share more about all this at some other time, it would just fill books. I really believe God placed him right next to me, we sat next to each other in class, because it taught me a lesson, and I am so grateful that we could be friends. He was such a cool lad.

Have you ever seen that movie "Stand by me"? I always loved that one. It's because it made me long for my childhood. Because it made me remember things. Because it reminds me of how beautiful and awesome that time was, and that one needs to cherish it because it is gone way too soon. When I first saw it when I was about 15, I was regretting that I hadn't had an adventurous childhood like those four boys. Stand by me made me dream about the enchanted time of that age, when everything is still mysterious and strange and makes you want to explore the world and cynicism hasn't set in yet.
I had no exploring in the woods, no camping outside. I was a city kid. But you know that the city is a jungle. And my adventures were just as great.
Dave, Hardy and me did so many things together. For instance, we drew cartoons together. Well, David and I did. As I mentioned, Hardy drew like Duerer. He drew like bloody Da Vinci.
I remember how Hardy ticked me off all the time when I was 13 and the biggest fan ever of The Neverending Story. He kept calling Bastian "Bastian the Dragon Fucker", and it would send me fuming. But then he would draw Bastian and Nimbly in the boat on the Silverlake for me. I still have the pic somewhere, and I will scan it in in the summer and post it.
We did all the pranks you can imagine. We spent all our allowance on whoopie cushions and other prank stuff, we broke into the nearby zoo through a hole in the fence and went for walks. We dined grandly in a restaurant,ordering the cheapest soup on the menu because that was the only thing we could afford, and then nicked all the sugar cubes, devouring them outside the restaurant.
David and Hardy recorded a “Moron Rap” when they were 13 with a cheap keyboard. They actually got an A from the teacher when they played it in our music class.
I don’t know where to begin. Dave and Hardy were clowns, and I can't say where they were on the popularity scale, and I don't think they ever cared. To me, they were the coolest people in the world! I was a nerd (so a weirdo as well). I was the good boring girl with the pig tails that got her good grades and lived in her imagination most of the time, because life out there was too complicated. And Hardy and Dave were the ones that always disrupted the class with their pranks and jokes, and that always were near flunking - and they were simply the greatest people in the world. They were the funniest and best friends I had. Like one has never again. Tell ya, I never had friends again like the ones I had when I was 12. ;)
Everyone told me not to hang with them cos they distracted me in class. But without them, I wouldn’t have that incredible amount of memories. It would have not been fun! They were the biggest blessing of my childhood.

It was the time when the Berlin wall went down and things changed a lot, and it almost came to a war and things were very tense politically, but you know, kids don't care about that kind of stuff. Our world consisted of the court of concrete blocks we lived in, and of the adventures we had in there.
Our gang, that was Hardy, David and me. Occasionally some other people, but the hard core, that was us. It was like the Musketeers. Like a magic circle. Like nothing could ever happen to the three of us.
And it feels like the circle is broken now.

I was crying all day that day. After David had told me, I remained calm. I was nearly astonished that it didn’t seem to touch me much. But then we had to go to the monthly prayer meeting, and as I sat down to pray, it happened again. God wiped away the barrier. Dammit, he always does that. When I pray, I can't be pretentious, it seems like God opens all the channels for the best connection. We're talking real stuff. Suddenly I started sobbing and couldn’t stop. This incredible sadness washed over me, and I got up and stumbled out of the room and broke down outside. Berit immediately came up to me and hugged me and asked what happened, and I could hardly talk. I sat down on the couch and couldn’t stop crying. I calmed down for a while, but when it hit home with me that Hardy had died so young, I started crying again.
When your friends die, the world suddenly seems a bit emptier and colder. You get painfully aware of your own mortality.

Later, my mate Stefan came by. He just sat next to me and didn’t say anything. Stefan and I were never the kind of Dawson's Creek buddies, all psycho-talk and emotional. But we kind of understood each other without words. He sat there with me for ages, just being a comfort by being present, wanting to be a friend, and I have never forgotten that. It meant so much to me.

Then, later, a bible student came and asked me what was up, and when I told him what happened, he suddenly started saying all this stuff that was like an icy shower. Like my hamster had died. “Well, people die, that’s the way it goes…”, that kind of stuff. I just looked at him aghast, like “What is wrong with you?”
Stefan’s reaction, though more quiet and less informative, was a lot more compassionate and human. What on earth made D. do this wisecracking?

I went down to the Zivihaus after dinner. I couldn’t stay alone.
I sat with Stefan, and he just listened and let me talk. And I couldn't cry anymore because I was just laughing about the stories, I was just happy about that I could be friends with Hardy and that he has enriched my life so much. I swear in all that sadness this was the greatest comfort, knowing that Hardy was still with me, and not forgotten. And I write this to remind myself and others that he will not be forgotten. That it was a blessing to have him with us, that he was an enrichment, that he is a reason why I love looking back on my life, being able to see good, good that outweighs the bad. I hope for everyone that they have or will have friends like that. And that they'll appreciate what they have, because it's not to be taken for granted.

Hardy is just a perfect example of good people always dying young.

In the Christian subculture, there is a lot of put-on "charity" with no heart in it. People can get so devout they forget to be human. It's that thing that turns me bitter. It's like that girl in "Saved" flinging her bible at another girl, shouting "I am full of Christian love!"
The thing is, some of us you can't kid. Some of us refuse to fall for that bollocks. I found my true friends that day. Berit, and Stefan, and all those who even managed to ask "Are you ok?"
It was not the people who sat like nailed to their chair, because it was more important to finish that prayer, and how dare I interrupt them. It wasn't the theologians and teachers and missionaries, who, as usual, are just good for preaching and nothing else. It wasn't the bible student who started philosophising about death and asking me if my friend was a Christian, implying that if he wasn't, he'd probably be in hell by now.
It was my friends with real faith and real heart, who were daily mopping the floor, washing the dishes and scrubbing 'holier-than-thou shit' out of the toilets, who did their best to be my friends no matter how awkward this situation may have been for them.

See, this may sound like I am an attention whore and pulled off this stunt to get someone to open a tin of pity for me. God knows I really don't want anything fake from anyone with no heart. God knows I didn't want this to happen, and I bear no grudges or anything... It was just one of those moments of insight that tell you something about people, that show you where you stand. You know what I mean?

So this is my message for the day.

Dig out your childhood memories, for your kids, too, and tell them. Write them down. Don’t let your Stand by me rot in your mind, get it out. Don’t let it get erased by time. It’s stories worth to be told.
Tell your kids. Before anyone laughs again at the weirdos in the school yard, try to find out who that person is. Be friends with them. They may be the most amazing people you’ll ever meet. They may turn your life around. They may make your childhood years of a Stand by me experience.

Because one day that chance will be lost forever.

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