Friday, October 06, 2006


(Splitterbrötchen, n., Berlin dialect for sweet German breadroll)

One day this last September, Dad and I drove past the Wernerbad, a public swimming pool in Mahlsdorf. What a surprise, like all the places connected to my childhood, this place is abandoned, overgrown by weeds, the building defaced by graffiti, a sickly version of what it used to be when I was in the single numbers.

To be honest, there were only about two or three times I can remember going there. Once with some girl friends, once with my older brother (always a bit of a weird deal; he took me places, and in return I had to endure him and his taunting whenever it pleased him. It wasn’t that I could run away – he was my ticket back home. And one of my greatest fears was to not find my way home. In my kid’s mind, being lost in Mahlsdorf equalled being lost in a South American rainforest; I was MILES from home and would never be found. I dunno why I ever went anywhere with my brother, maybe because he could be nice, but you would never know when he would get tired of it, and a) I was gullible, and b) he could be very convincing when trying to sell me one of his plans. Back to the story).

Once, we also went on a day trip with my class. Day trips were like bank holidays for school kids, they happened about two or three times a year, and instead of sitting in class, we would go somewhere nice. It wasn’t strictly academic all the time, either... some days, it would be field trips, but most of the time it would be pure entertainment, and you wouldn’t be quizzed on it.
We’d go to the movies, or the Pionierpalast, or in the woods somewhere. And this fine summer day, just before the summer holidays started, we went to the Wernerbad. We must have been in 5th grade or something, because I remember the particular teacher that took us. And like she usually did, she came up with yet another idiotic idea: that we all lump our lunches together and have a picnic.

I know, that sounds kinda nice. It probably is, too, in theory. And you can see the pedagogic value of it: bonding, learning to share, the works. But this is the real world, baby. And in this real world lived Robert. Robert, the sporty guy who would have been kinda pretty if he hadn’t been such an asshole. Girls tended to have crushes on him; I always despised him because he made my life hell. He was our teacher’s pet (our class teacher taught both biology and p.e., and any less sporty kid was an Untermensch in her eyes.) So Robert, who beat everyone in sprint, and who was at the other end of the speed scale from me (who always came in last, huffin and puffin) and rewarded me accordingly with disdaining eyes and comments of mockery, was her darling. Worse... I remember her saying to him what sexy legs he had... that was in 6th or 7th grade, but still! She always was a bit of a perv.

Anyways, so there we were, obediently emptying our lunchboxes onto a blanket. Apples and bananas tumbled about, and loads of wrapped sandwiches. And I immediately noticed the greed that sprung up in Robert’s eyes when he spotted my Splitterbrötchen (a sweet bread roll that I ate with butter and a sprinkling of salt; an orgasm in your mouth!). The fucker was after my Splitterbrötchen! All he had contributed was an insultingly ordinary boring pate sandwich. And he was an asshole, if I haven’t mentioned that yet. So the picnic was hardly a fair deal.

“Everyone ready to eat?”, our teacher hollered. Robert and I went into start position: leaning slightly forward, but not as to raise suspicion, raising our hands, ready to reach and grab in a split second. We only had one chance; we would get in trouble if we started fighting over food (it wasn't the proper thing to do for a young 'pioneer'). Our teacher had decided our lunches’ fates, and her word was law. In the spirit of communism, I had been disowned of my delicious lunch, and the only way to get it back was to be quick. Quicker than Robert. A challenge if there ever was one. But I was determined. Anyone but Robert! That fucker would only get my Splitterbrötchen over my dead body. He would have to pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

“Go!”, our teacher shouted. Robert’s and my hand shot forward like lightning. But Fortuna had smiled on me, nudged by the Goddess of Justice. When the dust settled, Robert emerged empty-but-scratched-handed... and me victorious, holding my Splitterbrötchen triumphantly like a crusader the head of the chief turk. Robert spat curses at me and called me a greedy bitch (hell, who is he to talk), but I didn’t care. Never had a Splitterbrötchen tasted sweeter and more delicious than under his hateful, envious eyes.

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