“Are you gonna always live in Germany, Mama?” Rico asked me at dinner the other day.
“No,” I said. “When I’m 50 I’m going to move to New York and live in a loft type flat and write a novel.”
“How old will I be, Mama, when you’re 50?”
“Oh. I’ll already have two kids by then.”
“Yeah, coz I’m planning on getting married pretty young, actually – when I’m 20. That’s pretty young, isn’t it? And I’ll have a kid at 21 and another kid at 23 and then I’ll stop. And Mum, I don’t mind if my wife is gonna have a job. If she wants to have a job, I don’t mind. But I’m gonna join the army.”
“You’re gonna join the army?”
“Yeah. I’m gonna join the army. But I’ll come and visit you in America, with my kids. Then they’ll be able to talk English, German and American. We’ll come and visit you in the attic. In the holidays.”
“Good,” I said.
I thought about this conversation when a friend asked me what it was like being a mother.
“It must be nice,” he said. “It must be nice, having somebody else needing you to survive.”
But I don’t know if nice really covers it. It’s kind of horrible, really, I always think. You can never properly fantasize about suicide. Like, you’re in the middle of a nice, satisfying, almost relaxing suicide fantasy – all your arsehole friends, fucked-up family and neglectful colleagues are gathered together at the morgue, draped in black, wailing like Palestinians, cursing themselves for not having a) invited you to more Grillpartys and b) taken you more seriously as an artist. You’re really enjoying yourself basically, but there, in the back of your head, at the back of the mortuary, you see this little kid who hasn’t brushed his teeth, whose nails need cutting and whose socks don’t fucking match.
“IT’S YOUR MOTHER’S FUCKING FUNERAL, FOR FUCK’S SAKE, RICO,” you scream from the grave, “YOU COULDA PUT SOME MATCHING FUCKING SOCKS ON.” He blinks, confused, his eyes are all watery and grey, like a Brandenburg lake.
“You didn’t put them on my bed,” he says. “You always put the socks what I have to wear on my bed, with my underwears.”
“Underwear’s a collective singular,” you tell him, realizing that this suicide fantasy has to be abandoned once and for all.
All those mothers who do all that mad shit to their kids – knocking them over and knocking them down, covering the bruises with Nutella, feeding them carpet, force-feeding them Kacke, or just killing them at birth and burying them in little tubs of cement on the balcony – why don’t they just kill themselves, these women? Obviously a part of them thinks that it is more motherly to abuse their kids themselves than to leave them to the world, like Hansel and Gretel, so obviously part of them thinks their kids are better off being coated in bruises and Nutella by their own mothers than wearing odd socks to their mother’s funeral. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they’re insane and that. But still. It’s probably totally natural, in a way, like when cats eat deformed kittens.
“It’s not a ‘nice’ feeling,” I said. “It’s kind of beautiful, and it’s kind of exhausting, but mainly exhausting. And once you accept how exhausting it is, it’s kind of okay. Kind of.”
“I always thought it must be really nice.”
“Ach,” I said. “It’ll be over in what? Five years anyway. Five, six years. Or, like, 14 years, tops. It’ll be all over in 14 years, anyways. There’s a limit to how nice you can find it when you know it’s gonna end anyways. He won’t need me anymore, soon. He’ll be gone.”
“But he’ll always need you a little bit, won’t he?”
“Not Rico,” I said. “He wants to join the army. And plus, he’s planning on getting married pretty young.”