We spent what was possibly – probably, okay, undoubtedly – the last day of summer at Müggelsee. You know, normally I get a bit worried I’m not having enough fun at the lake. I can be neurotic like that sometimes. I kind of accuse myself of not enjoying nature enough – like, every three seconds. It’s exhausting.
But not today, I didn’t. Nope. Today was my first day at the lake all fucking summer and it’s fucking September ALREADY. So, I really enjoyed myself. I couldn’t help it. I was really chilled out. I had my Fielmann prescription sunglasses on and everything. I felt like Anne of Green Gables crossed with Christopher Isherwood when he goes and lives with that Peter and the young, sexy lad out in that house in Brandenburg and they always go swimming in the lake, naked.
On the way home, my son said to me: “So, Mum, I’m a big boy, now. I’m gonna ask you something, and you can tell me the truth. Okay?”
I said: “Alright, go for it.”
I was totally expecting something sexual – he’s really obsessed with his penis at the moment – but then he goes: “Is the Supernanny really alive?”
I said: “Yeah. She’s alive, man.”
“What, really, Mum?”
“And has she got zooper magic powers, and she can kill the naughty kids?”
“Nah. She’s just, like, this woman on the telly, and she disciplines them and stuff. She puts them on the naughty step.”
“But the other Superpeople, they’re not really alive, are they?”
“No, they’re all made-up.”
“Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, they’re all made-up. Not really alive. Like Father Christmas.”
“Columbo? As in Lieutenant Columbo?”
“Yeah, I know he’s dead, but when he was alive, was he really alive?”
“No. He was made-up, too.”
“It was a TV show.”
“Yeah, I just thought he was really alive, coz, like, you always see how the murderer did it at the beginning.”
I shot Rico a worried glance. He thought Columbo was a documentary programme? Like a fly-on-the wall documentary programme? Really? Like a very detailed version of Crimewatch? For real?
“No,” I said. “It’s totally made-up. He’s a fictional character.”
“Okay,” he said. “Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Columbo. And Harry Potter. And Aslan from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. They’re none of them really alive. Or?”
“Yeah,” I said. “They’re make-believe. They’re made-up. They’re fictional characters.”
“And, Mum. What about Peter and Susan and Lucy and Edmund?”
“Oh, they’re made-up, too.”
“But the people in the film, they’re really alive, right?”
“They’re actors. They’re playing the characters. The characters are fictional. They’re made-up. But the actors playing them are really alive. They’re just actors. They’re acting. It’s like when you play Star Wars or the Berlin Wall or shopping. They’re just pretending. Only someone videos them.”
“You get it?”
“Yeah.” Rico sighed softly. “What about Hitler, Mum? He was really alive, wasn’t he?”
“I thought he was.” Rico gazed through the S-Bahn window for a few seconds. I looked at the trees he was staring at. They’re so tall and dark, those trees out there, they’re almost oppressive, sometimes. He turned to me and touched my chin with his grubby, spindly little hand.
“Mum,” he said earnestly. “How do you KNOW all this?”
I didn’t know what to say for a second.
“I’m not sure,” I said, biting my lip. Actually, I fairly gnawed on it. How did I know Columbo wasn’t real but the Supernanny was? For a second, just for one second, I couldn’t remember, not for the life of me.
“You probably learnt it in high school,” he said, and got this Lego figure of Anakin Skywalker out of his pocket and started playing with it on the tiny ridge between his seat and the window. “I’m only in Grundschule. We haven’t learnt all that stuff yet.”