My ex-boyfriend comes over to pick up his post and we’re, you know, perfectly civil to each other.
“I’m just gonna write one last blog about you,” I say, politely. “Just one last one and then I’ll stop.”
“I’ve got a really good idea,” he says. “Just write it and send it to me and then write another one that’s not about me which you actually publish? I was going to mention this plan before but I thought you’d probably put that in the blog so it wasn’t worth it.”
“I mean, if you specifically don’t want me to blog about you anymore, then of course I’ll stop.”
“Good. Great. Yes, that’s what I want, basically.”
“I’ll just do one last one, and then I’ll stop forever. If that’s what you, you know, specifically want.”
Peter shoots me a worried glance. “Could you write that the sex wasn’t that bad? It wasn’t that bad, was it? It would be great if you’d just mention that the sex wasn’t always that bad.”
I shoot him a withering glance. I may have used this metaphor more than once, but think the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when Edmund says the snow is melting.
“You should’ve eaten me out more,” I say, viciously.
“Okay,” he says. “Fair enough.”
So, here’s my last ever blog about Peter. Here are seven things you actually need to know about him:
1) Tree Advice
Once, at dinner, a friend of mine asked him for tree advice.
“Peter,” she said respectfully. “Our Hinterhof doesn’t get much sunlight. It’s very dark. It doesn’t get much sunlight at all. What kind of tree would you recommend planting in our backyard, you know? What kind of tree flourishes best without sunshine? It’s really very dark back there.”
Peter nodded and blinked. Then he nodded and blinked some more. He was very rodenty, Peter was. He always looked like he was gnawing at something. Then he said, thoughtfully: “What about a plastic one?”
2) At the Berlinale
So, one time, at the Berlinale, we watched a very bad film from South Africa, and I wanted to leave straightaway, even though the film director was doing a Q&A. The film had been such a pile of crap, I wasn’t interested in what the director had to say.
“Come on,” I hissed at Peter. “Let’s go.”
He whispered back, but without moving his lips much: “We can’t go. It’ll really hurt the director’s feelings. He’s come over all the way from South Africa.”
I whispered back: “Why should we care? That film was the worst thing I have ever seen in my life, and I once saw a tampon stuck into dog shit, like it was the flake in a 99.”
Peter didn’t speak for a few seconds. Then he looked at me, and said slowly and clearly: “That was a very, very bad film. But it wasn’t as bad as Apartheid. And anyway, you don’t have to actually listen to what he says. Just sit there quietly and recite your times tables in your head. That’s what I always do, whenever I’m bored.”
3) Complaining about stuff
Peter never complained about stuff in restaurants. Bad service or bad food or stuff. I really liked that, coz I hate complaining, too.
“God, this chicken is bad,” I’d murmur to him discreetly in a restaurant which was blatantly so expensive that we would have been morally, legally and spiritually justified in complaining.
“Mine too,” he murmured back. “Mine is… horrendous. I’m totally having a Proustian moment, only not in a good way.”
“I think this has our salt allowance for the whole month in it,” I told him. Suddenly the waiter appeared.
“All okay?” he asked, and we both smiled at him manically, a kind of Liz-Jones-as-a-corpse type manic grin.
“Absolutely delicious!” we replied in unison.
As soon as the waiter had left, Peter pushed the food away from him in vague disgust.
“Mine’s inedible,” he said.
“Mine is, too,” I said.
“You’ve only eaten a quarter of it. You better eat a bit more. What if the waiter asks you if there was something wrong with it?”
I started squashing the food around the plate and hiding some of it underneath the decorative lettuce.
“I might be a recovering anorexic,” I said.
“We could always get a kebab later, if we’re hungry,” said Peter.
“Exactly,” I said, and we sat in silence for a few moments.
“Imagine if one of us were normal,” I said. “Imagine if one of us was a normal person. Wouldn’t that be awful? We’d, like, complain to the waiter and then there’d be this hideous confrontation.”
“Yeah,” said Peter. “That’s one of the things I hate about hanging out with normal people. They complain to the waiters about stuff. The only thing I would find more unbearable than eating one more mouthful of that inedible chicken is the thought of actually complaining about it.”
I sighed sadly. “Let’s just never come back here,” I said.
“We could always write a bitchy review about them on Qype.”
“Yes,” I said. “If we remember, and can be bothered.”
“We better not,” said Peter. “It might just be a one-off.”
“We could always go and get a kebab before the cinema?” I said, hopefully.
“Yeah,” he said. “We always could.”
4) Slightly racist competitions
We used to have only slightly racist competitions with each other about who had the most Muslim friends. They were only slightly racist. Honest.
“So, I’ve got an Iranian friend now,” I’d say. “Have I told you about my Iranian friend? My new Iranian friend.”
“Yeah, you mentioned you met an Iranian girl in Prenzlauer Berg after a reading. But I’m not sure that Iranian girl counts, to be honest,” Peter would say. “How many times have you met up, exactly? My Turkish friend invited me to his birthday party. You know – my Turkish friend.”
“My Iranian friend has also invited me to her birthday party,” I’d say. “And she’s lent me a DVD. I’ve now been lent DVDs by two different Muslim friends – that French-Algerian girl lent me a DVD too. Hers is in bloody French, though, I’m never gonna watch it.”
“Well, my Egyptian friend wants me to go to the cinema with him,” Peter said.
I’d been just about to say something, but that took the wind out of my sails. I looked at Peter and said quietly: “What?”
“My new Egyptian friend wants me to go to the cinema with him,” Peter repeated.
“What, just the two of you?”
“Oh, fuck,” I’d say, breathing out slowly, totally exhausted, but magnanimous enough in defeat. “Just the two of youse. At the pictures. Fucking hell. You are definitely winning our ‘Only Slightly Racist Muslim Friend Competition.'”
5) Germans all being Nazis
He thought Germans were all Nazis, but not in this bitter, resentful, expat kinda way, but in a joyful, relaxed, really good-natured way, coz he was half-German himself. He also really accepted it that Germans all thought that we expats all thought they were Nazis. He was just really jolly and cheery about the whole Germans being Nazis issue in general.
After a dinner party, in the cab on the way home, I’d be dissecting the casual racism and/or mild Islamophobia of all the other dinner party guests. I was like a lab technician. But Peter, he’d just be chuckling away cheerfully.
“Did you hear what that Nikolas said about schools in Neukölln?” I’d say. “Did you not think that was slightly Sarrazin of him?”
“Oh,” Peter would say airily. “They just can’t help being a bit Nazi, these Germans. It’s not their fault. I think it might be in their genes. And plus, it is very depressing, being German, Jacinta. You don’t know how depressing it is. Looking through old photo albums. ‘Oh, here’s Opa, marching into Poland.’ It’s very depressing, knowing you are actually related to a load of actual Nazis. You don’t have any idea of what it’s like, your Granddad just did Dresden. It’s really depressing. And then, you know, you spend so long getting depressed about how your Opa was a Nazi that one day you wake up and you can’t talk about immigration normally anymore. Anyway,” he looked at me carefully, “you don’t send Ryan to school in Neukölln, do you?”
“I know I don’t send Ryan to school in Neukölln,” I said sulkily. “But he didn’t need to get so vitriolic about it.”
“While you were on the balcony smoking,” Peter said, “he started going on about how Turkish kids dangle their key-rings in an aggressive, non-European manner.”
I narrowed my eyes in disapproval, but Peter actually laughed with delight. “He thinks Turkish boys have an aggressive manner when they dangle their key-rings. I bet Thilo Sarrazin wishes he’d thought of that one. Maybe the next edition of the book will come out with a special chapter on key-ring dangling methods.”
He used to always try and get me to watch non-international football, you know what I mean? Not the Landesspiele, the other ones: Bayern-Münich and people like that. He always wanted me to watch the games with him, and I never wanted to, I dunno, I find it easier to concentrate if it’s England against Slovakia or Scotland against Georgia or something. But he always wanted me to watch the games with him, and he’d try to get me into it by telling me who had had an impoverished childhood and/or experienced racism recently.
“Him,” he’d say, of some player or other. “He had a really shit childhood. They didn’t have enough money for football tickets, or football boots, or decent food, or school uniform. He had a really impoverished childhood. And last month, some Polish fans hurled racist abuse at him.”
“Really?” I’d say, pulling a foot up, so I could fidget with my big toe-nail. “Was he upset?”
“He was devastated,” Peter would reply. It worked three and a half times. We were together for six years and in that time I watched three and a half games of football that weren’t, you know, international. I know the non-Landesspiele football is actually better, but when a whole country’s playing, it’s like a mini-war and that kind of makes it more interesting. But he never stopped trying. He always tried. Every single game. It was nice of him to try, I always thought.
7) Inspector Clouseau
The first night we ever had sex, he dressed up like Inspector Clouseau and then fell over. I didn’t know who Inspector Clouseau was, but I thought it was a good outfit. He dressed up like Inspector Clouseau, fell over, and then he crawled into bed.
“You better take your hat off,” I said. Then he passed out. He was very drunk. It was the start, I’m sure you’ll agree, of a beautiful relationship. Kind of.