It’s not easy to keep ta bird’s eye view when you’re 15. If anything, it’s hard. Time doesn’t really matter, because, what’s another year – to quote the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest song I remember falling asleep to the night Johnny Logan won the whole thing – because so much can happen in a year. Ten years seems like an eternity and yet, you’re in such a hurry at the same time.
So, when I was fifteen, I found it hard to really see the consequences of my decisions, although, I have to say that had I sat down and thought about it, I probably would’ve understood it. I probably even did sit down and think about things, and thought I understood it, but didn’t.
Or, even if I did, I just didn’t get it. I didn’t feel it.
In my defense, life’s not a straight line and even if you do make good decisions at fifteen, you still have to make new decisions at twenty, and twenty-three, and fourty-two, and some of them may be polar opposites of the ones you made at fifteen.
One day, when I was fifteen, our German teacher missed one class. When he came to class later that week, he looked a little disheveled. He wasn’t wearing his nice cardigan, his corduroy pants were sagging, and he obviously hadn’t shaved for a few days.
I didn’t usually notice such things, but he looked so sad that even I had to pay attention to it. He also sounded exhausted and sad, and instead of running into the classroom, he dragged his feet and sat down in the teacher’s chair. And believe me, he never sat down.
Then he asked us to be quiet – nothing unusual about that part – and he told us ina monotonous voice that his house had burned down a few days earlier.
“And your tests were inside the house so I can’t give them back to you today as I had hoped and promised,” he said.
Now, it had only been a pop quiz, not a real test, but I knew I had done poorly. Maybe I had just blown off homework that week, maybe we had a hockey game, or maybe I watched Dallas instead of studying German, who knows, but I had not done well.
I knew that. I didn’t know if our teacher knew that. He didn’t say if he had gone through them before his house burned down. I didn’t ask.
I did feel sorry for him but I also had a guilty conscience for being relieved that we didn’t get our pop quizes back.
However, when it was time to choose our high school courses a couple of months later, I decided to drop German. I was told that it’d be too hard to combine German and advanced math and I pretended to believe that when in fact, I considered our teacher’s house burning down a sign from the universe. And the sign said, “You got a pass this time, but don’t push your luck.”
I think that’s what it said. It was in German so I can’t be sure.
And now, of course, I regret the decision to drop German. Because today, after many other important decisions and several life’s twists and turns later, is the German publishing day of the e-bookversion of my debut novel. It’s called “Wunderbar wie Jennifer” and I wish I could say something nice to all the Geman-speaking readers but the only thing I remember from ninth grade is “Ich habe kein Geld.”
“I have no money.”
Danke schön. May your house never catch fire.