Eberhard’s mom had German measles when she was pregnant with his sister, causing his sister to suffer from a variety of autoimmune diseases, loss of hair at a young age, rheumatism — now she needs a hip replacement, which is complicated by her dwarfism and requires custom fitting, all of which adds to the complexity and logistics of Eberhard’s life, caring for everyone around him, herding — warning us of speed traps, the consequences of violating off-street parking laws, making sure the recycling goes in the right bins — everything that comes from being the Burgermeister’s eldest son, left in charge of the house at a young age, the Dungeon Master’s keys.
Had to try to nap in the car in the airport parking lot in Stuttgart, to settle down. A hard day with Charlotte, our first “Field Trip Friday” planned for the zoo in Stuttgart, the city tour on a double decker bus — but we left the house late, realised neither of us even knew the German word for ‘zoo’ let alone the route there, and I won’t use the GPS because I don’t like being told what to do.
Instead, we followed pictures on signs that looked like an elephant or a wooly mammoth assuming that was the zoo, but got stressed by the kids misbehaving in the backseat and the enormity of driving around a major European city without really knowing the way — arguably more stressful than relying on electronic devices — and it was Eberhard on the phone the night before who insisted mom put me on with him, trying to explain about the construction there and that parking would be hard, but I couldn’t hear him because it feels like we can’t be trusted to do anything on our own, and so I waved him off despite the tension I could hear in his voice, like he was having trouble breathing, finding the right words in English.
We pulled into a parking complex inside a shopping mall, walked around, spent too long at the WC, bought sandwiches in the Bahnhof while Dawn tried to figure out how to buy tickets from a machine back to Besigheim since I would take the car on to Stuttgart to get my friend at the airport, and Dawn would take the train home with the kids.
But the train station didn’t look the same as Dawn remembered it and some of the departures left for Stuttgart which seemed weird because we were in Stuttgart, I even had blurry memories of the station now with Eberhard six years ago after the Cannstatt Volksfest eating döner kebap, waiting for the train, sneaking Ramazzotti — so we left the Bahnhof convinced we were in the wrong one, there must be a main train station elsewhere, and entered the Altstadt by foot — and though the sky was threatening rain we pressed on a good half hour until we came to a river, but none of it was on my map of Stuttgart, and finally I decided we weren’t in Stuttgart at all, we were in Bad Cannstatt.
Back to the car, we got out the GPS and navigated to the city, saw a crane on the skyline and deduced the train station must be there since they’re tearing everything up and redoing it, and after a lot more dicking around we found it, I pulled over and let them out, smiled, honked, waved, and made my way on to the airport, following pictures of a plane.
Hadn’t seen my friend Alex in 13 years and remembered him leaving the States around the time we declared war on Afghanistan, autumn coming on then, the feeling a shit show is about to start — and since then, Alex adopted a son, bought a couple houses in Bulgaria for like nothing, and looks about the same, like me, a touch slower, older, whiter.
And his son is a good kid but coming unglued on the drive home — because I didn’t use the GPS, I landed us right back in the middle of Stuttgart at Friday rush hour, traffic reduced down to one lane just like Eberhard said it would, and what should have been a 30 minute drive took two hours, and some man-handling of Alex’s three-year-old as he got himself out of the booster seat and threatened to open the car door.
We’re assembling to leave Monday morning and with the screams of children on the third floor, the rhythmic slamming of a 15th century door on an iron hinge, it sounds like the loop of a Haunted House soundtrack — and on to the restaurant up the street, the kids are gumming packets of Nutella like molluscs, eating it off the butter knives, drinking hot cocoa with teaspoons, and I try to be there and not at the same time because I have a hard time relaxing and think I’ve got some unique condition but maybe it’s just that I’m an ass.
And it’s like a horror movie where everyone points at me and makes some gurgling sounds with their throats and that’s how it ends, I die, incorporated by the rest and turned into a zombie who looks just like a normal person, it just leaves you with that feeling as the credits roll and the lights come up.