Violence it ripped through the old dogwood fence. See the hope, see the gravel.– Band of Horses: Cigarettes, Wedding Bands (2007)
I told you that my last serious fight before I discovered stealing had been with Hendrik, in June ’07. The peace lasted until next May. After that there really didn’t seem to be much point in good behaviour.
I was released from juvie that April. It was clear that my old school wouldn’t have me anymore. Their statistics are screwed up enough with drop outs, fights, and drug busts to put up with a convicted criminal like me. Since I was still over a year away from being released from compulsory school attendance, there was talk of putting me in a school for difficult teenagers. But that would have meant graduating with no more than GCSE equivalent, and probably not even that. My mum wouldn’t hear of that.
She left school with no more than a CSE equivalent, and she suffered from her lack of education all her life. She was determined that her own kids were all going to pass A-Levels. She had managed to get Lukas to succeed, and she had bossed ‘Nessa to go through with it. She would be damned if I was going to mess up her quota.
So she went to town, talking to people, asking around, writing letters, begging, cajoling, pleading, appealing to generosity, magnanimity, and playing on their sense of shame if necessary. And finally she convinced the administration of this one rich kids’s school in the Southwest of Berlin to give me a chance. It was my German-English bilingualism that gave me the opening. Since I entered in the middle of the school year they made me take a bunch of tests, though, to see if I was up to speed. I passed and was accepted.
The first day in the new school was awkward. My mum had made me dress in my best, and she had made me get a decent haircut, and I looked like a total dweeb. What I wore was nothing like what the rich kids wore. And even if one of my new class mates had given me a go at their wardrobe, it would have looked all wrong on me. I walked the wrong way, with too much swagger and rolling, and I stood the wrong way, too hunched and scowling, and I very obviously spoke the wrong way. I suppose you can take the delinquent out of Kreuzberg, but you cannot that easily take Kreuzberg out of the delinquent.
The form teacher introduced me with my full name, which I hated. Then he had me take a seat at the very front. I don’t know if that was out of convenience, because it was closest, or if it was to better have me under control, or if he intentionally sat me next to the other boy at that table. One look at him showed that he wasn’t there because he was a troublemaker. If anything he looked a bit like a teachers pet. I mean, he wore a pale yellow argyle patterned slipover over a button down shirt. What more can you say?
‘Great,’ I thought. ‘He sits me next to the only one who looks even dweepier than me.’
Then the boy smiled shyly and gathered up his book and pens to clear my side of the table.
“Hi. I’m Tim,” he whispered.
“Rikki,” I said, and offered my hand. He looked at it for a brief, confused moment, then he shook it. Turns out rich kids don’t shake hands. They just say “hi”. Another thing to make stand out.