Updated: Jul 13, 2021
It was the last day of school before summer vacation started. I had finished the seventh grade and was on my way home. I stopped by the back corner of the school building near thick bushes and a small stone house that served as a power supply.
During school vacations, we would hang out there and drink mixed beers that a bum bought us from the liquor store. We smoked joints, hookah, or deodorant bottles and threw firecrackers into the gardens of the surrounding neighborhood. Sometimes we did this during class breaks, before or after school.
Thinking back to these times I winced and someone called my name.
"Alex! Hey Alex, I'm here, can you see me?” It was my old friend Max. He was crouched against the wall behind the bushes with his hoodie pulled over his face to avoid being recognized by any of the teachers.
Since last fall, he had been living in a closed psychiatric institution for troubled children and adolescents, where his parents had sent him after he had smashed up the house including the expensive furniture, sculptures, and artwork in it.
He was one of these kids you could consider wealth-warped. He had a rich parental home. Filthy rich. His father was a big shot in politics. Head of one of those so-called “democratic” parties. An animal, a big earner. No sense of humor.
He wanted his son out of the way to maintain his clean political image in front of his wealthy peers and the public so that he could continue throwing decadent dinner parties fueled by whiskey, cocaine, and hookers without having a sneaky twelve-year-old son who taped the occasion on his phone and presented it to his classmates on Monday mornings.
He didn't want anybody to find out about his rebellious son who preferred to spend his time in the skate park smoking weed and going around town vandalizing, instead of engaging in the youth party of his dad’s political establishment. Max's mother was long dead, and his stepmother was a housewife. She primitively parroted everything his father said.
And so they sent him to the madhouse, he was not mad. Max didn't like the place. He didn't want to deal with the morals of some anal educators who wanted to make him socially and politically acceptable, to fit into his father's agenda. So he kept breaking out.
Every time they collected him from the street again, the men and women in white coats became stricter with him each time. "You have to hold the boy harder on the leash," his father advised the therapists. Somehow, Max still managed to sneak past the white coats and escape every single time. So here he was again, standing in front of me.
His head was shaved, his skin paler and he had become skinnier since the last time I saw him, by at least 20 kilograms, his face looked almost like a skeleton. But his eyes were still the same, I could see the fire burning in them wildly. And I knew that they couldn't get to him, no matter how hard they tried to make him walk the line. He was too wild of a child and too in love with freedom.
"Hey man, it's good to see you," I whispered back. And I meant it. "Yeah. I'm on the loose again. I ain't gonna let them assholes take away my summer vacation. Wanna go for a ride?" He had his skateboard leaning against the wall. "Sure," I said.
Not much was happening in our hometown. Cultural life was pretty dead, the gap between rich and poor was wide and it was getting wider by the day, now and then there was a bank robbery and a brawl or bar stabbing. In short, boredom drove us to fuck up.
We were twelve years old and spent our summer days skating and smoking, climbing around on rooftops, learning the ins and outs of parkour, stealing bicycles, painting them fresh and hawking them at the fair, throwing eggs on moving cars and in open living room windows, aiming them at television sets and paintings.
We set fire to garbage cans and porta-potties, dropped stink bombs in open hallways and basement windows, kicked car mirrors, sprayed graffiti, collected dog shit, and peppered it into open convertibles where all the rich people lived. We also pulled off a few cell phones, a few handfuls of purses at the golf course, and pushed in the young girls from the edge of the pool at the swimming club when the sun came out.
We lit Chinese firecrackers and fine New Year's Eve pyrotechnics during church service, at the mess in which all the strict Catholics were worshipping a God who was non-existent or at best, ugly to us tormented kids. One time we even shit on the church steeple.
We were a godless youth. And just as godless as we were, we were also merciless. Max wanted to get even with the adult world that had tried to punish him. He held them accountable for his suffering and everything that had made his childhood such a political mess. The adult world was a symbol for his cold-hearted party parents. And the church was a symbol of God's failure for letting his beloved mother die when he was just six years old.
So we continued to wreak havoc. Sometimes we did our business in the front yard of some representatives of the bourgeois world. Once, as Max was squatting in front of one of their front doors, the master of the house opened the door and chased us with a broom. But we always managed to get away with it somehow. We were more nimble than the old guys.
Even when they called the cops, we knew our way out, through private gardens, over rooftops and small pathways in the park, worst case hiding in big trash bins behind the supermarket or below the blankets of one of our homeless friends who bought us liquor in exchange for a quick buck.
We also liked to spit on the heads of adults from the city bridge, to jump over walls and fences into other people's well-kept gardens, to trash them with every trick in the book, to burn a few things, and to break into our old elementary school and scribble penises, vaginas, and breasts on their walls.
In the evening, Max would usually drop beers, booze, and cigarettes in his baggy pants at the supermarket. And then the fun started. We hit on older girls, mostly without success, but sometimes they went on a spree with us. Often, we would break into the municipal swimming pool at night, get drunk and skinny dip.
We had fun until the watchman sighted us and we had to flee over the fence through prickly rose bushes without any clothes on, scratching our bodies all over. Those bloody rose bushes. Once I was so out of breath from running away, the rush of adrenaline and vodka, that I had to throw up. My puke tasted like hard liquor and kebab. When one of the girls kissed me goodbye on the mouth, she must have had a full load of garlic vodka vomit. At least I thought so because she never spoke a word to me again.
We had a blast every time Max broke out of the madhouse. We went through days and nights together. Like the guys from Jackass, but we were just kids. The adult world tried to make us compliant, but we did not want to fit in. We were born misfits.
Whenever I asked Max about his life in psychiatry, he didn't want to say much about it besides that he didn't want to go back. He always deflected from it, belching and farting, offering me cigarettes.
The Catholic teachers from my after-school care had said that I was possessed by a devilish demon. Max's psychologists had said something similar.
They said he was behaviorally disturbed. He was traumatized and had not received enough love as an infant. Max was unable to accept the death of his mother.
I, unlike his father and stepmother, loved Max for his daredevil and brutally honest nature. And in the few weeks of summer wasteland, he had become like a brother to me. Two asshole kids for whom any help came too late.
Adolescent rebellion was our form of protest. Well, for Max it was. For me, it was more fun, pure entertainment therapy. After all, I had two parents who loved me, at least that's what I believed. My parents for their part believed at that time I was doing homework with my schoolmates and studying for school in the diligent attempt to start my next year of high school on a good note.
Whatever they thought, they didn't seem to worry much. I was a laissez-faire child enjoying the freedom of his early youth, being educated by rap and rave culture, by punks and anarchist kids like mad Max.
Every night I offered Max to crash and sleepover at my place. He couldn't go home to his parents, they would take him straight back to the shit house institution, to people who claimed to help him but simply made things worse.
Anyways, Max always backed out and respectfully declined my offer. "I don't want to get you in trouble at home," he said. So he slept outside, was a homeless child in Germany, the promised land, country of the rich...an outcast kid who turned rebellious in his loneliness.
Max always slept in the back corner of our schoolyard, under one of the graffiti he had sprayed himself. At least here he felt a sense of belonging, remembering the days when he could romp with us in the playground and slap liverwurst sandwiches against the classroom windows. When the teacher howled, she got one in the face right after.
One morning I went to the schoolyard, as usual, to wake Max up, bring him sandwiches from our breakfast at home and then go off with him. But he was no longer there. His sleeping bag and spray cans, his skateboard and tag pens were also gone. The men in the white coats had come to get him.
I tried to reach him but his number was busy for days and finally out of service. "No connection at this number. No connection at this number. No connection at this number” repeated the robotic voice on the receiver insistently.
Summer vacation was over. I went back to school, thinking of Max, wondering what had happened to him. Every day walking home from school I hoped from the bottom of my heart that his raspy troubled voice would call my name from behind the bushes to go out for a ride together. A whisper, the crazy idea to burn down the building of our school and leave this town forever.
Thirteen years have passed since that one summer. I’m still wondering whether Max is even alive, whether he's still sitting there, tranquilized on medicinal opiates and Ritalin, counting his days in the madhouse or jail.
Whenever I wandered past the silent armies of the homeless and addicts, past crowds of rejected rich kids with needles hanging from their veins, I kept an eye and an ear open for Max, hoping to repeat that one summer with him.
Alex is a writer and musician who enjoys writing and singing about the weird and trippy, the beautiful and painful, the strange and disgusting things life offers. His stories tend to have an underlying humor that can range from dry to dark. Most of his writings are autobiographical.
Connect with Alex on instagram at @xgoesmad
His music is on instagram at @tripreportmusic
You can find his first novel on the Amazon link below.