Mr. B. by Monika Detering

Mr. B. scolds muttering into himself. “Elevator broken. The fucking thing’s always broken.” He stomped up the stairs. His apartment was on the third floor. Under his arm he carried a grey cardboard box. He had found it in the basement while cleaning up, and it seemed so unknown to him since he knew everything that was stored down there.

He entered his apartment and closed the door with a kick. He did that to hear something because in his rooms it was always silent, it had been silent now for years, perhaps forever. He couldn’t remember that well. Not anymore.

There was laughter next door. Loud and cheerful. So that the sounds inside of him didn’t hurt so much, he scolded, scolded them away, put the box down and went to the balcony. For a while, he stood, saw a balloon flying against the blue background of the sky. It looked like a cut-out picture. The people at the edge of the basket snapped at the clouds. The sky began to turn deep red, like yesterday. Time shimmered through the leaves of the trees.

Mr. B. went inside. Next door the laughter became softer. He lifted off the lid of the box. Stamps appeared that nobody knew anymore. Addresses, corrected with Tipp-ex. They were very old letters, probably mainly correspondence between his mother and his sister, but the father had also lovingly and caringly written. She was probably during that time again at a Spa break for a cure, he pondered, for she was sick all her life.

People whom Mr. B. had once loved were gone or dead. And now they appeared in these letters, so long ago. “My family,” he mumbled proudly. He did not have a family for long. He hadn’t thought about them for a long time. Although … when he felt peaceful inside, the ones he would never forget also came back. Then he heard his mother’s objection not to do this or that or his father’s rumbling: ‘Don’t be so delicate, a boy doesn’t cry after all.’ In such minutes he also heard the always slightly ironic voice of his sister.

He left the present and went into the past.

He grabbed the last letter, which stuck to the stained cardboard floor. It was typewritten. He realized it was from his mother, who wrote to his sister that visiting the movie ball night was not for her, she wrote how quickly a beautiful girl could burn her wings, such burns would hurt for a long time. Mr. B.’s mother advised her to take her father along, he had great influence, and he could protect her. He was also an elegant good dancer. ‘You don’t just let someone else invite you. Invitations obligate, in our family everyone pays his own entrance fee, even if he walks out into life’.
“I can’t even remember that,” Mr. B wondered. “What happened to that movie ball? As I knew my sister, she went there anyway. But he knew that: When she was back home, she rehearsed an uprising. Mr. B. had found this very exciting and immediately participated in it, although at the age of eleven he still didn’t have much to complain against his parents. He learned quickly. He also listened to the endless discussions. Especially when the father urgently warned his sister against adult men, against ducktail boys, especially against everything that was or would become male.

Mr. B. hastened to grow up. It took some time before the narrow, handsome boy became Mr. B. In the meantime he worshipped his beautiful sister among other activities such as school and laughed at the parents who restricted their world.

When he thought it was time to become a successful man, he left the family. He didn’t need them. Forgot about it that they had been the ones who guarded and protected him, who loved him as he was.

Mr. B. estimated the number of letters. There seemed to be so many, almost a whole year would be just about enough, if he read one letter a day. “That’s how I gonna do it. I have time, which otherwise I waste uselessly and bored, without tension, without love, and so damn alone.

For weeks, every day around 5 p.m., Mr. B. has been sitting in the corner of his living room, near the balcony, in front of a small table. There are framed photos on it, father, mother, his sister, also him and aunts, uncles, cousins, and cousins.

Everyone is dead. Only for Mr. B. they are alive again, and in every further letter he reads he learns things from the past that were long forgotten. Next to him, on a side table, a bulbous pot smells of Yunnan Gold, a black tea that his father had brought back from his travels. Mr. B. had remembered this, and he went and bought a large bag of tea. Even today, this tea tastes a bit like cocoa and children’s happiness.

He sighs with pleasant comfort. There are still so many letters. When he has read them all, he wants to start all over again. Just like In the past, when people first told and then repeated each other lots of things too.

Mr. B. looked friendlier. The neighbor, Bodo, also noticed that. Sometimes the men talk to each other about this and that. Today Bodo looked after him for a long time. Had not Mr. B. said: “I have no time now. I still have to make tea, clean up a bit, change. My family will be here soon!

He said it proudly and with a fine smile.

Bodo listened to the door for a long time. “But he doesn’t have anyone anymore,” he wondered, and even more so when he heard Mr. B. speak quietly to himself behind the door.

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