Terror: a life without pork
“Bastard, Bastard, Bastard!” I muttered as I clicked from site to site through the online news. How miserable: to attack us at the happiest time of the year, just as we are relaxing at the Christmas Markets, drinking Glühwein, eating roasted almonds.
“Though, if I am honest, with you,” I said to Elfie on the way to our meeting the following day. “I don’t really enjoy going to the Weihnachtsmarkt…I do not like nicknacks cluttering up my flat, well not since I did Marie Kondo: they, and the dust they attract, just do not spark joy, and neither do I enjoy drinking Glühwein in sub-zero temperatures, my feet turning to blocks of ice; while I clutch my bag for fear of it being snatched by pickpockets.” We walked through the narrow door of the restaurant. The world had indeed been turned upside down. There were no hipsters sipping black coffee, there was no quinoa on the menu, this was not Spree Gold, and it was not evening, but rather a lunchtime meeting in Moabit.
“Let’s sit away from other people,” said Elfie, heading for a table at the back. “I have something very poignant to discuss.” I eased into a seat, slipping off my coat. A man came out from the kitchen, wiping his hands on a stripy apron; he lit a tea light and put it in a brass candleholder. I turned the slightly sticky, laminated pages of the menu; I decided on a lamb curry. Elfie choose something vegetarian. To drink we ordered a bottle of sparkling water: we were in a somber mood, our usual evening revelry would have been misplaced among the Moabit lunchtime crowd.
“So, what is the pressing matter?” I asked.
“My son’s class are supposed to be going on a trip to a mosque today. It was all planed before yesterday’s atrocities, but well, now, it has promoted feverish email activity among the parents. A lot of parents are against visiting a mosque at this time, while others are saying that not only should the children go to the mosque but that we should all go out to a Weihnachtsmarkt and drink Glühwein! because not to do so would mean that the terrorists have won… “
“We probably should go to the Weihnachtsmarkt.”
“But, you don’t send your children into danger just to prove a point to terrorists…” said Elfie.
“So, what are you going to do…”
“He’s not going to the mosque. He’s sitting at home today…”
“Did you tell the school he was ill…”
“No, I just said that he won’t be coming to school today…”
“And how does he feel about staying at home…”
“He said that he was scared to visit the mosque…”
“Well that’s not good; he should probably visit a mosque when things have calmed down…”
“I know, what with his father being a Muslim and all…” said Elfie. “A mosque in itself should not be a source of fear, neither should a religion, but after recent events, it is hard to decouple the fear from the religion. “
I pushed the lamb around on my plate, stirring the rice into the sauce.
“There always has to be something to fear. As we grew up it was the Cold War, The Soviet Union pointing nuclear weapons at us, and of course the IRA, but at least they always rang in a warning before the bomb exploded…”
“I went to university in Northern Ireland… Whenever I was unsure of myself I would put on a Scottish accent. But life went on…” said Elfie.
“It has to go on… it always goes on… or does it? I wonder if that is what the dinosaurs thought before they became extinct, plod on to live another day… it’s all we can do.”
“Still, I am still not going to send my child to a mosque today of all days…”
“I sometimes feel like I am a piece in a board game. Or a character in an elaborate play: I feel as though I am being directed as a plaything for an unknown force over which I have no control…” Before I could go any further with my musing, I began violently coughing as a grain of basmati rice tickled my throat: ridiculous, I could be extinguished, snuffed out, in an instant by something as innocuous as rice. I grasped my glass of water and sipped to subdued the coughing, saved, to live on for the moment…
The next day the police raided a Salifist mosque in Moabit looking for the suspect. So, perhaps mosques are not the ideal setting for cultural visits by children to promote the understanding of Islam.
Later on that evening, my son, the thirteen year old, seemingly suffering no fear, arrived back from school via the scene of the Weihnachtsmarkt carnage.
“You could have taken the bus.”
“Just, relax; it’s probably at is safest now, after the attack…”
“Perhaps you’re right,” I said realising that it would be impossible for him to continue going to school if I were to insist that he avoid all crowded places. “The police are certainly very jittery, closing off streets and investigating every unattended sleeping bag in the city: they have even taken away the homeless woman’s bed: the one under the bridge. She was so lucky to have a bed, and now it is gone. She’s just lying there on the tarmac….brutal, but still she has her dignity: she removes her shoes before lying down…” And trying to inject some levity into the evening, I added: “I’ve bought you some eggs… organic eggs”
Ever since doing a project in biology on vitamin D; he has taken to eating eggs. He tells me they’re healthy. I know longer know: eggs have been in and out of fashion multiple times in my lifetime.
“My biggest worry is not that I get killed in a terror attack,” I said as the thirteen year old cracked the eggs into the frying pan. “No, my biggest fear it is that Western European men get a taste for extreme Islam. I mean, why wouldn’t they? You could convert to Islam, your father could trade me in for four wives: young and subordinate, whose sole purpose in life is to serve him.”
“Yes, but video games would banned…” He threw some bacon into the pan.
“All video games?”
“No, just some…”
“Well, then just play the others…anyway who needs video games when they can just go out and gun down the infidels?”
He flipped the eggs slowly in the pan.
“Anyway, what makes you think we will be able to convert? Did the terrorist in the lorry ask anyone if they wanted to convert? No it was not an option. We will all be killed if the terrorists get their way…”
“What if the government just surrenders by text…”
“What?” He looked at me as though I were deranged. But that’s nothing new. He has honed for the past six months that withering look of pity that teenagers reserve for their parents, who have clearly never lived and have zero understanding of the world. Hot fat splattered as he tossed the bacon.
“No need to look at me like that…It was apparently the plan of the Progress Party of Denmark during the Cold war; they were going to replace the department of defence by an answering machine that simply said, in Russian, or course: ‘We Surrender’. ”
“And how would the Russians know what number to call?”
“Don’t get bogged down in the details; it is the sentiment that is of interest, not the logistics…”
I, as a woman, would be very against surrendering. Life in the caliphate has nothing attractive to offer me: I am not an earth mother; pregnancy makes me feel sick and lethargic and I find the feeling of a new born baby being totally dependent on me frankly scary. And I would not be able to stomach the public lashings, the crucifixions, the burnings, the public executions. I can hardly bare to swat a fly, though I do swat with much guilt if one buzzes persistently around my head, justifying my decision to kill the fly as one of self-defence. A fly lands on excrement, and then conceivably make its next stop a plate of food that I am about to eat, carrying diseases, e-coli, and the like, then well for the good of human-kind, I kill the fly. But could I watch a crucifixion, could I see another person in the same light as I see a disease carrying fly?
I stole a bit of bacon from the thirteen year olds plate.
“I thought you only ate whole foods and vegetables…”
I am weak. Easily tempted to stray away from my noble intentions.