There was something unsettling in his desire to be transported back in time. A combination of false romanticism and a strong urge to correct…what exactly? It reminded him of the advice he had given his daughter not that long ago, when she was struggling with turning her ambitions into reality. ‘Nothing wrong with giving it your best shot’, he had told her, ‘in the end you will not regret mistakes, only missed opportunities’. Solid piece of advice. If only he had known that a couple of decades ago, when he was her age, younger even, surprisingly happy and optimistic, at least that’s what he now saw on the picture lying in front of him, taken in West-Berlin in the late summer of 1985.
Less than a week later he would get his first serious kiss from a punky girl, dressed in pink. Not so much thinking about these teenage episodes but more the activity of looking back made him miss his father, who had died not that long ago, and who in his left-wing conservative ways, always favourably comparing the past with the present, could have been an earlier version of himself. Wasn’t this the same guy he had routinely labeled as distant, emotionally unavailable, egoistic, and not willing to change anything, ever?
So what did he miss more, his father or the happiness and optimism of his younger self? Long time ago, at his 19th birthday, he had asked his friends to bring something personal instead of gifts, as a result of which he now owned a copy of Peter Sarstedt’s ‘Where do you go to (my lovely)’. Only given because it was only a reference to his referred to his date of birth, but so many years later it now felt like his most valuable possession. Where do you go to, where could you have gone to, and when exactly did you stray?
All pictures are lies. Behind the happy face of that 16 year old boy lay a world of teenage angst and unfulfilled desire. The picture reflected nothing more than hope grounded in temporary belonging. The optimism wasn’t really there. Just a snapshot of a past that never was. His youthful smile hid a lot of things, things he had never shared with anyone. It hid a desire to become a Rock ‘n Roll animal, a wild-eyed guitar player, a sensitive songwriter or a depressed, chain-smoking writer of short stories.
So there he was, back with the desire to go back in time and become a different version of himself. He wished you could blame his father, but all his father had ever done was being absent. No one to blame in the end.