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Friday, May 27, 2022

Excerpt from the novel “Ein Eis mit Jo”

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Tim and Paulina ran out as soon as they got their ice cream cones. The stairway of the Italian Cultural Association across the street, located in a beautiful old villa, became their playground and was soon covered in a dappled pattern of melted ice. Meanwhile Anja and Jovana sat on the narrow bench in front of the shop.

Only a few inches separated them, but also a sudden silence. Jovana wanted to say something about the children, but she felt that she had to make the most of the moment with Anja. She decided to start small talk: “Where do you really live?”

“Hamburg. I grew up there too. And you?”
“Where I grew up?”

Was it just a completely normal counter question or the inevitable question of where are you actually from the Inquisition? This common assumption that someone with your hair color and name couldn’t possibly be German. Luckily neither did she. But there were often racist undertones to such questions, and Jovana was very sensitive to that.

“I think having children is much braver than moving to Berlin.”

Too often he had noticed that his German-born friends were always perceived as Turkish, Greek or Yugoslav. They were flatly denied that they “really” belonged to the country in which they had lived all their lives. He disgusted Jovana. At first everyone looked at her with disdain, both the rich kids as well as child guest workers – yes

He had always felt closer to the latter. And at some point he was also accepted by them. Jovana decided that Anja was just asking and said, “I grew up partly in Croatia and partly near Stuttgart. Now I live in Berlin.”

“Oh great, Berlin. In fact, I wanted to study there, but then I didn’t dare.”
“Oh come on, Hamburg isn’t a town either.”
“Yes, but somehow Berlin still seemed too big for me.”
“I think having children is much braver than moving to Berlin.”

Anja turned her head to Jovana and looked directly at her. She had never seen him like this before. “In my family I probably would have been braver not to have children,” she said. “My older sister became a mother after me and before that she had to hear over and over again that having children would be really cool. And she’s a junior teacher! Married to another teacher. But somehow that didn’t really count.” until finally he had a son.

“Violent. But I see what you mean. My sister had twins at a young age, so it’s very relaxed here with us.”
“And you, don’t you want anything for yourself?”

Jovana was silent for a while. She didn’t want to scare Anja by telling her that she had never wanted children, she just couldn’t imagine it. That seemed too harsh for her and she could hardly put it into perspective with her playful interaction with Tim and Paulina. “It’s not that easy,” he said. “I’m queer, lesbian, so to speak.”

As he did so, he swung his left forearm around and pointed at a small pictograph amid jungle-like vegetation. He showed two smiling figures with long hair and skirts holding hands. As if two women had eloped each other, who usually indicated where the women’s toilets were. Anja laughed when she saw the image and briefly touched the figure to her left with her index finger. She quickly pushed him back and said without looking up, “But there are a lot of gay and lesbian parents now. I even know some of Tim’s kindergarten days. Something can be done there.”

Nadine Lange: Ice cream with Jo. Novel. Querverlag, Berlin 2022. 248 p., €16.Photo: Querverlag

Jovana had clearly thought very little, but the need to talk to Anja had suddenly become overwhelming. That was probably due to the combination of sugar and proximity. He was pleased with Anya’s relaxed reaction, especially the seconds after her finger touched her tattoo. However, she was now a bit embarrassed because she had lured Anja the wrong way. Yeah sure, gay people aren’t doomed to be childless, but I don’t think that’s really for me. Especially since I’m also a solo artist. Ugh, I just caught the curve, Jovana thought.

Although at this point a small lecture should have been given on the obstacles for homosexual couples and the bureaucratic injustices regarding the adoption of stepchildren by lesbian couples. She wanted to do that at some point. But now she had a chance to find out about Anja’s marital status. “And you?
Single too?” she asked, biting the edge of her waffle.

“Yeah, me too. Divorced soon,” Anja said. She gave a short laugh and followed up with “finally,” which cheered Jovana up. She saw that Tim and Paulina were engrossed in a game of jumping and would give them a few more minutes to be together. together. So she said, “Good opportunity.”
“For what?”
“To try something different.”
“For example?”
“Perhaps a woman.” Jovana smiled out of the corner of her eye, worried that might have been too direct, but she had miscalculated again.
“So you think I’ve never had anything with a woman?” Anja said and slowly licked the little mound of vanilla ice cream sticking out of the cone.

[Neuigkeiten aus der queeren Welt gibt es im Queerspiegel-Newsletter des Tagesspiegel, der zweimal im Monat erscheint – hier geht es zur Anmeldung.]

Blood rushed to Jovana’s ears. “Well, you’ve probably already kissed at a party or maybe a night out with a woman,” she said, almost sure Anja was just joking with her.

“Ah, so what do you think of me? A curious heterosexual, drunk and making out with the lesbians.” The blush had spread all over Jovana’s face and she wished she was at the bottom of the Lim Channel. She stammered, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound dismissive, I was just thinking that you’re probably straight, but you’re also open to other experiences. I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings.”

Anya laughed out loud. Her children briefly turned their heads in her direction and then went back to playing. “Hey, no, you didn’t hurt me. I understand that people might judge me that way. It’s obvious, but also a little hasty. Jovana emerged from her darkness; she gasped with relief. “Yeah, that’s right, it’s premature. Forgive me.”

“All good. I just can’t draw a mark on my arm, but if I did, it wouldn’t be one with a man and a woman.”

Nadine Lange is culture editor at Tagesspiegel and is part of the Queerspiegel team.Photo: Tine Lippert

“Oh, so you’re bisexual or pansexual, as it’s more commonly said today.”
“Maybe I don’t know. Anyway, I had a brief relationship with a woman, a fellow student.” “Oh, okay. And did you like it?” My goodness, it was the day of the idiotic phrases, Jovana was overwhelmed by this great woman, who never ceased to amaze her and now she is laughing out loud again. At least that was better than slapping her. Still, the blush shot up again on Jovana’s cheeks. “Of course I liked it,” Anja said. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have done it. But unfortunately she left me, for someone else.”

“Hey, look. I know.” “That was a long time ago,” Anja said, wrenching Jovana from her memories.
“I met the woman once again by chance in a supermarket a year or two ago, it was strange. But we said hello. Paulina and Tim ran from the stairs.

His hands were sticky, Tim had chocolate ice cream in the corner of his mouth. “Hey, hey, come here,” Anja said, pulling him closer to wipe his mouth with a paper napkin.

[Buchpremiere: 28. April, 19.30 Uhr, Kollo Kreuzberg, Monumentenstraße 20, Eintritt frei]

“Bahhh!” the boy yelled. Paulina quietly stood next to her and then said, “Can we go swimming?” Anja looked at her in surprise, it was too late for that and her daughter knew it too.

“No”, said Anja, “that is no longer possible, but we can go to the port and have a look at the boats.” “Do you want to see our second pleasure boat?” Jovana asked. Galeb 2 had just returned from the scenic drive, and by the time they got there, it would no doubt have been cleaned. Paulina looked at her with a skeptical expression, but then she said “Yes, that’s fine” and turned her head to Anja, who was happily surprised by the development of the evening’s activities.

it seemed. Smiling, she nodded, tossed the napkin into the bin, and took Tim’s hand.

Paulina said, “Let’s go,” and took Jovana’s hand. It was the first time he had been in contact with her, and Jo’s heart lurched briefly as she felt the girl’s warm, still slightly clammy hand in hers. Actually, she would have liked to smoke a cigarette now, but that was better because it wasn’t as natural as it was with her two nieces of hers, who were always attached to her whenever she appeared in Swabia. As Jovana looked into Anja’s sparkling eyes on the road, she thought for a moment that they now looked like a rainbow family, though of course no one in Rovinj would have recognized it.

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