Memories: When a Friend dies in your Youth

‘Memories’ is a section in which I occasionally tell you an anecdote from my past. I just want to tell you about a memorable moment, an interesting encounter or event that can be quite mystical, confused, amusing, crazy or something else. Personal details, time and places are only given to a limited extent.

My friend Ronald was a real rebel with his fresh 18 years. He liked wearing worn-out jeans and an equally worn-out jeans jacket. He had stickers on his sleeves with a skull and also the famous tongue from the Rolling Stones. He would have matched way more into the 70s than in the 80s. Outside the door there was his new motorcycle, with which he always liked to drive through the streets. We were sitting in my room and listening to music. The speakers, played the band pounded Ultravox..

“Are you coming to the lake on the weekend? We want to camp there,” he just asked me.


“I don’t know,” I replied. “I think, it’s a bit too cold for me. We have March, I’m pretty sure it’s freezing in the night.”

“Come on! You also hang out on the balcony at night and peek into the stars with your binocular. It’s not too cold for you.”

Well, he was actually right with what he said as an argument.

“But I can go back into the house any time and warm myself up in a warm bed. When it comes to tents, that does not work, because you hang out at night and have to wait until it gets warmer,” I explained.

He laughed about my answer, but as quickly as he had begun with the subject, he also forgot it. He mentioned the excursion with no syllable again.

“Do you know what I did?” he asked.


“I’m doing an internship, and on the opposite side of the office where I work, there is another office building with a scaffold in front of it. When I looked out of the window once, I saw how someone put money into a cash box. When they had their lunch break, I went over the scaffolding to the office and stole the checkout!”

” Really? “I asked surprised. “Are you crazy? In the middle of the day!”

“No one has seen me! But it was worth it! There were 120 bucks in it,” Ronald said cheerfully.

Yes, that he was: A rebel and crook, but I liked him anyway. The women loved him. His idols were James Dean and Bruce Lee. That actually tells a lot about him. He liked to drag me into the cinema to watch these movies, closely followed by the girls, who were in his cold, ruthless and rogue way. For him, social rules had little importance, and he loved to break them.

Normally, I would not have made friends with him, but we had known each other since our childhood. James Dean was one of those youth heroes who conducted street gangs in their rebellious way, squirmed with the police and steered cars. This was actually his greatest idol during this time. He enjoyed the battle scenes from Bruce Lee in which he tried to find himself with these amazing abilities. He had never enjoyed such a combat training, but he liked to play with asian weapons and was always a Nun-skako in his bag. So it was completely normal for him, to grab a ninja litter or a nun-shako on the table, while everyone around him was wondering, how he had approached all these forbidden devices at his age.

I was not very enthusiastic about his thieves’ action, and I also told him about it. But whatever I told him, he just ignored it. Later we said good-bye and he wanted to organize some more stuff for the camping trip. Surely, he would not pay a penny for it.

On Sunday morning, I was sitting at the living room table at breakfast. The TV was running and it was just 11 a.m. With my innocent 16 years, this Saturday morning was too early. The breakfast took place quite frequently at times, at which others begin to eat lunch.

Suddenly the telephone rang. I took the receiver and announced my name:


“Hello Jonathan? Here’s Klara … You have to come right away!”

“What’s the matter? “I asked.

“Ronald is dead!” she sobbed into the phone.

“I beg your pardon? Where are you? I’ll come right away! ”

Klara was Ronald’s current girlfriend and she gave me the exact location.

I immediately told my parents and called a friend, who had an old, clattering beetle and he drove me to the lake. There I saw some policemen and two people waddling across the street in a diving suit. There were some of his friends waiting for me, too, and Klara fell around my neck. She stammered some sentences. Apparently she tried to explain to me what had happened. Then Christian came and stood in swimwear as well as a blanket that was above his shoulders in front of me. He was trembling all over, explaining exactly what had happened:

“Ronald and I had borrowed a dinghy from a few people who were also on the campsite. We then went on the lake. Then we came to the lock and as we were paddled there, suddenly one of the paddles fell into the water. I tried to get to the paddle, but it was driving more and more towards the lock. I was wearing only a shirt and a swim suit, but Ronald had his motorbike suit, which he used to wear when he rode his bike. And then he jumped into the water to get the paddle. But instead of getting to the paddle, something suddenly drew him down! I thought it was the clothes that were filled up with water and pulled him down so I jumped behind to help him. But suddenly something pulled me down, too. Down there in the water I landed on a grate and had to recognize that there was a water pump, which drained and filtered water. The pump immediately pulled us both down. Fortunately, I knew how to get out of a whirl and could push myself sideways at the narrowest point and float away. Ronald, on the other hand, could not get away from the pump and drowned.”

The tears were in his face. It was obvious, that he was responsible for not being able to save Ronald. But my feeling told me, there was something he was hiding, something that he hasn’t told us. Klara and Christian showed me the place where Ronald drowned. From a bridge I could look down were the accident took place. A slightly unpleasant and stale smell rose into my nose. Presumably it came from the pump, so I concluded. From above, the water looked quite harmless, but there were warning signs that were telling not to swim in the lake. In addition to the smell, I still could just notice the sound of the pump.

While I was standing there, Christian came closer to me and Klara briefly went to one of her girlfriends.

“I have to tell you something!” he began to speak. “But you have to swear not to tell anyone! Promise me! Otherwise, I will not tell you.”

“Okay, I’ll keep it for myself. Promised.”

“When we were in the boat and just before he jumped into the water, he had once again turned to me and said, I don’t want to live this life anymore! Are you coming with me?”

“He said that? “I asked.

“Really, I swear to you! But I can not tell anyone. You are the only one I can trust. The others are killing me and bitching me a liar. You understand such things and also believe in supernatural and strange things. And when I told him that I do not have enough of my life, he jumped into the water without hesitation. So he knew exactly that it was dangerous.”

I put my arm around his shoulders and said to him that he really did not have to blame himself for what had happened. The police disappeared, the divers had been able to successfully recover Ronald’s dead body, and they were now changing into their normal clothes. Slowly everything became more quiet.

At night, when I was laying in my bed, I thought about what happened today. The moonlight fell through the window into the room and I could only slightly perceive the objects in the room. I wondered, why Ronald had decided to die and then so consciously. The actor and the cult figure James Dean died very young in an car accident. He had not died as young as Ronald, but it seemed to be an accident too. I thought about Dean’s accident and if it has really been an accident or if it maybe was like Ronalds death. Perhaps he had also made it look like an accident. Who can say this with certainty? The only witness, who saw that Ronald’s accident was actually not an accident, was Christian, and he could not trust this secret to anybody. So, as I was thinking about it.

I suddenly noticed a peculiar smell that came to my nose. Somehow the smell seemed familiar to me! Feverishly, I thought about it and tried to classify that unpleasant smell… Then I remembered! That was exactly how it had smelled while I walked down the bridge to look over the place where the accident happened! When I realized this, goose bumps rolled over my back. But that was not all, I started hearing the sound of the water pump. I heard it clearly pumping with its tireless rhythm…

My heart was racing. For a tiny moment, I thought I saw a person in my room, but at the same moment I recognized the person how it disappeared. Slowly my hand reached the light and when I switched it on, all the weird feelings and perceptions disappeared at once. It had been a really creepy moment.

Since that night, many years have elapsed, he appears in my dreams sometimes. Once I meet him directly in a dream within a longer encounter in May 2007. He showed up in my bedroom and led me onto a country road. There was a very long street, which seemed to lead to infinity. With a hand movement, he suddenly conjured up two motorbikes, waiting for us to leave. We sat down on the bikes and we raced with an incredible speed. It was a breathtaking race trip over an endless country road, past forests and meadows in the middle of the night.

Suddenly, the road was splitting upabruptly and we drove spontaneously to the left. This road led towards a bridge, but we had to slow down hard, because the bridge suddenly broke off at once.

We went down from the motorbikes and went to the end of the destroyed bridge. We had a magical sight on a huge, dark lake. In the distance, I saw on the right a city with only a few lights. We stood there for a while. The motorbike trip had been wonderful and also the view of the lake was absolutely unforgettable. It was a beautiful moment, to see this gorgeous scenery and to be with an old friend again…


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