Thorsten Nesch

- Storyteller -

08. (part 2) Having a coffee with Minna, her oil tear & the Matchmaker app

We were laughing, actually laughing, and the guests on the other tables cast their looks at us. Some out of interest, who that woman was, that had such an infectious laughter, some hurling daggers dipped in envy at me. She had dragged me into one of these independent coffee tents set up in the back alley between 6th and 7th Street in the old part of town, where the first cup is expensive, but the refills are free. Thick metal pins driven into the century-old brick walls of the heritage buildings held the triangular tarps above our heads. I viewed her choice to have a drink together as a positive sign. Although I didn't know for what.

After her device had finished some melody, we compared our apps, and with our compare-app we found out that to 79% we shared the same apps. Fitness, social media, games. How likely was that?

«This is crazy», she said, suppressing her laughter, «I have fewer commonalities with my friends… Wait… Do you know the Match-app? I have it. If you download Match, it checks how much more we have in common, not only apps, also word-use, intellect...»

I woke up again, «I know, I know the app», and I continued her sentence as proof, «Cultural interests, our actual fitness, streets we have been...»

«Why haven't our apps communicated yet?!»

«I switched it off. It didn't work for me.»

«Why? Ugh!», she pushed a rat away underneath the table.

It landed against my foot, and I gave it a kick that made it slide between two tables all the way off the cafe patio.

Minna gave me a thumb up.

«Why?», I picked up where we left our conversation, «The highest somebody in my perimeter ever scored was 42%.»

It got frustrating, especially witnessing other people finding a match in public.

«Oh, okay, hmmh, you want to try one more time, I mean this is weird, isn't it, come on, just for fun.»

«You have a way to twist an arm.»


During the activation of the app and its many updates, she told me, she knew people that were using it, and they loved it, they simply had lowered their partner expectations, and it worked for them, not on the long run but for a short while.

We dialed the settings to Deep, which meant a thorough search, more exact than the walk-by setting. Decreasing bars on our screens informed us to be patient for 18 seconds. Our devices laid between us in the middle of the table. We stared silently at the bars shrinking in sync, taking a sip of coffee at the same time. She had ordered a dark foreign brew for us called Nigeria Noir with a dab of real milk, that carried a nutty note.

Briefly—when I opened my eyes while enjoying the coffee—I saw her lines of laughter to the left and to the right of the black cup and in the corner of her eyes.

With a fanfare the app announced the result: 96%.

Heads turned from the neighboring tables.

She pressed her lips together and covered her mouth with her free hand, all I could hear was a high-pitched «This is unbelievable. We are soulmates.»

A score over 90% was considered soulmate territory, I never even imagined meeting a soulmate myself. Too far out in my own world and routines, I ran around with my invisible blinders. It seemed. The timing couldn't be worse.

She leaned forward, «You are quiet, aren't you happy!? Amazing!»

I made, «Taddaaaa. How accurate is this app anyway?»

«This is a cracked version, very accurate. The general app is rigged in order to score low.»

«Why is that?»

«So nobody falls in love, it rather shows the opposite, a good match is shown as low and the reverse.»

«For real?»

«Are you for real? You trust everybody and every app or what!?»

I tried to think of my alleged mismatches in the past.

She smiled, «Don't you have anything to say about this? Arthur. It's a miracle. I have never heard about 96%.»

Minna corrected her collar, and a little black memorial pin blinked at me. It was the oil tear, in the shape of a teardrop and a drop of oil intertwined like a sad Yin and Yang sign honoring all the victims in the name of the oil industry in the last two centuries.

«No, me neither. I don't know», a numbness entered my conscience.

«Even Lianne and Toby only matched in the 80s percentage, and they are a dream of a couple, believe me.»

It felt like watching a stranger in my body. This couldn't happen. No way. Not now. Of all times. Of all people, I had met. At this point in my life. My time was over, and here I was sitting with the person I meant to be with, over a coffee, in the old part of town, under a tarp that vibrated under the impact of the falling rain, merely days away from my end.


Did I really have to take the route I had chosen?

One can change one's mind.

But Berat?

She crossed her arms and rested them on the table next to her 55, «I think, we should get to know us a little bit more.»

I laughed nervously and took a deep breath. A big puddle dented the next tarp—the run-off had to be clogged—the other customers were either immersed in their conversations and device activities or letting off steam in their screambags.

She added, «We are knowing us probably better than we think.»


I pictured her in a totally different spectrum of society, definitely not having over 80% matches, not even 50%, and the more I thought of it, the lesser I believed this could be true. Maybe a system error. She was demonstrating against suicide, she was an outsider. Not me. Maybe she rigged it, the cracked version, hacked the app, so we would appear to be soulmates! All fake.

I said, «This must be faulty, the app, this version or this download, or your hack isn't compatible with my version.»

«What? It is! Why?»

«I can't see you and me having even sixty percent...»

«That's life!»

«Or did you...»


«Did... you...»

Suddenly she leaned forward, so far for a moment, I thought, she'd give me a kiss, then she whispered, «What's your favorite color?»

She stayed close to me, our noses maybe an inch apart. I smelled her breath, sweet, nutty, the coffee.

Usually I would've said yellow, like the sun apparently is, but her eyes were so close and so green, and I was glad she didn’t wear the new black contacts, so I said, «Green.»

«Yellow! Not yellow?», she said confused, and leaned back in her chair.

My first instinct was to explain it to her, then I reconsidered, this way I could easier get out of the situation, this was my perfect cop-out. The question was: did I want to?

My device vibrated, the display read Crisis Helpline. Minna read it, too. She looked up at me.

«I have to», I said.

«Take it», she clapped her hands silently and mouthed, «Perfect timing.»

I moved my 55 toward me, «Take call.»

«Hi Arthur, here is Sharon from the crisis helpline. How are you?»

Minna's eyes widened.

«Good», I said.

«Oh no, that's not good, not good at all. I thought so. What are you doing in a hipster Cafè?»

She knew that from the GPS location of my device.

«Having a coffee.»

«Enjoying... life?»

«Well», I looked at Minna if she showed any emotion I couldn't tell, «Sort of …«

Sharon’s voice rose, «Arthur! No. You shouldn't start enjoying life now! You can't do that. You have to leave the cafe immediately.»

«I still have half a cup.»

«And... you are not alone, is that correct?»

For all I knew, they could see what devices were nearby, but not if we would talk to each other.

«I am not alone at the table.»

«There is... a woman.»


«If you wouldn't be there with her, you would sit diagonally from each other, not across.»


«Or a case of deviceal intimacy?!»

Minna shoved her 55 to the side, so it would look diagonal.

«No! She just laid it to the side, in front of me. Thank you», the last two words I pretended to say to Minna.

«I don't buy it», Sharon said.

«So? What can you do? Maybe I discovered there is more in my life.»

«Arthur», her voice cracked an octave higher, «Did you take drugs?»

«No! I may... need more time.»

«Time your brother doesn't have.»

«Every hour counts, I don't want to... rush into things.»

«Having the party of your life, seeing the sun! Not?!»

«Walking the plank!»

«An absolute highlight!», Sharon sounded like she wanted to go there herself.

«It is my life.»

«How selfish. You just think of yourself.»

«Well... it is my life.»

«Egoist. Do you need help, shall we send someone?»


«An emergency counsellor?»

«No, I am fine.»

«Exactly! That's why. That's worrisome.»

Minna facepalmed.

Sharon continued, «You don't want to be fine.»


«That could complicate things.»


«We don't want to hustle you, but...»

«You do.»

Minna gestured, 'Well duh!'.

«We do what we have to do. We see the big picture. You suffer from tunnel vision now, a commonly known effect under the pressure you're in: a displacement activity.»

«A what?»

«You heard about displacement activity, in the animal world? Pigeons risking to lose their lives to a predator suddenly start to clean themselves. Behaviour like that.»


«Arthur, you're having a coffee, and frankly, I hear some greed in your voice.»

«I am not greedy, I am far away from greed.»

Minna's eyes expressed, she couldn't believe what she was hearing.

«The point of view matters», Sharon tamed her voice.

«I really thank you for your help and being concerned and all, but I can handle it.»

«Handle what?»

«My life.»


«I meant my death.»

«Phew, you got me for a moment.»

«I am... toying around some ideas.»

«Toying ideas sounds too positive.»

«Doubting. I am doubting.»

«Doubting, yes, doubting is good. We are getting there. And mood swings are totally normal in this phase you are in. Suddenly you discover sense and fun in things and people although there is none and never was. And then you sit at home in your SMH, and it hits you again how oily your life is. Then you will think of me.»

«I sure will.»

«You will, Arthur. Oh, yes, and don't forget, you are not alone, I now have to contact another client. Remember, there will be a big party up there.»



«Hurray, partyyy!», I yawned and made Minna suppress a laugh.

Sharon ignored the way I pronounced it and said, «Talk to you soon.»


We ended the call.

Minna's arms dangled down, she slightly shook her head.

«What? Didn't I handle that well?», I asked.


«I have to go now», I tapped my device.

«For real?»

«Yeah, if not, they'll show up here, maybe they are already on their way.»

She sent me her device contact address over our match-app. «Promise me, you call me.»

«Promise-promise!» I emptied my cup.

: : :

The pedestrian bridge came in sight and my 55 indicated a message. It was from my counsellor, Jaqueline, she wrote: 'I thought you might like to see this.'

As I opened the attached short videos, I walked slower and close to the wall, shielding the screen from the rain.

The first video started, and the guy in the picture explained, «Hi, I would like to thank you for the kidney I am getting from you. Due to an onset of an undetected case of Gibson-Gibson my kidneys started deteriorating a few years ago. I'm 18 years old and otherwise perfectly healthy. It's my personal wish to express my gratitude as one of the many beneficiaries of your decision, also in the name of my twin girls who turn two years old next month. I can now look forward to being there for them and raising them. I wish you a great journey and an unforgettable time at the Cloud Hotel, you are doing the right thing, in the name of my twins, thank you! Bye.»

The second came from another recipient, a young woman who was sitting on a chesterfield caressing a rat in her lap wearing dark glasses. «Dear Arthur, I can't believe my luck. Through your generous decision, I will be able to see the world for the first time in my life. Being born legally blind, I went through many surgeries, which didn't turn out to improve my vision by a lot. I can only tell if it is night or day. This will change. Soon I will see Orijen«, she looked down and stroked the back of her rat, «for the first time. I will see black and white and all shades of gray, the people, the city and the rain...»

She started weeping in a way it almost made me join in. With her index finger, she wiped the tears away from underneath the dark glasses. She shook her head and repeated, «Thank you, thank you so much», before the screen went black.

These were two of the many people who would benefit from me going on my journey. It felt good. My counsellor was right sending me these messages, showing me consequences that could be easily overlooked in a bout of ruthless selfishness and greed.

Doubts were allowed, and Minna would have her reasons to think the way she thinks, maybe selfish once, too.

Those two recipients didn't take it for granted; who knows, others won't even be able to send me a message if somebody has an accident that day and needs a new heart. And my heart would find a recipient for sure, it was in great shape, the quarterly health test, said so. On the other side, I still could have a life ahead of me. If it wasn't for my brother.

That very moment, his video call came in.

I stopped at the end of the pedestrian bridge over the Crowsnest with all the rickshaws of the suburbanites, traveling east and west free of any pedestrians, who weren't allowed on the highway, and to my right disappeared the fast-running downtown water channel in a tunnel underneath before joining the Old Man river.

Back when it started raining with no end, the water pooled in numerous lakes throughout the city, and the overflow ran off the way it wanted, in this case, where the old train tracks used to be. Diggers helped where necessary.

Instead of Berat, a doctor appeared in the picture, «Arthur.»


«Can we talk?»

«Yes, what is with Berat?»

He pressed air through his clinched lips and said, «There were complications. An hour ago, he had a stroke, we had to immediately perform surgery…»

«What is with him?»

«We could maintain his heartbeat, so he is alive.»

«Can I talk to him?» An hour ago, while I was chatting with Minna.

«No. I am sorry. No, you can't talk to him, he can't hear you. But time is now a decisive factor. If we can't substitute the damaged brain cells, we unfortunately won't be able to help him anymore as his deterioration process accelerated due to the...»

«Time? What time? What time are you talking about?»

The doctor left a brief silence, «48 hours.»

«I'm scheduled to Walk the Plank in six days!»

A woman interrupted her stride, looking at me with wide-open eyes and said, «Good for you!», and continued walking.

«I'm sorry», the doctor said, «Maybe 60 hours, but after 48 hours we can't guarantee anything anymore. So far we talk about a small medical miracle that we have saved him, buying him... well, at this point we actually volunteered... we volunteered him some more time. It is crucial...»

«What can I do? I can't... Should I come down… I could be there tomorrow… At the hospital…»

«Arthur, calm down, now's not the time to overreact, or to break the law. This has to be done properly. Although routinely done, we talk about a major surgery with all its implications.»

«But what should I do? What can I do?»

«Reschedule. Call your counsellor and ask for an emergency journey. Sometimes, in emergency situations, they can accommodate their schedule on the basis of urgency and need. You can give me as a reference, my name and contact you'll find in your call history. I don't block it for that reason, sometimes action has to be taken immediately.»

«Thank you. And what is best? The sooner the better?»

«For one, you can be happy if you get an appointment sooner, second, 48 hours are perfectly fine since we have to prepare the surgery, and we don't need your body all pumped up with stress hormones. Did you hear me?»


«Ask for an appointment in maximum 40 hours, that will do. The organ delivery drone will make it in time. And take care of yourself until then, remember, the last 24 hours you shouldn't be stressed that all.»


«All positive!»

«I try.»

«Good, you have to, I wish you luck, I have to go now, another patient is waiting.»

«Thanks, yes, thank you so much.»

: : :

The world spun around me. With one hand, I held the rail. Watching the raindrops penetrating the murky water, hearing nothing but my own breath. Somebody bumped into me, followed by no apology since it was frowned upon to stop on a pedestrian bridge. People got nervous easily.

Would there be another solution? What if they wouldn't be able to pre-schedule me? I would have to go underground, to the black market I had heard about. The thing was, I didn't know anybody. Then common sense kicked in: why worry before having an answer to my scheduling problem?

Jaqueline LeFuet took my call right away.

I started like a waterfall, «I am so glad you are there, this is extremely important, we have to reschedule, we have to…»

«Arthur, wait, wait, wait, we can't just reschedule.»

«We... why not? It is necessary…»

«It is necessary we have to live up to our timeline. With your signature on the commitment, you gave the promise to the wonderful people in need. Did you watch the videos of the recipients I sent you?»


«Do you want to disappoint them? That man can't wait forever for a kidney. How long do you want to postpone your journey anyways?»

Only now I realized, she thought I wanted to reschedule and buy myself more time, a short inane laughter left my lips, «Oh, no, no, with rescheduling I meant earlier, earlier, pre-scheduling!»


«Yes, of course, under 40 hours from now, is that possible? Please tell me it is possible.»

«May I ask why all of a sudden…»

I told her about the call from my brother's doctor.

She took a dramatic breath, «I'm sorry to hear that, really. This clearly is an emergency. Yet I can't promise it, but I will do anything in my power to help you out, all I can say, this is easier than the contrary procedure.»


«Well, there is some planning involved, I mean, you have to travel up to the hotel, the room has to be free, everything has to be prepared for your journey...»

«So? Yes. What is next?»

«I have to make a couple of calls, it is not in my hands, I will do what I can.»

«Please. When will you know?»

«I can't tell, I get at it right away. I move your case up to highest priority. I'll let you know as soon as possible.»

«Thank you so much, I wait for your call, I wait every minute, thank you, Jaqueline, thank you.»

I hung up, I didn't want her to lose a second.

: : :

At home I walked back and forth in my room, sometimes managing to pretend there was something to do, like taking a cloth and wiping the dust off the flat screens. My stomach was a hole, I couldn't even think of eating, and the glass of water I had poured, stood untouched on the small kitchen countertop beside the sink.

The sheer pain of waiting for that phone call hindered me from doing anything that made sense. I was contemplating what to take with me on my journey, but if my device rang now and Jaqueline LeFuet would tell me to leave right now, I would just grab the plaque of my grandfather and close the apartment door behind me.

There was nothing important, no memory-infested items I would cling on to my last moment, no documents, no clothing. The 55 was all I needed—to ID myself, to pay or to look at some pictures from the past with my parents and my brother and me, when we were young and healthy and alive.

I couldn't count the times I looked at my device as if my eyes could make it ring. Any noise from the hallway or from the streets made me fly around looking at it lying on the table between the two chairs, making sure no ring was drowned by any outside noise. Twice I was trying to lie down on the futon, only to jump up as soon as I stared at the ceiling. Pented up with so much energy, I should've gone to the gym, it could've been a record-breaking day. A distraction nonetheless.

I checked the PSAs, I checked the new video clips, music, nothing grabbed my attention, not for a minute.

When I buried my face in my hands my device called me. For taking the call I didn't pick it up, treating it like a precious brittle object from a forgotten culture, I almost whispered «Take call».

Jaqueline LaFuet skipped the formalities, she knew, what I needed to hear, «Tomorrow.»

A high-pitched sound of relief left my lips.

«Congratulation Arthur, although I had to bend some rules and beg a colleague, we managed to accommodate you and your brothers needs. As I mentioned, Afterlife's credo is to simply do the best for our customers, satisfaction guaranteed.»

«Thank you, thank you, thank you, you're the best!»

«Maybe you leave that as a positive review and a comment on the search engine.»

«Of course.»

«Maybe drop my name?»

«Sure, sure, Jaqueline.»

«Now get a good night's rest! Tomorrow you travel to the hotel, your journey is the next day at noon, sharp, that is well within 40 hours and should give your brother plenty of time. Travel documents, further details, check-in voucher and everything else you need, you'll receive within the next 10 minutes. How does that sound?»

«Sounds great, great, thank you, Jaqueline, thank you.»

While she ended the call, I was still thanking her, then I thanked my device, the ceiling and the Gods, before I sank to my knees leaving out a sigh that sounded like the name of my brother.

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