Excerpts for Zoo Station : The Story of Christiane F.

Before I was addicted to heroin, I was afraid of everything: of my father, and then later of my mom's boyfriend; of my shitty school and the teachers there; of landlords, traffic cops, and even subway ticket checkers. Now I felt untouchable. I wasn't even scared of the undercover cops that sometimes prowled around the station. At that point I'd gotten through every police raid without so much as a scratch.

Back then I was hanging around with some other users--junkies, really--who I thought were somehow really in control of their habit. Atze and Lufo were like that. Atze was my first boyfriend. The only guy I'd a close relationship with before Detlef; I was crazy about him. In 1976, Lufo--like Atze and Detlef--was part of our pot-smoking clique in the Sound. Atze and Lufo got hooked on dope right before I did. Now they lived in an apartment together, and it looked like they'd hit the big time: it had a French bed, a matching couch and recliner set, and wall-to-wall carpeting. Lufo even had a totally legit, minimum-wage job at Schwarzkopf's.

Both of them claimed that they'd never been physically addicted to heroin and could sometimes go for weeks or even months without shooting up. I believed them, but at the same time they were always high whenever I hung out with them. Atze and Lufo were my idols. At the time I was worried about sinking back to the condition I was in before my first withdrawal. I thought that if Detlef and I could be as cool with our heroin as Atze and Lufo were, then we could also live in an apartment with a French bed, matching couch and recliner sets, and wall-to-wall carpeting.

Neither of them was as aggressive as the other junkies, and and Atze had a really cool girlfriend too--Simone, who didn't shoot up at all. I thought it was awesome that they were so in love and accepting of each other even though one of them was a user and the other one wasn't. I liked spending time at their place, and sometimes, when I'd had a fight with Detlef, I slept on Lufo's couch.

But one night I came home, and since I was in a good mood and felt like things were going pretty well overall, I stopped in the living room to sit down with my mom--but right away she got up and went to get the paper without saying a word. I could sense what was coming next. She always handed me the paper like that when there was a report about a heroin death. I hated it. I didn't want to read whatever she wanted to show me.

But I read the obituary anyway: "Glassblower's apprentice Andreas W. (17) wanted to get off drugs. His 16-year-old girlfriend, a nursing student, wanted to help him: but to no avail. The young man died of an overdose in an apartment in Tiergarten, which his father had furnished for the young couple for several thousand marks."

The story didn't sink in right away, because I didn't want to believe it. But all of the elements were there: apartment, glassblower's apprentice, girlfriend, Andreas W…. it was Andreas Wiczorek, our friend Atze!

At first all I could think was: "shit." My throat was dry and I felt like I was going to puke. I couldn't understand how Atze could have overdosed.Atze, of all people--the popular guy, who knew exactly how to handle his heroin. I didn't want to let my mom see how upset it all made me. She had no idea that I was using again. So I took the paper and went to my room.

I hadn't seen Atze for a long time, but now I was reading about what had happened to him over the last few days. According to the paper, he'd already been shooting up way too much during the previous week, and had eventually landed in the hospital. His girlfriend Simone slashed her wrists right after that, but both of them survived. Then, the day before Atze died, he went to the police and ratted on all the dealers that he knew, even two girls who were just known as "the twins", and who always had first-class heroin. Then he wrote a suicide note, which the paper reprinted in full: "I'm ending my life because an addict only brings anger, anxiety, bitterness, and despair to his friends and family. He drags everyone else down with him. Please send my thanks to my parents and grandmother. I'm an absolute zero. A junkie lives his life at the bottom of the shit pile. Why do so many young people--who enter this world so full of life and hope--fall into this kind of self-destruction? I hope that my life can at least serve as a warning to everyone who will at some point ask themselves the question: well, should I try it, just this once? Don't be an idiot; look at me. Simone, now you don't have to worry about me anymore. Take care."

I lay on my bed and thought: that was your first boyfriend, and now he's in a coffin. I couldn't even cry. I was totally numb.

When I hit the scene the next afternoon, no one was grieving for Atze. It makes sense: nobody cries on the street. But on the other hand some people were definitely pretty pissed at Atze. He'd ratted on good dealers who sold first-class junk, and now they were all sitting in jail. Also, Atze still owed a lot of people a lot of money.

The craziest thing about this whole story is that a week after Atze died his girlfriend Simone, who'd never used before and always tried to convince him to get off the stuff, started shooting up. And then a few weeks after that she quit her internship in the nursing program and started working on the streets. Lufo died from an overdose about a year later, in January, 1978.

Atze's death completely obliterated an impossible dream that we all shared: the dream of the cool junkie, who's able to handle his heroin. Instead, everyone in Atze's old crowd began to fear and mistrust each other. Before, when there weren't enough needles to go around and we were shooting up, everybody wanted to be first. Now all of a sudden, everybody wanted to be second. Nobody talked about how scared they were, but everyone was worried that the stuff would be too pure, too strong, or that it would be cut with strychnine or some other poison. You could die from an overdose, but you could also die from shit that was too pure or too dirty.

So once again everything was all fucked up. It was just like Atze said, in his suicide note. In the meantime, I was making life hell for my mom. I came home whenever I wanted, just like before, but whenever I got back my mom would still be up, no matter what time it was. The first thing she would do as soon as she knew I was back was take some Valium so that she could finally get some sleep. I think the Valium is the only reason she made it through that period.

I was getting more and more worried that I was going to end up like Atze. But I'd find little things to cling to every now and then--things that would give me some hope for the future. Even at school. There was one teacher that for some reason I really liked: Mr. Mücke. In his class we'd have to act out certain situations from a normal adult life. So we'd pretend to have a job interview, for instance. One of us would have to be the employer, and the other one would have to play the role of job applicant. When I played the job applicant, I wouldn't let the employer get a word in edgewise. Instead, I turned the tables on him, so that he felt intimidated and quickly backed down. I thought that maybe I could learn to assert myself like that in real life too.

We also went to the career services office with Mr. Mücke. But that meant that we also had to watch an Allied Forces' military parade. The boys were really into it, and they couldn't shut up about the tanks and all their technology. I had the opposite reaction, because the tanks made a hellish, head-splitting noise and their only purpose was to kill people anyway.

But then I got another boost in the career services office, when I read about the job of animal caretaker. I read through everything I could find about it, and the next day I went back with Detlef and asked them to make me copies of everything they had on animal caretakers too. Detlef, for his part, found some information on a few jobs that he was really excited about. He was looking for something to do with animals or with farming. We were so into it that we almost forgot that we still needed to get the cash for our next fix. So next thing you know we're back at Zoo station, waiting for johns, but still holding our plastic bag full of photocopies from the career services center. It made everything seem so unreal again. If I kept on going like this, I felt like I probably wouldn't even make it through high school.

On my way to school the next morning I bought a copy of Playboy at the Moritzplatz station. Detlef lovedPlayboy, and I bought it as a present for him, but I always read through it first myself. I don't know why we both likedPlayboy so much. Today, when I think back, I just don't get it. But back then,Playboy seemed to offer a cleaner, better world. Clean sex. Beautiful girls who lived problem-free lives. No perverts; no Johns. The guys in these magazines smoked pipes and drove sports cars and had tons of money. And the girls had sex with them because they wanted to, because it was fun. Detlef said that that it was all bullshit, but he still loved those magazines.

While I was in the subway that morning I read a short story from that issue. I didn't understand all of what it said because I was already pretty messed up from my morning hit. But I liked the mood of the story. It took place somewhere far away under a blue sky and a hot sun. I got to this spot where a pretty girl is waiting around for her boyfriend to get back home from work, and I just started to cry. I couldn't get a hold of myself, and kept sobbing all the way to Wutzkyallee station.

When I got to school all I could do was daydream about Detlef and me going someplace far, far away. And that afternoon, when I met Detlef at the station, I told him about what I wanted to do. He said that he had an aunt and uncle in Canada. They lived on a huge lake with nothing but forests and cornfields around them, and he was sure they would take us in. He said I should finish school first, though, since that would be the smart thing to do. He would go ahead first and find a job (apparently they had lots of jobs available in Canada), and when I followed after him a bit later, he would have already found a log cabin for us to live in together.

I wanted to finish school first anyway. And in any case, things were already getting a lot better. I was determined not to talk back anymore; instead, I would focus on my schoolwork and get good grades.