After examining a torn fingernail, the official suddenly looked up and regarded me with an expression of utter boredom. "What can I do for you?" It sounded like he was reluctantly having to squeeze out each word through the gaps between his teeth.
"I'd like to register something that's gone missing," I said. "I've lost my life."
The official's expression changed within a split second. Boredom was replaced by blind panic. "Another weirdo. Like the madman who recently walked into the job centre and stabbed the clerk to death." But he knew what to do as quick as a flash. He pulled a standard form out of the draw.
"Fine. OK, let's take down the details. So where and when did you lose your life?"
Leaning right back in his chair, as if he wanted to keep as much distance between us a possible, he looked me up and down, dismissively and suspiciously. "What does it actually look like, this life of yours?"
I thought hard. "Well, when I last saw my life it was very dark, rather scared and shy. It was always running away from me as if I was a threat. And it had lost its voice. Grown silent."
The civil servant cleared his throat several times. "Right. So, this timid life of yours, where and when did you" – at this point a fleeting grin appeared on his face, but was quickly suppressed as he regained a neutral countenance – "last see it?"
"Yesterday evening." I'm quite certain it was mine. I remember the look in my life's eyes as it stared back at me: so weak and utterly despondent, as if it wanted me to ask for forgiveness because it had let me down after such a long time.
"Yet my life had once been colourful and bold and loud. A sparkling life that felt good. I used to love waking up in the morning in that life."
The official sat up straight. "So what did you do with your life? I mean, nobody who has a great life like that would go and mess it up. You'd be extremely careful to keep hold of it, wouldn't you?!" Animated, almost angry, the man began rubbing his nose. "After all, we only have this one life!"
He stood up, planted his hands firmly on the desk and leant forward heavily in my direction. "If a life has got into such a shitty state as yours, who on earth would hand it in to the lost-and-found office? Nobody would touch the thing anymore! It's probably somewhere under a bridge, coming to a wretched end. You've really messed it up!"
He took hold of the form, tore it up and dropped the pieces into a wastepaper bin. Noticing the tears running down my face, he snarled, "Oh, for god's sake! All right, leave your mobile number with me. You never know, someone might hand your life in."
Tonight I'll put some signs up on the trees. Just like people do when they've lost their pets. Perhaps my life will forgive me for my indifference, forgive me for those decades I took it for granted.
Until then, I'll just have to try to get by without my life.