This article originally appeared on VICE Germany
Perhaps the most fucked up love story since Romeo and Juliet – or at least Twilight – begins with a casual, romantic text at 7.03AM on the 10th of November 2010. Marco sends a girl named Anna a message seemingly inspired by a bullshit proverbs board he found on Pinterest. "When I sleep, everything goes dark," he writes. "But when I open my eyes and look up, I see shining stars. And the brightest and most beautiful star is you."
Call me a cynic, tell me I've never known true love, but for the first time in my life, I completely understand why so many relationships end with one person ghosting the other. Though, to be fair to Marco, his shtick seems to work with women – 15 minutes later he gets a text from another woman. "I love you so much my darling," it says. This one is from his girlfriend, Jana.
That we are reading these messages is largely thanks to Lukas Adolphi, but also because Marco isn’t the smartest guy going. Back in 2010, Marco and an accomplice robbed Adolphi at a cashpoint – stealing his phone and some cash. When Marco and his mate were eventually arrested two weeks later, they confessed to everything.
Lukas got his phone back, but when he did, he found a bunch of messages that Marco had sent to his nearest and dearest. Thankfully, Lukas felt that these texts were just too good to keep to himself, so he has published them in a book, "Die Cops ham mein Handy" (The Cops Have My Phone).
Marco’s story is that of a teenager who, in his free time, spray paints walls, and tries to balance several relationships at a time. He’s a schoolboy torn between a desire for real intimacy, and the struggle of becoming "a real man" – or at least, what he and his young friends imagine a real man is. Above all, he really loves Anna – and Jana, and Lara, and Maria, and Lea.
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Right from the off, we discover that Marco is in a bit of a dilemma. He has really strong feelings for Anna, especially, a girl he knows from school. But he's in a relationship with someone whose feelings he doesn’t want to hurt; at least not too much. That’s why, two hours after sending a routine "I love you, too," he writes a long message to Jana in which he explains how he isn’t good enough for her, and that they'd be better off as friends. It’s almost convincing, until you read the next message, sent to Anna minutes later. "I’m single… I just ended it. Call me!"
There are so many moments when it becomes hard to believe that the messages were written by real, living, breathing people. For example, one evening, Anna begs Marco to let her in to his house because "my hair will get wet and then I won’t be beautiful anymore". And of course, she wants to be beautiful for someone who sends messages like: "I’m here and you’re there, which means one of us is in the wrong place. I love you so much."
The book is a real rollercoaster – brutal, cringeworthy and addictive in equal measure. It's a complex journey through all the fears that a person can have in a relationship. What does it mean if they don't text back all day? Is it because they're really busy or because they hate me? How seriously should I take the hearts and kisses at the end of a text? And, above all, just how many people are they messaging right now?
Above all, this little book shows how easy it is to map out the life of a complete stranger, simply by reading their everyday messages. And this all happened in 2010. The 2017 version would feature a lot more material – from photos and Instagram posts to tweets and Snapchats that could fill volumes.
Adolphi promises he hasn't edited any of the messages. But, "in a few cases", he has re-ordered them in chronological order. "If you text several people at the same time, it turns into a big mess," he tells me. "I saw it as my job to provide the reader with something readable." And, of course, he changed the names of the protagonists, too.
It actually doesn’t make a difference if Marco really is Marco; if Anna really is Anna; and if people called Karge or Pitzi in reality have less stupid nicknames. It's what's inside their star-crossed hearts that matters.
Reading on, Anna is happy that Marco has broken up with Jana, even though she has a boyfriend, called Flori. But Marco is still in touch with Jana – explaining to her that he isn’t completely sure that having a threesome with her and a mutual friend is a good idea. Though that won’t stop him from asking her eight days later to "send me the numbers of women that might be interested," just to keep his options open. In general, everyone that Marco knows seems to be in at least one relationship, but is regularly, and rather openly, arranging to sleep with other people. It’s a sordid web that even Jeremy Kyle would struggle to unweave.
"I was surprised by the brutality of it all," Adolphi says. "In one moment he says goodnight to his girlfriend, but in the next he's negotiating a threesome with someone else."
Whenever you think that you have the social dynamics pinned down, another trapdoor opens and offers you something that you wish you hadn’t seen – especially in the second half of the book. Marco and Paul are planning to meet up with someone called Karo, when the tone of their chummy, brotherly love descends into something more sinister. "Don’t go fucking today or I’ll thump you," writes Marco, before transforming from unfaithful dumbass to potential sex offender. "We’ll lock them in until they open their gobs for our dicks," he writes.
Over the following days, we hear less from Anna as Marco's sexual language becomes more crude. Has she seen through his games? Does she want to get back with Flori, whose car was apparently vandalised? Marco speaks to other people about "wanting something" from Anna, but they stop chatting directly. Their two-week love affair – love is appropriate here because they use it in almost every message they share – seems to be fading. Perhaps it's unfair to judge young people based on the messages they share, but you should probably make an exception for Marco and his gang. xoxo