(This is part two of my core story. Part one is here)
For several years before his death, my dad was living near Heidelberg in Germany. His brother encouraged him to move to Germany because there was loads of money to make. My dad loved sports cars and dreamt of owning a red Porsche. He took the job.
He worked for a German company producing the pipes that carry natural gas overland. These pipes had to be flawless. Any defects could be catastrophic once they were filled with gas. After manufacture, the pipes were shipped to Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen. My dad would travel to these countries to scan the assembled pipeline for hairline cracks. It was a final check before opening the tap and letting the gas flow. I imagined he had connections to rich, powerful people in these countries.
Shortly after his death, my mum started receiving letters from my dad’s debtors stating that she was now responsible for my his debts. He owed tens of thousands.
One day I overheard my mum on the phone, discussing my dad’s life insurance policy, “Maybe we could use the insurance to pay his debts” we thought. But he had cashed in his policy a few weeks before he died. There was nothing left for us to draw. I thought the timing suspicious.
I don’t remember how I learnt it, but in the 1990s, Germany was apparently the ideal place to fake your death. And that’s what I believed my dad had done.
He had debts to escape. He had the connections to make it possible. And he’d cashed out his life insurance. I imagined him paying a doctor to confirm his death and someone else to create a death certificate (which in fact we never saw). I saw him walking away from his family to start a new life in the desert.
At least he was somewhere. I believed that one day I would bump into him on the street of some city. We’d exchange a glance and understand immediately that we were father and son. I even thought about the first question I’d ask him, “Dad, do you still have the red Porsche?”
That is the story I carried to college two years later. My time at college was a period that I would later refer to as my Black Buddha years. A time when my study of Buddhist texts on life and death came up against a love and wonder of science. And it was a time when I dyed my hair black.