I place my sunglasses carefully, next to the ashtray, as I have a gift for loosing sunglasses. Especially when the sun goes down.
Yet she is still a gleaming light between the wooden beams of the swing.
I am waiting at a green wooden table. Suitcase and handbag. My escort speaks English with a British accent. A short man, whom I’ve never really known. He picked me up and took me to where I was meant to be.
Prenzlauer Berg, pebbles, punks in the park.
He took me to a green table. A pair of sunglasses will be left right there.
In the bookstore on the corner they announce a reading, the actor Daniel Brühl will lecture. The people in the streets sound like the protagonists in Alice in the cities. First leaves gather at the roots of the chestnut tree, they will crackle under our feet when we finally leave.
As you finally appear, the short man falls silent.
I would like to tell him that we don’t need him anymore, that he may leave, but it would be impolite. We are polite, to him and each other. We drink tea.
Words promenade between us, shift to the other side of the road, like shade. We haven’t found our way back. We still search for the intimacy, which we usually share.
Where we know each other from, we massaged each other’s feet.
We didn’t wear clothes, swam naked, did yoga, sweating, sat or lay with each other, far into the night.
Right now, a table and four months, in which we haven’t met, haven’t talked, separate us and I smoke more than necessary.
Even though everything is provided for. Audrey provides it, procured a room, linen, towels. Even though we don’t share a bed.
At the most, we share a hammock, a beach towel, an apartment for five days.
Just to meet again. You and I and Audrey, and the short man.
We are part of the tribe, as you call it.
Our tribe has met on the beach, gazing at the horizon, sharing a Sarong, eating ripe dripping pineapple, sand between our teeth. We let ourselves be carried away by the battering sound of the waves, at the end of this world.
Two years ago you sat down by my side, at this beach, and asked me where I came from, and then you quickly answered, but you don’t seem Austrian at all.
And I liked you instantly.
Because I like all those who do not reduce to the apparent, who juggle with words, looks and gestures. You are a wizard, told me more than once what I needed to hear, protecting me from my fear, and other things.
And now you sit next to me, too tall and lanky, as you say, your tousled brown hair a crow’s nest, your laughter so distinct I would recognize you from ten miles afar.
And your glistening eyes, black, wise, knowing one and a thousand secrets.
I feel at home with you. The place is secondary. It is the vibration we share, no matter where we are. Berlin is Audrey’s home and therefore it is ours.
I owe Audrey the most interesting thoughts.
I owe her the idea of love that is not limited to one person.
Being able to love several partners at once, by mutual knowledge and agreement, appears to be an ideal of a potential human existence, even though I probably could not live it.
I owe her a never ending perspective of freedom, which I experience by being with her. Audrey is a highly gifted philanthropist. She embraces everyone she meets, is loving, affectionate and kind.
She says, I try to see the inside rather than what is visible on the surface.
And Audrey is a beautiful woman.
She puts a smile on her lips, so alluring, so fast and complete, I never met anyone like her. She is a fairy, who has fallen out of a land that never existed, hiding her wings underneath her hair, which is blond and short and tousled.
When she is moved, she runs her fingers through it, as if she wanted to remind herself that she could fly. She is a heroine.
I owe her the possibility of a healthy attitude towards my body, an acceptance of its fallibility, loving its appearance. Free from age, sex or looks.
Audrey isn’t beautiful only to me: Tall and slender, she has soft skin, a delicate honey tint in summer, a colour of yoghurt in winter, with cinnamon and caramel freckles. Her eyes sparkle just like yours, only they are green and amber coloured. They contain tenderness that peers cautiously into this world.
I owe her the idea that life is not so much about what you display, but more about your ability to live your truth. I owe her the impulse to search for this truth. She is a brave one, who dances in underwear, for whom a blowjob is unwrapping a present. Men are boys, she says, it’s so easy to make them happy.
We are happy, we are all good things, the three of us.
We take the tram 3 times 3 minutes towards our apartment, which we will share like a family. If friends are the family you wish for, I certainly won the wish-lottery. Our home base is located in the best area, owned by Audrey’s boyfriend, who will be our friend soon enough, online at first, for real a bit later. All those who know Audrey love each other.
We move in and Audrey moves furniture.
There is a light blue art nouveau desk, cotton strips dangle from the ceiling, the bathroom reminds me of the rainforest and the kitchen is equipped with stainless steel and black wood.
I never stayed anywhere as stylish, I say.
Berlin’s lifestyle is organic.
Here as well, you are what you eat.
Newcomers like us are greeted with slowly simmered artichokes, organic of course. A bottle of red, in quarters in glasses, bought beforehand in the organic shop. For dessert we will have a green twig, air-tight, coming in a powder box.
Later we will transform it into transient shadows.
Beforehand, we sit at a carefully set table.
The light design is dim and sexy, as one would expect. Audrey beams as if candlelight has been invented for her. After we drain the first bottle, intimacy returns like house music from invisible speakers. Dawdling, repeating, deepening, connecting.
It drips between our words, running down our throats like the wine and while we tell each other of loving and living, I remember how often I lay with you in a hammock, head to toe, dangling under this starry sky, so close to the equator. And how sad you were when I left, because all things come to an end, life in paradise is no exception.
At the latest we flee when the monsoon arrives.
And I remember Audrey, who danced tango with me, barefoot under the palm trees, so very close and I remember how she fascinated me then, her and her way to perceive the body. And none of us knew that we would meet again.
It was certain, I am sure.
Relationships never end, you say, they only change form, and of course you agree when she suggests to go dancing. And of course she wears glittering shorts and high heels. Form follows function, well-formed are her legs, functional is her beauty.
Until we reach the club, I have forgotten where we live.
You forgot our street?
No, of course I remember where we live.
Intoxicants bear the blame for you taking pictures of all the street signs and tram lines, and the underground and stops. To be precise: You record everything hinting at a way home so we will find it later. An electronic brain is more reliable than yours or mine, in this night.
We enter the club one by one.
The clubs in this town have many rules.
One of them is the size of your party, another is your ability to speak German, and then there is this irrational element, the bouncer’s petulance, looks, smell, maybe endorphins. Probably it’s just courage.
It’s just an ego-thing, you say and I agree, while we stroll along an unlit gravel path and the bass gets louder and we see the first light bulbs hanging from the twigs.
You say that the Ego is the part in us, that wills recognition, power and fame. I believe it is the sum of our experiences, which wishes to preserve what it knows.
In short: It’s the spanner in the works. It is interested in looking best, fetching the most. It wants to sleep with everyone it feels attracted to.
I thought about sleeping with you.
I imagined it, the details as well.
For some part of me, little is as pleasant as swinging in a hammock with you, until dawn, discarding secrets, floating in the full nakedness of being human, with no boundaries. I can feel their looks when we go to the beach together, you and I.
I know they eavesdrop when we say goodbye in the garden at 4.04.
I will never obey to another person’s insecurity or morals, but I will also never hurt anyone deliberately. What goes around comes around. And your wife has a place in my heart and so do your children. And this is why I sow laughter and hugs and do not touch more of you than your fingertips and your heart.
Heart thieves and slackers are common these days, easily visible between the wades of smoke on the dance floor. You find them by catching the look in their eyes, which resembles a hole, in which you fall, if only you enter. By their words you can spot them, which are hollow, void of air, a vacuum of insignificance.
You look like Lily Allen, someone tells me in the bathroom, do you want to sleep with my girlfriend?
I suspect this is not about being with someone, but being reckless, saving face. Audrey knows it.
Audrey, who wears innocence under her white Marilyn-Monroe-wig, an innocence only innate in those who can show themselves to the world without a mask. She plays with it, coquets with discredit and wickedness. She strips to the buff by acting accordingly, kissing strangers. Those like me, she takes by the hand, and pulls them out of their stiffness. Into the fresh clear air, a star-lit, Vodka-drunk night.
She shows me everything I need to know, literally and figuratively, guides me across the dance floors, passing the bars, sits on the shore of the river with me and tells me how to spot a dealer. We drink a shot and another one and she explains this world, which is so strange, so foreign to me, in which she moves like a fish in the water beneath our feet.
Later I will go on a boat tour with you, on this river.
Like tourists we will discover Berlin and I will tell you that I have been here before. Because only then I remember.
This world is not strange to me, not as strange as I thought.
Memory hits me like lightning on a sultry summer evening.
I walked on Kurfürstendamm, at my father’s hand, in 1992.
The temperature had risen far beyond 40 degrees, enormous crowds on the streets, a man with long hair and a very bare chest ran past us, shouting, anybody seen my baby, again and again. My father told me that he was searching for his girlfriend.
And the image of the bombed Memorial Church fried itself into my seven-year-old head, so as to now, when I see it, I have a feeling I know this place.
Someone once told me, that Berlin is a place you can move to immediately. He was right. I was at home here, before I even set foot in this city.
Before I flew here I was sitting on a small balcony in Viale Don Giovanni Minzone in Florence, a small old apartment, which was so overheated that we had to sleep in wet linen. It was August and I read Audrey’s message while a first cool breeze enveloped me.
You have to come to Berlin, she wrote, I’ve got a place for you.
And she wrote you would come too.
And I knew I didn’t have a choice.
I told everybody: I am going to Berlin.
I told nobody: I don’t know where to go after that.
Because I might just fly back, to be with you and the others, at the end of the world. When winter comes.
I packed my rucksack with everything I wanted to bring, even though I know it better. Even though I know from India, that I may only bring necessities, a white shirt, a black blouse, blue jeans. Underwear, shoes for rain and shoes for sunshine. For everything else there is a golden card. I took everything out and packed again. What I would need for a weekend. Wherever I am home.
And as it is with all places you feel at home, my knowledge about Berlin was marginal. Neither figures nor facts I knew, did research though. Found out that it covers an area of about 90.000 hectare, has a population of 3.5 million.
The extent I feel on these concrete pathways, which are characterized by bumps and covered by wild herbs, by squeaking yellow tram lines and chattering rusty bikes, which reach into infinity, only restricted by a luminous blue horizon, give me a feeling of freedom.
This feeling is shoreless and so broad, that I can hardly stand it.
I feel it in my legs and under my ribs. It makes my pace faster and makes me breathe, extensively, sufficiently. Very late I discovered this feeling, it sneaked up on me, jumped onto me.
The feeling on the streets, midweek, at one PM, mild sunshine or a few clouds, depending on the season, is its recognition feature. Neither the reputation of a city, nor its nightlife or stories define it. It’s the feeling on its streets.
Where I come from, this extent is unknown.
There, the streets are small and labyrinthine, at maximum two cars can pass, for dawdlers there is no space. Paths are indicated and well known, it is impossible to lose your way. And they are clean, those paths, all too clean.
In Berlin I don’t throw anything away, deliberately. Not because people would be offended, but because I don’t want to disturb the arrangement of the herbs and trash, the regulations of posters and graffiti. There are a many still lives in the rush of traffic.
Did I take one of the pills I was offered?
Did my sight shift?
These pills you get at every party you attend, they change your impression of the world. They change lightness and contrast, dynamics and saturation. They cause tone corrections, with one click they switch curves and place a filter on reality. This filter polishes lightness, reduces the noise and reveals.
My last revelation was that my journey began in a country that played a significant role in one of the most horrendous events in history. And the city I am travelling to is also connected to this event. Two years from now, Berlin will have the same population as in 1944. I will be one of those inhabitants.
In Berlin I don’t have to care about anything, neither in this night, which lasts for 12 hours, nor another day. In the morning we leave the club together, holding hands. It is 8 AM, we are euphoric, probably not tolerable to those we encounter. I get the feeling I will never have to sleep again.
As Berlin citizens we manage to dance in several clubs in one night, a weekend consists of one single night, we don’t need more than 4 hours of sleep.
Audrey looks like the bright day, while getting sandwiches and coffee and we stumble home, chuckling, following the way she leads.
Every day of this week will be the same, and will not, same same, but different, as they say in India. We move in a parallel world, in which we sleep during the day and dance at night. We reverse space and time. When we walk home, crowds rush towards us at the traffic lights. Tired faces, briefcases, coffee mugs in pale hands. When we leave home, the swallows circle above us until they yield the sky to the bats. On street corners we spot people like us, who move outside the matrix, and you say, it feels so good to be here, and I know exactly what you mean.
Our last day begins at 4.04 PM.
You have left while we were still asleep, you had a flight to where I will go tonight.
We will not meet in this place. For you, London is a space in between, on route to your wife and kids, to the Shire, evergreen hills, castles of grey stone, where sheep graze and the wind blows.
For me it is a space in between, just to meet other members of my family.
My tribe is spread around the world.
Its elders are invisible beings, who live in the banyan trees in the backwaters. They wind around aerial roots, like Naga, the snake god, and I pay homage to them by making curry. Curcuma is not resistant to light, its colour disappears after a while. Thus it resembles our connection, which is barely visible, fading as time passes by.
The short man takes me to the airport, as he wished to. All of a sudden he came back, reliable, as one would expect. He is more pale than usual. I thank him by gifting him with one of my heartstrings. As the plane floats away, above the city lights, I ask myself when I will see Audrey again.
It will be years.
I will keep an eye out, for someone like us.
© Marianne Jungmaier, Travel stories, Berlin 2014