Days 9, 10, 11 and 12.
Let it go or let it be. A note to self.
I flew past four days owed to my 3̶0̶ 31day-writing task. It was worth it. A fly-by snapshot of Thursday through Friday included, though not in chronological order: LOTS of rain; yoga of the restorative and of the powerful sorts to awaken my mind; red wine in a corner of a snug bookshop; an East London boozer; a morning yoga retreat in an Alfred Hitchcock-inspired pub, succeeded by bottomless brunch with the sounds of birds; a bargain bucket from KFC late into the evening—an event in its own right; a cute little terror, a child the age of two; happy reunions; a slow and steady Sunday reconnecting; a candid conversation to confess the time has come to take on pastures anew—talk of business is trifling, but heavy-hearted is the breakup of a solid team.
Which leads me to a short but sincere ode to Berlin.
I spent a year in Munich, a city so completely unlike Berlin it’s a wonder they weren’t nations apart. On the 20-something-th of September 2007, my good friend and I flew to Munich to start our year abroad, an exchange of sorts (a bit of a timeout) from our university back in Calgary. She was headed off to Vienna, I was to stay in Munich.
With Germany as my base, I hopped and skipped around Europe — collecting stories and lessons learned along the way. When the trip was nearing its end, I resolved to return. So committed I was to this, I had met with a tattoo artist recommended by my German boxing instructor. I wanted to immortalise the start of a story.
The only time the tattoo artist could meet was after hours. We had a lock-in in the tattoo parlour and he drew the word by my ribcage. Damals. Back then. In those days. At that time.
My mate was so taken by it, she decided on the spot she wanted a small bit of ink, too. Then I became a part of her story, for life. After, she and I went out dancing, and the clingfilm protecting our fresh new tattoos slipped off.
When I returned to Calgary, I vowed to make my way back to Germany as soon as I could. After graduating, working full time and consequently, being made redundant from a corporate job I held, I heard the beckoning, the doors opening—my way out. I’d have to go through the UK, first. Applying for a working holiday visa for two years was a digestible means to get myself to this side of the Atlantic. Then. Berlin. Somehow.
It didn’t quite end up like that. I planted my roots, fell in love and married an Englishman. There had been a few Berlin sojourns prior to settling. I had tested the waters with city breaks, including carpooling with strangers from London to Berlin. Mitfahrgelegenheit. Then, I started working at a tech company headquartered in Berlin. The visits to Berlin became more frequent.
By fortune and circumstance, I had come to find myself familiar with parts of Berlin. First, there was her heat wave, pressing down on my chest and shoulders, all the heavier at mid-morning after a night out. Then, there was her distant company in January’s chill. Ever more disquieting when the loss of a friend pierced through me. There were breezier moments, too. Neukölln’s courtyard brunch with eruptions of laughter rippling through. A smoky jazz night filled to the brim with pastis. Laps and gossip around an abandoned and reclaimed airport field. A cycle through and to Potsdam, complete with Macgyver-ing a broken bike chain with a hair band and getting lost in the dark and rain, without bike lights. I shan’t forget all the office pups I’ve hung with, the riverside lunches or the courtyard drinks. And the lady, that last resident of the estate. Her homemade punch, lethal. Her photographs of dogs and cats, lonely. Her wild hair and even wilder dance moves—what a trip. I saw the city by foot, too. Running though Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg, Treptow or Templholf in the morning or by the witching hour. The winter mornings in Treptower Park were like stepping through the wardrobe and into Narnia. Running up to the Soviet War Memorial, its sheer size growing even more colossal with each snow-crunched step forward. At dusk, the statue was at the brink of coming to life. I had escaped just in time. By spring, the Berlin half marathon took me elsewhere—another side of her fair self. Swimming is a wonderful treat here too, time-travelling in the public baths to wild surrenders in the clean lakes. Lidos invited serious laps but offered enough space to bathe beneath the sun, too. I won’t say more of the wonderful and joyous beings I had come across. I’ll see them again soon, there’s no doubt. But the familiarity I had of Berlin, and her of me, will fade.
I never lived there, per se. But, thanks to a series of small serendipities, I somehow made good on my pledge over a decade ago. I returned to Germany after all.