a night in berlin

words & images anastasia miari

He shouts my name for the fifth time in about ten minutes. "I’m almost done, babe!" My auto-response. Actually, I still need to dry my hair, floss, brush, and figure out what I’m going to wear.

Berliners like to keep it low key. We won’t get in if we’re not ‘dressed down’—making getting ready in the five minute time slot he’s just left me a lot easier. Black jeans, black spaghetti-strap vest, black jumper, black beanie hat. Take that Berlin bouncers. I’ve assimilated. I now blend into your black-clad crowd. Well done, you, for siphoning out the cool kids, leaving the Italian tourists at the side of the three-hour long queue, wondering where they’ve gone so wrong (it’s the trainers by the way.)

The U-Bahn is rammed, and I’m glad to be out of the cold. He didn’t give me a chance to grab my gloves on the way out, so I ran the risk of frost-bite walking down here. He’s in a mood because we’re late but clearly, the night is young. I keep telling him the Europeans have a more laid back approach than the Brits. One guy further down the platform cracks open a bottle of JD with his mate.

I let him take control of the journey there, flicking through that bloody Time Out guide. We haven’t put it down this entire trip. I did attempt to figure it out, but I have no sense of direction, it would appear, in both life and in terms of underground modes of transport. We’ve opted against buying tickets. The luxury of being able to walk on and off a train freely—no barrier—is too good of an offer to pass up.

It has me nervous and he knows it. My head keeps twitching towards the carriage door every time the train pulls in at a stop. Tube police in high-vis jackets are the Berlin barriers. Much less efficient than the London kind, but I’d rather not be stopped by an angry German warden. I have a feeling that playing the ‘no sprechen Deutsch’ card would not go down well.

I break the silence and grab his hand when I catch glimpses of luminous yellow. His palms are sticky. He’s always antsy when we’re late. In this moment I'm absurdly proud of the fact that I’m aware of his covert affliction; I want to laugh.

Just as I’m about to drag him off the train, we come face to face with the high-vis German giants. Two blondes, freakishly tall, hell bent on righting the wrongs committed on the clubbing commute. The doors close, leaving them on the outside looking in. One of them stares me down until I have to look away. He knows we don’t have tickets. We know he knows. And yet, the doors don’t open for him. The train judders away from the most obvious scenario and into the welcoming blackness. That was probably the luckiest thing that has ever happened to us. I squeeze his clammy hand. I notice the creases by his blue eyes as he smiles.

Three in the morning, and we’re just about getting to the club with the others. I’m coming up as snow begins to fall and I’m chatting to a new friend as we cross the bridge over the canal at Treptower Park. Water can make even the most hard, industrial place look romantic. Perhaps that’s just the MD. My fingers tingle as I feel it slowly kicking in. I run ahead to catch threads of his conversation and link my index finger loosely through his. He was right and I’m happy to admit it.

Paranoia hits in the queue of the Wilde Renate, a tumbling down town house, unmarked aside from the line of people gagging to get in. "How easy is it to get in here?" I ask the Germans behind me as two guys ahead of us are inexplicably turned away. They shrug. He’s by my side smiling his crinkly smile, laughing at me shitting my pants but that’s only because this has happened before and I don’t want it to happen again. 'Face control:' if they don’t like your face, you don’t get in. Once, we had to roam up and down the canal in the piss down rain before being let into a dive called Suicide Circus.

It turns out that they do like our faces—all five of them. We’re in and, my God, this is the best place I’ve ever been in my life. It's throbbing. There’s an English girl nattering at me while I wait for Rue outside the girls’ toilets. The tingling sensation has given way to a rush that has me impatient. I want to find the others and I want to dance. I notice her nipple is peeping out of the top of her saggy blouse, which clings in all the wrong places, across her paunch and her swollen thighs, then gapes at her flat chest. I was right to dress down.

Out comes Rue and off we go down a tight hallway, passing small rooms the size of my brother’s tiny box room at home, equally elicit and alluring, nothing like the clubs back home. Just as I begin to get twitchy about not having tracked him down yet, I see his black hair in the middle of a chandeliered living room. He has water and he’s dancing that demented dance of his. Wading through thick air to an African drum beat, he flicks his wrists and grins wickedly. It’s a face I don’t see him pull often. I smirk, unaware of my own manic expression as I dance my way into his arms. Convulsing and colliding, we all pulse into the waves.

This place is insane. Passages leading off into quiet corners, little split level holes, ladders to climb up, people sprawled out on sofas, smiling. Everyone wants to chat. We’re up a dodgy ladder in a 3×2 room with four German teens squished up next to us. Bastian, this 6'4” gay angel is telling us that he’s never tried drugs before. He also likes my hair. I know because he keeps running his long fingers through it. "You should model," I tell him. "Oh honey, I do," he says. Obviously.

I want him to keep stroking my hair. He does.

We’re all paired off, each of us with our own German teen, lubricated mouths and dancing fingers, with energy to expel but too happy where we are to move on. Blue eyes find mine across this tiny space. The girl next to him has her head rammed way up next to his ear, her breath tickling his ear lobes. He hates that. Lips smacking at his ear drum. He has sensitive ears. Again, I’m wacked with that sense of knowing. I know him. And he knows me. So he gets up, grabs my hand and kisses me in the middle of this close circle, hunched uncomfortably under the low ceiling. Time to dance.

I swing my hips and writhe to a Byzantine beat. Sounds that shake my Greek roots. I’m belly dancing badly. We dance. We touch. We kiss. This circle stops only for water and the bar is in this room.  There’s about thirty people to a room, about four people at every bar. Service is quick. They’re efficient, these Germans. Even at a place like this, they know how to run things properly. I make the mistake of looking at my watch. We’ve been here for four hours. I take it off and put it in my pocket. The sun will be up.

"I’m having the best night," he tells me and I’m inclined to agree. We’ve been walking in step all night. My cheeks ache from smiling. We sit. We talk. We touch. He says everything I wish he would say in the silences at home. The girl from before is slumped across the couch in front of us. I want to be alone with him.

We step out of our pleasure dome at ten in the morning. Vamps embracing the daylight. My body aches but my heart is so full. Light flakes fall on our hot skin and we’re back from beyond. People mill past, en route to work, to the shops, walking their dogs. There’s traffic on the road now and the sky is a white. We’re re-tracing our steps across the bridge to Treptower park station, passing the canal, his hand in mine. Tired, but not too tired to talk.

Out comes the Time Out guide, hidden from the tourist-bashing bouncers in the inside pocket of his jacket. He hugs me in close and I rest my head on his chest. It’s freezing but his hands, as always, are warm. I hardly have a chance to relax into it and he’s off again. I’m left standing on a cold, snowy platform. All I want is to sink into the nook under his arm and close my eyes—and he knows it. He’s buying a ticket for the train; the first of our five-day excursion. No anxious scanning for the high-vis vests this time. Best two euro and forty cents he's ever spent.

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