February 13, 2019

People and Possiblities (Part 2)

alt text

I hit Submit, and turned off my computer. My eyes were tired.

The time was two o’clock in the afternoon. This signified the end of my workday.

Not a single important task should ever get done in the afternoon. Afternoons are for lunch, sleep, and coffee. After writing, I enjoyed those activities in that order.

In the evening, the heat began to subside. I left my apartment in Prenzlauer Berg to grab groceries, as I had friends coming over today.

As I stepped out into the street, I thought about the piece that I had finished. It felt sparse, incomplete. Was the level of tension between Joseph and the female character enough? And why the name Joseph?

Soon, however, relief replaced apprehension. I convinced myself I had spent enough time on the story. I stopped thinking about my writing, and diverted my attention to what brand of beer I should buy.

The setting sun was the only way to tell what time it was.

There were eight of us crammed into my apartment.

Everyone was full and red-faced, the result of a combination of booze, food, and heat. A convivial coma.

Even though we all had known each other for a while, there were some secrets left to uncover. Each anecdote inspired two more.

When I didn’t have a sarcastic comment to make, I leaned back and marvelled at how each person delivered a story. Our talents exposed with the help of alcohol.

Soon, the conversations ceased. The music got louder, because it did not have to compete against the chatter of voices. We sat, listened to Reuf, and began to daydream. I knew I was relaxed, because gratitude began to wash over me. Sleep almost washed over me too.

Until Tom stood up, beer in hand, and began to dance.

The moves were comical, but somehow, rhythmic. His lanky stature added to the hilarity, and everyone began to laugh. As the song came to its slow end, he migrated over to the balcony, still moving. This scene energized the group, and several conversations started anew.

Grabbing another drink, I decided to join Tom on the balcony. He was smoking.

We stood in silence for a while, basking in the warm wind. I enjoyed the cigarette smoke on the balcony — this reminded me of my grandfather.

Finally, Tom spoke.

“Congratulations, on surviving a year in the city.”

“Thank you.”


“So, after a year, do you feel you know Berlin?” he asked.

“Absolutely not. But every day is a little less of a surprise.”

“I understand. I have been here a long time, and still struggle to…” — You could see him translate the words in his head — “…see its size.”

After a pause he added: “Why did you move here?”

The bluntness of the question made me raise an eyebrow. I then looked down on the ground.

I started to answer: “Well…”

“You said it was for work. Is it true?”

“No. I realized I needed to place myself in a situation which would force me to learn. Where I had no choice but to figure it out. How our families did when they immigrated. I wanted to experience this jump into an unknown situation. I didn’t have a job before coming here. I didn’t know the language.”

He took a long drag, blew the smoke away from me, and nodded.

“I understand. But you still don’t know German.”

Verpiss dich,” I joked.

“Maybe, you know the important words.” He grinned. “But was it a quick decision, coming here?”

“It seemed like it was at the time. But I think this was planned all along. Looking at the big picture, I think most decisions are gradual.”

“What does it mean, big picture?”

I looked skyward.

“You know? I’m not very sure. Maybe looking at life based on years, and not days? Being aware of all the possibilities?”

“I get it. Are you saying life moves slower than we think?”

“Yes. Slower than we choose to think. We overestimate how quickly we change. And underestimate how much we can change. And that’s important to keep in mind, because we — ”

I was interrupted, as a young woman yelled out Tom’s name. Then, she began to imitate his earlier dance moves, eyeing him. The movements were spot on, to everyone else’s delight.

Tom shook his head, grinned, and took a sip of his drink.

A slow song replaced the one that had been playing, and she sat back down.

“That was very accurate. I don’t know what’s worse, your moves or my German,” I smirked.

He ignored my comment.

“What were you were saying?”

“The fact that we change a lot, gives us freedom to have these… crazy plans. Understanding this provides us with possibilities. And they are endless. The challenge is finding out what we want next. But I believe that when we do, the steps to get there fall into place. They never fall in the order we think, but even the most ambitious ideas aren’t out of reach.”

“I agree that people limit themselves too much,” he nodded, “But I think it’s naïve to plan.” He put the cigarette out and threw it in the ashtray.

“What do you mean? I planned to get here.”

“See, I also had a plan. I was going to go to America. Go to college. Become an engineer. My parents wanted that. I think I wanted that.”

“You haven’t told me this.”

“I do not think it is important anymore. But half a year before I left, I was introduced to… somebody.”

His eyes moved toward the young woman, who had imitated him earlier. She held a Pilsener in one hand. The other hand was moving with passion — she was telling another story.

He stood still for a while, looking at her.

Finally, he said:

“She talked me out of it. I still don’t believe how she did it. But she took the truth out of me. I didn’t want to go.”

He continued:

“You’ll know this word… I think plans are Scheiße.”

I laughed. He finished his beer, went inside, and sat beside the woman.

back to blog