23rd March 2021
Berlin. Autumn 1994
“I just don’t know what to do. One minute everything’s fine the next, Armageddon, four horsemen charging through the flat.”
“Still doesn’t like that it’s Ute’s flat ?”
“Her friend’s flat ! C’mon, I’ve been with her six months, doesn’t she get it, yet ?”
Chris had taken Richard out drinking, ostensibly to celebrate, but another argument with Monika had dampened the atmosphere.
They had walked, without purpose, along Stargarder Strasse, taking a random right turn into one of the side streets that leads into Danziger Str (which they had christened the most boring street in the world, after they had once taken an interminable Strassebahn journey along it’s interminable characterless length).
They saw another new bar that had emerged overnight and which may go on to be a legend, or closed and forgotten by winter. Being still mild, they decided to sit on the wooden benches outside, against the large, single pane of glass, facing the street. Knowing how suddenly the Berlin summer turns into Autumn, this could well be their last chance for open air drinking.
There were only a few other drinkers at a table on the other side of the door, and some individuals inside. The waitress had curly blonde hair and was friendly, so it would do.
The celebration was due to the fact that Chris had managed to orchestrate the job switch. Last night, a Friday, had been his last shift. He would work at the studio full time, or at least twenty-five hours a week, starting Monday, the same day that Richard would begin washing-up, Monday to Friday, seven till midnight.
It wasn’t until Richard began working that he could really consider himself living in Berlin and the timing couldn’t have been better; he was just about out of money. Chris would have to pay for tonight’s session.
Once again, a projected evening out with The Gang had splintered into sub-sects along partisan lines. While the girls discussed if Monika should leave Chris, he was desperately trying to explain the latest argument, but was unable to give a reason himself.
“I just don’t know how it starts. We’re talking, suddenly, one wrong word, or look, and all hell breaks loose. I can’t even repeat the conversations, they are so banal. I know there is a language barrier, but, hey, c’mon, it’s not that. It’s not even the flat. No matter what I do, it’s wrong, no matter what I say … “
“Right. I mean, you’re right, I’m wrong. Obviously. I’m always wrong. Have you heard her ? Every time I say something, ‘No !’ whatever, doesn’t matter, ‘No !’ Sky is blue, “No !’ ‘Course, we know it’s not blue, it’s just the only colour that filters through, ‘No !’ Darling, I love you,’ No !’, Monika, ‘No !’ Bloody tin-pot dictator.”
At this, Richard couldn’t hold-in his laughter any longer, and almost choked on his beer, which, naturally, set Chris off on a laughing fit of his own. Richard had noticed that the angrier Chris got, the funnier he became, and it was hard to lend a sympathetic ear while listening to Chris’ inventory of abuse, his serious countenance only making it funnier.
The waitress walked past, so they ordered more beers, an action repeated four or five times.
The young curly-haired blonde girl was returning with more beers for them, on a large tray with several other drinks, as the bar was getting busier. Meanwhile, three other men were now sitting opposite Chris and Richard.
She walked to the side of the bench and balanced the tray on her right hand, leaving her left free to hand out the bottles and glasses.
And then it happened.
Richard jumped up as a Glass of Coke and something went over his jeans. This initial spill was enough to upset the whole equilibrium and in a microsecond, the entire tray had fallen, and although most of it fell on the table or floor, Richard got his right leg and waist soaked in an unsavoury cocktail of alcohol and sticky fizzy drinks.
The men opposite jumped back, avoiding the streams of liquid, and Chris had been covered by Richard, who was now doing his best to comfort the waitress, holding her hand and telling her it was all right. She began to dry him with a small bar towel, while Chris and another man were constructing intricate sluices for the alcohol to flow away, using beer mats, approaching the subject as if it were a major hydraulics project.
Still the waitress apologised, not that Richard could understand much of it, and he held out his hands to calm her, then asked the way to the Toilette, where he did his best to dry up, using paper towels. There was no hot-air dryer.
When he came out, he found Chris relocated at the bar, with two fresh beers. The waitress was seen outside, still mopping. The barman, who was probably the owner, also apologised, Richard again waving it away, as he did when the waitress returned and started her routine all over.
“I’m kinda liking the attention,” he said to Chris, with a wink, because the waitress was getting cuter by the minute.
He was also glad that The Gang hadn’t gone out, as he didn’t really want to see Lorelei, except, of course, that he really, really did.
The highlight of the evening was yet to come. When they asked for the Rechnung (the check), they were only charged for the last two beers. The waitress was still apologising as they left.
Outside, Chris said,
“Good thing, too. I only had enough for two or three beers.”
“So … I don’t have much money, either … what were you going to do ?”
Chris shrugged his shoulders, smiled, and walked on.
“Damn, I should have asked her out,” exclaimed Richard.
“She wouldn’t have said ’No !’ Unlike another German girl we know.”
“Quite right. She would have been morally obliged to say ‘Yes’”
The exchanged a knowing glance, and nodded to each other.
“Anyway,’ said Chris, “too late now.”
“I could always go back and … “
“No, you had the chance …”
“And blew it. Damn, she was cute.”
“They’ll be others.”
“Maybe a new waitress at Biberkopf. There’s always Ully.”
“With the thing ?”
“Wouldn’t notice with the lights out.”
“You probably would.”
“You’re probably right. You know what ya shoulda done ?”
“Asked out that waitress.”
“Damn, she was cute … “