29th March 2021
Part Five. Berlin. Autumn 1994
Just after half past ten, Fabulous Florian walked into the kitchen and handed the cordless bar phone to Richard.
“It’s Chris,” he said before twirling around and heading back to the bar.
“Hello, Chris ?”
“Yeah, hi. Do you know the Ecke Bar ? Meet me there after work. I’ll be waiting.”
Richard memorized the address and Chris reminded him that the U-bahn run all night, as it was a Friday.”
Just after one o’clock, Richard got out a stop earlier than usual, Eberswalder Str, and walked up Pappelallee, with it’s tramlines and sporadic neon bar lights, until he came to Raumerstr, finding the Ecke Bar, which was on an Ecke (corner).
The bar was full and noisy, but Chris was maintaining an oasis of silence in a small table near the back, near the bar. He was noticeably drunk, but without his usual cheer. His head was hung forward, his whole body seemed heavy, a burden to have to carry around.
He looked up as Richard arrived, made an attempt at a wave, and beckoned him down, spitting out an order for two beers to the barman.
“What the fuck’s wrong ?”
“It’s Monika. She’s dumped me.”
“Oh, don’t you start.”
“No, I mean … how ? When … ?”
“This afternoon. I came back from work, all happy, you know, just done a week’s work, in a studio, helping make a movie, feeling pretty cool, and the phone rings. Can I meet her ? So I go over to Kreutzberg, and we meet in some bar, bit upmarket, and then she hits me with it. WHAM ! Right in the kister. Out of the blue, no build up, just, it’s over. Fuck off.”
The drinks came and the barman asked,
“Alles klar ?” but Richard didn’t know if he meant was Chris OK, or did he have the money to pay.
“So … no reason ? Did she say anything else ?”
“Yeah, no stopping her, a whole list of lover’s complaints. That I’ve no ambition, we’re not going anywhere, I’m not committed, I can’t let go of the past; I fucking emigrated, for fuck’s sake. I must still love Ute, which I don’t, thing is, don’t think I ever really loved her in the first place, she was just company, you know ? Good lay and friendly, but I can’t say that because it’ll be, ‘Oh, a better fuck than me ?’ I know I can’t win, then all other stuff, don’t do what I say, haven’t got some piece of paper, yet, some tax slip, because every time I fucking go there, it’s fucking closed. When it is open, you have to have every single piece of fucking paper you’ve ever been given in your life, or else, ‘Nein! Raus ! (get out)’. Then back to looking at Silke’s legs. Why fucking not ? Got great, fucking legs, I’d fuck her fucking legs. But she didn’t pick up on Gabi.”
“Gabi ? Don’t say you and Gabi … ?”
“No, fucking hell. Wouldn’t mind. Have you seen Gabi ?”
“Of course, she’s beaut … “
“Have you seen Gabi ? I’d fuck her … every way possible and make up a few new moves. Thought I’d catch hell over Gabi.”
“All happened two or three months back. Went to a party at the Pfefferberg, all got totally blasted, Moni & Gabi can’t drive, so decided that could both stay over at my place. Anyway, many hours later, I wake up, all groggy and half-pissed still, and, upside down from my sleeping bag on the floor, I see Monika getting dressed, bending over and pulling on her long boots. So I smiled. Probably a gooey-eyed, ‘come back to bed’ smile. But she kinda stopped and turned away and pulled the other boot on real quick, and left the flat. Then it hit me. Monika wasn’t wearing boots. I’d been staring at Gabi. She must have thought I’d been watching her all the time. Which leads to another point; what exactly did I miss ? Well, that’s gonna cut me up, now. Gorgeous Gabi, naked … behind my head, and I sleep through it. Monika ? She was sleeping, snoring away. ”
The next hour was spent going over the details of the break up, getting vaguer and vaguer with each sip of beer. Then the whiskys arrived, the jolly, old whiskys. Chris was planning, and succeeding, in drinking himself into oblivion, so Richard was quite relieved when two guys took the seats next to them, asking, in English, if they were free.
Richard began speaking to the newcomers, introducing himself and quite proudly stating that he wasn’t visiting, but now lived in Berlin. He was rather embarrassed about his job, but they told him that it was the money that mattered, not the work. One was short with long hair, and was called Ignaz, the other, tall and thin was Burkhardt.
By now, Chris had slumped down and was sleeping on the table. Richard thought it was time to get him home. After another drink.
Ignaz was a metalworker but Burkhardt’s job interested Richard; he owned a small record store. He immediately asked for a job.
“I’m sorry, it’s only enough for me. You should come by, sometime. Buy some records.”
Shortly afterwards, Richard said goodbye, and moved over to wake up Chris. He shook him gently, then harder, then harder still. The only reaction was a faint murmur followed by some unintelligible words. Chris then stretched out, resting his head on the table, his arms hanging by his side. Richard began to think that he may have a problem.
There were more pushes and shoves, an attempt at a fireman’s lift, something resembling the Heinlich manoeuvre, a temptation to adopt a police choke-hold, and finally, an open-armed gesture of defeat.
The two Germans laughed, Ignaz saying goodbye and wishing Richard luck. Richard told Burkhardt about the reason for Chris’ incapacity. Burkhardt offered help.
Between them, by inserting their arms under Chris’s shoulders, they lifting Chris and carried him out of the bar, without drawing excessive attention to themselves. Outside, they had to face the main problem: how to get him home.
A taxi drove past, but seeing the inert figure supported by two less than sober characters, continued driving.
“We could go to the main road, but … “
Richard agreed. Even there, it could be a long wait for another taxi, and there was no way he could Chris on and then off a StrasseBahn.
“My apartment is just over the road, over there,” said Burkhardt, pointing at a block visible behind the trees of a small park. “You can stay at my place. Crash ? “
“Yeah, crash, good word. You sure it’s no trouble ?”
“No, it’s fine. It’s not luxury, but it’s OK for one night.”
Richard thanked him and they tried to move across the cobbled road, but moved back onto the pavement when they realized that they would end up breaking their backs and dropping Chris, not that that would wake him up.
“Here, we must make a … I don’t know the word in English … we … put our arms around each other and then we put our arm under him and lift him …”
“In a cradle. Good idea.”
They linked arms, forming a space for Chris to fall into and, resembling a Goya painting, they carried the drunken, wounded lover into the park and up to the third floor of the house, where Chris was dumped onto a couch and covered with a thin blanket. Burkhardt made coffee to go with the half bottle of brandy he had, as they decided that the exercise had sobered them up and a nightcap was thoroughly deserved.
Since moving to Berlin, Richard had been living through “the best of times.” Summer, however, was over, and for Richard, “the worst of times,” was just around the Ecke.