13th December 2020
Part Three. Berlin. Summer 1994
Monika let out an exclamation of happiness. There was a parking space outside of Chris’ street door. She gathered her bag, and a carefully selected handful of tapes from the car’s floor.
“And this one,” added Chris, “Husker Du,” then began singing ‘Could You Be The One ?’.
They got out, Monika checking the locks on her beloved, yellow Toyota and Chris entered the block, getting out his keys to unlock the Briefkaste. He mimicked her exclamation, pulling out a letter with its distinctive handwriting and British stamps.
Chris’ flat was on the second floor of the back block, or Hinterhof. Ute had organised it for Chris, as it had belonged to a friend of hers who was moving in with her boyfriend. Ute had left some bits of hers there, a source of constant irritation to Monika. It implied that she would be back and when she returned, Chris would go back to her.
Inside, the second ceiling was immediately above the door, an improvised storage space,overflowing with Ute’s belongings and general junk. Monika rarely failed to make at least one allusions to this, per visit.
The small hallway had a door, to the left, which was the bathroom. A toilet with old-style chain, but a normal sized sink and a bath with shower attachment. There was also a small gas heater. A quantum leap from the previous flat.
The main room was larger, as well, and the windows received more light from the small courtyard. There was the Ofen in one corner and the door to the kitchen in the corner diagonally opposite.
The kitchen was smaller, but big enough for a table and could easily sit two and cosily sit three.
Chris played the tape that had Husker Du on one side and Jane’s Addiction on the other. Monika had introduced him to both bands and now he couldn’t hear enough of them. There were the soundtrack to his new life.
Richard’s letter was also full of enthusiasm, and Chris let out a series of whoops and ut-oh’s periodically.
Monika busied herself, allowing him space. She knew he would tell her everything, anyway, in great detail, some of which she may even understand. As soon as Chris had finished the last word, he called Monika over.
“He’s in love, too.”
“Ah, that’s nice.”
“Nein, not nice.”
“It’s not nice your friend is in love ?”
“Yes, I mean, no, it’s not nice, not nice. Nice is a bad word, very weak, it doesn’t mean anything. If you go somewhere and watch someone, I don’t know, act, or play a song and you have to say something, you say,’ it was nice’.”
“So, it is … great ? Great he’s in love ? Super !”
“Yes. Except, no, it’s not.”
“And why ?” A very strong demand from Monika.
“It’s Richard. Nothing ever seems to work out for him in that department. OK, he’s in love with this girl called Käthe. Yes, a German girl.”
“Ah-ha! And where did he meet her ? In Berlin ?”
“No, at work, in London. She and her boyfriend work at the same place. Seems Richard got offered a permanent position, so it means more money. Still shit, but better. Let’s see … “
“But … boyfriend ?”
“That’s all you need to know about Richard. Always falls in love with girls who are in committed relationships. Never mind, we’ll find him a girl here. You got any single friends ?”
“What about Ully at Biberkopf ?”
“What about her ?”
“She’s single, no ?”
“Yeah, I’m sure of it. Are you surprised ? She’s got … the thing.”
“She’s got a lovely smile.”
“And the … thing. No, we can do better than that.”
Monika looked out of the window.
“Ah, it looks a nice day, no, a great day. I don’t want to go to work.”
“What would you like to do instead ?”
Later that afternoon, Chris re-read the letter. In it, Richard had mentioned his routine; seeing films on Mondays, when there are cheaper, maybe drinking with Melanie, then getting home and heating up a pizza slice and watching some American shows, something called ‘NYPD Blue’, or ‘Northern Exposure’. Richard also exalted a book called ‘Generation X’ that everybody was reading and told him to look out for a film about slackers which had Winona Ryder dancing in a convenience store. They all sounded fantastic.
Chris had been in Berlin for over a year. He had two jobs, his own flat, a great new girlfriend and enough money to live comfortable on.
However, he realized from the letter how out of touch he was. He hadn’t read an English newspaper or a new book since being here. He could just about fumble through a German paper, but it was either too complex or too boring. The new bands he was listening to had all been around for a while, but had it not been for Monika, he wouldn’t have had any way of knowing about them.
Chris needed Richard to be here as much as Richard needed to be out of London. He felt that he had a lot of catching up to do.