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Falkensee

Updated: May 12, 2023

I feel like it's been so long since I've blogged that I don't even know what to say, how to write, how to think. But it's only been a little over a week, which seems crazy. My time in Berlin has been so staccato, with this horribly long pause at the beginning and then sudden spike of social activity, and now I've been sitting in my apartment, sipping Chamomile tea and listening to lo-fi, taking a few "chill" days because I'm feeling run down.


I skipped out on the bachata ladies styling class yesterday after determining some things are just not worth it, which is something I rarely say about dance. But the previous Monday when I went to the class, I arrived ten minutes late and had left for it almost one and half hours earlier, and the class was so full I didn't get a mirror spot. Since moving to Falkensee, (more than an hour West of Berlin proper) my greatest grievances all have to do with what feels like wasting time, missing trains because they aren't long enough to fill the whole platform, and not wanting to run with bags. My cell phone dying and my portable charger, too. Having to pee and not finding bathrooms, or ones that are way out of the way. Walking in too few or too many layers, with too many heavy things. Checking and double-checking timelines only to encounter delays. Having to pay in coins when my ticket app fails. Waiting for buses that come only twice an hour, or not at all. Hopping on wrong trains because I'm sleepy and just want to get home.


But despite all of this, I still love being here, and I still love my new AirBnB. The keys work effortlessly; the streets are quiet and the houses are colorful; I'm on the spacious top floor of the house and have a deck. The shower is really hot; the stove is effortless. There are closets and drawers to put my things. I have a work desk with a window and late afternoon sun. There are so many windows, in fact, that even grey skies feel good. I find my way home from the Bahnhof each time, because I remember the tulips and where I saw them first.


 

I went to the intermediate bachata lesson last Wednesday in Kreuzberg and learned a fun little move for fast bachata, which I haven't practiced since; but the teacher talked to me while I was putting on my coat and said he's happy to have me in his class, but that I could go to a more advanced level if I wanted. This was again enough of an ego boost to send me straight to Havanna. When I got there this time, the big door was locked, so I dug through my backpack on the side, waiting for someone else to try. Two done-up women pulled at the handle and then looked at me, and I was like yeah, strange, it seems to be closed. I told them in German I was there last week and it worked, and then they looked past me and to a different Havanna sign in the back, which I hadn't seen, and they were like oh, there it is--are you sure you used this door last time? And I said yes, and they were like, I don't know about that, good thing we're here or you'd still be sitting there. I laughed and was like ha haaaaa they're right though.


It took me a while to re-orient around the venue, but finally I realized how it was all connected to where I was last week. I gave up my backpack and coat and walked around with just my coat rack numbers attached to the hair tie on my wrist; I considered putting coins in my shoe in case I wanted a water, but then decided I'd actually put on my real salsa shoes this time instead of leaving on my boots.


The bachata space still felt too small and had a lot of the same people as last time, but on the salsa floor I felt like fire, dancing in front of a literal breeze in the middle of the room, hardly missing a beat. There are moments like this when you tap into some universal current that's just sending you along, and it makes you think about all that energy that's lying dormant in physical space--like how a pole is just a pole until you manipulate the space around it, until you twist and spin and create something where there previously wasn't.

 

On Thursday, I got my haircut and colored at a salon literally next door to Benedict, the breakfast restaurant I went to with Leonie like a month ago. I arrived about 15 minutes early to my 10:30 appointment and tried to find the place, but literally it was nowhere. Finally some man smoking a cigarette asked me if I needed help, and I was like, I'm looking for this salon, and he was like, yeah that's me, it's right here. And of course the salon name had NOTHING to do with his name, which was not at all clear when I made the booking. He sat down with me and asked me what I wanted, and I told him in English because that was better than making a mistake in German, and there I was for the next several hours, saying nothing to him, because I didn't feel like making small talk, and he was totally nice and said my name a lot in his German accent but didn't seem eager for chatting either.


All the ladies around me were being served tea and coffee, but I'd said no on both counts and instead silently starved, secretly snacking on my Benedict bakery croissant when he left the room for my color to set. Occasionally, I petted the resident dog, who seemed old and apathetic to my love. My hair turned out fine, which is always how it turns out because I hardly ever do anything super drastic, and you can only tell I got highlights in certain light.


After the appointment I walked across the street to Falafel Jacob, a food stand serving...falafel...and I ordered a veggie wrap thing that was seriously one of the best things I've eaten this whole time in Berlin, with perfectly crisp falafel layered between bites of sweet vegetables and creamy sauce and fresh parsley. MmMm.


I picked up a few things at the Amazon locker in Spandau and then walked the mile home from the Falkensee Banhnof around 4 pm, past all the well-manicured lawns. The dandelions here are almost plush they’re so big, and the little bees love them, and they spring up next to all shades of red and orange and white tulips that elevate the grass with their beauty.


 

Friday night I dreamt about Mom. In my dream I thought, I haven’t checked on her in a while. So I went into the room and saw her lying there asleep, breathing fast, and I was so relieved she was still there, that I hadn’t missed her yet. I leaned into her and she startled awake and started to smile, and somehow sat up. I looked at her veiny hands and hugged her so tightly—she felt so tiny in my hands but it was such a good hug, the way I remember, just warmth and love and that feeling of home. I sobbed as she smiled. I almost told her life has definitely a sense of humor, something she said to me in real life when she was dying, but in the dream I withheld, I couldn’t say it through tears. She asked me about a ballgame later on TV, and said maybe we could all watch it together, which I found so sweet; I'm not a sports fan and neither is she, but everything about the dream felt like she was telling me she was still with me, and that I was still worth her time.

 

On Saturday I slept in and chatted with Brenna and then had to go back to Spandau to get a few more things from the Amazon lockers. Around 4 pm I started getting ready for the night, since I had to leave at 6. I arrived at tango a little after 7 pm in my satin blue; as I waited for my Moscow Mule, I chatted with a girl from Russia who I assumed was German. She was wearing fine black mesh and asked me what drink I’d ordered that had so many ingredients. After she ordered the same thing, I told her in America the drinks usually come with limes rather than cucumber slices, and she was like, that’s strange, she’s never in her life seen a Moscow Mule with a lime. She was in her upper 30s, although I couldn’t tell, and hadn’t danced in like 15 years but used to do a lot of ballroom. She hoped tango would be like getting back on a bicycle, she said. She talked in English mostly and used a lot of extended metaphors, and did this thing where she would just stare at you in a very analytical way when you talked, and even when you didn't. We snacked on buffet-style pita and delectable hummus and waited for the lesson to start at 7:30, when half the red-lit room was full.


After a few warm-up stretches, the instructor made us long-hug strangers and then taught us the art of subtly showing someone that you’re not interested in dancing with them (a slight glance in the other direction, mostly), and my, what a thing, to practice looking around a room of strangers and publicly indicating whether or not you’re attracted to someone! I was glad when all of that was over, but the actual lesson was also hard to follow, because it seemed all over the place, or maybe I was relying too much on the lead to “get it", which is something I often do. The instructor, who spoke in English, used so many scientific metaphors that I wondered if he was a physicist. At around 9:30 the official lesson ended and the social dance began, and so I stayed there for a lot of the night, dancing with different people as the room filled up, and sitting on the sidelines a lot to watch the professionals. Oh goodness, I fell in love. The dancing is so beautiful and has this intrinsic, subtle complexity to it, this push/pull that feels so different from bachata and salsa, this way that requires leg precision and core control.


Between tango, I migrated between the rooms, the upstairs and downstairs, the hidden corners and stairwells, the increasingly crowded bathrooms. It was amazing to move from tango to funk to techno, all in one club, and again I loved seeing all the outfits, the ways people celebrated who they were, or wanted to be. I ran into one of the guys upstairs that I’d danced tango with, and I told him I was lost, so he led me back down and we danced a couple more times and then sat on the sidelines, watching the masters and chatting with the girl from Russia. They discussed languages while I listened but kept my eye on one of the tango instructors, this woman in a knee-length red dress with a haircut like Amelie, who closed her eyes when she danced. And then two professional tango dancers took the floor and gave such an incredible performance that even the tango physicist next to me seemed to be floored.


I didn’t have a watch, or a phone, and there were no clocks, so I danced and wandered around and observed until finally I left, which was after 2 am. I hopped on the U Bahn to Gesundbrunnen but the transit system isn’t the same after midnight, even on a Saturday, and all my apps were showing that I wouldn’t be in Falkensee until after 4 am. After getting on two wrong S Bahns, full of Berlin’s sleepy eyed party people, I ordered an Uber near a lively Doner stand and paid 55 Euros to get home, where I fell to sleep without a shower and woke up with black smudges on the pillow.

 

After the gym on Monday, I went straight to Oma's and got there right at noon; she questched Kartoffeln and fried fish sticks in a pan and we ate it with her bountiful and bright vegetable slurry, the one with Porri and Paprika. She started talking and suddenly was singing a Russian national song she learned in elementary school, then told me about a sauerkraut soup a Russian soldier brought her and her sister when they didn't have much food. Nim dir reichlich! She told me between sentences, watching me finish my fishsticks. When I came back from the kitchen and asked her how old she was when she was ausgebombt (she was 8 or 9), she said that all in one flash she lost all of her toys, including a nice doll carriage she got from her dad's sister, a woman who never married and never had kids. She said she and her sister received lots of knitted things from her paternal Oma, whose full-time job was to knit, and from her maternal Oma, who sewed Oma's mom a nice yellow dress with black accents. Ah, schon, she reflected. Aber dann war alles weg. Mit der Ausbombing, war dat weg. Zu jeder Zeit ist irgendwat. She talked about Hitler, and how he covered Berlin's rooftops with sand to protect against firebombs, and then said, but one wonders, why was he like that? One must always ask why?


As I scraped my plate of the last potatoes, I learned that Oma's mom used to eat mashed potatoes on bread, because she couldn't afford Wurst.

 

After lunch, Oma and I visited Opa. He lit up when we came into the room; I sat on his bed and held his hand. He said it's always the same with him, no real changes, and no pain. He asked what was new with me; I told him I've been dancing and shopping and riding so many trains, that I live in a nice new apartment a little bit away. Schon, he smiled. Oma said if only they'd known there were so many places to rent, Oma and Opa could have been living in separate apartments all this time. We already do, Opa joked, you live there and I live here. Oma said it was too bad that it was so dangerous with Opa's hip now, that he can't sit in a wheelchair or stand because the hip has a chance of being dislocated, and then Opa said, let's leave the leg here and the rest of me can go home.


While we were there, one of the nurses from the original hospital came to check up on Opa with his wife, the man named Peter who Oma always calls "lustig", the one Oma says is in the right profession, because he brings such good energy. Opa lit up when Peter and his wife walked into the room, and after they left, I said, Opa, you are very loved. And he very earnestly said yes, he can see that now very well.

 

Opa tried to give away his yogurt, and Oma said he should keep it in case he has a dry throat later, and Opa said he has such good connections at the hospice, that anything he wants, he can get. I just need to say, bring this and this, and they'll bring it, he said. Oma frowned, said hmm and then cracked a good that you're not at home and laughed for a while.


When I asked Opa if he remembers meeting Oma, Oma told the story, that she was wearing knee highs and a skirt, and they started speaking on the streets of Hohenschönhausen, and somehow it became something more and more. Ich habe nicht gewusst, dass er eine Auge auf mir geschmissen hat, Oma laughed as Opa smiled at her, where all his teeth were showing.

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