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These past days

Updated: May 12, 2023

It's gray and drizzly and I hear the street, the tires catching the rain. The tree branches are full of big water droplets that don't drip; they hang there like ice. It's my last night in this apartment, and I'm finally in the big room on the big couch, like I imagined I'd do every day, but didn't have much to say. I've been, at times, too anxious to even write, which is a strange thing to admit, but there's a kind of restlessness that happens in your body when you've been hiding away. But! Easter brought spring, not in weather but in soul, (I've worn my stocking cap the last several days and still my winter coat), and I've finallyyyy felt better; I finally rode the S-Bahn and went to Berlin Mitte; I finally danced!!!


I left the apartment yesterday around 4 pm, hoping to get to Clärchens Ballhaus by 7:15 pm for the bachata lesson. I had time to kill, so I strolled; I popped into Primark, a fashion shop like H&M that will always remind me of Scotland with the study abroad girls, but the store was PACKED with people trying to escape the cold rain. So I walked around the ALEXA shopping center instead, ate a big plate of Indian food and browsed some stores, was stopped by a strange man who I think asked me on a date ("it's too cold for ice cream but..."), went into a vintage thrift shop that charged by the kilo, and finally made my way to the Ballhaus, a beautiful, historic building set back in a green courtyard that would be enchanting in the summer.



The salsa lesson was supposed to go from 6 to 7 pm, but I arrived around 6:50 and it seemed very apparent that there had been no salsa lesson, and I wasn't sure about bachata either, since there were literally only women, and about 8 of them. But the space had everything I needed to be able to relax: tables for me to put my things, a coat rack outside, a wooden floor that was good for spinning, grandiose ceilings, dim lights, a bathroom down the hall, and a bar in the back. The bar tender stared at me blankly when I answered "es macht nichts" when he asked me whether I wanted water with or without Kohlensäure, and sometimes life reminds me that I have to make my own decisions! So I made sure my other decisions were quicker, I said small instead of a large, but then wanted a large when I realized the small water was like 3 Euros and only gave me like two glasses of water. So I went back later and ordered the large for almost six Euros, and it was so big I laughed thinking the bar tender was teasing me, but alas he was not, I bought the whole bottle AND DRANK THE WHOLE THING, because that's how hot and thirsty you get when you're dancing!


So the instructor started teaching everyone at around 7:15, and he started with salsa and then went to bachata, but he was very difficult to understand because he spoke German and English but in a Spanish accent, and he talked fast and the space wasn't conducive to intimate sound. But he was energetic and got everyone's attention by saying a high-pitched "cuckoo", which reminds me of how mom would mime "crazy", and he made the whole room laugh several times, although he also rubbed me very much the wrong way when my bachata partner was trying to get him to help us do a move that for the life of me I COULD NOT GET RIGHT even though it's literally one of my favorite moves, and all he cared about, in an almost aggressive way, was making sure we both had wristbands/had paid. I do think the more I take "lessons" the less I like them: I think I'm someone who just learns in the moment while doing, or watching myself in front of a mirror! But I did buy that weekly pass thing to the salsa studio for the styling class (which I now have to miss on Monday bc work scheduled a meeting for 5:30) and have been eyeing the intermediate bachata class.


I don't know how it happened that suddenly the space was filled with so many people, but by the time the lesson was over and the social dance began, there were plenty of men to dance with, including Nitish, the guy I'd partnered with during the lesson, born in India but raised in Berlin. We spoke English to each other and he told me that Spandau is the butt of a joke in Berlin, a joke he doesn't support, but that if someone says they are traveling to Spandau someone else will ask, "do you have your Visa?" and that people say "there is Berlin, and Spandau is next to Berlin". I mean, I get it, it's the least trendy place I've been in so far, but I had dinner (ehh, breakfast) with Leonie today and her whole face lit up when I said Spandau, maybe like how I am when people from East Nashville say Antioch, and I'm like YEAH!


Nitish asked me if I've checked out the techno scene yet, which is something OF COURSE I WANT TO DO, and it turns out he's super into it (or at least, was) and suggested I go to Sisyphos, one of the famous clubs I had my eye on and not just because their logo is a duck. I told him how nervous I was about the bouncers because of what I've been reading online, but he kind of laughed at that and then suggested I go there on like a Saturday afternoon, and then eventually offered to go with me, so I was like hell yes! We'll see of course, but I think I'm at a place in life where I'm like, what I want to happen will happen, eventually.


He also told me about this university-taught bachata course that happens weekly, but I'd have to miss a third of the lessons (four of them) because of traveling... it's super cheap so technically not a big deal, but also I know I don't have limitless energy and I think I'd rather reserve my "going into the city" time (especially when I'm living in far-out Falkensee) for nights when there are social dances? Ahhh. It's hard to say no to things that seem like great opportunities.


Anyway, the dancing yesterday was incredible: at first I was a little rusty, but soon I was double-spinning again and feeling like a star, I love the energy that happens when everything just works, and the way the other people smile. And the space itself truly was gorgeous--I was so happy just looking at peoples' faces and the vintage walls.


The walk to the train station at like 11 pm felt indulgent after all the dancing, the click-click of my heels on the wet stones, the quiet drizzle on my red umbrella. Narrow spaces and ghostly light. I ended up at an art gallery thing today and flipped through some photography books, and one of them was a collection of people walking in rain, and I nearly cried, the way the photographer captured the shadows and the hidden faces, the single people in cold, winter slush, the party girls in red high heels, stepping in cobblestone cracks. There are some things in life that feel cathartic even if you have nothing heavy on your mind, that make you feel with such sharp and sudden intensity both the tragedy and beauty of being human?

 

Today I cleaned the apartment; I scrubbed the stainless steel but the wipes left marks. I folded the laundry rack and stacked some dishes. I left the apartment around 1 pm and hopped on a train to the Zoologiche Gardens, then got on a bus and got off when I saw a bunch of shops, right near Kurfurstendamm. I walked into Käthe Wohlfahrt, a charming Christmas village shop that reminded me of Dad; it's one of the best feelings to walk from the cold rain into a cozy store, and this one was dreamy nostalgic with whimsical wooden designs and cuckoo clocks. I sent Dad a video of a giant wooden figurine merry-go-round only to see the "absolutely no photography" sign after. I bought a few small things and visited a few more shops, and then near 3 pm waited outside of Benedict, a breakfast restaurant, for Leonie, the woman I met at the bachata class a couple of weeks ago.


As I waited, a bunch of cop cars suddenly blocked off the road for a small demonstration to go through, and the whole thing gave me chills, which often happens when there are protests, because they are very much "LOOK AT ME", but I'm also always in awe that people are so passionate about things? It all happened too fast for me to figure out what it was about, but I really thought it was amazing how many cops there were, making sure the van that was blaring music and the small parade of bicycles and cars that followed were 'protected'.


Leonie showed up right around 3 and we walked into the restaurant and were greeted with "guten Morgen" and I said "guten Morgen" and then was like wait a minute, it's 3 pm! Ah, the charm of an all-day breakfast restaurant! And everyone spoke in English, probably because Leonie says it's pretty Instagram famous and a tourist stop.


We got a couple of comfortable seats at the bar, which was perfect, and immediately started chatting, first in German and then English, and then a mix of both where she would say things in German that she couldn't remember in English, and I would say things in German when I remembered what they were in German! She ordered some raspberry white chocolate pancakes and I ordered some French Toast, and wow we have a lot in common! I asked her if she drank much because I was eyeing a mimosa, and she hesitated and said she does occasionally but she's a writer so (she needs to be able to think/concentrate)--and I was like WAIT you're a writer?!--so if I understood correctly, she's in school studying creative writing, has her own freelance writing/marketing business, loves to dance and do artsy things, doesn't hate the city but prefers the land, considers herself both an extrovert/introvert, etc etc.



We talked about a lot and made plans, too--plans to be spontaneous! I told her I'd go to yoga with her one Sunday, and she said she's always down for restaurants and shopping, and we talked about how we keep a good few friends around, and she was like, "there's only so much time in life" and every time I hear it, it strikes me as wise because I guess it's something I contemplate often, this desire for ceaseless connections and "anything can happen" while also preserving and still wanting to strengthen/deepen my current relationships. She walked with me to a bus stop after eating and we went our separate ways, I stopped into Kaufland for a pudding and then ate it just a few minutes ago while writing in this.


My eyes are sort of shutting on me already and it's only 10 pm. The melatonin I bought the other day is in powder form and contains magnesium, and it's technically half the dose I'm used to, but my breaths are deeper and calmer, and my mind too. Probably a mix of melatonin and social medicine I've needed for far too long.


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