The Berlin Diaries – Disco Noire

This is a sad one, because sometimes things here aren’t so pretty, and it’d be a lie to write these diaries and never mention the downtime. I feel like writing about it today. If you’re in a good mood, give this one a miss.



It’s 5am and I have been dancing in Sisyphos for 3 hours. It’s Vic’s birthday. An hour ago I took what I thought was half a pill that later turned was a whole one, and I’m far too gone, and it’s not pretty. I’m simultaneously hot and cold, shaking and sweating, and my balance is off. Heart’s racing. The bartender is rude to me because she thinks I didn’t say thank you – but I did, I protest – she just didn’t hear me over the music. And what kind of bartender says that shit anyway?

Then on the dancefloor with my shameful beer in hand I can’t stop thinking of an ex girlfriend. She rang me earlier, drunk and in tears. Now my head is wrecked and full of questions.

I tell Vic I’m going to the bathrooms, I lock myself in, and I try to make myself throw up to stop the room spinning. I’m retching into the toilet, surrounded by faded graffiti and peeling stickers, and as I stare down into the shit stained bowl, no toilet seat, moat of piss, I tell myself I have to stop doing this. Drugs are not fucking cool or glamorous. Drugs and sex and rock’n’roll, sure, but nobody ever mentions the nausea, the frantic heart, the trying-not-to-shit-yourself-on-the-dancefloor, the 3 days of grinding comedown, the headache, the jaw ache, the weight loss, the sadness.

Drugs. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I wasn’t having fun anymore. I was dancing for the sake of dancing. Wasn’t lost in the music like everyone else. Truth be told, I rarely am – not to techno. I can’t get involved in it, I can’t forget myself. In fact, more than anything, the monotonous anvil pounding and the bland dancing make me feel a powerful sense of loneliness; I am the only person in the club who is not enjoying this. With no stimuli for my senses, no lyrics, no melody, no chorus, no solos, no anger or joy or passion, no nothing, my mind gets bored and wanders off. And when my mind wanders off, nine times out of ten it wanders backwards, into the past.

I stand there dancing like a slug with about an eighth of my mind present, while the rest of my thoughts are occupied by sad recollections of summers gone by, ten thousand painful mistakes and regrets and all the shitty things I’ve done to people I love. Techno raves have the same effect on me as lying in bed at night and staring up at the ceiling. Too much to think about. There’s always just so much to think about. It hurts. It’s exhausting.

So I try to vomit, fail because I haven’t eaten a thing all day, sit on the toilet, put my head between my legs and breathe deeply. Sometimes I feel as though I do drugs just to get to the same place as everyone else; maybe if I do enough I’ll ascend – or descend – to the level of everybody else in the rave, and I’ll understand the music and I’ll party all night with a smile on my face. And sometimes it works – sometimes I relax and sway and close my eyes and dance and dream of the great forgiving nothing, just like everybody else. And sometimes I miss the mark and end up dry-heaving into a porcelain bowl streaked with other people’s shit.

At 5.30am I tell Vic I’m leaving and we hug goodbye. I put on my jacket and backpack and step outside into the freezing cold night. It’s been cold for weeks now, but recently it’s dropped from merely unpleasant to painful, bitter, biting. My denim jacket isn’t enough anymore, I really ought to buy a thick winter coat but I’m stubborn and skint, saving hard for India. It’s a long walk home from Sisyphos; around 2 kilometres. It’s -1 degrees, and the road is foggy. Lone cars swish past and their break lights turn the fog red. I put music on; I feel sad. Amy Winehouse sings to me. Love is a losing game.

I consider flagging a taxi but I’ve already spent a hundred this weekend, so decide to just slog it out. It’s so much further to Ostkreuz than it ever seemed in summer, when I’d stroll down with a spring in my step and a beer in my hand, taking the long route so I could wander past the river and watch the boats. The summer in Berlin is so hot it burns. Now the winter is so cold it burns all over again. Always burning, here. For fourteen months now my candle has been burning at both ends, and I’ve a sneaking suspicion some bugger’s lit it in the middle, too.

“They’ve got cars big as bars
They’ve got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you
It’s no place for the old
When you first took my hand
On a cold Christmas Eve
You promised me
Broadway was waiting for me”

Finally at Ostkreuz, sleepy with cold, the train comes quickly, and I am thankful. Sit in the warm carriage and put on the Pogues’ Fairytale of New York. I love the song; I love the melancholy. Anyone who tells you it’s not the best Christmas song is full of shit. Fairytale of New York is the best Christmas song because it is the only Christmas song that exists for the losers of the world, the fuck ups and dropouts, the stinking toothless drunks, and the comedown scruffy blonde kids on the train home at 6am trying to keep their eyes open, who have to carve their Christmases in two because their father’s affair came to light on their 19th birthday and nothing was ever the same.

And more than that – it’s for the kids who haven’t got any parents at all. For the parents without any kids. For everyone who has no one. Christmas needs The Pogues, because nobody else ever troubled to soundtrack the alienation of being the only person in the world who isn’t happy on the one day that you are supposed to be.

“You were handsome!” “You were pretty
Queen of New York City”
When the band finished playing
They howled out for more
Sinatra was swinging
All the drunks, they were singing
We kissed on a corner
Then danced through the night”

The train is cosy and bright as it smashes through the blackened city. We fly over icy roads and houses, past grey apartment blocks and the neon blur of kebab shops. The empty glittering lights of department stores flash by, and always the Fernsehturm looms in the distance; the city’s disco ball, I used to call it. There’s a middle aged lady sitting across from me who is muttering to herself. You get used to it. Everyone mutters to themselves here. Party kids board and alight, clad in glitter. Some fresh faced, going out, some haggard, coming home.

Shane McGowan rasps in my ear over the tin whistle and piano and violins and I think about the girl I love, long gone now, and how we woke up together last year and swapped presents. I think about a lot of stuff. Pills are meant to make you feel happy. They’re meant to make you feel euphoric, ecstatic. But sometimes when I’m feeling gloomy they just exacerbate the darkness, and the only thing you can do is take yourself home.

“You’re a bum, you’re a punk”
“You’re an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead
On a drip in that bed”
“You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas, your arse
I pray God it’s our last”

I stand up when the train reaches Gesundbrunnen and cringe seeing my reflection as I wait for the doors to open. My pupils are comically huge. Brace myself for the cold once more and shudder over the platform, down underground to the U8. Always people cracking and screaming down there in the warm stale dark. Never had any trouble, but it makes the commute that much longer. I get the train one stop to Pankstrasse, and by this time I’ve given up playing anything else through my headphones, it’s just Fairytale on repeat, because it’s all I can stand to hear. You’re never lonely when you’ve music. Song always understands.

I struggle up to my room, it’s nearly 7am now and the sun is rising thick behind white clouds. I pull off my shoes and pull down the blinds and slump on the floor with my back against the radiator and stare into space. Think a while but I’m not any better for it. After an eternity I heave myself up, undress, and fall into bed. I bought myself an advent calendar last week as a treat and I should eat my new chocolate but the thought of food turns my stomach. I pull my duvet up high and tuck myself in tight, rest my head on one pillow and wrap my arms around another; I suppose it kind of feels like holding someone. I fall asleep and dream.

“I could have been someone“
“Well, so could anyone
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you”
“I kept them with me, babe
I put them with my own
Can’t make it out alone
I’ve built my dreams around you”

3 thoughts on “The Berlin Diaries – Disco Noire

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *