At their request, the names of the people in this story have been changed. Fair do’s, really. I mean, you can definitely figure out who is who if you read even one other article from my time in Berlin, but whatever. Actually, I think I’ll change my name too, for this one. So, yeah, the guy in this story isn’t me. It’s, er, Raoul.
T’was Saturday evening when last I saw Jack. He invited me over to chill before he went out that night. As usual, I had not a bean on me, so couldn’t join for the nighttime antics, but at least could chill for a couple of hours.
I headed to Jack’s and found him in the middle of a hash induced creative whirlwind. He was flitting around like a hummingbird that had spent the afternoon racking up fat lines of Charlie; sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by glue and scissors and bits of paper, pouring over the assembly of a birthday card for the friend he was seeing later that evening, one of his many Tinder girls. The card was a mash up of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s faces, with added glitter and interesting patterns glued on at jaunty angles. It was definitely original.
Jack offered to cook me dinner. This is the Berlin way: everyone is alternately poor, in between jobs or flats, and when a friend is struggling, you feed and clothe them. When it’s their turn to face the music; that low, creeping dirge of poverty, you return the favour, and look after them. We’re all propping each other up. My penniless stretch is almost up, payday looms, and soon it’ll be my turn to make it rain for my pals. I’m looking forward to that.
We headed to Netto and bought pasta while Jack filled me in on the details of his recent Tinder experiences. They are many and manic. I don’t know how he has the stamina. He told me he’s grown desensitised to sex now, and needs increasingly kinky girls to match him. I think it’s fair to say Berlin has been a storming success for him.
Jack bought food and wine and we walked back to his flat as I moaned about being skint. He said not to worry, and that he’d be happy to look after me anytime. He also mentioned that he had a leftover pill from the weekend that he didn’t want, and said I could have it. I shrugged and accepted. He had a condition, however.
‘You’ve got to do it now.’
‘What? We’re sat in your kitchen.’
‘You wanna be a writer! Think about it: gonzo journalism, man! You can write about it as the night goes on!’
The ghost of Hunter S Thompson floats down beside me and prods me in the ribs with a revolver.
‘Buy the ticket. Take the ride.’
How did I get here? I came over for a carbonara and idle chit chat, now I’m smashing Class A’s at 8pm while being chanted on by Willie Nelson. I washed it down with red wine. It’s a curious emotion, the feeling of regretting something before you’ve even done it. It is an easy emotion to ignore, however. I am well practised in this, instead plodding on towards my doom. The Charge of the Twat Brigade.
Jack put some deep, dark techno on and we cooked the pasta. I sliced the veg and tried to ignore the slight buzzing in my stomach. He taught me a new method to cut onions which stops them making your eyes water. After an hour, the meal was ready. I’d still not felt anything too out of the ordinary, and had pretty much forgotten I’d taken anything.
We cleared the table of glitter pens and scraps of card, and carefully laid cutlery and mats. We dished up, sat opposite each other, and clinked wine glasses. The pasta was creamy and delicious. Almost exactly halfway through my second helping, however, my appetite stopped dead. Not as in ‘full’ but as in ‘I don’t ever want to eat again’.
I have never come up at a dinner table. To be honest, I have never come up anywhere other than a foisty, throbbing dancefloor, blinded by strobe lights and lasers. To copy and paste the same euphoria and energy rush into a steam-windowed kitchen at tea time makes for a rather peculiar experience.
Jack noticed that I wasn’t saying much, and started to laugh at me. My legs were jiggling, as sudden electricity coursed through them. I was tapping my foot to a rhythm that wasn’t there. I suggested we do something. Jack offered me hash. I accepted. Jack, my boy, you are my enabler.
So, after being at Jack’s for 90 minutes, I was now drunk, stoned and wired, which, actually, kind of cancel each other out. I was talking very quickly and moving very slowly. We went to play Mario Kart, and I came 1st in all four races. It seems narcotics send my gaming skills through the roof.
We ran out of booze and I asked if there was any more. Jack said yeah, back of the fridge. I checked and found nothing. What he meant was, he dropped a litre of rum down the back of the fridge weeks ago, and it’s impossible to reach. The fridge was too heavy to lift, so instead I tried to hold Jack’s belt and winch him down into the four inch crevice behind the fridge. He didn’t fit.
After an hour, using a mop and a length of belt as a lasso, Jack somehow fished it out. We rejoiced and did shots. Then, it was time to head to Jack’s friends flat – the birthday girl. Jack asked if minded cycling there with him on the back, as he was too stoned. I shrugged, and once outside straddled his bike – the first I’ve ridden in about ten years. It went well with Jack on the back, until I realised I couldn’t steer and we veered silently and quickly into a shrubbery.
Jack took the helm, and I squatted on the bag rack over the back wheel. I held his waist like Jack grasping Rose on the bough of the Titanic, and we careened through the Berlin streets, the only sound the wheels skirting over the tarmac and the winter wind in my ears.
The pill was still in full swing, and I was overwhelmed with the beauty of everything we passed. Jack kept laughing at my constant amazement. We were sailing through the streets so smoothly, it felt like I was a video camera and my eyes were shooting a film. The city looks like a movie set; we cycled past winding night club queues, glittering taxi ranks, we skimmed over the muddy path past the looming and ominous party monolith of Berghain, its bouncers watching us whiz past in silence, me clinging to Jack like a baby monkey on the underside of its mother.
We passed trams and whizzed over pedestrian crossings. An ambulance tore by us on the left, siren blaring. Turning down cobbled side streets, we ran the outskirts of a shadowy park. Music was pulsing from a huge, tattered squat on our left. We passed by slowly, gazing at the cluster of punks swigging beers in the street outside, anti-capitalism flags slung from every shattered window above them.
The bicycle glided to a halt outside an unassuming flat, we tied Jack’s bike to a lamppost, and buzzed inside. We met Jack’s friend, Alice, and informed her of our gonzo experiment. Her reaction to our excited announcement was received with what can only be described as utter nonchalance. We told her we were going to write about our experiences. She mused to us that everyone writes about drugs. I reassured her that, while this is undoubtedly true, the remedy to this would simply be to do it better than anyone else.
Alice’s bedroom was dead hipster, and we sat for a while. While glancing round her room, however, I couldn’t help but notice a pink vibrator left casually on her bedside table. We had arrived fairly unannounced, so… did we catch her in the midst… or is that just what people do here? Do we just leave our dildos and sex toys all over the place now? Can I wander into the kitchen at lunch tomorrow and place a buttplug on the side, nod at it and say to my flatmates ‘Oi, watch that for me yeah? Just nipping out.’
I asked her what she’d done for her birthday. She told us she’d been for a walk in the park, went to a cafe, and bought herself a present. I asked her what it was. She stalled, laughed awkwardly, and said she’d rather not tell us. Ah, that explains the Rabbit, then. She had text Jack a couple of hours ago telling us to come later than planned, as she was napping. It all made sense now. ‘Napping’ my arse.
The rest of the evening was brief, as they hit a club and I sloped off home, penniless and decrepit. We decided that this night was a warm up, a toe in the ocean that is gonzo. I really want to go full mayhem; just disappear into the murk of Berlin for three days straight and emerge shivering and pale with a sketchbook crammed with stories. When I finally get paid, it’s going to go off.
Now, to end today’s diary entry with a musing that occurred to me while writing this nonsense. That girl was ‘napping’, which meant that we spent longer than we would have at Jack’s flat. Because we were there longer, Jack offered me the pill, the hash, the rum. Because of that, the bike ride transcended mere transportation and became a highlight of all my experiences here. It re-energised me, and brought the fizz back that is my love for this city. That bike ride was an important moment for me, and the memory still makes me smile a week later, thinking back to how happy I was. So, in at least a small way, it changed me, made me better. And it never would have happened if Alice didn’t pop out to buy a vibrator on her birthday.
This is a revelatory wet fish to the face. Everything is connected, and every single thing we do has unseen consequences that reverberate around the cosmos forever. Our actions shape the world we live in as it unfolds around us, and every breath we take contributes to the universe as we know it. Once you have existed, you can never truly un-exist. The very act of being alive means that you have shaped the course of the future of everything. Our loved ones don’t ever disappear; they are woven into every choice we make, every mannerism we have, every goal and fear and hope, echoing down generations forever. Spread joy in your life, and you will start a fire that can never go out.
The next time you have a wank, take a moment to think: I am leaving my mark on the universe.
I Wank, Therefore I Am.
Bet you weren’t expecting that.