The Berlin Diaries – When The Devil Drives

I wrote an article for Unilad a while back, which you can read here, if you fancy. It’s an abridged version of the account of the virtual reality orgy thing I went to a month ago. I was paid £120 for writing the article, however I was told it could take up to 30 days for the money to go into my bank. This wouldn’t usually be too big an issue, except that for the past fortnight I’d been living off around €20.

My rent was already paid in advance, so no worries there, but beyond that, nothing. A single U Bahn journey, just €2,70, would now be approximately an eighth of my worldly wealth. I live around 4 miles from Kreuzberg and 5 from Neukolln, where the majority of my friends reside. Thus, I began walking everywhere, and sneaking on the U Bahn ticketless after 10pm when the aggressive ticket inspectors tend to bugger off home. I managed to do a weekly shop for €5 at Rewe City, which sells a budget range of foodstuffs called ‘Ja!’.

My daily food is:

Breakfast – 2 x toast w/butter

Lunch – N/A

Dinner – Penne pasta with tomato puree

Aaaand that’s it. All that walking, divided by the amount of food I’m eating, makes for a depressing amount of weight lost. Turns out no matter how skinny I am, I don’t have abs. Dammit. I am more trim than I’ve been in years, but I don’t feel healthier – the opposite. Back home I did heavy workouts a few times a week. Muscle has dropped off now, which is disappointing to witness after working hard for two years to get in shape. Oh well. Once I have a job I’ll be joining a gym and guzzling shakes to make up for lost time. Needs must when the devil drives.

It was to my immense delight, then, to find that I had been paid by Unilad on the 18th of November. I frantically texted everyone I knew to tell them that I was going to survive, after all! Up from zero, €120 seems like the world. The possibilities! It is now the 29th, however, and all my money is gone again. It lasted me 11 days, which isn’t exactly frivolous, considering that equates to around €11 a day.

Here’s the thing about being utterly skint: you grow so tired of eating bread and pasta and not leaving the house because you can’t bloody afford to, that when you eventually do come into money, you feel that you’ve earned a treat, in light of all your previous hardships. That’s why money comes and goes so fast for those without any. It has nothing to do with poorer people being unable to save; it’s the fact that being poor is chronically painful and achingly dull. Walking down the street past stalls and shops and bars and restaurants is depressing. With no money, the world closes itself off to you. You want to sit in a café and watch the world go by? Tough shit, buy a baguette or get out. Want to go to a bar with your friends and drink something other than tap water? No dice. Want to get the bus to sit in the park and read? Very funny.

Things that used to be unthinking purchases become planned excursions. Today I have €9 to my name. A Club Mate costs a euro – that’s a ninth of my money. If you’ve a grand in the bank, it’d be a thousandth of your total wealth – you wouldn’t blink at it. I’ve a job interview today, and the U Bahn fare will take a third of my remaining money. €6 left until I get paid for some more freelance work in just under 2 weeks time. Oh goody. I won’t starve, but I’ll go hungry.

You know what though? Bring it the fuck on.

I’m glad I’m skint, I’m glad it’s hard, I’m glad I’m suffering, because this means something to me. I’m not going to let myself fail, I refuse. I knew it’d be tough, months before I came. I knew I’d be hemmed in by German bureaucracy and a dwindling budget. The hungrier my body grows, the hungrier my mind becomes for success. I’m learning every day. I’ve always been fortunate in life, and it’s good to understand how it feels to own nothing, and to feel the weight of the world pressing down. How can you ever hope to empathise with people who have spent their lives living this way if you’ve never had to endure it yourself?

Aside: At this point, I feel I might name drop someone who is on my mind a lot these days: the man-child president-elect, Donald Trump. How, oh how, has a man who literally lives in a gold tower with his name on it in gilded letters, convinced impoverished Americans that he understands or cares about their plight? Ugh.

I lived a lovely, sheltered life back home, and never wanted for anything much. As a student, money was low, but that buffer of my parents was always there – they could send money, or bring food, or simply pick me up and take me home. I’ve promised myself I won’t ask for anything from them again though. That’s not how I want to go forward in my life.

Berlin is my home now, I love it here, I love my friends and the streets and The Strangeness. Winter is here, but summer is around the corner, and I’m going nowhere.

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