Berlin, September 2015
I had wanted to go to Berlin for a long time. I had wanted to fall in love with it very much, and from the moment I arrived I knew – I was not going to fall in love.
I was traveling alone, and I was expecting to magically become an extrovert overseas. But, I spent most of this particular day wandering around looking for a bathroom so I could change a tampon that I was convinced had fused with my spine, too terrified to ask for directions.
I was wearing sandals and the roads were dustier than I expected, much like my high-school German, and not-understanding didn’t feel like a cosy, private solitude. It was hot, like Australia is, but nothing else was familiar about this old, new city; it felt like my eyes couldn’t focus on enough at once and like my ears were simultaneously registering everything and nothing at all.
The act of filling a day and encountering the world had left me battered. I rattled to my final, haphazardly selected destination via the U-bahn. I looked at the chipped paint of the subway walls and the fluorescent, low ceilings of the tunnels out of the corner of my eye. I felt like I was being invasive. The city, with all its heat and its dilapidation, seemed like an over-friendly stranger who shares too many secrets with you. I assumed that it must have been penance for the Second World War – transparency – and I was beginning to feel that this trip was my own strange and humid penance for trying to be someone I was not.
I sat on a park bench, my uterus aching, sipping a Coke I’d bought with my last two euros, and the city started to rain. Everyone was just as unprepared as I was – this was the punchline to a joke no one was listening to – smiling to themselves, unafraid to toss and catch laugher sideways from stranger to stranger.
All my defences dropped.
This song didn’t make me fall in love with Berlin, but it made me fall in love with that moment. It made me fall in love with life a little bit. I was in a city by myself, in the rain, running from all of the places and the people and the things I’d used as counterpoints, as outlines to my identity. It was just me. But, I was trying to fall in love with something, and even though I felt so lost, I was trying. Now at last I knew something. Something only that sound could articulate.
© Clare Hennessy.