I almost forgot, what with Q’s birthday yesterday and I’m only back now because if I don’t drive then some of those I know who do, do so fast. We had to, too – because I had to get back so as to be where I’d been, before.
“You can’t remember?”
I can’t. It’s been twenty years, more by a little and having a local as a guide you never really need to know a city. My German is worse now than then. I’m not sure which is when, then or now anyway. It’s been six hours since Tolly Maw and that’s still with Mme Roux cheating on the back roads because this is Berlin and I haven’t got a clue. I say, “Sorry.”
She winces with one eye, the other on the traffic. She’s drinking, which isn’t clever. A twenty-year malt laid down in about the same year as this. A quarter inch topped up with four of cola. Somewhere sensing this, friends of mine are aghast but don’t know why. The car’s a shark, one of the big, basking sort, all heavy wood interior and curling panels outside with an Athena or Britannia on the hood. Either, it’s too far away from the front seat to tell for certain. There’s no boozy smell to the shark, Mme Roux has terrible taste in cigarettes and they haven’t made her brand for ten years even here. She’s always smoking and I hardly ever notice her light up. She says, “We can’t stay long. I’ve got time to kill but my aims a bit shaky.”
There’s no jazz, but a room away plenty of techno. There are a lot of rather young people pretending to be bored so as not to seem awkward. They’re all rather thin, and they’re all rather pretty in that way that most will lose within days of putting aside such youthful things. The bar is doing slow business because everyone makes their bottles last. The labels have been scratched free from some still half full. My boots are older than everyone here just from the time they’ve spent with me. Mme Roux elicits more attention, everyone’s wicked aunty.
It’s 199something and I’m in this club with the Betty Blue and Jessica Cat another floor over. They’re dancing because they’ll dance to anything with guitars and amps and all the way up to eleven. Over there I’m thinking that I don’t know where I am, not exactly, and how far that not-exactly is from London. I don’t speak the language, much, and everything is just that little bit wrong. But I’m happy because this is something of a reunion. My girlfriend and her best friend, a friend of mine too now and we’re for several months three countries apart. Not so far away I can see that I don’t know that in a couple of months that will change and probably because of this weekend when we all met up, we three. Here in Berlin.
But over there and the me that was then is also skint. Mme Roux gave me a fold in the shark, a couple of hundred marks. And this is what I do. Because back then and on this night this stranger came up to me and said, and I say now too, “Look, have this, I don’t need it.”
And I now give me-then the money. It’s not a fortune but it’s quite enough to pay my way, for the week. And I take it as I did and I look at me, and here I am. This fat old fuck with his grey hair and beard, some old hippy and I give my young self a big, invincible grin. And Mme Roux is holding her watch, so I go and turn only to give myself the peace sign.
And it was great, I remember, back then in Berlin with two of my closest friends all so young. When this strange hippy came up in a club and gave me two hundred marks, just because. And it’s where being a bit of a bastard started to rapidly seem more like being a bit of a tool.
Mme Roux is in the shark and then there’s the horn. And then we’re away. And then. And then.