In the fifth chapter of the Longest Line In Berlin, writer Anthony Dwight Peebles takes us through Frederic and Jamal’s Christmas party, a night filled with naked pleasures, strange encounters, and the struggles of being black. Now that he’s found a home, our narrator finally has some room to enjoy life’s daily struggles and mysteries to the fullest, with Jamal by his side.
It’s Christmas, and I’m still with Jamal. We decided to throw a party to celebrate Santa Claus aka Nimrod aka Jesus aka Horus, truthfully we really just wanted to be mischievous. So, we asked our sexiest friends – sexy meaning sentient beings of magical origin – to come over on the eve of the capitalistic mega-day known as Christmas, and to bring with them potions and foods of worldly delight. I think the invitation actually read, “potions and foods of worldly delight…” Jamal made all the invitations by hand and sent them through the mail. Germans celebrate Christmas on the 24th anyway, so we basically had a Christmas party – but you know us, we’re different.
It was early but all the guests were present. People in Germany are punctual, sometimes even early, which is cool when you’re prepared – and when you live here, you’re prepared. Frankincense floated through the air, mixed with weed and smoke from the burning wood. I let Jamal decorate the place with material and fabrics from his homeland, Ghana. He loves candles and incense, so they were lit everywhere. He also bought some new plants for the flat, which gave it a pleasantly cosy atmosphere. Guests were invited to get naked if they chose to do so, but this was not mandatory. Of course Jamal was in the nude, and holding court, frighteningly close to the wood-burning stove in the front room.
My blackness is always up for grabs
“I mean, I’m a black German man. My mother is white and my father is black. I look like a black man in the world. I am a black man in this world. When I speak German, which is my native language, Germans say to me how good my German is. And some ask where I learned it? Like, I learned it here in Germany as a baby. Germany, where I was born. Everyone screams this equality here. And I always ask for equity and intelligence. I mean, like, use your intelligence when asking me questions, especially questions that you wouldn’t like someone asking you. You know? Like wow. People sometimes always just rap at me. Like what does that mean? Like literally start singing rap lyrics at me. My black skin makes them rap spontaneously? I gag.”
Jamal flicks his ash on the floor and stomps it with his foot. He laughs out loud and continues to speak.
“I watch as my father comes here and spends a lot of money to be accepted. He is fucking darker than my fine ass boyfriend Frederic. So dark, my father and Frederic. So, anyway, at first, when Germans see him they kind of ignore him. But then he starts speaking Russian. He says it is best to start with that language. Immediately after he uses French and then quickly after Spanish. Finally, he will speak German, but from the German novels. He will say words that the German fuck who tried to be racist with my father, won’t even understand. In his own language, he will be silenced. My father says this always works. And of course spending a shit load of money on whatever. Ha. This skin. The things we have to go through sometimes.”
The pop of a champagne bottle is heard and Joanne starts to sing, “La Vie En Rose.” Joanne is Jamal’s friend’s friend. She makes three-second videos, and sometimes one-minute songs. She’s rad: only wears black suits with stilettos, and loves fedoras. Imitating Grace Jones as she pumps and sways, she masterfully controls the room. Those who know the song croon along with her. The rest of us troglodytes move organically with her beautiful voice.
He picks me up off my feet, my nipple and his tongue wrestle. My mouth is wide open.
“Bravo, magnifique!!” People scream. I love seeing everyone so beautiful and exquisitely designed. Our guests came dressed to the nines – those with clothes on at least. Even the naked bodies were adorned with paints, and crystals and fabrics. Such happiness and elation on the faces of everyone, together to celebrate life during winter.
My favorite DJ from Paris was in town and agreed to spin. I had turntables that were left in the flat to use at my disposal. Immediately after Joanne finished, “Pull up to my bumper” blasts through the speakers. This is perfect. The whole place explodes. Grace’s voice, now present and demanding, instructs all to move in syncopation with the flavor of Jamaican “riddims”. I kiss each of my palms and raise them both to the ceiling. I remember seeing the elder in the movie, Daughters of the Dust (1991) do this with her kin. I always do this when I feel happy, elated.
I walk toward the back of the flat, as I want VODKA. Then I see Jamal jerk his body back, pulling away from one of our guest but I can’t make him out because of his mask. Then I see his tattoo and instantly know it’s my producer Geraldo. My producer is kissing Jamal? Or trying to kiss Jamal? In my house? Geraldo? I duck into the kitchen and pretend not to see anything. I open the kitchen window and stick my head out into the winter night. It is fucking cold. But so is that muthafucka Geraldo: cold blooded. Rick James’ song plays in my cold head and I laugh. “Ok, let’s have some real fun.”
Window shuts, feet move, cabinet opens, vile in hand, door closes, heat from people smack my face, I grab Jamal. He is still naked. He grabs my face. Places his mouth over mine. The beat is faster now, and music still blasts a Detroit feel – real Detroit, not fake Detroit, or fake techno. Jamal’s dick erects, door of bathroom closes. Lines on the window pane, pain on Jamal’s face as my hand cuffs his penis. Two lines for me, Jamal doesn’t want any. He picks me up off my feet, my nipple and his tongue wrestle. My mouth is wide open. I stare at us in the mirror. Jamal’s finger in my ass goes in and out. I laugh out loud. There’s a knock on the door.
America is ugly man. I mean Europe is ugly too. The white gaze is a beast.
“Hier gibt es zwei Badezimmer. Benutzen Sie das andere.” Jamal yells. I don’t know what he said, something about two bathrooms.
“I’m just saying what does it benefit me to be given a pass because I’m a Black American. Like people literally can see me and tell that I’m American. So, I see black bodies underneath the U-bahn trains everyday that aren’t viewed with the same celebration that my skin somehow exhibits. Bare with me a second, I’m just saying everywhere I go people want to meet me, not knowing anything about me, but that I am Black, and that makes me both happy and sad. I know why I’m sad, but I’m afraid to think about why I’m happy.”
“I hear you Frederic. The American experience, no fuck that, the Black American experience is fucking crazy. Add in the fact that you’re queer and I can guess why you’re happy. Happy that someone, somewhere, appreciates your innate beauty. Happy that someone is seeing you. It’s places like Berlin, Johannesburg, places where people have been literally murdered for wanting to live and have changed the systems that were in power, reconciled and began to move on. The US needs to reconcile with its native peoples and its black people, and pay them for what they took from them. As if money could solve these types of problems, but you have to start there.”
“I think it’s us. Look at us. We are changing the world, we left what we all came from and landed on Planet Berlin. How many different people do you have here Frederic? I mean it’s like people from all over the world. What’s the phrase from the black music show of the 70s: “People All Over the World… Join Hands!!” I love that idea. We get to make and be the change. We ain’t waiting no more, we doing it now.”
I feel like I’ve floated away. It’s morning now and the incense is making the smell of alcohol in the flat less terrible. Morning of the 26th, our party lasted two days: debauchery, hedonism, and basic Berlin fun.
“So, you think the guys who tried to kiss us were really into us, your guy from the last gig and this ass, or did they just want to kiss someone?” Jamal asks as he sweeps the floor, again way too close to the stove. His sweater hangs low to his knees and flies with each one of his quick movements. He is a dancer, partnered with a broom.
“I don’t know the story of your guy. And, I love how you brought this up by the way. So, my guy was telling me this crazy ass story about being in jail in Thailand, and I think he might have been feeling me while he was speaking because he ended his story with the word penis, or dick, or something, and I immediately looked down there. Then he came at me, all 6ft of him.” I pause for a second and remember that Jamal had to see it and that’s why we are talking about it now. “But, I guess you must’ve seen that, thus this conversation. Tell me about Geraldo.” I say slyly.
“Oh that’s his name. Yuck. He was so unfair. I was so wide open – you know, speaking about being black, and people were listening you know and I felt good. So, we start talking and he leads me in the back and says he has something to say to me and then he pretends to whisper something in my ear and then comes right at me. So no, he didn’t want anything but my lips. That’s all. Silly men.”
“Is that your phone?” I hear the familiar tone, and dash to grab it. “William” appears on my screen. “It’s my ex.” I say, way too loud.
Featured image: Freenando
Second image: Mavi Morais