In the fourth chapter of the Longest Line In Berlin written by Anthony Dwight Peebles, our narrator Frederic faces further challenges. Moving to Berlin and travelling to Johannesburg, Frederic is faced with a new understanding of “home”. Can Frederic’s present match his expectations of time past? As he moves swiftly through tricky situations, our narrator finally finds his luck.
On the quest for home.
Do you remember the first Nintendo? Vans before they were Vans? Newspapers with real news in them? VHS tapes? Shit, do you remember cassette tapes? Eddie Murphy, Monica Lewinsky, Biggie and Tupac? Do you remember The Cosby Show? MTV when it played videos? I don’t mean these exact things per se, but do you remember the past? Do you remember things? Do you remember the things of your past, your childhood? Do you remember your technology? Do you remember your “new thing”?
I live in Berlin now – my “new thing”. I’m remembering what I wanted from this place when I wanted to move here, and what I want now that I am here, now that I got what I wished for. When I walk down the streets and notice the familiarity of the leaves, but that the streets, buildings, cars, and people are different, I remember.
People here dress differently than other Europeans, and extremely differently to people at home. I am remembering the strangeness of guns, because guns don’t exist on the streets here as they do on the streets of my home. How strange is it that guns exist at home the way they do? I realize I like walking without thinking about getting shot.
I am remembering home, and how strange home truly is.
After Paris, after the gods gave me what I wanted when I asked for it, I moved into a flat in Berlin. I did some gigs here and then I went to Johannesburg to record music and visit friends. Right when I landed in South Africa, I lost my place in Berlin: my roommates texted me to inform me that they had to rent out my room right as I landed on the airstrip. Johannesburg was a colorful and exquisite new idea of home. I sang, danced, made love, fell in and out of love, and met a new friend. Four weeks later, I flew to Amsterdam for a music festival, and then back home to Berlin, with no place to live.
I looked for a flat while sleeping at the homes of lovers, friends, and strangers. I got a response for one of the flats I had found on Craigslist and I began to feel lucky again. It turns out that it was a fake place – the listing was fake, so I lost 2,500 euros. After the fake place, I found a real place. The night before I moved into my real place, my fake friends stole the real rent money from my bag as we were doing ecstasy – real ecstasy. Thankfully, I had more money, so I paid my rent and moved in.
It’s winter now.
When I first moved into this place, I loved the idea that I would have to cut wood and light a fire to stay warm. The flat had two wood stoves, one in the front room and one in the bedroom. I found this all so appealing in my quest to have a real Berlin experience. The reality-I have to light a fire every time I want to be warm, and it being winter, I am always wanting to be warm, thus always having to make a fire. Up and down the stairs to the basement, carrying wood, making a fire, waiting until finally the whole house is warm, and then repeat.
Thank the Berlin gods that I found this place, especially after the ordeal of losing my money twice. In short, I kissed a black man from the U.K one night at a cool party, and when I was looking for a place he told me he had a friend who had one – I was lucky with him twice. That’s Berlin for you, one minute you lose, the next you win.
It’s hard to find places in Berlin at the moment because of people like me: we’ve all moved to the coolest city in Europe at the same fucking time. I hate to think this way but I am part of the problem just by being here: we move to Berlin and make it harder for locals to find a place because we have more income and can afford the rising rents – if you can find a place that is. That, coupled with the immigrant population, adds up to a lot of people in one place, just looking for somewhere to lay their heads, some semblance of home.
The music is loud. The space is sparsely filled with people, and the light show is blinding. I grab Jamal’s hand and we walk toward the bar. I’m dating Jamal now: he started coming with me to every show after I got back. I guess we got serious right before I found my new spot. He felt like I needed him, and he said it just like that, in that voice and with that face. I guess he is right; I do need him.
We’re at the club: I’m supposed to go on at 4am, but it’s only 2am and I’m definitely more drunk and more high then I am comfortable with before a show. Jamal is ordering Mate after Mate, so I am also caffeine-man: alert, drunk and high as a kite.
I mumble “This should be fun…” under my breath, to which Jamal responds: “What babe?” I mumble again: “Nothing.” I grab the water in front of me, and watch as a couple kiss like strangers, fumbling around until they find a rhythm inside one another. The music pounds off the walls, and the bodies in the room call forth a space reminiscent of a spiritual ceremony.
My eyes travel to a woman with her top off dancing alone, free and light. Her movements resemble those of an experienced matador, with honed precision, concise and sharp. To the untrained eye, everything about her screams sex, but I believe she is experiencing a sort of nirvana, the type of independence that we long for, especially when we ourselves aren’t free and cannot stop thinking about freedom.
It’s 3:30 am, and I’ve sobered up a bit, thankfully. The guy next me to has been talking my ear off about how he got arrested in Thailand for teaching English illegally. I don’t know where Jamal is but all I can think is that he’s missing one hell of a story. “You don’t even want to know the conditions inside that place brother.” His voice is deep and raspy, tree bark and gin. “The thing that was cool was I got to teach a lot of English in jail. Got arrested for teaching English and spent two months teaching inside a jail.” He laughs as he passes me the joint.
He finishes his sentence and leans in to kiss me. My only reaction is to put the joint toward his approaching mouth. The silence after his lips hits my hand is quite uncomfortable. When I feel his 6 ft frame tower over me, I can only move out of his way. He looks dazed and we still haven’t said a word. My hand is still offering the unlit joint to him, quiet and shocked. I place the joint in the ashtray and sip more of my water. “I’m sorry.” He says quietly, eyes diverted.
“It’s no pro…” I begin to say as he turns away from me and walks into the crowd, his large frame moving slowly through the room until he disappears. I light the joint again and smoke it by myself.
Back at home 06:15am-“You were great my love. Everybody was dancing. I think the Mate was good for you because you were explosive! I loved that one song you sang at the end.” Jamal stands in front of me, naked and jumping up and down excitedly. He walks closer to me and sits down coquettishly near me on the bed. His cold hands undo my belt buckle, moving slowly down my pants.
Featured image Chinese 7 gods of Luck
Second image by the Berlin1020 Collective
Third image unknown (we would like to credit).
Fourth image unknown (we would like to credit).