KEYS TO THE CITY
I: A New Career In A New Town
II: Dream Life
III: Paintings As Prayers
IV: Late Summer Evening
Rose Crowned Evenings
Moments Of Pure Ashtray
The Personalised Circus
Blind Children On Western Streets
Lucifer Says He Won't See Me
Swans On The Surface
Girl Smoking On Balcony
Stained Glass Window
The Insurance Was WILD
The Sea's Smile
Van Gogh's Lights
The Disappointed Prince
A Night At The Circus
Chekhov In Kreuzberg
A Stolen Dress
Two Contract Killers Get Arrested
My Uncle Dick
Death In The Cafe
Performing To The Curtain
Getting Past The Curtain
Living With Samuel Beckett:
An Anti Essay
It all changed when I bought the tea. My mood seemed to calm, my fiery elasticity of feelings relaxed, my rationale of thought became rational again.
So too did my external world.
Outside, the sky grey became greyer, the cooling temperature cooler. My quaint and pretty neighbourhood became beautiful again, and the fallen autumn leaves that now lay on the blurry cobblestones gave the streets I had to walk down a clearer lining and sense of existing.
I had bought the tea because I was through with it all, and through with not having good tea. I had bought it and it had been expensive, but it had been worth it, and I knew it would help me as I went out to buy it, and when I had walked home after having bought it.
The simple act of making the tea gave my day structure, and broke up the hours into parts of the day.
Before, time had been shapeless. It had been just one thing after another, and then finally, once it had ended, it really was just one thing after another, but in a different way. The days were a numbing spectacle of nothingness versus necessity, my body hurt, my mind was out of town and I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t really eat either. I could drink but it hurt both my body and mind and made everything worse and I’d have to start everything again, each time forgetting or no longer caring why or what I was starting again in the first place.
I could smoke and did smoke a lot, forming some sort of attachment and nihilistic defiance to the act of smoking. This didn’t hurt my mind, but it hurt my body perhaps most of all, which I found frustrating and so would smoke to make it all worse, perhaps on purpose, or perhaps out of needing to do something.
After a few days of drinking the tea, which was normal English breakfast tea I started to feel better, but wasn’t aware of it yet. I bought the tea because I was also homesick and nostalgic. I felt displaced, like everyone does after a great loss. The imaginary tectonic plates that we think govern our lives or give our lives sway, shift dramatically and suddently, and everything falls apart and falls down. Like the leaves outside, brown and orange and dying. Yet I never think of the leaves as dying, nor do I look upon their place on the ground with pity. You sit on a bench in the park surrounded by the parents with the kids and the people who walk their dogs and the odd car or cyclist and glance at the restaurant and café with people sitting outside even though it’s getting cold and you look at the leaves, by your feet, in front of you, to your left and right and behind you. They’re everywhere. It’s three O’clock in the afternoon, the school kids can be heard being let home, and you’re sad and desolate, but at least the leaves are consistent, and will disappear and then come again, and that warms your soul, for it has to. Everything ends and will come again, but the leaf will not be the same, every leaf will come again different, despite how it all seems.
You sit on a bench in the park surrounded by the parents with the kids and the people who walk their dogs and the odd car or cyclist and glance at the restaurant and café with people sitting outside even though it’s getting cold and you look at the leaves, by your feet, in front of you, to your left and right and behind you. They’re everywhere. It’s three O’clock in the afternoon, the school kids can be heard being let home, and you’re sad and desolate, but at least the leaves are consistent and will disappear and then come again, and that warms your soul, for it has to. Everything ends and will come again, but the leaves will not be the same, every leaf will come again different, despite how it all seems. Yes the autumn leaves look exactly like the same autumn leaves last year, and will look like the same autumn leaves next year, but they’re not and will never be. The leaves are either living or dying, or about to be born, or about to die, never the same, never static, never forever dead or never forever alive. They’re autumn leaves.
The thing about the leaves fallen on the ground is that the signs are there, you knew this was coming all along.
In May, spring is in bloom and everything is supposed to be beautiful, in June it starts getting too hot and exciting, by July it’s already peaked and worn out by the heat, and in those last two weeks of August, you already know it’s over but pretend it isn’t and enjoy it while you can, if that’s even possible.
Then come the leaves and tectonic plates.
Is it predestined and necessary or sudden and devoid of reason, I’d ask myself. Well I wouldn’t ask myself, because no one really asks themselves those things, but I guess during this time, I’ve been wondering about this the whole time in the back of my mind.
The tea helped because like I said, it gave the day stages. There was the cup of tea when you woke up and needed to wake up. Before there was no tea, but now there was tea, which gave you a subtle lift and went well in all ways with buttered toast and cereal as a start. This cup was good because you could lie in bed and gradually wake up and feel good because at least you had started with something nice like tea and toast. No need to dwell on terrible things and nothingness and lie in bed not knowing what to do or eat when at least you could have tea and toast and wake up peacefully.
Then you could have the second cup, often straight away to get things moving.
Halfway through the second cup I would shave with the portable mirror hanging over the toilet in my terribly small bathroom, but I’d feel good because at least after the shave and the shower I would look good and feel better. I’d take the mirror from the bathroom into the bedroom, dry my hair, get dressed, and walk out into the street, over the fallen leaves, seemingly feeling happy inside and wondering what I was going to do but feeling good about it.
One day I met my friend Frank. It was achingly sunny, the neighbourhood was very vibrant, it was October and bizarre and I felt like we should enjoy it and have a coffee, and sit outside.
We walked down Donaustr. I felt melancholy and knew it and seeing as we’d met recently, we ran out of things to talk about pretty soon. We sat on the bench and I had a moment where I didn’t feel very happy at all, and neither did Frank, he about his life, I about mine. We didn’t say anything but smiled and felt better when we just let it go and experienced the scene in front of us, which was the square, people walking around every now and then, the sun and the autumn leaves and the idea that we’d get up soon and have that coffee.
We sat outside the café and I felt unsure of myself in public, and with looking at Frank in the eye, and about the content of what I wanted to say, and with how I was almost addicted to oppressive thoughts of sadness, regret, anger and loss. Sometimes you look at someone in the eye or share their company and you’re confronted with how you are existing in the real world and it scares you.
“You know, I get into these black holes, where I get overloaded with thoughts about what happened, and it’s a bit concerning,’ I say to Frank.
Frank nods and listens.
“But it will go away, right?” I ask.
Frank smiles. “Yes, it does. Right now, you just need to have some time for yourself, and things will get better.”
We talk about something else, and then I walk Frank to the office of his therapist. I give him a hug goodbye and then I’m on my own again walking around the neighbourhood, not really interested in the sun or leaves, but that’s what happens. That day with Frank was the day I decided to get the tea.