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
I am walking around the town with Bella and Ruben. Its very late and we’ve been out drinking. I buy something to eat and then we all get in a taxi to go back to Ruben’s place. Ruben sits in the front, whilst Bella and I are in the back. Bella smiles to me and strokes my hair. Ruben stares straight ahead and laughs with the driver about something.
When we get back to Ruben’s flat it’s starting to get bright. In town, Ruben had come up with the idea for us all to go back to his place and drink some wine. ‘Great idea!’ Bella had said. Bella’s visiting for a few days. She used to go out with Ruben and now she likes me. She is pretty in a sort of sweet way with sandy blonde hair.
Rube lives on the fourth floor. We sit in the kitchen and smoke cigarettes out of the window that overlooks the courtyard. We’re all quite drunk. Ruben pours us each a glass of white wine. It makes you smile to see Ruben stroll around in his elegant fashion. You could definitely say that Ruben has an effeminate nature.
‘Lets have some music!’ I say.
‘Yeah, music!’ Bella says in a sing-song voice.
Ruben smiles. ‘But of course… Haha! But first we finish our cigarettes because if I play music with the windows open…. My neighbours will be very...’
Bella and I laugh understandably.
‘I love this wine,’ Ruben says.
‘You love this wine? Really?’ Bella’s not sure. ‘Its okay. Not amazing.’
‘No, its good,’ I say.
Ruben smiles and nods at me. Bella strokes my hand. I tap on the table then glance at our reflection in the mirror down the hall.
‘I know what I want to do...’ Bella says, and then goes into the bathroom.
Ruben and I crack a few jokes about the flat. He’s letting me stay there for a month in his father’s room. We talk about maybe getting a monkey for the flat. And a panda who makes coffee for everyone. Ruben has a coffee machine.
Bella returns with mascara and gets to work on me.
‘I don’t think I’ve ever had mascara on before,’ I say.
‘Oh it will be lovely Harry. You will look beautiful,’ she adds, pinching my nose. She carefully applies the makeup, saying, ‘open...close...open…close’. I feel like I’m with a nurse getting stitches done.
Ruben opens another bottle of wine but this one really isn’t very good but we all still drink it, regardless. Then Bella puts mascara on Ruben and its obvious that this is a frequent occurrence for him. He bats his eyelids in an exaggeratedly camp manner. I laugh and drink some wine.
We all go into Ruben’s room to play some music - all kinds; rock`n roll, classical, pop. Bella dances. She tries to convey a free spirit kind of attitude. I choose the songs, recline on the bed, or get up occasionally to dance. There’s a nice moment when I start dancing with Bella and she says, ‘Oh Thomas… I thought you said you couldn’t dance’. We both smile and kiss.
Bella pours some more wine for us all. She’s drinking it the fastest, even drinking some of ours. She tells me she’s born in July as she dances.
‘Oh it’s all starting to make sense’, I say.
Ruben and I lie on the bed, and then Bella comes and lies in the middle of us. We’re like this for a minute and then Bella decides to pull down one of my socks, saying, ‘I know what I want to do...’, and gets some oil from the bathroom and starts washing my feet.
‘Wow. You’re feet smell a little...’ She says, laughing.
‘I guess I’m a hardworking man,’ I say, but I can smell my feet too.
‘You really don’t have to wash my feet...’
‘Oh no, I like doing this. I’ve done a course on physiotherapy, haven’t I Rubben?’
I turn to Ruben lying next to me. He nods.
After a few minutes I start to really enjoy the massage. My feet feel numb and eased.
‘Hey, you’ve put more makeup on,’ I say.
‘Yes,’ Bella says, knowingly.
Then Bella washes Ruben’s feet and I feel awkward with her washing both of our feet and the whole situation. When Ruben goes out of the room she strokes and kisses me and its nice but I don’t really know how to feel about it. It’s strange because there is an evident atmosphere regarding this whole thing between the three of us but perhaps it doesn’t really matter.
Bella then decides to show us a video of her friend, who's in a band.
‘When I was growing up, he went out with my older sister. He’s a good friend of mine,’ she says. The band are playing a rooftop concert.
‘Hey thats me and Ruben!’ I say, pointing at two random men in the crowd.
‘Shh...Not everything’s about you.’
We watch the video for another five minutes, then Bella decides to get more wine but spills her drink on Ruben’s carpet.
‘Oh scheiser! Let me get a cloth,’ she says.
Ruben’s not really bothered. He’s been lying down for about ten minutes but now he calmly goes over to the computer, and starts playing Mozart’s Requiem.
‘This,’ he says, ‘is fantastic.’
‘Oh the Requiem...’ Bella says. ‘I cry sometimes when I hear this.’
‘Really?’ I say.
‘No, not really,’ she says sweetly, ‘but its sad; he wrote it when he knew he was going to die, and then he died before he could finish it. Its about his death.’
‘Mozart’s a genius,’ Ruben says.
We all lie back as the Requiem plays. It’s utterly beautiful, extreme in its power. As the music builds up, Ruben’s speaker starts roaring. A full-blown crescendo goes on and on.
‘My neighbours will not be happy with me,’ Ruben says. We all laugh.
I get up and stare out of his window, into his flat’s courtyard. The courtyard looks calm and serene. The sky has that light pale colour before the sun is about to rise. The walls are painted white. I look around at the other apartments from Ruben’s window. All their curtains are pulled down and everyone’s asleep. But the music we’re playing is almost deafeningly loud. I laugh to myself at the ridiculousness of it.
‘Its like Apocalypse Now,’ I say, feeling drunk and in a good mood. ‘You know the bit with the helicopters?’
Bella and Ruben have left the room but they both return with three small glasses of port.
‘Yes its very nice’, Ruben says. They both make short work of their port but I nurse mine. There’s still some white wine left so we finish that too.
‘So now, we go to the club?’ Ruben says.
‘I’m not sure,’ I say uncertainly. ‘I really can’t afford it...and I’m tired too.’
‘No, come on,’ Ruben says.
‘Come on Harry!’ Bella pleads.
‘I can pay for you,’ Ruben says, ‘It’s not a problem.’
‘Oh no...you really don’t have to Ruben.’
‘No, its nothing.’
As Ruben leaves to go to the toilet, Bella says, ‘Don’t worry sweetie. We want you to come out with us because we love you. Its going to be fun!’
So Ruben and I have a coffee each from his machine. Bella has a sip of mine then says, ‘Eurgh, sugar.’
We all head down to the club. Bella has to go to the bank so I accompany her down the block. Ruben goes back to the house to get some more wine.
After she takes her money out, Bella and I kiss for a while in the early morning street. Everything has a blue and murky feel to it, almost foggy, despite it being summer. In the reflection of the bank doors, our faces look pale, and then I remember the mascara and chuckle. As I kiss Bella I feel nothing. I feel myself kissing her lips but I cannot feel anything else. Bella stares at me, probing for something beneath the surface, but I can only give her a vacant smile. She looks serious for a moment; perhaps she understands this, or perhaps she sees something else.
We hold hands walking down the street. We see Ruben strolling along, dressed in a tight black T shirt and a trilby hat.
‘Just look at him’, I say.
‘He’s an angel,’ Bella says.
He’s carrying a bag of six bottles of beer.
‘Here you go,’ he says, opening my bottle with the ring on his finger.
Now we’re going to the club to start all over again. It’s seven in the morning. Ruben and Bella swig their beers. They’ve been doing this for years.
We get to the club. There’s an issue about us being allowed in. The big bouncer isn’t sure, but then Bella tells him a terribly long-winded and sentimental story and he finally lets us in.
We walk through the club’s courtyard and sit by the river and drink our beers. Its cool and the sun is getting higher and higher in the sky.
‘Some of the people here are strange,’ Bella says.
Behind us a punk tries to throw his girlfriend into the river. Bella says something derogatory to him in German.
Then we go into the club itself, and its not that busy. Electronic music is playing and people shuffle about, dancing in different styles. I try and move but my feet feel wooden. I might as well be dancing with all my old school teachers. I try and hide my discomfort by smiling loosely at Bella.
‘Do this,’ Bella says, pointing to her feet.
‘Oh no, you said all this last time...’
I go outside and get some air. Bella and Ruben join me by the wall. This guy with thick blue eyeliner starts talking to Bella in hushed, confidential tones.
‘We’re going to just have a little bit,’ Bella says. ‘You want some too?’
‘No thanks,’ I say. They all take a trip down to the river, and although I don’t accompany them. They’re picking up MDMA. They want an edge that looks smooth and endless, that blends with the horizon, where warm icicles dance in circles, with only old and frowning swans as onlookers, the sun boiling up higher and higher in the sky, and the poor mind going from manual to automatic. I don’t like clubs.
For a while I sit bored and tired outside in the garden area of the club. I talk to a Spanish guy with slicked back hair. He talks energetically. Every now and then he talks of he and his friend being recently accused of being anarchists by some girls at a bar. Then this old South American man starts singing us all an old Latin folk song. His voice is thick and warm, swelling up from his big round belly. He says something to me but I don’t understand so I just nod.
‘Do you mind me asking why you have mascara on, by the way?’ The guy with slicked back hair who spoke about being accused of being an anarchist asks me.
‘Oh its nothing...my friends did it. We were drinking and...’
‘Oh right, oh I know its none of my business. You could have just as easily asked my why I put cum in my hair.’
‘ - To slick it back,’ he adds.
Then he talks about the psychological factors involved in talking to people in clubs, the respective difficulties of different languages and other things, but soon our conversation expires and I sit alone.
I go take a piss. When I come back outside, Bella and Ruben are waiting by the wall, happily smiling, their faces stiff and bright.
‘Everything alright?’ I say.
‘Oh yes, fine.’
We walk back into the club and I tell them I’ll be leaving soon to go back to the flat and get some sleep. We dance around for a few minutes. I look around at all the other people dancing. They all seem trapped in their freedom. Everyone is treasuring their fun; arms clutch bottles desperately, eyes stare numbly around, at the floor, at each other. I briefly say goodbye to Ruben and Bella.
‘I might come and wake you,’ Bella says as we embrace.
‘Okay,’ I say.
I wish them both a good morning and then walk home. On the way back I pass a Turkish food stall and suddenly realise I’m starving. I buy a Turkish pizza but it doesn’t taste very good, perhaps because I see the chef take it out of the freezer and apply all the necessary things to make it all right.