Berlin lies in the flat Märkische landscape, writes JD. That is a good sentence. That is an absolutely exquisite sentence, difficult to surpass. Alluring and open, as windswept as the flat Märkische landscape I never find.
I leaf through the pages of my old school atlas, the one I always go to first. I leaf through its pages, and other more worthy volumes, but I find no Märkische landscape.
The fingers doing the leafing are those of a schoolgirl. JD is the schoolmaster and his domain is not mine.
My domain in Berlin is a different one.
My domain in Berlin is Bistro Calvados at Bayreuterstrasse 12—that, and the woman with the chop. And Rosi and the film that caught fire. That kind of thing. My domain is a peculiar looking tiger in Tiergarten.
So it is obvious that afterwards, after my sensual and meaty Berlin, when I try to educate myself and orientate myself in the flood of personal, vaguely threatening and somewhat crude impressions, by listening to JD’s immensely knowledgeable, political analysis of Berlin, I am defeated. I am pretty much defeated. I get stuck on a bagatelle. I get stuck on a side issue, on a geographical observation made in passing. I get stuck on more or less the only unpolitical sentence in the entire book: Berlin lies in the flat Märkische landscape.
I expect it is the animal in me that wants to have a landscape. Somewhere open to move about in, something more open than east and west. All points of the compass, south and north. Nature. Landscape.
And if Märkische does not exist, it exists anyway. Flat Berlin lies in the middle of Märkische. In Berlin the peculiarities become the reality. It is that kind of landscape. A landscape of senses and sorrow. A past.
I am more than willing but I have not been sent. I have not been sent to commit murder on the myth of Berlin. Everything I have, everything I have to narrate, I would have to omit.
Narration is the stone authors use in their construction work, the construction work that never ceases. The same goes for Berlin. Especially Berlin. And in Beirut and Baghdad, in Jerusalem and in Berlin, city of the bears. Berlin has been bombed enough. So I choose, I choose not to bombard Berlin with the lie that the myth about Berlin is a lie.
WARSTEINER – DAS EINZIG WAHRE
The base is Bistro Calvados. Names can lie. Bistro Calvados is a shockingly false name. There is not the faintest hint of anything French in this bar. It’s shabby, it’s a dive. There are people there who have been turned to mincemeat by Berlin. Or Germany, or life as a German in the world, in a divided Berlin where the only thing to cross the border was the guilt. Bistro Calvados is down a side street, concealed and forgotten by everyone with a new goal and a keen purpose in life. Those who keep on moving forwards. At Bistro Calvados nobody moves at all. They take themselves there in the morning and home again in the evening. They go home early to ensure that they get to their job on time the following day. Their job is being in place at Bistro Calvados, assuming the throne, the high bar stool, that they have been allotted by a hierarchy so intricate that it never opens itself to the eyes of a stranger.
My husband calls Bistro Calvados the Gas Chamber. That is a crime against good taste, naturally. Perhaps it is a time worn epithet in line with the renowned Berlin sense of humour? Perhaps in his heart and pitch black soul my husband is a Berliner? The genuine article.
Bistro Calvados is the genuine article. My cheek cuts thick grey slices in the compact tobacco-filled air. Memory is a dog end and the future another cigarette. I am the youngest. No one is young. Bistro Calvados is the base.
Sometimes we cry, unexpectedly. On the streets, in fine literary cafés. On swanky Fasanenstrasse, there among the exclusive shoppers on the lookout for a bargain, we cry. Suddenly we find ourselves in the ruins of our relationship. Something that has taken years to create shatters in the blink of an eye. It is that kind of city. The city exposes our weak points immediately and pitilessly in equal measure.
Berlin is direct in its approach. There are no secrets.
There are only zones, and they are watched.
The film that caught fire went up in flames many years ago. That was how my acquaintance with this city began.
It was a cinema—or perhaps it wasn’t even that. At least, a film was going to be shown and my girlfriends and I went eagerly, somewhere. At that time I still had girlfriends. Now the girlfriends have each other. That is exactly as it should be, we are friends.
The somewhere where the film would soon catch fire was definitely Off- Kurfürstendamm. It was Off-Off-Ku’damm and it was not under any linden trees, either: it was tucked away in an obscure courtyard without a single bourgeois pruned and stunted tree. I have no idea how we even got there. It must have been thanks to my beautiful friends. They were always more enterprising than I was. On certain levels. On every level they were more organising. And there, in that back yard, we found ourselves precisely where young people want to find themselves: outside. Outside-inside. Almost inside where we wanted to be, and outside of whatever we wanted to take ourselves outside of. In motion. We hadn’t much of a clue what the film was going to be about, not that it mattered especially. It was called Deutschland Privat.
It sounded good.
We were bound to learn something, something useful and enriching, about the state we were visiting.
And we did.
When we have finished crying we do as the Berliners do: we build. Fast, and tackling the most acute needs first. We build to meet our need for a home, and we move in straight away because we cannot stand being homeless with each other. Just a small shack. The cathedrals will have to wait. Berliner Dom with all its gold, all its supporting pillars, will have to wait. For now it is the simplest things that matter. For now it’s Shall we have a cup of coffee? that matters.
Our feet are standing on the elegant pavement of Fasanenstrasse. There are inlays, there are patterns. There is work. When we start to walk the mortar crunches around our ankles.
It turned out that the private in the title Deutschland Privat was very well founded; yes, most definitely. We had not been misled. Instead we had, to our increasingly hysterical giggling amazement, ended up in Germany’s sleaziest bedrooms. The name was no lie, the title no coincidence. The film was about the very thing it said it would be about: private Germany, even though we hadn’t enough common sense or experience to interpret it so literally.
Deutschland Privat was a collection of German subjects’ very own 8 mm films.
Home video you would call it today, but then, at the beginning of the 1980s, nothing like that existed. The technology did not exist; only the bedroom technique was as up to date as it is today. As it has always been. The missionary position existed long before missionaries and the sixty-nine was surely practised long before the tongue had learnt to speak its other, more guttural, language. Of course in the Finland we came from we knew about 8 mm film, also for home use (we had our own delighted self-important fathers), but we had never come across the phenomenon—not even in our minds—that you could show private films in public.
That you ought to.
Was it a political statement?
For the sake of propriety the show began properly enough, with diverse families on diverse Baltic holidays in coastal towns like Sassnitz and Stralsund and Scharbeutz. The waves were foam-topped and the women were clothed. There were children. Pieces of amber were found. But swiftly the waves were replaced by a different kind, more daring. And then Heinz found his Birgitte in bed with another woman. And Heinz was not angry at all, quite the opposite: he jumped happily into the games between the sheets.
Or star photographer Heinz barks his professionally enthusiastic orders and detailed directions at Brigitte—who is a film star!—encouraging her to show a little more, to be more of a pro, not to be so prudish. Can’t she spread her legs a little wider for his sake, for the sake of the film, and Brigitte writhes as best she can, perhaps not for the sake of the film but always for Heinz’s sake, so that Heinz will stay jolly and easy to deal with.
We were led to all of this. To Heinz and Birgitte and couples like Otto and Irma, Klaus and Annette and Günter & Ulrike & Ulrik. The film became more pornographic. We were the only ones in the auditorium. The film became more and more pornographic and in the end it set itself alight. The strip of film caught fire. The 8 mm film was shooting out flames. I don’t think it was because the celluloid was too hot. I think it was the tedium, the tedium and the desperation, that set fire to the Super 8, that narrow strip of fragile life.
At Bistro Calvados everybody smokes. It is a sacred duty. It is your entry ticket. You smoke for everyone’s sake, and you take your duty seriously. No dainty little puffs here. People in this bar—which the person who happens to be standing behind the counter laughingly calls Nachtclub, dies ist unsere Nachtclub—do not belong to the category occasional smokers at parties. They do not ride piggy back on other people’s sins. The party is over and anyway they weren’t invited. The party is over, this is the after party’s after party, this is normal everyday, and normal everyday is a blessing worthy of a quiet prayer of thanks, a pocket of belonging at Bistro Calvados.
Everyone knows each other. Each other and every one are respected, integrity is the fodder they never consume but live off nonetheless. Outside the drab walls of Calvados they know nothing about each other, or each other’s lives. Inside they know everything.
There is a chef. Naturally there is a chef, that goes without saying, but no-one eats. They smoke, and they are smoking now. A particular, democratic kind of smoking is in progress. They appear to be smoking on behalf of the entire population of the world. For all those who do not smoke, and perhaps especially now—now in these newly grim times where a modern smoking law has made its appearance here too in antiquated stalwart Berlin—for all those poor sods in town desperate for a smoke who suddenly find themselves in places afflicted with a smoking ban. Germans do not like bans, they have had their share of restrictions. And so if you have access to a space, a free zone, you are an unambitious egocentric slacker if you do not take possession of every millimetre and make the most of every opportunity.
Every cubic metre of air must be honoured, honoured and inhabited, swathed in clouds of blue smoke thickening into tar.
Lung cancer is for those who are mortal. The people at Bistro Calvados are eternal.
Sometimes Rosi resolutely opens the door, both doors, onto Bayreuterstrasse. The others laugh indulgently at her officiousness. Rosi is officious.
Rosi is the chef.
First we cross the Spree, the bridge over the River Spree. The water is so full of barges that nothing can get through, through and onwards. The water course is not navigable, not accessible at this point. The barges are moored thickly side by side, metal bobbing, slowly.
Scrap metal bobbing? They seem to have been there for a long time.
This morning we were late getting up.
Every evening I pray for faith, hope and love, with one addition: and water. Before the approaching night I pray for faith, hope and love and water for the world, clean water. I do not intend my words to be restricted to religious rhetoric; they refer to highly concrete shrinking resources.
The most basic.
Faith, hope and love. And water.
When we come to Tiergarten I see a fabulous animal. It is not in the Zoo, it is in the park. I see a tigerzebra standing among the winter-grey tree trunks. It is standing so still. I am also standing still. Then when we move, my husband and I, the ice on the Tiergarten puddles crushes under our feet. The zebratiger dissolves, our night old unity endures. In the park we are in agreement. We do not cry among nature, the eye has other things to do. The park is our garden of access, our passage through. It has flowered before. Gardens do bloom from time to time.
Together we see dogs, statues and memorials. We see people and naked angles with a solitary branch in the foreground of our shared photography. My husband is a good photographer, he has a good eye. On good days he has a good eye for me too. At those times I am so real that I fasten on the picture. At those times I am fragrantly eye-catching. I do not spread in all directions but I open, I open wide to the possibility of us.
In my childhood home there were rules. One of them was called Don’t play with your food. None of them was called Don’t fuck your food. But that was not something we did anyway. I expect it didn’t occur to us.
In Berlin it is ganz anders.
We go to the theatre often, to other people’s dramas, other plays with different protagonists. Every play is about the war. No matter what time or whereabouts in the world they are set, they are about the war. Boots march across the footlights and over the audience. What is taking place here is trial and punishment. The public want to be trampled on, they demand it, it is an agreement. You cannot accuse the Germans of forgetting, of suppressing. They are as zealous now in emphasising the monstrosities as they once were of carrying them out.
They are stuck, forever shackled.
One brand new play is called Der Stein and on the surface it is about something completely different, a bitter property dispute, ownership rights. About Right. But in the middle of this topical concrete disagreement the past surges in and dream sequences take over, drowning the linear intrigue. The surface action is only a synopsis, a dry bunch of bones. It is the ghost of the past that gives the performance its life, adds marrow, dead flesh and blood—the most animated of all things.
A man who has been dead for a long time appears wearing thigh-high leather boots (always this leather), a blindingly white, crisply ironed shirt and a belt, a belt of leather, and standing erect.
He walks straight across to a piano with its lid down, pours himself a sherry, takes a sip and sits down calmly beside the coffee table to read the paper. After a while and just as calmly he takes a small revolver from his trouser pocket and shoots himself. In the head. The butt has a leather cover.
Masculinity has guested the stage. A normal man’s normal existence has been lived out downstage. Otherwise there are only women, many female roles in a diffuse present day. Women hover on swings, hover in childhoods. They dig things up and down in a garden plot upstage, with real earth. Dust rises from the earth. The audience coughs, empathetic and engaged. During the interval you can buy stylish literary tomes containing in-depth analyses. Everyone is dressed in black.
The women always find what they have buried. The men mostly find their way out, into their own locked rooms.
Sooner or later someone undresses, always. The play might be old or new, it might be Wedekind’s songs or Brecht’s Mother Courage—at some point clothes have to come off. It’s part of it.
Is nakedness the only thing that does not chafe? Is nudity the new uniform, the only uniform that remains for the German people?
Afterwards we drink beer, always beer, always at Bistro Calvados.
Kartoffeln, Bratkartoffeln, Holzfällersteak mit Kartoffeln. Spiegelei, Hackbraten, Sülze, Rotkohl und Klösse—those are the kind of things you can eat at Bistro Calvados. You can eat Hühnerfrikaseé, and Rollbraten on Thursdays, if there is the inclination.
Every day whatever you don’t eat costs 4.50, and every day ‘Freut sich Köchin Rosi auf Ihren Besuch im Calvados.’
During our week at the Bistro we never saw anyone eat anything. Not even the tiniest little sliver of a crisp accompanied the beer that was drunk. Everyone drinks beer. We drink beer, everyone apart from Rosi drinks beer. Rosi drinks some concoction of her own. Industriously she tops up her glass and its contents resemble dishwater, a long drink rather like gin but it’s hardly that. No one except Rosi knows what she drinks. No one except Rosi knows what she does with all the food that is never eaten. Does she even cook it, or is the menu for decoration only, a garnish to lie under the ashtrays on the few tables in the outer room facing Bayreuterstrasse?
The ashtrays are brown.
The menu is black and white with blurry pictures of glasses of sparkling wine, cheese and grapes and other delicacies.
Rosi is short, leathery and getting on for sixty.
The menu is handwritten with a marker pen, far too thick, on a sheet of photocopy paper. It is hard to read and the spelling is sometimes on a mission of its own. I have an idea who wrote it.
The outer room with the bar counter and the three tables, the inner room with many tables and on the tables cutlery and, beside the cutlery, paper napkins in piles, in theory. Rosi has put them there. The inner room is not for anyone’s use, it is a room you pass through on your way to the toilet, a tranquil thoroughfare for checking your flies and other essential things on the way back from the toilet to the outer room, to the others.
Beyond the toilet is Rosi’s domain. The kitchen is situated beyond the toilet. Rosi is not there.
I go to the evening service in Berliner Dom. It is Sunday and there are a lot of people. Many are young; I am pleasantly surprised. The Chancellor of Humboldt University speaks. I suddenly realise I have never been to a church service in Germany before and that I now find myself in prime Lutheran country. At the heart of Protestantism. Hymns resound. We are not offered Communion. No sustenance at Bistro Calvados today, either. It is Sunday. It is closed.
The L-shaped bar counter is for the regulars. Rosi doesn’t sit there. She perches at her own little counter, one that is Rosi’s counter alone. It is truncated, a simple shelf next to the passageway to the inner room. There Rosi sits, wearing jeans, legs crossed. There Rosi sits, lapping up the secret contents of her glass, smoking, watching, being, as if inserted like a wedge into the wooden panelling of the wall. Yes, Rosi is a woodcut, an ingrained sculpture. She could be a piece by Käthe Kollwitz.
But Rosi seated is not a work of art, and most of all she is not working.
We have a feeling that she occupies a special kind of position but we have no idea what that could be. We do not know Rosi is the chef, we only find that out afterwards, by way of the menu I cram into my pocket on our way out, when for the last time we walk through the double doors onto Bayreuterstrasse. Rosi’s occupation is not something we have been able to deduce from her behaviour during the week.
One evening we get into conversation, if a few exchanged sentences can be counted as a conversation, and they can.
My husband and I are sitting at one of the three round tables, sitting where transient guests should and do sit—we have not exceeded any boundaries of impropriety. I do not love talking, but I love speaking German, testing to see if I can get by on my schoolgirl German or whether I have left it, like so much else, behind me. By this time I have seen Rosi hunched on her stool for several afternoons, evenings, in a row. I have seen her calmly and methodically go from almost sober to almost inebriated without being either one or the other. Rosi is never sober, Rosi is never drunk—not too drunk. She is always at the topping up stage. By now I feel I am sufficiently qualified to make a general remark, out into the tobacco-filled air, as one smoker to another.
But it turns out to be not so general.
You are here quite often, I say. Graceless. Intrusive. Naturally I use the formal ‘you’ to Rosi: Sie sind hier zeimlich oft (or whatever I said). I know you have to do that when talking to Germans, but even so it sounds quite personal. Doesn’t it?
Rosi’s retort was supreme.
Rosi doesn’t let herself get upset.
Well, I work here, she says importantly, and she stands up. On surprisingly agile legs she rushes over to our table, takes our ashtray and empties it of one (1) cigarette butt, brings it back and returns to her place by the wood panelling.
The woman with the chop is also Off. She is Off-Off-Off and turns up at an experimental theatre beyond the reach of the well-oiled machinery of the booking office.
HAU 1 and HAU 2 and HAU 3.
One, two, three. Get ready, on your marks, go!
In the weekly events publication, tip Berlin, my scouring eye has fastened on something called The Politics of Ecstasy/Altered States of Presence. I’ve had enough of Wedekind’s songs. The primus motor for the performance is a guest Israeli choreographer. Tonight something is happening: Open Mic: on Ecstasy is taking place at Hebbel. I imagine dance, I want to see dance, modern dance.
All day we try to buy tickets in the usual way and, finally, in our increasingly desperate state, we manage to get the girls at KaDeWe to take an interest in our quest. Naturally there is no mention of ecstasy on any of their lists so advance purchase is out of the question, but one of them takes pity on us and phones a secret number which no one answers.
Everything that seems impossible is important.
It starts to become increasingly important to experience The Politics of Ecstasy, seldom have I been so politically motivated. Not only is the grass greener on the other side, the other side is the only place where there is grass.
To have any chance at all we realise we must go there, take ourselves to the very place, if such a place exists. We take a taxi. It is still only afternoon. The driver is a chatty Turk. I do my German all the way. It’s a dangerous job, mine, says the driver. People are so crazy these days. At night. He thanks us for travelling by day and appearing to be harmless. He offers us sour sweets and livens up when he can talk about Istanbul, his home town. Eventually he stops and lets us out in front of a large building that looks reassuringly like a theatre.
It is a theatre.
It is shut and barred.
The taxi has left.
We begin to circle around. Nobody can beat my husband when it comes to searching in circles. After three laps of reconnaissance we find a stage door, or possibly the entrance the stage hands use, and with all the authority of accomplished worldwide theatre goers we summon up our courage and ring the bell. Suddenly when you really need a family your relatives are no longer the worst.
The men receive us with the straightforward ability of stage hands to make interruptions and problems seem perfectly natural in a well-functioning theatre. One of them follows us out and uses his saw to point the way across back courtyards littered with junk: that’s the way we have to go. He saws a few left and right turns in the chilly air and then we are left to ourselves, me to my husband.
He finds the way.
At the ticket office everything is as normal. Of course there is a performance. Of course we can buy tickets, kein Problem! No problem. But it doesn’t start yet. The man in the ticket booth thinks we are lucky to get there in time to hear the talks based on the theme—On Sex and Drugs and God—we want to do that, don’t we? And of course we will want to go to the Ecstatic Dinner after the performance— it’s here at this theatre, ja. We have gone from being shut out and ticketless all day to having entrance tickets to three ecstatic events.
English is the main language in the foyer, many exiled Americans, same old, same old, all of them young and keen. Already I feel a slight longing for Bistro Calvados.
I am an alcoholic, Rosi says out of the blue one evening to the man sitting nearest to her at the bar, with not a hint of confidential sentimentality.
I am an alcoholic too, he replies resentfully.
No putting on airs and graces here. Don’t think you can come here and top anyone else with your own special brand of alcoholism.
No doubt Rosi was bored, she gets like that sometimes. But stoical. A stoical lack of activity. She beats time with her foot at moments like these.
The talks are being held in one of the rehearsal rooms but a serious podium has been set up, an austere carafe, a glass, and presentations of invited experts with attached titles. Herr Doktor this and that.
The audience sprawls on huge shapeless cushions which provide no support for the back or anything else. In front of us we have a picture of unimaginably gaping female genitalia, a cunt, and an expert. The expert is dapper, he takes small, purposeful gulps of water, and from time to time he points to his cunt, not with his index finger but with his open hand. He talks about Cruising. Cruising is his subject. It is a political action. What goes on in gay circles, on beaches, in parks, in toilets—especially in toilets—in bars and so on, that searching for a partner and brazen sexual manoeuvring that distinguishes this brotherhood, prowling in the night, when vanity celebrates its wildest triumphs in plumes and studs, sequins and thongs—that is Cruising. And it is political.
The second talk is about hallucinogenic fungi. Graphs are carefully plotted, the brain is exposed on a screen. Certain areas of the brain are activated in different ways by substances contained in various fungi. The human being’s perception of God is charted. God can be activated; it is clearly measurable how and where and in what way the fungi evoke God in the brain. God lives in hallucinogenic fungi.
We applaud again.
Then we have to hurry on, back through the now dark courtyards, towards the next ecstasy, because now the performance is going to start.
Originally Rosi comes from the countryside, from a village close to the Polish border, out Guben way. She has lived in Berlin for only thirty-five years. She has a Swedish husband. He is a seaman. They don’t see each other very often. I also have a Swedish husband, I say. That’s good, Rosi observes. Swedish men are good.
Act follows act. For three hours the cavalcade of short acts continues, each and every person uninhibitedly doing their own thing. Some have clothes on. One man has clothes on.
He takes to the stage in leather. In his hand he holds a leather hood. He connects a few wires. Now a man in leather with a leather hood over his head is standing on the stage. Inside the hood is a diabolical sound, a shock wave, an abominable naked wall of cacophony unendurable for the human organism. The whole auditorium vibrates. It is solid and it continues for an unbearably long time. He just stands there inside his hood with his noise. I go. I go to the toilet. You have to go somewhere. There is no Cruising going on. There is only me and the toilet flush button. When I go back in he is still standing there with the hood riveted in place, in his noise.
When he has finished standing there we all applaud fervently. Warmly and interminably we clap our skin-covered hands together.
Catharsis? A modern version of catharsis, without the purifying outcome but with a colossal sense of relief that the event has come to an end.
Next comes the Woman with the Chop. She leaps out from the audience.
Is it pork, is it veal, is it lamb?
It is unlikely to be suckling lamb. It is probably pork, a normal pork chop.
Jauntily waving but with no other unnecessary gestures a perfectly normal middle-aged woman leaps out of her seat in the auditorium and up onto the stage. Briskly and matter-of-factly, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, she peels off all her clothes. Now in front of us stands a normal middle-aged but naked woman, and she is happy. She has short curly hair and is a little flushed, just like normal housewives in their normal kitchens. Her figure is true to her age. Substantial. All of her is substantial. She takes out a parcel wrapped in normal butcher’s paper, and out of the parcel a chop. The chop is raw, it has not yet been cooked. She smells the piece of meat. She runs it slowly and pleasurably along her arms and then her legs. How to tenderise a chop. All the time she is exuberantly cheerful. She rubs the chop against her shoulders, breasts and stomach with its rolls of fat. The audience—and there are many who know her, many friends— have started to spur her on, cheers hail down, they chant her name. Obediently she rubs the chop against her muff, lewdly, taking her time. Then she lifts it up to her face as if she is washing it clean with the muff-impregnated chop, washing her face thoroughly like one of those people terrified of germs. Then she throws the chop onto the floor in front of her, lies down and buries her face in the meat. The audience chants her name steadily, filling every crevice of the auditorium, and when she starts tearing at the meat with her hands and teeth they yell, Yeah Renate, go for it, go! The woman tears and rips the meat. She throws the shreds she has plundered from the chop out into the audience like pulpy trophies, right down to the smallest saliva-dripping scrap.
Her act is finished. She bows modestly, as you do after performing your little act, and still smiling she puts her clothes back on as routinely as she took them off. Then she takes her place again in the audience.
There is no ecstatic dinner for me and my husband. There is no dinner at all. There is Bistro Calvados.
Fucking a chop.
Renate stays with me for a long time—her cheery manifestation, her glowing expression and fresh but well-hung partner—she follows me into my dreams, she stalks my own love-making. I have only the tigerzebra, I have only the vulnerable zebra between me and the Woman with the Chop. My husband escapes, she didn’t get to him. He is not open to ambush.
A landscape. And sharpshooters in the landscape.
‘Be careful, little eyes, what you see,
Be careful, little eyes, what you see.’
The atmosphere is good at Bistro Calvados. Nobody is sulking. Nobody pulls a hood over their head. People are here to have a nice time, perhaps today something will happen. Perhaps Günter will not turn up or perhaps Gisela will come today, today.
Something always happens.
Always is a long time.
All is right now.
Time does not stand still, it plays out in an indeterminate now that repeats and repeats until everything borders on confusion, but there are markers. It is now February. Perhaps today Rosi will decide to take down the Christmas tinsel that still hangs like a laden golden sky along and above the bar counter. The gold is blackened and singed slightly at the edges, it glows sometimes when someone waves their cigarette a little too high in the air. Rosi has hung the Rosi tinsel a little too low and a little too abundantly; Rosi has hung up a heavy sky but they let her be. They always let her be.
We get used to guests and staff merging. The days merge. Those who one afternoon drank from their tankards on one side of the bar can be found next time on the other side. They serve, beer taps run. It is important to tap slowly. Tap slowly, to spare the froth, and drink for a long time.
Rosi never stands behind the bar. That is what sets Rosi apart from the others. Rosi only serves Rosi and only from the Rosi bottle.
Small pleated paper ballet skirts decorate the stem of our beer glasses. WARSTEINER—DAS EINZIG WAHRE, it says on the skirts. It is a brand. It is Bistro Calvados’ mark of nobility.
When and if Rosi opens the double doors onto Bayreuterstrasse the wind catches our skirts, everyone’s skirts, and they flutter slightly in the draught and do a little dance, uncoordinated like a very young girl. They are made of cheap, everyday material, but they have dreams gathered at their waists.
Berlin has not denied itself. I have not been denied. I find the Märkisches Museum suddenly one overcast day at home, in tip Berlin. So now I find it. Too late to go there and look. I also find a place on the map and the place is called Märkisch Bucholz. It is out towards Spreewald, south of Berlin, but perhaps that is of little interest, rather like the question of whether this is a short story.
Berlin lies in the flat Märkische landscape. Köchin Rosi freut sich auf Ihren Besuch.