LAST WEEK’S MEMOIR
The boy from Königs Wusterhausen thinks we’re on the fast track to a monogamous relationship.
It started off innocently enough, as these things tend to do. The formula is tried and true: you meet on an Internet dating site, you send innocuous messages to one another, and if you both post the right pictures or say the right things, eventually you arrange an IRL get-together.
I must have done things right, because after the initial pomp and circumstance of testing the waters with flirtation, he asked me out on dates, which I subsequently turned down. It’s not that I didn’t want to go out with him, per se, but they always ended up being techno themed.
Living in Berlin as a 20-something, techno is something you have to accept as a way of life, but that didn’t mean I was going to spend three days on the Insel der Jugend with Burning Man look-alikes or wearily drag myself across town to catch his 6 a.m. DJ set at Kaffee Burger. So unless the nature of his invites changed, I resigned myself to nothing happening.
So, that was one aspect of it. And the other was, truth be told, that I wasn’t in it for anything substantial from the get-go. I wanted sex, and it was clear he did too, but I quickly worked out that he also really wanted a girlfriend. Yet I sensed there was no future for us. He was born and raised in a tiny East German town on the outskirts of Berlin and had no intentions of leaving it, whereas it struck me as a quaint day-trip kind of destination where my creativity would be all but stifled.
In spite of this knowledge, I still somehow found myself making the 35-minute ride at 5 in the morning out to KW in early September. At that hour, the S46 was filled with a few partygoers on their way home from their drunken hijinks but there was a certain quiet in the S-Bahn as it traveled southeast out of the city.
The trip came about in a moment of semi-inebriated weakness and borderline loneliness on the way home from a concert, when I had texted him to see what he was doing, half-expecting that he would be partying at one of the many electronic music clubs lining the riverbanks. But he was at home and, after enough back and forth, he asked me to come out to his place; surprisingly, in spite of the journey, I didn’t mind, but let’s blame that on the alcohol. I let him know when I got on the train so that he would know when to be at the station, and then I sat back and let my mind lull in motion with the gently swaying train cars.
This was disturbed when, just before the Zeuthen stop, less than 10 minutes away from my destination, my phone rang out. It was a text message: he was telling me not to come. Too tired.
There was a little bit of back and forth but he wouldn’t budge. I reminded him I was almost there, that I had come all this way, but he didn’t care. “I’m going to sleep,” he wrote, like a final word. I fired a snarky text back as fast as my fingers would type, and then, suspending my disbelief, sat on the train until I reached the penultimate stop, Wildau. Begrudgingly and somewhat bleary eyed, I got off and walked across the platform to the next train heading back in the direction I’d come, boarding alongside the first wave of commuters on their way to work in the city.
I seethed the entire ride back home and sent him one final passive-aggressive text before deleting his number. I was through with him, I thought.
Eventually the anger subsided, and over the course of the next couple weeks, I quickly forgot about this boy with an East German white trash name. That is, until he tried to add me on Facebook. Not overthinking things, I accepted, and just like that, we were back to messaging. I was still wary, but the fact was that he was cute enough, and I was bored enough—in most cases, a recipe for disaster.
So again, in a late-night alcohol-coated haze we made plans to meet, this time with him taking the train to my flat in Neukölln. I was normally the type not to invite boys to my place, as my personal space was sacred to me. But at the same time, part of me believed he would flake again, and I didn’t want to deal with being stood up on his turf, so I conceded. Suffice to say, I shouldn’t be allowed to make any kind of decision while drunk.
The rays of sunlight were already beginning to pierce the darkness when he arrived at the Hermannstrasse station. As he disembarked from the train, wearing a hoodie and a backpack, he was a bit unsure, glancing around, not knowing where I would be or what I would be wearing. But I saw him the moment he stepped off the train and stood cemented in that spot, patiently waiting until our eyes finally met.
We hugged, and I motioned to him to walk with me, back to my flat, located two blocks away in the Körnerkiez.
We climbed the two flights of stairs to the second floor. Then I quietly unlocked the door and we took off our shoes before tiptoeing to the end of the long hallway, careful not to wake my roommate.
Closing the bedroom door behind me, I turned to see him seated on the edge of my bed, which was really just a futon mattress, covered in a thin red flannel sheet and placed on the floor against the wall where the two corners met in a right angle.
Shyly he spoke in his broken English, talking to my cats and stealing occasional glances at me. Meanwhile, I had that weary feeling you get when you haven’t slept properly and the vodka is beginning to wear off, so I figured we should get to it before I changed my mind.
But it ended up being disappointing, boring even. Instead of focusing on the moment, I began to question why I had even initiated or agreed to do something. And afterward, when we were tangled in a mass of sweaty clothes and sheets, he wanted to cuddle. So, on the outside, I went through the motions of agreeing the sex was good and allowing him to spoon me from behind, but inside I was rolling my eyes. I just wanted to sleep.
Eventually, his breathing fell into a rhythm, and I allowed myself to sneak in some light sleep of my own.
We woke up around 10 a.m., and rather than offer coffee or make breakfast, I insisted that I had things to get to that day. He got dressed, and I walked him back to the train station. Once there, he kissed me and asked when he would see me again.
“Soon,” I said with a smile, knowing it was a lie.
He walked down the stairs to the platform, stopping once to turn and give me a wave, and then I headed back home, where I took a shower, changed the sheets, and went back to sleep.