Nayrotica Abroad 3: Finding Berlin

Previously on Nayrotica:

“M-m-mom? Is that you?”

“Das Telefon auflegen. Sie müssen Ihren Plan zu aktivieren. Sie dumm Scheiße.”

I hung up the phone after deducing that I was talking to a recording. I dialed again but was greeted with the same voice pretending to be my mom. I could not figure out why, with each attempt, I was yelled at by a German woman on a recording. It was aggressive and made me feel inadequate. I have no clue what the voice on the recorder was saying, but because of her tone, I knew that I had done something terribly wrong… and that I wanted to be punished for being soooo bad. Huh. Weird.

Luckily, I also purchased data (daten) with my new SIM and the internet was working, so I was able to find my location on Google Maps. Bless their hearts. The blue dot hovered over me. I hit refresh because it seemed to be skewing a bit off. I refreshed the map several times but the blue dot remained stationary. It was then that I realized…

I was definitely not in Berlin.

Wait. How many hours had I been asleep??! I glanced around at people strolling down the street– it was as if they approached and passed me in slow motion, laughing manically and pointing. There was no indication as to if they were freshly awake and moving about the world or if they were wrapping up a long day. Was I just having a bad dream and would I soon wake up next to my French lover? No. This was far too real…

I glanced at my wrist. Fuck! I wasn’t wearing a watch.

I looked at my phone; it said 7:32pm… But could I trust it? It was just yelling at me the minute before. I looked around for the bus driver and the gaggle of zombies, nowhere to be found. However, I was still able to see the bus in the distance and it was stationary, so I figured I was okay, at least for a moment. We must be close to the destination and are simply making a quick dinner break. Working backward in time (and uncertain if I had changed a time zone along the way) I was on the bus for… ONLY 3 hours?!  I dropped my bag at my feet and knelt down on the sidewalk, rifling through my modestly packed satchel to find my itinerary. Pawing it with my hand, I quickly snapped it out of the bag and opened it up. Skimming the details, I found the total trip time… 10 hours! I thought everything in Europe was supposed to be so close together! Nope. It’s not. Instead, I had at least another 7 hours of driving time to go, add to that whatever the duration of the pit stop was (that must be what the drive ship at us before exiting the bus). Did we have 2 hours in the village? 1? 5? I had no clue, but since I am good at reading a situation, based on the fact that no one was even within sight of the bus, I estimated I had at least one hour. With that (dis)comfort, I ventured into the city center where there was a shopping promenade, and like Dorothy spotting Emerald City, I walked towards that Green Mermaid trapped in a circle– Starbucks.

Dancing on the promenade.

There I could access Wi-Fi and really do some sleuthing– where am I? Where should I stay when I arrive in Berlin? HOW DID I GET HERE!? After sipping my soy latte and feeling like an awake and alert human again, I meandered back to the gravel parking lot where the bus was stationed and you-have-got-to-be-effing-kidding-me,

It wasn’t there!!!

Just kidding. It was there and I walked closer to make sure that it was indeed my bus. Confirmed. From there on, I stayed nearby, making sure it didn’t depart without me. I was the lurker in some small German city, like a peeper in the tree line watching sunbathers… but I was watching a bus. And I wasn’t trying to be creepy, I just was. I also did not want others to think that I didn’t know what the driver said, so I thought I would play it cool. In the bushes. Eventually, I watched the driver return as the sun slowly slinked beyond the horizon. It was getting dark outside, so I could either more comfortably lurk in the shadows, spying on my transportation, OR I could make my way back to the bus. I chose the latter and since the driver was back, the door was open. I settled in for a nice summer’s sleep, better to rest now rather than in Berlin– I wanted to take full advantage of my limited time in the city. It was going to be OFF THE HINGES!

Dining with a Zombie (aka fellow bus traveler) and 2 Germans.

However, sleeping in a country with which you’re unfamiliar and on a bus is way more difficult than I anticipated. So, I tossed and turned. I read. I tossed. I turned. All in a vicious cyclical pattern, and once the zombies filed back in one by one, the bus left whatever city we were in (Google did tell me, but it was soooo not memorable and so… I blocked it out). The hum of the bus’ engine lulled me to a light, shallow sleep where each bump and swerve jarred me to reality. After 8 hours of this trance-inducing flagellation, I was the opposite of refreshed. And gamy. A picture of beauty I was (not), scented and exhausted. and the sun rose with my entrance to the city that David Bowie called “the greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine.” I was looking forward to testing this theory, Mr. Bowie.

I bet you’re thinking– Nay! You don’t have a place to stay in Berlin, yet! And if you are one of those thinking that… you may be right!

But, you’re wrong.

You see, because I slept so terribly AND I had a data plan on my phone, I was able to research more VRBOs in Berlin and happened to find a great offer. I jumped at the opportunity and booked it. Not only was it a great rate, it was a great location (from what I know of my Berlin Google research). I sent a request for the room, at this point just needing the host to approve, confirm, and process my payment. I was ready for another shallow nap. The driver darted left, then right, and then back again– there was nothing in the way, it was simply the way German roads work, apparently. This brought me to a sedated consciousness, and I checked my phone for confirmation of the VRBO. Instead of finding a nice greeting with a “Looking forward to your arrival!”, the host canceled!

Why? No clue. He just did.

So there I was, arriving in Berlin and nowhere to rest my VERY weary head. Think, Nay! THINK! I thought. Who do I know in Berlin!? I must know someone here. BINGO! Good work, Nay– way to pull that out of your bag of tricks! Let’s just hope she’s around– and checking her email at 6am. 

My former housemate in Minneapolis, a professor from Germany, lived in Berlin– or I was fairly certain that she did. I rummaged through old emails hoping that I still had her contact information. Thankfully, technology is in our favor and nothing ever goes away. I sent her a bit of a frantic email:

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 9.39.58 PM.png

She responded within the hour– I must have caught her during her morning coffee and email routine. Already entertaining a guest for the week, but sensing my desperation, she said, “we will make it work.” I adore her. She’s one of those women who will extend herself beyond belief– it is her gift and her curse. She has often been burned because of it, but she is also the kindest and most generous of souls… And this I maintain after getting grilled in that German accent at my birthday party one year, “But what will you do with your life?!” (Good question, dear. Good question.)

We set up a rendezvous point out front of her building. I suddenly felt like I was a spy meeting my handler at an out-of-the-way drop point. I took on the adventure of a real-time learning of the Metro and made my way there.I arrived early, both in the morning and for our meeting, so decided to grab a coffee just down the street from her flat at a Turkish café, Bäckerei & Steh. I emailed her and let know I had arrived and to tell her that I was going to hang out at the café until I received the green light to make my way to her place. Soon thereafter, she burst through the front door of the café, with her signature bob haircut and that huge smile– she embraced me. I didn’t realize how much I longed for a familiar face and held her a bit too long and hard, perhaps, but she didn’t seem to mind. We purchased pastries and she took me to her flat where her houseguest was making coffee. The three of us sat down for a breakfast, laughing and talking about the years that had passed since we last had seen each other. I felt like I had stumbled into an Isherwood novel (and naturally, I was Isherwood)– the American keeping company with the German Frau who took him in for shelter and she had another man there, one who could potentially be a lover, a friend, a scholar… one really couldn’t discern what was up, nor down at that moment. After the natural flow of conversation dwindled to a satisfying silence, they shared with me their plans for the day: bicycling around the city, and in her signature way, my friend was immediately, and thoughtfully, trying to find me a bicycle– but I interrupted her sourcing mission to inform her that I desperately needed a nap and asked if I could stay in and sleep for a bit. She understood, gave me some keys, and showed me to her bedroom where I could sleep, undisturbed for as long as I needed. She really is a wonderful human.

The sun was shining in the window, hitting the bed at the perfect angle; the temperature was perfection; a breeze blew the linen drapes gorgeously… and the next thing I knew, I was awake from a nap I didn’t even realize I had taken. I felt refreshed. With my new life and the amazing breeze, I stayed in the bed for a bit longer and perused the special gay apps, Scruff was my chosen medium. I ‘woofed’ at a few guys, and those who woofed back were the ones with whom I decided to engage. And that left 2 contenders. Keeping in mind that I was only in Berlin for 24 hours, I didn’t want to get too attached to anyone. The first to take the bait was an Australian who was outwardly and vocally hungover from the night before. It was 3pm, so he must have partied late and hard– no judgment. We had decent banter, so I made a plan to meet him in the next hour for a coffee nearby. The other gentleman was adorable. Handsome. Magnificent. Charming. All of the above. Our chat was beyond great, and his profile read like a kind and beautiful testament to humans and to himself–  one of my first messages to him (or maybe the first message!?) was, “Marry me!” He didn’t respond immediately, so I figured my opening line/marriage proposal had been too forward. Too forward?! Me? Marriage? Nah. I forgave myself and moved on. When in Berlin…

Soon after I mourned the loss of my broken faux-proposal, I prepared for my coffee date with the Australian whose name I cannot recall for the life of me– Scott? Shawn? Beige? Doesn’t matter. It was then, toothbrush in my mouth, that my marriage proposal responded, “OK!” and laughed. “HAHA!” We then launched into a great digital conversation that made me want to cancel my coffee plans with the Aussie, but being the gentleman that I am (HA!), I persisted, insisting to Mister Wonderful that we should meet later that day for dinner. He agreed and just like that, it was a date! DINNER! A real date.

I left the flat and met up with Sam? for a coffee and a walk. It was… fine. He shared with me his need shoes, so on our first date, we went shoe shopping. WHEN IN BERLIN…? He got some shoes and then he stated that he needed a nap– and I needed to get ready for my second date. My host and companion were still out exploring the city, so I readied myself and was out the door– Google maps guided me to the meeting place, a cute queer café, Südblock, where a Queer Pride event was happening. It was wild: loud music; crowds of people with hair of every color; fashion risks. It was lovely.

I stood in front of the seated area at the Pride Party at Südblock.

I attempted to get through the masses of people. How was I going to find him in this sea of humans?! And then, it was as if the divine intervened. The mob parted and through the valley of humans, I saw him.

His eyes beamed. He has amazing eyes; they radiate kindness and compassion. He was just as more adorable as he was online– flannel, pauper hat, shaved head, bushy beard, athletic and stocky build. Gorgeous. We greeted each other with a hug that felt electric and familiar; we knew each other but had never met. Pulling back from the embrace, our eyes locked. Gazing into the future with his dark, rich eyes as my guide, we could do nothing but smile at each other– partly because of the deafening noise surrounding us and then partly because this moment felt contrived and artificial, one that only happens in fiction. Except that is was happening to me. To us. It happened in that moment. In Berlin. Continuously being brought to the ground by the chaos that encased us in that moment of first sight, we opted for a more quaint and relaxed location. We strolled, him as my guide since I knew nothing of everywhere and finally arrived at a restaurant where we could dine outside– was it Thai? I can’t recall. I think it was Thai. I remember the surroundings, my back facing south, his gaze looking west. Evening approached and his face glowed in the sun’s slow retirement for the day. I took his picture that night. He wore his hat backward at dinner, and I kept giggling because in the lighting and with its position, his hat looked like a turban– he didn’t believe me initially so I snapped his photo in order to show him directly. He chuckled and agreed. And the rest? The rest is a bit of a blur– we chatted more, laughed lots, and eventually agreed to go back to his place. There, we hung out on the couch for starters and discussed the political climate in the United States, love, and his philosophy about relationships and his being a part of them– he told me that he is not really there; he is not present in a space where there is something that doesn’t exist; he told me that nothing is real and at the same time the only real thing is the moment that we are in. I was charmed and thought I understood.

And then, of course, we HUNG OUT hung out. Duh– I was only in Berlin for one night! Can you blame me?!

Afterward, it was like I was sharing a space with someone I had known for years– I wanted to stay, cuddling and laughing, but knowing that my friend had extended her hospitality to me, I needed to get back to her. Reluctantly, I gathered my belongings and kissed him goodbye. We agreed to stay in touch, which I thought was probably code for we will never see each other again but let’s pretend for a minute that this is something more than it is. I reminded him that I was going to be in Europe for another month, so we discussed potentially meeting up at another juncture before I returned to the USA. I gave him one last kiss and was out the door, but my heart stayed at his place on Maybachufer. With each step away, I felt the rubber band that connected us pull tighter and stretch thinner as I floated back to my guest quarters, which turned out to be much different from the earlier nap arrangement: I shared a pull-out sofa with my sweet hostess. My mind was elsewhere… on the man I just met and on the location of my left-behind heart.

His name was Gabriel.

And I couldn’t stop thinking about him.

[Note to the Australian fellow: I had a nice afternoon with you, and I am sorry I don’t remember your name. You’re a great guy. I hope the shoes worked out! They were cute! (Why do I remember those and not your name?!)]

~~~~~

The Next Day

Fuck! My alarm sounded way too early for my liking and my heart was thudding in my chest. I looked around– the zombies were back and the swerving continued.

I WAS BACK ON THE BUS!

~~~~~

FUCK! DOUBLE FUCK! My alarm sounded way too early for my liking and my heart was thudding in my chest. I looked around, and there, with one eye open and smiling was my pull-out sofa-mate and hostess extraordinaire. I wasn’t back on the bus. Phew.  She whispered, “I will make you a cheese sandwich for your journey.” The sandwich was unnecessary, I told her, but she insisted (in a few hours, I would be glad she did). I made my way on the Metro to the Schönefeld Airport, from where my bus would be leaving to take me to Wrocław, Poland– sandwich in foil and ready to go.

Having better prepared myself for the trip out of Germany and into Poland (meaning, I actually looked at how long it would be before my German SIM card no longer works), I gauged that I had about 1 hour before I would require a new SIM card. I felt the way you do when you realize you left your wallet on the plane: I’m never going to see that again. The sense of loss that I was feeling seemed irrational, as did my emotional connection to a man I barely knew. Before crossing the Germany/Poland border, I glanced at my phone– no new messages. I furiously began tapping my fingers on the sheet of glass in a pattern that made words, I texted him one more time.

Hey… It was so great to meet you last night! Just wanted to reach out one more time before I cross over into Poland– I think you’re amazing. And I hope I get to see you soon. xo

About 20 minutes passed and I sporadically gazed at the sullen countryside. It was a grey day. I saw the border approaching in the distance… he hadn’t responded. I restarted my phone just to make sure it was working properly, browsed the internet– everything seemed fine. I reopened the messages, and the little thought bubble appeared! You know… the one with the 3 dots?! He. Was. Typing. I glanced up ahead; we were going to cross the border in about a minute– the bubble and dots disappeared. HE STOPPED TYPING!? They reappeared. YES! Hit send. Hit send. PLEASE HIT SEND! The dots disappeared again.


The border is close! PLEASE HIT SEND!

To be continued.

*********************************************************

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