adventure

the bathroom stall door bottoms

~ i wrote ~

I’m finding Berlin all right. Like New York, but softer, easier, with wider streets and narrower personalities, more consonants and less genetic diversity. It’s cheaper too, by half at least, sometimes more. Last night I took myself to Berghain, which as you know is not really my scene, but it seemed — seems — germane to be going to a place and doing the things everyone else goes there to do, the things everyone else is excited about, if only periodically, if only just to see, because what reasons are there to do anything ever? Outside — I got there at the uncool hour of half-past midnight, as instructed by savvy locals — I joined the growing queue and tried to be cool about getting in, as instructed by same, until someone let me know that I was in the line for men, and I was escorted right through a side door to be body searched by a very tall non-binary German who did not think I was cute or interesting. For all my careful planning I’d forgotten ear plugs and had no you with me, carrying spare, so the first thing I did inside was find an existing rip in the upholstery on some upper-level lounging furniture and help myself to some stuffing to upcycle for my ears. The bathroom stall door bottoms stop a good six or nine inches above the toilet seat, such that I imagine anyone with the inclination could get a good look at the user’s netherparts — the face is what’s kept private — which is not so excellent an arrangement for an uneasy American who has come alone and dressed all wrong (yoga clothes?? Backpacking I may be, but in hindsight it was the worst possible solution I could’ve settled on with the tools at my disposal) and is sweating at the ever-growing prospect that she will have to spend the night dancing sober with the cello-wrapped cardboard cartridge she fashioned to smuggle in a joint and some scraps of psychedelica lodged in her vagina because she cannot get it out and, without the aid of its contents, won’t have the disposition to solicit a stranger in this sort-of sex club for help. It’s a fine length for taking drugs in a group in a standing position, though, and after I got the thing out and made some friends I partook of a few different substances in a few different stalls with a hardbodied oncologist wearing perfect Aryan features whom I later enjoyed watching in some kind of heated and highly homoerotic exchange with the Persian radiologist who’d initially drafted me into their circle, and later still after that, when Omar came to me and said, Dieter say maybe you like to go for threesome with us, I said, Why, yes, maybe I would. Because I mean, wow, that’s the dream. Hot boys who want to make out with each other and let me watch AND do stuff with me? Ja, bitte schön, und danke. But it turned out that Dieter doesn’t actually like Omar that much, and that Omar is more like some sort of blowhard, a talker of big game, and in the cab ride — they ridiculed my wanting to walk — This isn’t New York — they arrived, beyond my linguistic ken, at some agreement that, actually, Omar had to work in a few hours and would be bailing, and Dieter and I would be on our own. Regarding which I thought, Thank the gods, for the titillating closeness of their bodies and faces as they smiled and argued in a hazy, throbbing toilet was a far cognitive cry from the 6 am silence and brilliance of Northern Europe in June, and how on earth could I find my way from the other back to the one? Going home with a man met on a night out has almost never gone well for me — they don’t understand! How rarely they understand — and this promised, actually, to be just that times two. Dieter and I wandered Mitte for a long time, making our slow way back to his apartment, buying an okay orange and some shitty grapes and eating them on a bridge while he told me about how he and his twin, who were triplets in utero, like to blame everything that goes wrong on the resorbed triplet-that-wasn’t, a joke which — surprise! — their mother hates. We also spent a long time standing in front of an old synagogue that’s now a gallery of Judaica, and I made him read to me over and over the historical signage in German with all its bone-chilling verbs as punchline, and then he started trying to coach me through it — Diese synagogue ist 100 Jahre alt und wurde am 9. November 1938 (and yes saying the year was too difficult) IN DER KRISTALLNACHT von den Nazis in Brand gesteckt — and then to teach me to count in German, but I kept getting to nine and forgetting the word for ten, and he suggested some associative conditioning and began hitting and shoving me, shouting zehn! zehn! and it was very, very sexy, an excellent fulfillment of whatever has been incubating since I was made to watch all those movies of square-jawed domineering Prussians at a developmentally tender age, but I couldn’t figure out how to have the whole thing be sustained organically, and eventually we got to his apartment — enormous — something like 130 sq meters overlooking the river in central Berlin, €2,000 a month — and gorgeous, just gorgeous, like something out of a design catalogue, thanks to the space itself and also I guess to his roommate the polymathematic hematologist, and he played me some classical piano and fed me a cucumber from the terrace garden and we each showered and got into bed for what I, twitching, hoped would be sleep. His whole body was shaved — more recently than his face, but perhaps that was by design, for its shadow was the perfect chic length, except for the unseeable-by-him rim where deep chin becomes upper neck, where the hair was embarrassingly long — and the effect was one of all-over coarse, sandpapery stubble that I very much would have been up for having slowly slid over my amphetamine-alert skin, but he was determined to crash his mouth repeatedly into my general pubic area if we were to touch at all, which was just stupid and terrible; perhaps the concept of taking mutual tactile pleasure without specific orgasm-orientation per se doesn’t translate, or perhaps this particular guy was just too dumb. I mean, read the room, Man. After a while, I tired of fighting him off and got up and put my stinking yoga outfit back on and took the U5 three stops in the wrong direction, into the suburbs, and then I figured it out and got off that train and took another, inbound one back in to Alexanderplatz and walked to my digs, the hochparterre in Prenzlauer Berg where my grad school friend’s ex lives with his wife and baby when they are not in New Haven for her twentieth reunion and more. Now I am having a luxurious frühstück so absurdly late that it should have air quotes, or would if that kind of irony weren’t too many strata above German sensibilities to parse, and I’m thinking Sieben is an excellent name for a child.

for the record I think one of my really best qualities

~ he wrote ~

Where the fuck are you?

~ i wrote ~

When I recorded that Ich habe es gemacht I was on the edge of the campus of a — the? — universität in Stuttgart, heading into a forest because it looked on my phone map like maybe there was a shortcut to Cedar’s hotel if I got off the S bahn two stops before the directions said to, which seemed like a good idea since it was 23h25 and I didn’t want to wait for the bus and definitely wasn’t going to spring for a cab.

For the record, I think one of my really best qualities is how I’m not necessarily bound by what conventional wisdom or some other unexamined authority suggests…but this shortcut through the forest was a bad decision. Like, I don’t even want to tell my brother about it. Everything eventually was fine, but along the way there were many points when I was just like, Wow, this is legitimately dangerous, and a pretty stupid position to have put myself in. Like. I am due a small adventurer demotion and/or a fistful of demerits, for reckless behavior.

Italians are hard to read

~ i wrote~

What I want to tell you about is yesterday, when the two hot Italians I met in my dar invited me to go with them to Akchour, where there is the only real water near Chefchaouen, if I could just find a helmet, for they and their motos had taken a boat for 56 hours from I-don’t-know-which Italian port to Tangiers and are now motoring their way back up through Morocco and Spain and home to Milan and Verona, and I could ride on the back. So we got up early and they went to breakfast and I went to the square and started asking people, trying to have them want to help me but not think they might marry me, which is a fine-eyed needle to thread, and eventually one guy without teeth or anything else to do took me to his barrio, where we started knocking on doors, waking people up, going from house to house as directed by whoever. (I fell behind at one point because I stopped to photograph a puppy that was eating the head of another animal. At first I thought it was the head of another puppy — that makes a better caption, for sure — but now I think it was probably the head of a goat. I’m going to try to think of a zoologist to e-mail about the orthodonture, and then we’ll know.)

A guy weaving a rug on a loom in a half-subterranean chamber with doors open to the street gave a long answer in Arabic, and José (…Youssef) took me to some blue stairs and said, Wait here, so I sat down and waited and after a while he came back and said — I think — my Spanish is still pretty crap, as was his — something about how there was a helmet to be had but also a problem with the guy who had it, a problem 200 dirham would fix, and I was like, Yo that’s too much, whatever this problem is, and José shrugged and walked me up the hill that’s outside of town, toward Hotel Atlas, like, more up the side of the mountain, really, and there was some kind of construction crew doing something with a truck, and he said something to one of the guys (SO cute, by the way, that guy was) who said something back and then grinned and ran away, farther up the mountain still, until he disappeared, somehow, among the scrubby trees, and then after a while he came back with a motorcycle helmet and handed it to me and I tried to thank him in Spanish, and French, and English, and he just looked at me blankly, smiling, so cute. By then it was an hour since I’d left Erico and Mauro, who were in a hurry because they wanted to do our outing and then get on the road to Fes, and José understood and took us on a shortcut back that probably white women don’t usually think to take and at the fountain where we’d met I gave him 100 dirham and told him it was to share with the guy who lent the helmet, and he pretended not to understand, and I ran back to the dar where gli Italiani were packing their bike bags, and off we went.

Hiking in cannabis fields with a shirtless guide who said I could be shirtless, too, and what a luxury I have forgotten to remember this is, an entitlement to bare my skin without persecution. Swimming, orange juice. My guys had a definite partnership dynamic — one shared wallet, it seemed, fine-tuned motorcycle communication — but separate beds, and I remember they apologized to each other in a moment when their feet touched while we were all sprawled together on whatever you call the Moroccan furniture in the dar, smoking hash, the day before. Italians are hard to read.

Most amazing, though, god, was being on the back of those motorcycles. I rode with Mauro to the falls—a bigger bike, a bigger man—and I had the feeling that he either was a good, cautious driver or was taking extra care with me at his back, and it was just exhilarating enough, and the winding mountain highway and the sun, and sitting astride the rumbling of this huge machine as he accelerated, was just…wow. And then on the way back they said I would change to ride with Erico, and I was secretly disappointed because I had liked how Mauro had touched me on the hike, and Erico had ridden behind on the way there and must thus—I reasoned—be slower on his smaller, dorkier bike… But then he told me, unequivocally, to keep my arms tight around him rather than hold on to the handles at my hips, and while we sat in traffic behind a Coca Cola truck he rested his elbows on my bare thighs and moved real good, just a little, to the music carrying from the speakers on the dune buggy-type thing idling in line behind us, and when finally we got out from behind the truck and the rest of the cascade jam, oh my god, Cedar, he went so fast. The littler bike goes so fast, and I had the feeling that he was showing off, hot-dogging it, or maybe he was mad that the shirtless guide had lollygagged and in a hurry to drop me off and get on to Fes, or maybe that’s just how he rides always or what he felt like doing just then, and it was scary, tilting so close to the ground, taking those curves, getting to a straightaway with no cars coming in the other lane for many meters and just pulling past everything previously ahead of us, dodging back in line at the last second before impact. It actually felt a little like skydiving: I’d adjusted the chin strap on my borrowed helmet a lot at the outset but realized then, at a real probably-terminal-for-me velocity, that it wasn’t quite enough, that actually the whole helmet might get whooshed off my head; the eye shield wasn’t really adequate and I thought a little that my eyeballs might get whooshed out of my skull, the same as when I was free-falling out of that plane…moreover though, I think it was that I felt the real possibility of dying in a second and had to just trust in this stranger’s valuation of his own life and tandem care for mine in taking it to this tandem extreme. At one point I loosed an arm to reach up and try to cram my helmet back down in a same second Erico accelerated and we surged ahead, and the various properties of physics pulled on me in way that was a little too close to coming off the bike, and he reached back and yanked me in, and after that I held on tight and let the helmet do what it wanted, stayed close and low and just turned my head to watch a blur of the landscape, so colorful, sideways, and I thought that to die in this moment would be earlier than I want — I have a lot to do — and would make some people I love really sad but in other respects would be just fine. 

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