Cut to: a party. The blaring beat of hard German techno, a crowd clad in black, possessed, the scene of a classic industrial aesthetic. Berghain, Berlin, 2015. This was weeks ago. I was standing upstairs in Panorama Bar with Michael, dark red light, house music, ecstasy. We were drinking Club Mates, bobbing our heads, people-watching. That’s when I saw her, in passing, while eyeing other women, lamenting my lust in these exciting moments. As it happened, our eyes connected for just a split second, but that first sight expanded in my mind like a firework. Like magic. It’s like I memorized her face in that one instant; it became imprinted on my soul or something, her gaze like a graceful gazelle caught in my headlights, her eyes beaming bright.
Time passed with the music and fluids and various chemicals through my body, my heart beating. Michael and I danced, swaying through the crowd and the night. I talked with other girls but she stayed on my mind. I wondered if I was imagining things. Then I saw her again – she was more than a vision. Her hair wisped in the electric air, her torso moving like poetry. I knew I could adore her forever, it occurred to me.
She danced with friends on the main floor, the DJ brooding and intense. I danced nearer and nearer. I didn’t push it, didn’t bumble my way with overt aggression. The tone was dark and weird and I could get lost in it. I could focus on my own joy and display my independence. I did that but I couldn’t stay – my desire was different. Soon we were next to each other, her body sometimes facing me. That was key. I moved closer to her movements, syncing my motion to her rhythm, glimpsing her slyly, keeping distance but closing it. I wanted to stare but I held back, wanted to hug her and kiss her but of course didn’t. Fools rush in, Ethan. We eyed each other again and again. Her looks varied: a smile, a scowl, a furtive vulnerability. Her face was bright but she exuded a complex mystery. Fascinating, it seemed, that someone so light could contain something so heavy. She was apprehensive – I could sense it. But I smiled, relaxed, backed away; I tried to communicate that I wasn’t desperate, didn’t need anything but could entertain her company, if interest was reciprocated. It was mutual enough: we exchanged words eventually, slowly built a rapport with spotted conversation. Then we moved from the dance floor away from her friends and upstairs for some coffee, actually talking.
She’s called Annie. I told her typical first-date stuff: that I’m from New York, been in Berlin just a few months, a video artist trying to show work in galleries. She said less but seemed curious. She had a stone façade, but occasional smiles cracked it.
We left together. I rode the train with her to Prenzlauer Berg and we ate croissants on a park bench in the sunny winter morning. She put her head on my shoulder and we sat in peace as the sun rose. The sky was brightening, the birds were chirping, the whole scene so full of serenity. In that moment I would have married her, gotten a proper job, started a family, made her every promise and kept it. My smile stretched from one ear to the other as I felt her shape in my emptiness. This is what it’s like to feel full, I think. I kissed her goodbye on her cheek.
That’s how I met Annie. I’ve since thought of her for weeks.
I think of her now as I ride my bike through the city. I pass by Alexanderplatz and the tower that pierces the sky, eye the grand soviet architecture of Karl-Marx-Allee and wonder if we could build something so monumental, Annie and me. I listen to Ratatat as I coast down cold roads, the luscious grooves and guitar riffs like that perfect moment we had on that park bench, a moment I move to long-term memory. I wouldn’t say I’ve been obsessing – I just can’t stop thinking about it! Never mind that we were each on MDMA. There’s veracity to the feelings. Drugs don’t put them there, they expose things. I’m crushing. This bike ride in this city to this music – it’s all imbued with romance. This is how and where I live. I take note of each thought and emotion as I pass the bars and restaurants in Kreuzberg, wondering how she and I might meet again. How I can make it happen. We’ve been texting – I’m seemingly maintaining her interest. I wonder how to best negotiate it, how to proceed. I’d love for us to go to the movies, to be that couple on the screen. I’m sure she senses my lunging love for the idea of us, is perhaps put off by it. I wonder how much she wants to see me and I fear it’s not enough. But I keep a quiet optimism. I keep holding on. I’m not sure it’s really there, but I still feel it.