2. Heartbeat

Cut to: a dark scene. The blaring beat of hard German techno, a crowd clad in black, pulsing – as if possessed – the whole scene of a classic industrial aesthetic. Upstairs: lighter, redder, a bit less of a trance. I was standing in Panorama Bar with Michael, drinking Club Mates, people-watching, bobbing our heads. That’s when I saw her, in passing while in the midst of chasing other women, lamenting my aimless lust in these inane moments, so rarely affixed on someone of genuine substance. As it happened, our eyes connected for just a split second, but that first sight expanded in my mind like a firework: quickly, like magic. It’s like I memorized her face in that one brief moment, and it reminded me of a dream I’d had; 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 chemicals through my body, my heart beating. Michael and I danced, swaying with the relaxed beat through the night. 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 swaying like poetry. It was the slightest thing, but I knew I could adore her, like I knew her so deeply already. I made it my mission to find her, to make the connection concrete.

She danced with friends on the main floor of the building. I danced next to them to the brooding music. I didn’t push it, didn’t bumble my way with overt aggression. The tone was dark and intense and I could get lost in it, focus on my own joy and display my independence. I did that, but slowly inched toward her, 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, played coy, backed away; I tried to communicate that I wasn’t desperate, didn’t need anything but could entertain her company, if mutual interest were given. Eventually we exchanged words, slowly built a rapport with spotted conversation. Like some sort of miracle, 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 brightening, the birds 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.

I’ve thought of her for weeks.

I think of her now as I ride my bike through the city. I pass by Alexanderplatz, stare at the grand soviet architecture of Karl-Marx-Allee and wonder if we could build something so monumental. 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, happy. Never mind that we were on MDMA. There’s veracity to the feelings. This crush is a meditation, this bike ride in this city to this music, all imbued with a romantic instinctiveness. 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. I’ve been texting, trying to maintain her interest. I can feel her ambivalence. 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 so much. But I keep a quiet optimism. I keep holding on. I’m not sure it’s really there, but I still feel it.

Share your thoughts