The next night I walk into the house bar and find it heaving. I see Neil sitting with Nadia, Captain Space Sex and a couple of other people on the sofa next to the big metal doors. I go to the bar and a hand falls heavily on my shoulder. I turn around. A face looms over me. „Owight mate? Whatcha been upter?“
I recognise the face as belonging to Chad, the large punk who’d tried to sell me a guided tour of Tacheles on his first day in town. „Alright Chad?“ I say. Somehow despite myself I’ve warmed to him. Even though he’s nearly seven feet tall and looks seriously dangerous and possibly a little deranged, as well as not very bright, he has a gentleness to him and his face is open, somehow like a child’s.
„Wanna get us a beer then mate?“ he propositions.
I nod. There’s a small girl with red hair that I’ve seen in Lorraine’s flat behind the bar and I give her a couple of marks and she hands me two beers. I hand one to Chad.
I sit down on a chair next to Neil’s group. Nadia gives me a big smile. There’s another girl sitting next to Neil and she leans forward and gives me a smile too. „Hi, I’m Cat,“ she says in a London accent. „Neil said you’re a musician as well.“
I say hallo. „Yeah, I suppose. Though not as impressive as Neil.“
She laughs. „Well who is. You know Neil’s going to play here tonight?“
„No,“ I say, „ I didn’t know that. Um…where is he going to play?“
“Probably standing on the bar like he usually does,“ she laughs again. She grabs a chair and puts it next to mine and sits next to me so she doesn’t have to keep leaning over and shouting to make herself heard (I assume).
„Are you from London?“ I ask her.
„Yeah, Shepherd’s Bush. I came here last year. I’ve been back and forth, but I suppose I kind of live here. I take photographs.“
„Cool,“ I say.
„Yeah, isn’t it,“ she laughs. „No, it’s not really. It’s just taking pictures. But yeah, it’s good for someone like me, there’s so much here to photograph. And you get a different perception, a different set of impressions, than in London.“
I nod. „That must be true.“
We talk on about this and that and she offers to get me another beer. I agree and she walks to the bar. I look over to Neil and he gives me a quick grin and lifts his eyebrows suggestively. I notice that Nadia is watching me. I try to read her look but I can’t.
„Where’s Hans tonight?“ I ask her over the music.
She looks at me for a moment. „We broke up,“ she says shortly.
I look at her. I think of meeting Shoshana and her boyfriend and getting all fluttery and them breaking up and it not leading to anything. The parallels are odd. Especially, I reflect, since I feel myself falling for Nadia now. But with Nadia it’s something else than with Shoshana…with Shoshana I felt like I was falling in love – with Nadia it’s different, in that I just find her extremely sexy. There’s something about her, as there is with certain women, they exude sexuality, and it’s difficult to put your finger on what it is exactly – how they move, something in their eyes….Nadia’s skin is white and somehow puffy, I imagine that she is easily bruised. She is a woman you could fall into.
At this moment Cat gets back and sits down next to me. She is managing to carry two beers and two shot glasses. She gives me one of each.
„I thought a tequila might help things,“ she says to me.
I look at her steadily. We clink glasses and throw them down in one. The tequila burns and I can’t talk for a moment. But she’s right. Things shift, inside me my senses change their shape, perceptions are subtly different.
The room is moving around me, the music is loud and pounding in, voices are raised, everyone shouts their conversations at each other, we drink another tequila although I don’t know where it came from, I realise Cat’s hand is resting on my leg, I’m grinning at Neil who is saying something to me but I have no idea what, I’m laughing, I lean in to Cat and she is grinning at me from a very little distance, she says something and I say What? And she says, „Neil’s gonna play!“ and gestures with her head. I turn around and indeed Neil is standing on the bar. He has a drum machine on the bar, by his foot. He’s taken his boot off and one toe is poised over the drum machine pads. He has an accordion strapped to his chest and a violin balanced on top of that. With his chin he’s holding the violin down, in one hand he has a violin bow, the other hand is on the accordion keys. The music stops and someone shouts, „Quiet! Music!“
There is a sudden silence. Neil must have his drum machine plugged into the sound system, suddenly there’s staccato beats pecking at the air and he waits a moment and then works the accordion, and he bows the violin. It’s strange and it’s lovely. I’m suddenly taken aback. Through my drunkeness I remember about art, about how I want to do something special. There’s something in what Neil’s doing – there’s the gimmickiness of it, sure, but at the same time he’s got something, the drum machine and accordion and violin work together in a surprising way. He starts singing, somehow softly, throatily, but it carries. Everyone stays quiet, hypnotised, until the end of the song. Neil grins, looking around. The bar erupts into applause. Neil jabs at something on the drum machine and starts into another song, a rowdier one, and the conversation returns and the bar is loud and heaving and there is laughter and Neil’s voice rising over the top of it, yelling something about drinking.
I’m stumbling up the road with my arm around Cat. She’s pushing her bicycle, or attempting to, and I know I’m drunk. At some point she asks me why I’m shaking and I can’t answer her. Then we’re at her flat and pushing open the door; the doorway leads directly into the kitchen and we don’t make it further than the kitchen table where suddenly we’re kissing and she’s fumbling with my trousers and I’m opening her shirt and she has large and well-formed breasts with pink nipples and I pull her skirt up and we make love there against the kitchen table and after it’s over we drink another beer and then we’re tousled in the high bed in the next room and we’re fucking again, almost savagely; at some point her flatmate comes in and is standing there while we’re midway through and we stop and she offers cigarettes and we exchange niceties before carrying on, we pound and pound away at each other and that’s all I’m aware of, the animalness of it, and something howling inside me, before unconsciousness descends.
Noel Maurice is a long-term Berlin inmate and is beginning to suspect he might be in for life. His memoir of Mitte / East Berlin in the early nineties is out at the end of November 2014.
Noel Maurice is one of the founders of indieberlin. Originally from the UK via a childhood in Johannesburg, he has been resident in Berlin since 1991. Describing himself as a ‘recovering musician’, he is the author of The Berlin Diaires, a trilogy detailing the East Berlin art and squat scene of the early 90s, available on Amazon and through this site.