She’s too tall already to be wearing heels. The ice in this whiskey too cold, need to see a dentist. This corner too dark to work out if it’s chain grease or dirt or shit on my fingers.
Thoughts in the head too dumb. Too fast. The 40-something in the corner still looking. Bubbles in the froth of my head still bursting. Emails still appearing. Music in my ears still playing.
Bernd approaches with a crippled book - Deutsches-Namen Lexikon.
“What is your name again?”
The tanned pages ticking neatly in his hand, as if this were all part of an elaborate party trick.
“Robert. Robert, Robert. I see,” He points a finger, but I don’t look. I know he’s seen it. “It means, um, with light from yourself. No, wait, it means ‘Shine With Glory’. That’s it!”
With no hot water in our apartment, and a diet that consists entirely of doner and beer, I’m in disbelief.
“And yours, Bernt… what does yours mean?” Slightly frustrated, as I know I’ve pronounced his name incorrectly.
“Bernd, Bernd…”, Mumbling his own name as he flicks the pages again. “Ok, I see; ‘Brave Like A Bear’.”
People leave and some bottles are taken away and some more cigarettes are smoked.
“The boy who was behind you before, he’s a writer too. A Russian Jew.”
“A Russian Jew?
“I believe so.”
We talk more about the Russian writer, and tonic water once being used as a cure for malaria, and touch on the niche subject of music.
I decide Laidak is the perfect place to write. Cheap alcohol, smoking inside, dim lighting, wide-street-facing windows, shelves stacked with books, intriguing passersby, thought-inspiring bartenders.
“The thing, you see, about Berlin, Robert, is that many creative people come here. It’s just, we make never any money.”
Two girls walk into the bar – the first customers in the last three hours. One is pretty with paint-speckled pants. The other is dreadlocked and clutching a unicycle.
I think about malaria, and creativity and shining with glory. And Bernd sits, facing the door, muscle-swollen hands clutching a pint, Brave Like A Bear.