He meets up with friends. Acquaintances, really. Friends of friends. It’s an afternoon house party. Everyone wears black. He chats with the guys; he chats with the girls. He’s offered smiles and gives them back. It’s a nice scene, amiable. He drinks. The girls think he’s flirting. It’s perfectly ambiguous, really. It goes on like this — casual relaxation on a warm day, carefree.
20h. The group goes to a club. They form a circle around a central bench. The girls and guys take turns going to the toilet to do drugs. An outdoor party, techno music and vodka shots and Club Mate. The crowd of curious scenesters slowly growing. It’s light, social, cool — the way being young in Berlin is supposed to feel.
He sees two girls sitting nearby. Strangers. He keeps looking over. One of them keeps looking back at him — an opening. Why not, he thinks. Eventually he takes it, slips out of his circle of friends, out of safe conversation and into something more dangerous — the uncertain welcome of unknown quantities. The girls welcome him next to them. They’re chatty, pleasant. The more outgoing one is German; the shyer one is Turkish. The three of them talk about politics. They get drinks. He sizes them up, wonders what he wants. As of now, he wants nothing, but he remains interested. He integrates them into his group. The guys welcome them.
Everyone gets higher. Flirtations become stronger. Conversation gets deeper, racier, then shallower, meaningless. Hours pass like this. He makes eyes with the Turkish girl, slowly elicits her out of her shell, wonders if anything is there. He flirts more strongly with the German — her stories are outrageous and interesting: a torrid past, crazy sex, complete and utter openness — always titillating. The call to adventure is forever exciting and she seems to promise it. After a trip to the WC together she makes it unambiguous.
The group moves to another club. It’s bigger, louder, more everything. Everyone’s senses are turned up, mixed up, synapses of all sorts firing. There’s more drinks, more drugs, more dancing.
2am, maybe 3. He and the German walk out of a stall and onto a couch near the dance floor to make out. It’s sloppy, their mouths dry and metallic from MD and K and coke. Their tongues and lips squish together sloppily, further dehydrating them each. He grabs her all over, feels for something that fully arouses him, her boobs over her bra, her ass over her skirt, but he can’t be aroused. The penis doesn’t work on so many drugs. His libido buried under so many exotic chemicals.
She flirts with the others. Everyone takes turns. The German doesn’t know what she wants, but she wants something. The other friends, mostly British, feel the same. Of course he can relate. Everyone talks, finds novel scenarios in which to divulge whatever feels most pressing.
Each person has her own dramas. Each friend moves about the club in a haze of confused frustration and bewilderment. When you go through such effort to feel good, it’s quite the betrayal to be left with your same old inner conflict. The act of partying doesn’t automatically sweep you up into transcendent joy. Instead we are often left with the emptiness of our own pursuits. At the bottom of hedonism is a deep nihilism — no greater truth. But it can all be peppered with bright moments.
4:30. The sun rises. Some people deny their oncoming sobriety, their tiredness, the next day undeniably barreling toward them. They take more drugs, all of them — the bags empty. He gives up. He sprawls out on the couch on which he was recently making out. He’s alone now. He wants to be alone. He’s in love with his own loneliness. That, and the idea of true love he had once known, the fading memories of girls who had really known him. The embrace of a familiar face from back home. None of the strangers passing by know him now. He remains unknowable.
5:30. He calls it. He could keep going — take more drugs, try for more kisses, find someone to even share his bed with — but it would be pointless. All of it. So, how to exit. He could just slip out, disappear in a mystery of a potential tryst, bypass the obligatory leaving announcement like some official declaration. But no, he fights through the weirdness: he makes the rounds, gives the handshakes and hugs and kisses goodbye to every other lost soul, everyone likely to forget the transient moment. Consciousness is too slippery like that. Some details stick but most dissipate into the vast abyss of forgotten experience. It’s just what happens.
He wants a cab home but he has no more cash. He has to pee but he forgot to do that. The bus comes in 15 minutes. He looks around blearily at the other revelers leaving, no one as sexy as they were at the beginning of the evening — make-up smeared, hair disheveled, skin worn and wrinkled.
The weather is bleak. The sky is grey, the air cold. It’s almost raining, but not quite. It’s misting.
There’s no other option: He takes a seat at the bus stop, under cover. He sits next to a girl more lonely than he is. She looks at him warily, then back, then smiles at him. She’s average. Just a totally normal person who wished for more from her own night experience.
She talks to him. All the normal questions he’s already answered countless times this evening. It’s clear he doesn’t care about small talk. She likes that somehow. She giggles. She likes him. He likes no one. He watches the prettier girls walk by, going home with luckier guys. But he doesn’t care about them either. It’s just that the grass is always greener. He knows that. He watches the taxi cabs. He watches time pass, the light shift ever lighter, the wind blow colder.
“Are you cold?” she asks.
“Put your arm around me.”
She does. She’s gentle. She enjoys it. He can feel in her delicate touch how precious for her it is. He acts oblivious. She talks, almost to just fill the space, to hear herself.
“I, uh, never mind,” she stutters.
“You can say anything — we’re complete strangers.”
She tells him about her loneliness, her disappointment in the night, in life. He registers it, hears her, nods. She loses herself in his moon-like grin.
The bus arrives and they board it. He has no ticket, stumbles on regardless and heads to the back. She follows suit. She has a ticket but doesn’t show it, somehow enjoys the thrill of it. She sits across from him.
“Come over here,” he says.
She does. He leans into her, a big soft pillow for his weary shoulders. She asks where he lives. He tells her. she tells him. They live close, both in Mitte. But she’ll get off sooner, transfer. He’ll stay on, walk the rest.
She wants more. She wonders if he’ll invite her over, if they can sleep together, if he can be her boyfriend. She doesn’t know that he’s utterly uninterested, and even if he was, it wouldn’t happen. He’s useless.
“I… I wonder… I’ll have to get off soon,” she says, like into the air, hoping somehow that he’ll take her words and spin out of them some sort of future.
“This is our only moment together.”
He says it like a matter of fact. She hears it painfully at first, then like it’s something majestic. She sees his wry smile, all strung out and pacific. These words settle into her like some sort of epiphany, a kind of revelation. Each second he lays in her arms becomes eons. She strokes his hair, says it smells like campfire, just to say something, to note her own experience of the moment. As she runs her fingers through his hair she really feels it, its physicality, its softness — the closest thing she’ll have to a boyfriend. She feels his body in hers, the way he so effortlessly collapses into her. She wishes it would never end. She wants a kiss.
“Why don’t we take advantage of it? We could do more…” she offers on the back of the empty bus.
“I’m perfectly happy,” he says. He basically means it.
It’s another way of saying he wants nothing. One of the greatest benefits of drugs — all desire and want disappear. The ego even dies, leaving just the moment of pure consciousness, whatever that is.
She gets off, gone forever. He rides home, empties his pockets, puts on his headphones but first continues to savor the silence. He gets off, walks through the empty streets of the early morning, summer rain still misting. He enters his empty apartment, pees, tries to masturbate, fails, takes a Xanax and falls asleep in the comfort of his sympathetic sheets. Slumber like sweet death after a night life lived.