Books in Berlin: Red wine, dim lighting, dignitaries and … katekatharina.

“Tap, tap, tap,” went the bookseller with big eyes and black skin, patting her spoon on the rim of a wineglass. “Let’s all gather inside.”

Rupert, Georgia and I got up and made our way through the glass doors of the balcony. Georgia found a seat at the far side of the room. Rupert and I were too slow. We had to stand.

“Sure we’ve been sitting all evening anyway,” whispered Rupert.

The bookseller and the author sat on two seats in the middle of the room. The sun was setting. A glorious red shone through the penthouse.

“I can’t stop gushing about this book,” said the bookseller. “It’s my favourite of the year.”

She talked for some time about The Apartment and a little bit about Greg Baxter.

He maintained the kind of blank expression that is necessary when you are naturally modest and somebody is praising you in front of others.

The bookseller had an organic enthusiasm, completely free of pretension. As she talked to Greg, she seemed to forget that there was a room full of people watching. They talked about art and America; about writing and reading.

“I like Chekhov but not for the reasons that most do,” said Greg. “Chekhov gives no answers. There is no resolution. We don’t know why or how. That’s what life is like. We don’t have neat explanations. That’s why I hate psychology. It always tries to categorise everything. She is this. He is that. It’s not real.”

Later on, when the conversation was drawing to a close, Greg said “I just realised I haven’t said a single interesting thing. You are all so bored.”

He was wrong.

I had been listening intently to everything that he had said and he had made me think.

But I had also used the opportunity to scan the room to see if I could guess who the editor who had invited me might be.

My eyes alighted on a man wearing a patterned shirt and a cartoonish countenance.

I had seen him before, at the launch of a wonderful book written by Molly McCloskey, who ran a creative writing course I took at college.

I knew they were friends.

I shuffled over. Approach behaviour is not my strong-point. I am part shy-and-retiring, part outrageous-and-cheeky but when it comes to imposing my presence upon the unknowing, I am stubbornly reluctant.

I asked him whether he was who he was.

“Yes,” he said.

He was friendly and introduced me to some other guests.

“Kate, have you met Greg?” he asked.

“No!” I said.

Greg was smoking on the balcony, like a deep-thinking author should. I considered whether to take up the habit for the sake of my career.

“This is Kate!”

“Hello Kate,” said Greg.

We talked a little.

“So you’re a journalist?” Greg asked.

“Erm, aspiring at best,” I said.

“I’m jealous that you’re bilingual,” Greg said.

It’s nothing compared with writing a book, I thought.

“We should meet for a coffee sometime,” he said.

“Yes!” I said.

The editor was feeling a little awkward. “There’s a restaurant booked,” he said. “But I’m not sure for how many people…”

“Oh, dear me,” I said. “I’ve no intention of staying. I have to go to work tomorrow!”

I slid away to buy the book.

Greg signed it. “Oh no!” he said as a drop of his red wine fell onto the cover page.

“It adds character” I said, which is a phrase I have borrowed from LSB.

I was introduced to some embassy people. One lady said “Here, let me give you my card.”

I thought I had made it in life.

By now it was dark. Red wine, dim lighting, dignitaries and … katekatahrina:cinematic and surreal.

I made my leave and walked down the hill. It was quiet now, and cooler. Droplets of rain began to fall.

The underground station was empty and silent but for the slow shuffle of a man dragging his bag along the platform.

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