Here in Berlin I sleep in an extremely comfortable double bed in a light, airy room where the sun shines in through linen curtains.
Sometimes the cat wakes me up by jumping in my face or by scratching at the door until I let him in. Other times it’s the alarm on my phone, which goes off at 6.50 am, the exact time it used to ring in Dublin.
I eat breakfast with my flatmate at a little plastic table in the kitchen. I have peach yoghurt with strawberries and he eats a jam or meat salad sandwich. We don’t buy cereal.
He goes to his job in an insurance company and I get the underground to work.
On the way home in the evenings I pick up some scallions or pesto or whatever else I have run out of.
It’s eerie how quickly I have got used to it. To my corner in the office, to the daily news meetings where I pitch story ideas, to the fact that the Brandenburg Gate is around the corner, to calling German museums and asking them about rhinoceros horns.
I talk to my family and LSB almost every day. I tune in to Drivetime on RTE and I click onto the Irish news websites. I’m on Facebook. I know what’s going on in Ireland.
And yet it is as if I have been remade here. As if I have been encased in a little protective shell and rolled across the continent.
I never knew how easy it was to be alone.
And suddenly I’m sitting next to LSB in the train with my placard stuffed back into my bag and I think, How strange.
How strange it all is, the way my life has been transformed and his hasn’t.
“This is a bit surreal,” he says as we change from the train to the underground. “This is all new to me. But for you, it’s.. just commonplace.”
“I know,” I say. “Is it strange for you?”
“A bit,” he says. “I just hope you haven’t forgotten me.”
“Of course not.”
When we arrive in the flat, the boys are still playing poker.
For the next few days, LSB and my flatmate (from now on we shall call him “Klaus”) are much more polite than I know either of them to be. Klaus stops teasing me as he is accustomed to do, and LSB sticks up for him when we have a jocular disagreement.
I sleep terribly the first night of LSB’s visit. Because suddenly a piece of home, and a piece of me is tapping at that little shell. I find myself caught between two places.
But I am so happy to see him.
LSB comes to work with me. At the U Bahn he doesn’t have enough change for his ticket so he puts his Laser card into the machine and asks, “Katzi, what does all this stuff mean? All I want to do is pay for my ticket!”
Tomorrow: LSB’s Chocolate Tour of Berlin