Right at this very moment, a man with grey floppy hair and a stripy woollen jumper is sitting in front of his laptop in a coffee shop in west Berlin, reading, what I suspect is his own story. It’s called “The Tutor” and begins: “Even with the fan beating her naked body, Gloria was dripping wet.”
I had to crane my neck to make that out.
I hope the person immediately behind me isn’t taking similar note of what I’m writing. That said, it would be rather nice to instigate a pretentious metafictional trail.
This coffee shop is a couple of stops away from where I live but it’s become my “local.” It’s where I went in my despair when the power failed. Since then I’ve spent hours here writing articles aimed at billionaire investors in the German real estate market, consoling myself by consuming the enormous chunks of floating ginger in my tea. It’s also where I teach English to a lovely young woman, who responded to one of the many poorly-designed posters I pasted around west Berlin.
The staff here are as attractive and cosmopolitan as the cocktails on the menu. One woman is raven-haired and French and speaks a charming nasal German. When she’s on shift with the men, they tease her about her love life. I suspect they’re looking for a way into it. Another one of the waitresses is Chinese. She wears a bemused smile. Another staff member is German but speaks fluent English with the many foreign customers. She’s got a delicate sensibility and is eager to please. One of the regulars told her today that he was homesick. She reported that to the Chinese waitress, her voice full of empathy.
Every so often when I breathe in I taste smoke. Boxed off in a glass house next to me is the Smoking Lounge. I like staring at the people inside. They always seem more anarchic. They slouch, stay longer than the people in my section and carry on as if governed by healthy resignation to their fate. I just glanced over, and as if it were scripted, a lady let out an almighty cough.
Anyway, the waiter whom I bewildered by tipping 50% on my day of need, has just placed a candle on my table. I think it’s time to go. The “fan”-fiction writer left a few paragraphs ago. If he ever Googles his opening sentence, he might find me. If that happens, just remember, I discovered you first, in your stripy jumper in west Berlin.
I can only hope that Gloria dries off in the end.