In a second hand shop I tried on the superlong pair of creamy trousers that had had to be hung twice over the pavement rack. They were pearl coloured Thai silk and so long in the calf you could ruche them up tight, and then the bloomer shaped waistband region ballooned like a flower in water.
For a while I stood considering myself in the old gilt mirror. Old guilt is a standard fitting in most of Germany. I took them off and hung them up and carried them back outside to where the shop owner, studded with piercings, was lounging in the sunshine with his two hairy mates.
“Leider nicht,” I said, sadly, no, and handed the pants back to him. Berliners pride themselves on their snouty grouchiness and he pretended that he didn’t know why I was handing them over. “Was soll ich mit den?” What am I supposed to do with these?
Oh, I said, I can easily hang them back on the rack myself, if you prefer.
He gave a gusty sigh. No, no, he would do it. “But what’s wrong with them?”
I plucked at the fabric to show him. “They’re beautiful. They would make a great performance outfit, I was thinking.”
His mate reached past us to take hold of the nearer silken leg and stroked the sheer fabric, thoughtfully.
“Totally transparent of course,” I pointed out. “It’s just one of those garments you would have to spend the whole evening organising. I’m too lazy.”
“It takes a special kind of person to wear these,” the owner said, and I laughed.
“All of my specialness is used up in other areas,” I said, spreading my hands. A crooked smile crept into the hang of his long mouth. “Oh, well,” he said, consolingly, stroking the pants as he hung them back up and draped the extra length over the rail. “Next time, we’ll have something for you, for sure.”
These old punks with their 1980s businesses. Berlin brims with rebels who pierced their noses in 1976 and have held fast to their philosophy of DIY and punk ever since. Some of them collect bottles for a living. Some run resourceful squats. Some of these host outdoor cinema and restaurant venues in the summer and some are barred to visitors and spend all their energy, so I hear from my few resident friends, holding endless rounds of meetings to adjust the way the household is run. I got on my bike and swooped across the deep tram lines where a bicycle wheel can very easily get lodged. I live alone and have no piercings, not even in my earlobes. I have left the man who adorably called these his ‘earlimbs’ and now I make my way into the world again alone, greeting you, Berlin, willing to be shown what’s up, willing to cycle across town and see what’s going down, willing to stay home for days on end concentrating hard and then suddenly spring outdoors into the unexpected sunshine, willing to be across it all and to put up with all your crossness and snooty snoutiness. I know the smile that lies behind the sneer. The pink within punk.