street life

cigarette break

cigarette break
Written by Cathoel Jorss,

A lot of noise round the house today as the Hausmeister – Deutschland brims with masters – has called a gang of workmen in to saw back the thorny bushes round the huddle of bins. Our bin system is complex because everything gets recycled – everything but, puzzlingly, aluminium and steel. The thorny bushes make it hard to access the bike racks without scoring one’s skin and I welcomed the intrusion, but after a couple of hours of swearing and sawing I took refuge in a cafe I love, to try to do a bit of writing.

I miss Brisbane but I’m not missing having to google “cafes open past 2pm” when I want to work later. This place is groaning with shelves of books and they let me sit on a sagging couch with a single coffee in front of me for nearly three hours. I came out into the lissom afternoon and joined the slow streams of people heading down to the underground station. A man was playing the flute, with his eyes closed. He was entranced.

The first flush of leaves has hit the ground and to me it feels too soon. I’m not ready! I rode home via train and bus and train because the middle section of the line was being repaired and in Berlin everybody files in orderly fashion from the ‘replacement vehicle’ back onto the interrupted line and sits down. When I had left, two tree surgeons were standing at the street entrance of my house in boiler suits, smoking by the big glass doors. When I came back hours later they were still there. As I came up to them, I had started to laugh. “Sie waren beide hier,” I explained, “als ich rausgegangen bin. Und es scheint meinetwegen zu sein, als ob es eigentlich eine sehr sehr lange Zigarettenpause war.” You were both here when I went out. From my point of view it is tempting to assume this was a very very long cigarette break. They looked uncertain. Were they being criticised, by a stranger? Then one man smiled. “So viele Zigaretten können wir gar nicht rauchen,” he said. We can’t smoke that many. “Wir schaffen es gar nicht.” We just wouldn’t manage it.

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