Late night supermarket in Berlin’s wild west. Two pretty girls in their pretty outfits are queuing ahead of me, they have high arses and high heels and high ponies, their hair spilling from the crowns of their heads. The blonde one rolls her three bottles away slightly from my lumpy ginger root and my mesh bag of greenish lemons.
A cheap, everyday discounter supermarket. They had organic lemons cheaper than the poisoned. Yay, Germany.
“We’re just buying these three bottles of wine,” she tells the cashier.
“I wouldn’t have assumed anything different,” he says, primly, and shoots her a mischievous look. He is round as a pumpkin and his face splits into creases when he smiles. I suck in my breath, exaggerating, and start waving my stiff-legged fingers in front of my face. I am blowing on them to convey this is a bad burn. “Oh,” I say, “das tut weh.”
That hurts. The girls are laughing. The cashier’s laughing. I’m laughing. We are laughing. They’re on their way out, I’ve been drawing and I’m on my way home, he’s just finishing his shift, and there’s room for us all in this sudden identically contagious grace of soft exhilaration. The brown-haired girl pretends to protest her complexity. “Or,” she says, rolling her hand over the lemons in their bright yellow mesh – “this could be all ours. Wine for tonight. And all this – is for the hangover.”
“The hangover,” he chortles. ‘Hangover’ in German is Kater: tomcat. “You’ve thought of everything!” His hands are suspended like kangaroo paws above the till keys.
We are partly laughing from love, partly laughing out of mirth. It occurred to me today as I was cycling to wonder why we burst out laughing yet burst into tears. Like the laughter is that which results from perspective, which puts us in touch with the wider greater world. The grief comes with acknowledging and unbarriering what is within.
“Just come to me in the morning,” I tell the two girls, “and I’ll sort you out. I’ve got the ingredients.”
They are smiling at me and their smiles are full of love. I’m smiling, too. “Where do you live?” It is hard to say why every sentence seems funnier than the last. When they’ve gone, intact in their miasma of beauty, the cashier and I face each other. You can buy a tiny bottle of schnapps at this checkout for fifty cents. We part, laughing a little still, and I carry my sack of citrus and my club-footed creature of ginger, the fruits and the root, and stash them in the bicycle basket and fling my leg over in its short flared woollen skirt. The nights are colder now but still fresh and all the dark roadside trees along the park seem to be reaching for me all the way home. Around me and above me the soft cold Berlin night. The passage of other bicycles, whose lights are not kaput like mine. The leaves which hurtle down between us without a sound and the wordless veering we make to give each other room.