Reaching my Kiez in the late afternoon* I nearly ran into a boy-girl couple kissing strenuously outside the Turkish supermarket. This supermarket annoys me because they always reel off too many plastic bags and I have seen a man who had put his single apple into one bag accept another bag to carry it home in. My, how they kissed. He was twisting on his feet. She opened her mouth and throat, tipping back her head. I was so rejoiced by them I started to laugh, and then the flirty guy on the nub of the corner who sells his own ice cream laughed along with me, though he through an accident of geography had missed the kiss.
I went onto the market. Berlin markets start late. You can go down there at ten or even eleven and find people still sleepily setting up. But as the afternoon ripens it has settled into a groovous swing – that is the opposite of grievous, I suppose – a grievous swing, specially down the other end where there’s a platform built out over the water and it’s filled with people, many of them just gazing and smiling but some with their eyes closed or even eyes open are dancing, from a sitting position or standing up to shake it out. Two guys with a microphone had set up their bag. And were piling us all into it, gleefully. Och music. You’re indescribable, I know. I came through the markets carrying my head on its stalk and I have lost a little weight just lately and with it, years, and the man who sells bolts of plain linen and cotton, unbleached – are there that many painters in the region? – smiled at me lingeringly, when I glanced back and smiled he was still smiling and he tipped at me his head, consideringly, almost obsequious. That is what beauty can do for us and I had forgotten, but now I remembered.
At the jewellery stall set up on a bin with a velvet-clad board clapped over it by a Japanese man who wears busy gathered pants and feathers woven in his hair, another beautiful guy with golden shoulders was standing with his arms out and his hands held up, tilting his head from one ring to another, determining which one set off his gorgeousness the best. He amused but he bored me. I’ve known those men. At the organic vege stall run by curmudgeonly lesbians who all live together on a smallholding outside Berlin I asked, Hey, can I photograph your beetroots? They just look so proud there on their blue background, holding out their leaves. Yes, she said, winnowing flowering green leaves which are sold by the hundred grams for a woman who had two children with her, each child carrying her own tiny handbag and each pushing her own tiny pram. I left off grooving and came up home, walking on the other side of the market street, past the stall which sells nine types of potatoes. And as I came past the cheese lady who cuts pale butter off a sweetly sweating slab I ran across those same two kids, still kissing, wringing the greenery out of this day which as a leaf this afternoon fell past me just as my shutter clicked surely must be one of the last days of the year on which we can wander and groove, we can kiss in the streets and call out to one another, hey Berlin. I passed a discount stall flogging cheaply printed night shirts in cellophane, one of them said, in curly handwriting font, LOVE IS THE but I turned it over and discovered there was a slab of cardboard slid down the back, to stiffen the shirt for display, and that covered the rest of the words and though my mind flooded with suggestions I could not make it out. Now I have to spend the rest of my life wondering. What is love?
*Kiez is the few streets between you and your main roads: your own neighbourhood.