A girl with a most glorious voice started singing as the train took off, she was hidden by a mess of passengers who cleared, instinctively, to give her some room. Playing a tiny ukelele and letting the song free like a bird: her fond little scratchings on the instrument suited the sweet, round spiciness of her voice. She sang “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and somehow turned it into a kind of confident kvetch. “Don’t know when I’ll be back again ~” or if, babe, if you don’t shape up. Her hair sprang up out of her head like fireworks, fizzing in spiraling coils. She was relaxed, she was vivid. I searched all my pockets: not a single coin. But I could applaud, and the lady sitting opposite, huddled in the shoulder of her stolid-looking husband, sat up and clapped as well. I was about ready for some music, having had a close encounter this morning with somebody else’s pain and bewilderment, a massage therapist who had told me too much of her personal stuff and now retreated behind a wall of rage so sudden as to be rather terrifying. Why are you now so angry with me, I said, and she said, because we keep talking about my stuff. Now just lie down and let me treat you. I had said, when we found ourselves back on That Topic, you need to take action, and she snarled: I’m so sick of your opinions! How did we get ourselves into this? It was my fault, she told me, because on arriving I had asked “How are you.” So I was riding home sore from a non-massage and felt glad of the girl with her spunky round voice and her star-spangled stockings crossed over each other, comfortably loosely, as she leaned against the door. Glad of the blue sky when I came out of the train, its creamy little penguins of cloud. I stepped round nine Australians in the street who were saying to one another, patiently, “I want to do the museum and then the Wall,” “Well, I thought you wanted to do the club park”. I stepped into a bakery and said, “Haben Sie Brezel?” “Alle weg!” she told me, looking up from her scrubbing and then saying, ah, no, look – there’s one more left here. I took my pretzel into a corner store and bought it a beer. Because, fuck it. The girl at the counter was so divinely beautiful I had told her so before I realized I’d opened my mouth. “You! are beautiful as a picture!” Thanks, she said, laughing, perfectly familiar with her personal splendour. It was such a joy to look at her and laugh and to walk home along the slow, clogged, crowded street with bread in one hand and with beer in the other. If I could find the desert here and the beach, if I could find a way to make a living, I would live in Berlin for ever and ever and ever and never sleep.
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