Calum McSwiggan

The Lights of Berlin

In Eat, Gay, Love on October 15, 2012 at 9:25 am

Berlin City Lights

“I was in the winter of my life, and the men I met along the road were my only summer.”

– Lana Del Rey

I tipped my head back, downed the remnants of my wine and stared out of the kitchen window and down into the moonlit valley below. I had my best friend at my side, and there was a magic in the air, the kind of magic that can only be found in Italy. Atop our hidden mountaintop village we were free, nomadic adventurers from across the globe coming and going as we pleased, inspiring one another with whispered stories and laughing into the night.

It was as we all sat down at the table on the terrace outside when I first noticed him. I’m from New York but I’m moving to Berlin, he said and immediately drew my full undivided attention. Two places I’ve dreamed of visiting, two places that fascinate me, two places combined into one being, he intrigued me, and like all of the men who’d intrigued me before him, I had to know his story.

I hung on his every word, laughed at his every joke, and caught his every glance, I thought it could have been the start of a long and meaningful friendship but deep down I knew that when I disappeared on the train the following morning, like the many other amazing people I met that night, I’d probably never see him again.

But to my surprise it seemed that wherever I went people seemed to mention his name- my best friend, a work colleague, a stranger- and so when I closed my summer chapter and sought out my next adventure, I knew I wanted to make him part of it.

A distant promise of a visit quickly turned to reality and I found myself stood on his balcony in the cold autumn air, sipping wine, and looking out over Berlin. It all seemed very symmetrical, like we had been here before, and in a way we had, just in a different time and place.

The hours turned to days and what seemed like moments after my arrival I was already making my way to the train station with his jacket around my shoulders, we walked in silence and the whole time all I could think was that I wanted to kiss him, to cease him in front of all of Berlin just to say thank you for the inspiration, for the good times, and for the story, but instead I uttered a few empty words, hugged him, and left.

It didn’t hit me how saddened I was until I sat down on the midnight train and thought about the short time we’d spent together, a familiar lump caught in my throat and my eyes began to glaze over, I’d said goodbye so many times that I thought I’d become desensitised to it, but my stomach clenched as the butterflies were consumed in bile, and all I could think was why didn’t you kiss him goodbye?

Parting was inevitable but I wanted the chance to stay just one more night, to have the chance to say goodbye properly, to share a snapshot of romance before continuing on in search of something new, it wasn’t that I didn’t want it to end, I just wanted to end it right. I’m going to get off the train, I told myself.

My eyes fixed on the clock as I watched the last two minutes slowly ticking away. I’m going to get off, I said aloud, clearing the lump from my throat and rising to my feet. I wrestled my suitcase down from the luggage rack and as the seconds rapidly slipped away from me, I ran through the carriage and leapt off the train just before the whistle blew and the doors slammed shut behind me. Somebody was yelling at me in the distance, and I could hear the train pulling out of the station behind me, but I didn’t care. I ran through Berlin as fast and as far as my legs would carry me, burst through his front door in an overly theatrical Ross-And-Rachel-I-Got-Off-The-Plane-Style-Moment, and fell helplessly into his arms.

Except that I didn’t.

I sat and watched the seconds tick away into nothingness and let the train pull me away from him and take me somewhere new. I felt like crying, I swallowed hard and stared at my own watery eyes in the reflection of the window, and just before I turned away and fell into a heartbroken sleep, I caught glimpse of an explosion on the horizon.

I pressed my face up to the glass as one explosion followed another and the whole city erupted with colour. Bursts of neon blue and sparkling greens filled the carriage as the stars fell from the sky, night became day, and the festival of lights glowed on the horizon. Whilst consumed in the city I hadn’t seen them, yet from a distance they were breathtaking, and I knew that right there and then Berlin was giving me a proper goodbye, a good old fashioned firework send off.

And so I accepted that it was okay that we didn’t have a dramatic passion filled goodbye, sometimes goodbye is just goodbye, it doesn’t have to be filled with mad dashes through the airport and kissing in the rain, because after all, a goodbye can only ever mean as little or as much as the time you spent together. 

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