33. A circus tent without a circus

Empty circus stage


Arrivals and departures. M. and I were lying together on his bed when he became distracted, or discouraged, pulled his hand away from me, and started to roll a joint. I sat up, put on my clothes, and left without a word. We’d had encounters of this nature before; I recall him following me home to Schöneberg in the middle of the night, on his ramshackle bicycle. I wanted him to go away, I was pedaling furiously, but he had no trouble keeping up with me; he just laughed. I don’t remember the lovemaking, I only remember the dawn, which crept down the façade of the building across the small courtyard like a dab of opaque white bleeding into a darker hue. That and the sound of a nightingale echoing off the buildings as M. slept. And another night, an encounter by chance at a music festival, when we crept up the steps of the bleachers we’d been sitting on to talk above the din, spied a slit in a tent, and slipped inside, where a huge space opened up before our eyes like a hallucination. A circus tent without a circus, empty, off-limits to the summer night’s event: we’d been beamed into a magical world in a matter of seconds, the noise outside already a distant memory. These were the kinds of encounters we had: an abandoned amusement park in Treptower Park shortly after the Wall came down, rusted equipment and the Soviet War Memorial nearby. But then M. grew chilly in his thin jacket, the charm wore off, and we were expelled from our little garden, thrown back into the day with its overcast sky and colorless, listless disposition. I am always looking for someone to escape with, it seems. And you? We’ve invented a secret language; we communicate through signs that only you and I understand. A rendezvous, and then a departure. A moment in which we share an antipathy for clocks and calendars, airports and train schedules. I pack quickly so that I can return to you, hold you in silence. Later, in the airport, you watch my transformation into an alien, an efficient traveler: my laptop already out of its bag, ready to place in a separate bin; my coat draped over my arm, the boarding pass in my hand. You stood behind the barrier and watched from a distance. I’m not an alien, I wanted to say, I am merely passing through security, but you are far more capable than I of negotiating these shifts in perception, in reality; you were trying to signal me to jump the line. Today I feel afraid; how would it be to have you near me? The sun’s rays creep quietly along the wall, illuminating a silver tea set in a glowing quadrilateral of light that has traveled an unimaginable distance just to be here in this moment, this and no other. V. never noticed these things; V.’s mind was already elsewhere, checking his alibi, looking for anything that might not hold up under scrutiny. We hurried down the street, and he asked me if I remembered a certain store that carried objects made from carved glass. It was only later that I realized he was planning to pick up a gift for his wife on the way to Penn Station.

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