Coffee and cigarettes
By Parson Thru
“Do you want to know my best kept secret?”
Kerry snapped the lid of his lighter shut and drew deeply through his teeth.
The girl sitting across the table quietly shook her head and smiled. "If you want to tell me."
He poured sugar into his coffee.
They'd met on a sofa in the fug of a Schoneberg night-club. Conversation carried them from there through Berlin’s early-morning streets to find this café.
Kirsten was maybe twenty years younger. She wore a dark, heavy coat with red threads that picked up the lights in her hair.
“You don’t seem crazy. But perhaps that means we both are.”
Her English was spoken with a soft Berliner accent. She tapped her cigarette against the ash-tray.
Kerry leaned back and smiled.
“I’ve never told that to anyone else.”
Their eyes met unselfconsciously.
“Not to my mother. Not my ex-wife. No one.”
She held his gaze – ignoring the world outside the window.
“Why would they be interested? Unless you were planning to chop them up and hide them in the freezer.”
“Not that kind of crazy. I don't think so, anyway"
"My head just gets so full of ideas. Sometimes I don’t know what to do with it all. There are times I feel like crying out loud in the street or screaming at the top of my voice in a supermarket. I get this grief."
He examined his finger-nails.
"Other times I feel so crazily euphoric I think I’m going to burst or leave the ground and never come back down.”
Kirsten’s eyes creased. “That just makes you interesting.”
She pulled urgently on her cigarette.
“I love all those ideas we talked about. All the things we were saying in the chill-out last night. I have those thoughts, too. My apartment is filled with half-finished drawings and stories. I never get to the end of them because I lose concentration. Something else always comes along or I have to get out.”
She winced suddenly and swung out her foot, looking down at her shoe.
“My feet are sore.”
"We just walked miles."
Kerry's cup rattled, spilling coffee into the saucer. “I’ve got the shakes.”
“My hands are shaking. I reckon it’s the Absinthe.”
“You should treat it with respect. My father told me that his uncle went blind from drinking it.”
Kerry nodded and squeezed his eyes tight-shut briefly.
“What are you going to do today?” Kirsten asked.
“Where are you staying?”
“A hostel in Charlottenburg.”
“Did you pay them for last night?”
“Yes, but it’s ok. Worth every penny.”
“Worth every penny?” Kirsten dipped a wafer into her coffee.
She spoke the two words quickly together - absent-mindedly "Ah-so".
“I love that phrase.”
She looked up. “Are you laughing at me?”
“No, of course not. It’s like ‘Praygo!’ or ‘Donc.’ or ‘Ayee!’. All languages have little sounds that make them tick. I love hearing Germans saying ‘Ach so’. It’s so agreeable.”
Kirsten sniffed. “You are crazy. But in a nice way – I like your craziness. And you’re right – we do that.”
She looked out of the window. The sun was rising above the roof opposite. In what seemed like no time at all, the street was no longer theirs but was filling with the routine of daytime.
Kerry finished his coffee and lit another cigarette, distractedly pushing the soft-pack across the table. He was lost in his thoughts.
“Do you know the Fernsehturm?” Kirsten suddenly asked, turning back to him.
He looked up, feeling tired. “Is that the tower?”
“Yes. My father used to take me. We can go up and just chill for a while. Watch the world go round and round. We can people-watch. You said you liked that.”
“How much will it cost?”
“I don’t know. Ten, maybe fifteen euros. We can stay for hours – maybe sleep on a sofa until they throw us out. Come on, it will be good.”
Kirsten had the bit between her teeth. Enthusiasm had seized her and her eyes sparkled with intent.
Kerry’s bones were aching with fatigue, but the energy of this quirky Berliner was making him tingle. He could feel the hairs on his arms standing up. He smiled.
“How do we get there?”
“U-Bahn. Are you coming? Come on, Kerry!”
The way she spoke his name sent a small charge of happiness through him.
Her chair scraped back noisily on the floor. She picked up the bag she’d been obsessively rummaging in all night and threw it on her shoulder.
For an awkward moment she stood and waited for him to move, then she held out her hand.
“Come on, you lazy sloth.”
Kerry smiled to himself and shook his head. Who could turn down an invitation like that?