Postlude

Ready to move on? Not into it anymore? Looking for honesty? Here is a productive way to be honest and truthful without being hurtful. 

“I’ve given this a pretty extensive amount of thought and, even though there is a lot about you that I really like, I think there are some things that cannot be reconciled. Also, I am very aware of the change in energy. It’s not what’s once was, and we aren’t in the same placee, on the same train of thought, that we were last week even. So, I think it is best to call it a lovely experience and recognize that it isn’t what either of us want or need anymore. I’m so glad I got to know you. You gave me incredible knowledge and I am so grateful for that. I am happy to have shared with you what I did.”

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For individuals who give credence to the energies of organisms, the intricate and nuanced working of such is undeniable. In fact, Buddhists believe that everything in the universe says “om”: my being, my mug of coffee, the tree next to me, the table at which I sit. All of it is pulsating “om” into the universe. Those energies intermingle and mix together and create the atmosphere. I am not a Buddhist, but I do believe their is a lot of profound truths to be found within this particular set of beliefs. Because, as many may know, I am a firm and ardent believer in energy. 

The most powerful element of being a human being is meeting another human being whose energy connects and aligns with yours. It can be a man or woman, and it doesn’t happen all that often. But when it does, something beautiful is created; friendships, partnerships, a love, respect, connection unlike any other. Not necessarily a soul mate, per se, but certainly the energies speak to the souls of the other in some strong and powerful way. 

When I think of the story that has brought me to the situations and locations in which I have met the energies and souls that move me, it is almost comical. It is most wondrous how such dark, laborious periods can ferry me to a place of inescapable beauty and light. Unsuspecting is also a key word, here. I didn’t realize I was in the place of synergy until it walked right up to me and told me so. Or maybe, I didn’t allow myself to realize; I kept it to myself, and quietly let it bide inside of me. 

Biding; I’ve done a lot of that in the last bit of time. If nothing else, this segment of my life has taught me a tremendous amount of patience and presence. It is timely, to be sure. And, though exasperating and frustrating, infuriating almost, it has been relevant and mind changing. Stepping back from the things—because they were mere things—that I focused all of my desires on, has allowed me to have clarity and refocus. And, because of that, I have found things that have changed me, moved me, recreated me. Humans, souls, energies, loves. The very synergy of human life. 
There is so much to this story, and there is no good place to begin. Where would the beginning be, anyway? I forget where we were. And I am not even quite sure where I am. But, things come to me. They come, and they go. But something else comes in its place; a piece of knowledge or a memory of the way things once were, or some realization about myself. To live life is such a powerful happening. 

Thoughts and emotions create a powerful set of beliefs and, ultimately, some kind of alternate reality in a lot of ways. About anything, really. I mean, I have literally had the experience of hating a certain dish at a restaurant, going back a few months later and having it again in different company, and finding it perfectly satisfactory. The notion that the company in which you find yourself can change the wiring of your brain is almost nuts. But it is true. It is, because we are perceptive beings, and once that perception is built, it is bloody difficult to change. 

How many times I have found myself in a situation with someone I was in a relationship with (this instance, especially), and my mind and body were screaming at me to walk away; the argument, regardless of how passive or harmless it may have appeared, was not going anywhere good. In fact, it was a perfectly packaged inkling of how the future would undoubtedly play out. “Go! Walk away! Get the fuck out while you can!” the logical part of my brain and my inner energies scream. And the lonelier, weaker part of myself says, “Give it a chance, it will be okay. Things will come around back to the way they were.” And why is that the weaker part of myself knows how to manipulate or quell the stronger, more real part? What the fuck is that anyway? Frustrating as hell; that is exactly what it is. 

The saving grace in all of this, though, is that my energy catches up with me and calls bullshit on my weakness. And thank God, because it saves me from making catastrophic mistakes that will do days and months of damage if left unattended and unaddressed. 

Here is an example, fresh off the press inside my head: 

On my way home after a long day of work, thoughts, and extras, the notion that things aren’t what they once were with the guy I’m seeing is something that I just can’t shake. Yes, I’ve already established that he’s not my person. I have not forgotten this. On the contrary, thank you universe, today was a blessed, if not brutal, reminder. The guy that was telling me how beautiful, intelligent, fun, interesting, amazing I am, willing to cuddle me, wants to hold my hand in public and kiss me and let everyone know how he thinks about me—he’s not doing that anymore. Not today, anyway. Not since he left my flat yesterday. 

We. Are. Fucked. 

Not because my ego is now suffering from attrition or withdrawals—please, I am made of stronger stuff. No, what it tells me is that something has shifted. His feelings, our destiny, the potential—any of it, all of it. The truth is, the way we were talking on the phone this evening was—holy Christ—absolutely and positively sterile. Not the same two people from Friday. It has been a downward hike, a gradual one, since Friday night. Gradual enough to where I might not notice it. But, today, there was no way around it—or I wouldn’t let myself go around it. Why? Because I would say a big “Adieu” to my own personal happiness if I went along with it. And, polling the room (weak side of me, shut the hell up!), why on Earth would I do that? 

I wouldn’t, and I won’t. 

Theres is a silver lining though. Hard fact is, no, it isn’t going to work. I am on my own again. But, thanks to this same chap, I know even more of what I’m about when it comes to being in tune with myself and what I can stand and tolerate. That is huge. It is nice to know me better. It is a privilege that I don’t always have the presence of mind to take advantage of. And, for God’s sake, I am certainly not alone. I have an incredible social circle to keep me much more than just afloat. Not to mention the fact that I have a new found independence by moving into such an incredible new space (more on that later), and, moreover, (goddamnit!) I will hold out until I meet my person. Nothing else could possibly be worth my long while. 

I’m doing life; I can do life with anyone who can walk beside me for a time. And, yes, that, right now, is incredibly gratifying as well as satisfying. Bottom line (back to the business analogy) is that return on investment is everything, and I would like to be in the habit of making savvy choices for my investments. Pretty simple, in theory. Yet, in practice, things are less than black and white. 

Interlude 

It is a really strange thing. Dating, I mean. Not strange as a practice, I suppose. Everybody has to do something like it: it is a means for an end. Or is it an end for means? 
Either way, I am at it again. Just when I thought I couldn’t be more disenchanted with online dating, and began only passively checking the app every once in awhile, there he was. Not only did he like my photo, but he also started up a conversation (shocking, truly). And it was a very good conversation. And we all know how these things progress from here: we chat a few days via the app, we exchange numbers, vet each other a bit, realize it is real enough, and then decide to meet. Online dating 101. 

Upon meeting, though it wasn’t an instant connection, I thought there would be enough there to leave room for some potential. So, I stayed after lunch. I am happy I did. It was great way to spend a Sunday. Most definitely a fantastic use of my time. I am glad I met him. And we continued to talk extremely often. Not just texting; video chats and phone conversations as well. He gets that part of me, and ticks the same way as far as wanting to share and be in contact. From this, I realized that this aspect of connecting with someone is super important to me. This is the standard I am looking for. That’s not everybody’s cup of tea, obviously, but it certainly is mine. Before, I thought I could handle less communication. Now I know that this is what I find satisfying.

 What is more is the quality of the communication; he is comfortable expressing his thoughts and saying sweet, touching things to me. I know he appreciates me in many ways. And I like that doesn’t assume that I know these things. So, now I also realize just how important this is to me as well. Two things that I suspected about myself, but have now been confirmed. Alone for this reason, this chance meeting has been very productive. I like what I’ve been able to learn about him and about me from our involvement with each other. The facts seem illusive, but sometimes can be very clear if we give ourselves the chance to learn them. 
And so it goes on. 
He is not my person. I like him, I am sure I could even love him, if I allowed myself to stick around long enough. But why would I do that? Because, if I don’t, I am afraid. Scared to be lonely? Maybe. Afraid of hurting him? Also. Mostly, it is the thought that this is it: I am destined to a love life of meeting, liking, realizing, letting go. Repeat. Or, of rejection. That this is all there really is. Because, let’s face it: there are a million awesome, interesting, fun, intelligent people out there, and they are all single. They haven’t found their person/people, so what is to say that I will find mine? That is why it is tempting to hold on to something that is not meant to be mine. He could suit me for a time, most certainly. He does suit me. We have a good, easy time together, and he makes me feel comfortable and appreciated. Good things, all of them. I can see, though, —or feel, rather— that there are some things between us that I wont find flattering in the long term. Nothing catastrophic, or obvious flaws in character, and nothing that would bring physical or emotional harm to me in any way. But there are things, little things. There is something about those little things, though; they are extremely important, somehow, and it is as salient that they line up as it is when comparing how big things line up. 
I know myself well enough, these days, to hear what my body is saying to me. Shifts in energy, the way I react to situations, the nuance of the mechanism that I am. My body is comfortable next to his; it is not alive, it is not furthered, it is not set afire, there is no hum. It is positive, it is enjoyable, it is comfortable. And that is all there is. What’s missing is the all encompassing connection, the je ne sais qua, the strong hum, the pull, the desire, the slight discomfort caused by the kindling of both body and soul. It is to be found. And certainly there is more than one person in the universe whose energy will align with mine in this way. But the universe hasn’t given that person to me just yet. Maybe it will, and maybe it wont. 
For now, though, I will hold on loosely to the things that are only meant to be for a short time. Hopefully, that will make it easier for me to let them go when the time is right. This is by no means easy for me. Not at all. On the contrary; I will struggle to do what is right for the next bit of time. But, as I have said before, when I am ready to wake up, I always do. And I know he is bringing to light much knowledge that will no doubt help me along my path. But I will have to let him go at some point. When our purpose has been fulfilled, and we have done all we can for each other, it will be time. At that time, the universe will shift once again, and our energies, and whatever connection there may have been between them, will gravitate away from one another. There will be healing, there will be growth. There will be fond memories, and gratitude. There will be a future of uncertainly founded on a past of discovery. And the knowledge gained will help us both to go forth and be brave on the next part of our journeys. 

Business Finished: Part II

It began when I stopped answering his messages, stopped calling him back when I saw he had phoned. It wasn’t that he didn’t bring color to my life in a way that I certainly enjoyed and maybe even needed; it wasn’t that at all. In fact, for the longest time, I didn’t know what it was. I was joyful to see him, and I missed him when I was away. Actually, there was not a negative thing to name in our relationship. It was a beautiful, gracious, and jovial connection; and it was more than love really. It was likely once in a lifetime. And I knew if it ever ended, it would destroy everything I had. It would shatter me. I would be nothing. And right now, I was everything. While the stone in me continued to roll along, and I went about my writing just as I always had, sometimes he accompanied me, others not. He had his own work, after all, and he was bloody brilliant in it and for it.
I came to the conclusion that, as heartbreaking as it would be, I would need to walk away on my own terms; tell him goodbye before anything had the chance to start slowly dismantling, decaying, turning to rubbish before my eyes. I just wouldn’t be able to stand it, should it come to that. 
At this point, I had given him another year of my life. A year, for me, was a partial eternity. Finally, to reach a point of clarity, I booked myself a trip to Athens, and had cried myself swollen among the ruins. I sat in a place where no bumbling tourist would ever stumble into the mess that I was, but from where I sat, I had the most heartbreaking view of what I thought could become of my life if I kept things as they were: ruins of a civilization that had once been the most functional and mighty in the world. 

After hours of sobbing, sniffling, and overall abuse and soul-scourging, I had emptied myself of all water within my body, and had replenished myself with ouzo and various other strong local drinks. I therefore spent many hours within the peace of a black-out, lived off of ibuprofen, and flew back to Berlin several days later. 
Three worse for the gin, which I had drunk at a bar close to our place, I clambered into the apartment and had practically fallen into Marius like a boulder plowing its way down a steep slope. 

“I’m sorry,” I had said. “I’m just so fucking sorry.” 

I looked into his eyes, hoping he would grasp my meaning. He just smiled and kissed my forehead, complementing me on my deepened skin tone and remarking how glad he was to have me home. 

“Marius.” I was shaking my head. 

There was an unnatural rushing in my ears. 

He stopped. The world stopped. My heart stopped. 

And I don’t think it began again until I had closed the door behind me one final time, hailed a cab from the main street behind the apartment, and boarded the plane to London. Then it began again, excrutiatingly slowly, but there it was. 
To sever the connection of two souls is more than science can ever explain. Its more than open-heart surgery, more than pulling the plug on a life-support machine, and more than having your worst nightmare realized. It feels like all of that, but is really so much more. The finality of the good-bye is a razor sharp blazing knife ripping through the flesh. Its the stolen breath that refuses to return for what seems like hours. Its the rain that drowns you when the tears refuse to come. Its the emptiness that will never be filled. 

It is all that I am. 
He cried before my eyes, asking me why, demanding answers that my thick and slow tongue couldn’t produce. “You’re not even giving it a chance Mira,” he had repeated over and over again. “I just don’t understand. We’re so much more than you’re letting us be.” He was right of course. How could I ever tell him that though? How could I tell him that I would rather sacrifice a part of my soul then risk its utter destruction? In a thousand and one ways, I was a coward. 

A bloody fucking coward. 
He became angry and stood up, wiping his face and nose. “That’s why you haven’t been, I don’t know, writing me when you’re away, or calling me. That’s why you’ve been absent. You were planning this; you just hadn’t found it pertinent to let me in on it.” 

I said nothing. In a way, he was right again. 

“You’ve been it Mira. For the last long bit of time in my life, it was you. Even when I didn’t even fucking realize it. I’ve been wanting nothing more for so many years. And there you were one day. And now, you can’t fucking risk it anymore?” He was shaking his head and covering his face with his hands. 

“Holy Christ,” he whispered. He was breathing audibly, looking out through the wall of windows where, outside, the sunshine mocked me. 
 An ambulance rolled by on the main street. The door downstairs slammed shut. Dust fell and was heard by no one. 
A strange parallel sense of calm settled over the room as he turned back to face me. “I won’t try to change your mind. That would not be right. And frankly, I never want to have to convince you to be with me. Your choice is your own, and I want no part in it.” He paused for what seemed like hours. “I just wish I could understand. I’d give anything to have a glimpse into that mind of yours. You kill me Mira. Truly, you kill me.” 
Leaving the truth of his words to hang in the air and finally reach me, he went into the kitchen. He came back with a generous glass of clear liquid, a solitary ice cube bobbing on the surface. “It will be my curse to love you for the rest of my natural life. But someday, I will find peace from it.” He paused. “I think,” he paused again and looked into his glass, “I think I can handle your honesty, and I’ll be a better person for it. Somehow. Someday. But, God and Jesus in Heaven, this hurts. It fucking kills.” He shook his head once, and sighed. Then, very gently, he set the glass onto the counter and took deliberate steps towards me until we were an intimate distance apart. He was looking at the floor. “I’ll miss you. And your perfect friendship. And I’ll only ever want happiness for you.” He leaned in and kissed my cheek so very gently. I think I could’ve died on the spot, if it wasn’t for my unnatural willpower to stay on my feet. Then, he laid his hand gently on my cheek and smiled smally, blue eyes melting into mine. 

“Goodbye Mira.” 
By the time I came to myself, the glass had disappeared from the counter, there was a small ‘click’ from somewhere behind me, and he was gone. Forever and a day, he was gone. 
As is known in psychology when one is in shock, I went through the next few hours in a mechanical state, packing my things, addressing boxes, and loading my suitcases. My mind told me I was leaving a hotel after a trip had come to an end. 

What a metaphor; this trip spanning over a decade was now over. What would come of my life now that this chapter had ended, this presence had left me? I zipped the bag shut. I helped myself to a glass of vodka and was still drinking industriously when the shipping service had come to collect my things. I practically had to close one eye to see the line for my signature on the receipt. 
It took me days to recover, weeks really. I had known that he would likely never in this lifetime want another thing to do with me after all of this, but I hadn’t been able to calculate the damage that it would inflict upon me after it had come to pass. I was having a monster of a time coping. And that’s an understatement. 
“I’ve been in London for three weeks, Mum. I’ve been….out. With people I haven’t seen in years, drinking, dancing, smoking. Trying to forget my fucking miserable life for a just one moment. I’ve been staying with friends, couch surfing, getting a hotel room, whatever I can to avoid being alone in my flat. I can’t do it; I can’t face it yet. I’ve completely obliterated my sense of peace. And I’ve lost someone who was worth more than his weight in gold to me. I highly doubt I will find anyone who understands me like he does. Did. Oh God.” She put her head in her hands. I thought she might cry, but instead, she looked up at me with zombie eyes. “I look like walking hell because I haven’t slept in weeks. I haven’t written anything at all. I tried yesterday, and it was absolutely the most miserable writing anyone could have ever produced. Like in the history of writing, though.” She swallowed and shook her head. “I don’t even feel like a person anymore. I feel—“ She breathed out her nose. “I feel horrible. I feel like I betrayed him. I did betray him. I treated him in a way that he never ever deserved. He was always honest with me; always kind, always an ear for me to speak into. I was such an arse.” 

She was so full of her own misery, I didn’t feel compelled to inject any more. 

“I mean, I think I’ll come back from it. God, I can only hope. But I know for a fact that there will come many a day where I’ll want to speak with him, to share with him like we always did. I’ll want to see his smile, and never will be able to.” 

There was the shimmer of tears in her eyes now. 

“He was so clear about his wish for things. He gave me his final goodbye. And he’ll move on. I know he will. He’s such a brilliant human being. My favorite person to ever exist.”

 The tears fell now, landing thick and heavy against the light color of her jeans. 

“God, he will move on, and he’ll find peace. I hope I am able to do the same.” She looked down, and the tears fell freely. I reached out a hand and clasped hers. 

“Mira, you’re a writer. And a brilliant one at that. If nothing else, at some point you’ll find catharsis through that.”

And, against my nature, I stood up, straightened my trousers, and walked to the cabinet. Pulling out the bottle of bourbon and two glasses, I settled back in to have a drink with my daughter; my complicated, beautiful, sometimes idiotic and entirely nonsensical, artistic free-spirit of a daughter. 

Business Finished: Part 1

                                                                     Business Finished
“Do you happen to have anything a bit stronger Mum?” She made a face at the cup of tea I had placed before her. 

“Darling, it’s barely the afternoon. My tea is very strong. Drink it. You’ll feel much better,” I replied, settling into the chair across from hers. 

She was staring out the window, watching the rain fall. The lamps were lit, though the grey of the day did its best to snuff out the glow of the bulbs. 

“So, why are you here?” I asked, sipping my tea tentatively. 

She just looked at me, blinking. 

I waited. 

She rolled her eyes. “I dunno, Mum. Cause I’m back in London, and I thought you’d like a chat,” she finally replied a bit saltily. 

“I’m aware that you’re back in London. I signed for the packages that arrived at your flat. I do believe I asked you why, and not if you’re here.” I leaned back in my chair and crossed my ankles. 

She was flustered, appearing to me as if she would cry at any moment. And she said nothing. 

“I don’t understand you Mira,” I said finally. 

She squeezed her eyes shut and breathed out. “Mum, I don’t mean to rude, but I may need to go out for a pack of fags if you don’t stop grilling me.” 

“That would be a poor life choice, darling,” I remarked, raising an eyebrow. 

She shook her head and looked away. 

I leaned forward. “You said you’re here for a chat.” 

Her head snapped back toward me and she was glaring. “I did say that. A chat—not a bloody browbeating.” 

“My dear, I just don’t understand what in Heaven or on Earth would have moved you to leave Berlin. You gave no notice that there was trouble with Marius. In fact, you gave no notice at all that you were coming to London. I spoke with you on the phone not more than five days ago. Forgive me, but I’m absolutely confused by your presence here.” 

She sighed and reached for her cup of tea. “I know you have whiskey in the cabinet,” she muttered. 

“If that will help you, then by all means.” I gestured to the sideboard where the liquor was stored. Immeadiatly, she sprang to her feet and began to rummage, bottles clinking together as she searched for her poison of choice. Uncorking the bottle of bourbon, she dumped a heavy tot into her cup, the contents sloshing over the sides and down onto the saucer. I breathed deeply and said nothing. 

“I’m still going for fags later,” she said after she had re-stowed the bottle and taken her place on the chair again. “That’s much better,” she added, taking an unladylike slurp of her concoction. 

“Oh for Christ’s sake Mira,” I said, a bit incredulous at this point. “Pull yourself together and come off it.” I was already tired of the nonsense. “I take it you’ve made a monstrous mistake.” It was speculation, but I was nearly completely certain it was the truth— even if she wasn’t. 

“You don’t know that,” she replied quietly. 

“Quite right I do. You love Marius. You’ve reconnected after all these years. You were meant to. And yet, here you sit, swigging spiked tea and banging on about having a smoke.” I lifted a shoulder, daring her to contradict me. 

She didn’t. She stayed quiet, as did I, and we drank our tea. 

“I couldn’t take the chance on him, Mum. Not again,” she finally said. 

“Now what, should I suppose, is that meant to mean?” I asked. 

She leaned forward. “Look, if I tell you everything, will you reserve your judgement til I’ve had about six more of these?” she asked impatiently.

“I’d appreciate the honesty, yes.” 

And so it began. 

Unfinished Business pt. 6

From a distance, they looked like two lovers on holiday. They breakfasted on the veranda together, held hands as they strolled along the beach, and when they looked at each other, well, then it seemed set in stone. It wasn’t just desire in their eyes; it was a deep and intense understanding and admiration of the other. It was only in the moments when they were alone, preparing themselves for bed or the start of a new day that the small elephant sat back down in the corner of the room. Marius would watch Mira combing out her hair after a shower and longed to slip the towel from its precarious position above her breasts. But he didn’t. He still wasn’t sure if that would be what she wanted, too. And she would watch him slide his body into a t-shirt and a pair of pants, admiring the musculature that vanished beneath the cloth. She liked the careful yet carefree way he tidied his hair and face each morning, and found nothing imperfect about his physique. But they both felt as if they were dancing in a dream, and at anytime, the song would end. The perfect blue of the ocean, the caressing warmth of the early spring, and the endless supply of food and drink seemed to perpetuate the illusion. The question was simple if not terribly impossible to answer: where should they go from here? Both of them felt that, at this age, they should know how to answer, and therefore both kept their lips sealed tightly shut. 
“When we get back to Berlin, do you think you’ll stay?” He asked one night as they sat on the balcony. Her head rested on his chest and he held her close. She raised her head and looked back at him. “Of course you’ll travel for your writing, but will you stay, with me?” He asked, very quietly, fearing the possibilities of her response. She laid her head back down and he exhaled. “I’d be rather happy to stay with you,” she answered slowly. He waited for more but nothing else came. All that was left to fill the silence were the crashing waves washing over the nearby shore. 
When they arrived back in Berlin, they stood in the living room of Marius’ apartment; Mira looked down at her phone, Marius looked at her, waiting. Finally, she looked up. “Do you think I should send my stuff up from London then?” she asked. He thought he caught an anxious look in her eyes. “I think that’s a great idea, yes,” he replied simply, hoping she would relax. She nodded once. “Right. I’ll get on with it then.” 

While she telephoned with a shipping service, Marius prepared a tray of snacks complete with a bottle of sparkling Rose. He set it all gently down on the coffee table and began flicking through his work email account which had been abandoned for five days while they had been in Spain. He poured himself a glass of wine and busied himself with drinking industriously and scrolling systematically. “It’ll arrive tomorrow afternoon,” she said, bringing him back from cyber land. “That’s great news. I’ll make space in the closet for you,” he said, smiling over at her. 

“Erm, yea, or I could I just, you know, stuff it all in the guest bedroom closet.” 

“Mira, I’m happy to make all the space you need. Don’t you want to share space with me?” 

She felt a bit ridiculous and began to blush. “I, yes, I do. I just, well. I don’t exactly fucking know how to really. It just feels so odd to…move into your flat again. Obviously it’s not the same one as before. But, still.” 

“Alright. Fair enough. I understand. But, this time, we’re much older and much wiser. And hopefully you won’t leave me for the beauty of Switzerland or anywhere else.” He took her hand gently and smiled. She leaned her forehead against his, breathing deeply. He smelled wonderful. Comforting. “I can’t believe this Marius. Sometimes I still just can’t. I mean, what if it really should be Lila here all along?” she murmured, speaking to the floor. 

“Mira, I didn’t leave Lila because we didn’t make a good match. We did. But I’ve loved you since I told you the first time a million years ago. After awhile I didn’t realize it anymore, but it was always there.”

She was quiet, examining the lines on the palms of her hands, before laughing a little. “I’m too old for this shit,” she commented, looking up to meet his eyes with hers. He smiled and squeezed her hand.  

She took up a book and he seated himself at the piano, beginning to plunk around, tinkering with a new melody. As usual when he played, she found herself unable to concentrate on anything else but the music lofting from the mechanism that was the grand piano. She looked round the spacious room and frowned slightly. She would need to mark out a place of her own; somewhere where she could spread out and do some proper work. She couldn’t imagine sharing a workspace with Marius. In fact, it was difficult for her to get her head around the concept of sharing any type of space with anyone after so many years of solitary accommodation. But, the longer she sat, taking in the music as it filled every molecule in the room with the purest sound, she realized that there was likely no better atmosphere to share with another human. This peace, this comfort; she would remain as long as it did. For surely, she thought, this would be a wonderful soundtrack to write to everyday. Surely, indeed.

Unfinished Business pt. 5

“I’m sorry Lila, I was afraid. I was just fucking afraid.” “I already know that Marius. Tell me something I don’t know.” 

“I really wish I could.”

Lila snorted and shook her head, a cloud of smoke circling her head from the cigarette. 

“It was a shitty thing to do. From both of you.”

“I know. Believe me, I feel just as terrible as Mira does.” 

“You should.” She took another drag and flicked the ash from the end. “I already know its over Marius. So don’t think you’re going to let me down easy.”

“I’ve never thought you a fool Lila, and I didn’t come to make excuses for my behavior. I just needed to face you when I said that I am truly sorry that I hurt you. I did love you, you know. And I still do care for you very much.”

“I wish you didn’t Marius. And I wish I didn’t feel the same.” 

He reached over and gave her hand a squeeze. She looked down at the floor, then slowly into his eyes. 

“Take care Lila. I wish you all the very best. Wirklich.”  

She nodded once, solemnly, and he stood up, his eyes lingering on the divine creature sitting there at the bistro table, blonde hair spilling across her shoulder like fresh tears on a cheek. She afforded him the curtesy of the last image being one of her completely pulled together before he turned away and wandered out of the restaurant. After that, she drank her wine in silence, thinking of nothing. 

As she unlocked her bike, feeling the affects of the wine take root in her brain, her vision blurred as her conscious and sub-conscious cracked together, breaking forth in a violent storm of tears and sobs, wracking her so much that she nearly had to abandon her bike at the post where it was chained and take the walk of shame home; a one woman parade of melancholy. 

****************
Die Emotionen Von Menschen spiegeln die Laune der Natur wider. “Human emotion reflects that of nature.” Something Marius had said a long time ago, almost in another life. Looking out over the sun and surf of the Atlantic Ocean, I pondered the truth of such an expression and found it to be accurate. “Don’t tell me you keep a flat in London for the wonderful weather,” he had snorted, upon seeing the puzzlement expressed by my knitted brows after he had first said it. “Don’t you notice how dreary people’s moods are when the weather is rainy and bad?” he asked, a smile playing at the corners of his lips. In fact I did notice. But I was never actually in any one place long enough to take matters of climate and weather patterns to heart. I was still mulling over the truth of his words when he mentioned to me that he would not mind visiting England again, he would like to see my mother again. “You tick very well together,” she had said back then. That was the only phrase resembling a compliment that my mother had given me regarding any relationship I had had. Ever. 

My computer lay open on the table behind me, the black screen reflecting the palm leaves spread out like a canopy above. What would I write today? How would I be able to explain myself in written words? Would I slip back in time, using nostalgia to come to grips with reality? Or, would I write an anecdote about the prawns I had eaten for lunch and leave the rest to bask in the Spanish sun? A gentle wind blew a sweep of hair across my face; a sea breeze, the winds of change for a sailor. I squinted against the sun which had already began dipping itself into the glossy, glinting depths of the endless ocean. Somewhere behind me, I heard gentle piano music float through the heavy salty air. “Mira,” the voice softly said. “Will you come?” I turned from my perch and slid into the shadows of the interior. The music had grown stronger, now with strings and guitar to accompany the piano’s notes. It told a story, and I as I listened, I realized the story was somehow familiar. “This is wonderful,” I murmured, lost in the timing, the melody, each synchronized harmony. “I wrote it for you,” he said, as softly as if the words belonged to the composition. 

For the first time since I had arrived in Berlin, I wept. 

Unfinished Business pt. 4 (Marius)

I awoke, discombobulated and otherwise confused. Lulled to sleep by the perpetual hum of voices and airplane noises around me, I had fallen asleep before we had even pulled away from the gate. I don’t know what it is, but something about traveling by plane, and the leading up to it, brings me to such a height of boredom and exhaustion that all I can do is close my eyes and slip away. This time, I didn’t even bother with headphones; my last night in New York City had robbed me of enough sleep to make the need easy to fill. I glanced around, blinking. The woman sitting to my left certainly wasn’t the guy that had been sitting there when I had fallen asleep. I straightened up and smoothed my pants a little, placing the bowler hat onto my knee. I cleared my throat slightly, wishing for nothing more than a glass of water. I allowed myself a glance in my seat mate’s direction again and decided that I was lucky to have a pretty young woman to share the cramped quarters of the airplane with. I looked out the window, hoping to muster up something clever to say. She was reading, but fuck it, maybe she was up for talking. “You’re not the guy that was sitting her before,” I said, smiling. “No, he opted to be next to his family,” she replied, looking up. I asked her how long we had been flying; she replied about three hours. I smiled at her again. “I’m sorry, you’re reading. I didn’t mean to disturb you.” And then, she smiled at me, and I was suddenly very much wide awake. 
She didn’t seem like the type of girl who needed anyone to show her around a strange city. Still, I offered, and to my luck, she called me the next morning, asking if I would spare some time for a tour. I picked her up from the five star hotel where she was staying and took her to brunch. After that, I showed her around the neighborhood where I was living. Though it wasn’t much yet, anyone could see that it would be something very soon. With her sharp eye, I realized she would not have a problem recognizing potential. I brought her to the studio. My partners eyed her with looks of approval, and threw me smirks behind her back. Luckily, her German was rudimental enough so that she did not understand their bawdy remarks. They thought she was an easy fling, and thereby the perfect woman. I thought she was the most electrifying, inspiring thing that could’ve dropped into my life at the moment, and I already was shaping her up to be my finest muse in my subconscious. I took her back to my apartment, a modest one-bedroom, and cooked her spaghetti bolognese, serving a bottle of wine costing a whole seven Euro, which happened to be the most expensive one I kept in-house. Afterwards, I served her beer from a plastic bottle, hiding this fact by pouring it into a pint glass, and we sat on the mini-balcony, talking and smoking. She spent the night in my bed, and the next morning I kissed her over coffee and croissants. 
On the day she was meant to fly away from Berlin, and out of my life, we found ourselves sprawled naked on the living room rug, surrounded by wine bottles and take-away pizza boxes. After hours of much debate and many tears, we had decided that she would stay with me and we would see what we could make of this. I had been forewarned that she would continue to travel, and I had promised her I would be working long days at the studio. Both seemed like fair compromises to make. I realized I finally had a reason to come home again after work. 

She had some boxes from her place in London delivered, and asked me very nicely if she could please hang some artwork on the walls. When I came home, the place had been marked with the artful touch of someone who knew how very little it took to turn a space into a home. From where I was standing, both literally and figuratively, everything looked very promising. I wouldn’t expose myself to her yet, but I knew that I was already in love with her. 
If I were to dig deep enough inside myself, and rifle through the part of my memory that housed the things I refused to think of, I suppose I could conjure up the day that she left for Switzerland. All I can readily say is that the weather matched my emotions precisely; it was rainy, cold, and otherwise dour and shitty. The year preceding it had been one of long-distance video calls and lonely nights. I accused her of traveling too much, and she told me I was both working and drinking too much. All of it was true. And instead of putting things into perspective and working them out, we both chose to cling to our careers that had placed us on an upward trajectory faster than either of us could’ve anticipated. Her technological devices had become her constant companions, while I spent most of my time with strangers who handed me contracts and film manuscripts. I had become the composer I had always wanted to be, and she was by now a well-known writer. With all of that to sleep with, it seemed we no longer needed each other. And although I couldn’t actually believe how fucking stubborn I was being, I would never admit to her that I was rotting on the inside without her. 

And then, she disappeared. Into the mist, into a train car, into the milieu of another country, and most certainly eventually into the arms of another man. 
If I had been a workaholic before, I became a machine that required neither sleep nor food, and ran mostly on alcohol and unbridled passion for the success of my music. For months after she had gone, I couldn’t bare to be alone in the apartment. Some nights, I even slept on the couch in the studio. I was perpetuating a schedule that involved early mornings, long days, and too many drinks with my colleagues who also kept the same, single schedule as I did. 
Eventually though, I slipped back into being human again, and found my apartment to be solace from the otherwise turbid world outside. Mira and I kept up no correspondence, but it was not difficult for me to keep tabs on her life. I would sometimes, rather often actually, find myself scrolling through her blog, staring in awe as pictures of her face, her body, the scenery of beautiful places rolled across the screen. I never left any trace of being there, fearing that she may have an adverse reaction should I leave a comment. Of course this was ridiculous; not only because, by that time she had millions of followers, but also because we hadn’t parted with any bad blood between us to speak of.

 

After too many glasses of wine one night, at least five years since I had last seen her in person, and shortly after I had moved into a newly renovated loft, I found myself glued to the large-screened computer in my office, ogling the divine perfection of her bikini-clad body as she frolicked about in photos of Sardinia, parts of me beginning to stir and rise that had no business doing so. The blood rushed to my head as I moved down the page, discovering the men with which she had spent time recently. I felt myself becoming belligerently jealous, and swiped a pile of papers angrily from my desk in one fluid flurry of rage. Fuming, I sat back in my chair and wiped my face. Chalking it up to too much wine, I shut the computer down and trudged to my bedroom, falling into a sweat-soaked sleep, and awakening feeling like I had been run down by a city street car. 
Thereafter, I disallowed myself from getting involved with her online empire. I mean, at some point I needed to move on. Moving into my new place was a great start, and now I needed to keep going that direction. I was otherwise comfortably adjusted to life in my mid-thirties; I owned a considerably fashionable piece of property in the same neighborhood that I had first lived in when I came to study in Berlin almost eleven years ago. Both my business and my personal music career were thriving, and I had become a known personality on several radio stations, and a sought-after guest speaker for courses at the university. No longer forced to buy beer in plastic bottles, I now bought an assortment of German brews and imports, as well as very expensive bottles of wine to impress the guests I was hosting on a weekly basis. 

Finally, I was starting to feel at home again in my own life, happy-hearted with all that I had and become. 
It was at a Friday night dinner party hosted at my place where I met Lila; a lovely, if not a little brusque art galley director who had come with one of the musicians we were currently contracting with. She was thin, very tall, with minor swells to mark breasts, hips, and ass. The red dress she wore flowed loosely around her toned frame, and her blonde hair covered everything the dress did not—until she swept it into a loose ponytail after we opened the sixth bottle of Sekt post-dinner. Her cheeks had taken the rosy coloration of one who has drunk plenty of wine, and I couldn’t help but give most of my attention to her, eventually breaking away from the rest of the group for a smoke break on the balcony. 

“Nice place,” she commented, gesturing to the glass windows separating us from the living room. I lit the end of her cigarette. “Thank you,” I replied, smiling. 

“I can’t believe this neighborhood. It’s really made something of itself, eh?” she mused, looking out over the tops of the surrounding buildings. I nodded. She wasn’t the most easy individual to converse with, but she always, I found, knew exactly what she wanted and knew how to speak her mind, and that is what I found most desirable about her. 
We eased into a relationship at about the same speed two glaciers in the Arctic move toward each other, eventually meeting in the middle with a gentle bump of acknowledgement. We saw very little of each other at first because of our incredibly opposite schedules. While I worked during the day and into the evenings, most of her events started at night, making her unavailable for dinner or even a drink somewhere. Usually I would hang around the gallery, nursing a glass of whatever the artist had chosen to serve, grabbing bits of conversation with her where I could before heading home and tucking myself in for the night. It gave us little chance to grow tired of each other, and since we didn’t live together, seeing each other remained something of a novelty. 
As time went on, she came to me each night, offering me the comforts of her body, and when she didn’t, I missed her and wondered why she had chosen to go home. Occasionally, I would spend the night at her apartment one neighborhood over from mine. She lived above the gallery, and I could never figure out how she managed to ever distance herself from her work. But that was part of her bravado: compartmentalizing and effortlessly fine-tuning her attentions with precision. We went on like this for years; happy, satisfied, sometimes argumentative and out of touch, but in love enough to move through life in unison. 
“I got an email from Mira,” I told Lila over a rushed breakfast one morning. She paused with stirring her tea to raise a skeptical, perfectly-crafted eyebrow at me. “Oh really? Is she coming to Berlin?” she replied, resuming her stirring. I wiped my mouth. “Yea, she is,” was all I said, waiting for the precarious silence to pass. She knew all about Mira, for Mira was a part of my life I could never keep secret. “Looking forward to meeting her,” she said, pushing back from the table. “I must go. I’m late already.” She kissed my hair briefly before flinging a scarf around her neck and slipping into her trench coat. “See you later,” she said before pulling on a pair of rain boots and heading out into the downpour. I sat in silence, mulling over the potential situations that could arise. But nothing, absolutely and most certainly nothing came to mind other than the child-like excitement that rose up every time I imagined seeing Mira again after all these years. 
I felt like a canary in a cage as I waited at the restaurant designated to be our meeting spot. I was early in the hopes of snagging a good table big enough for three. I had already sipped my way through a vodka tonic, and my nerves were only slightly calmed. I noticed how I kept wiping my palms on the thigh of my jeans. 

When I saw her, my brain went dead for a second, and then the banging and clanging and fireworks display of nerve synapses began. And I wondered directly thereafter if inviting Lila to join us had been a mistake. There was no time to ponder it, Mira had landed in my arms, and it felt like she had never even left them at all. “My God, you look wonderful,” I said, stepping back to admire the silhouette she presented me with in a black fitted dress as she slipped out of a red wool coat. “You look well yourself,” she replied, smiling. “The shorter hair suits you,” she added. I laughed. “Well, I’m not nearly as young as I used to be,” I said, giving her a smile. She laid her hands on the table, leaning in slightly. “Its so good to see you Marius. Thanks for meeting me.” Something in the way her mouth turned up at the corner, the crinkles near her eyes danced, and how her eyes spoke made me shift in my chair. In my pants, things we stirring as well and I cleared my throat. “You know I’m always glad to see you Mira.” 
Lila arrived an hour later, joining us for after-dinner drinks. I was grateful for her treatment of Mira; I had feared she may treat her with cold detachment, but was sighing internally with relief when she slipped into the art of casual conversation with her right away. Mira was the type of person that nearly everyone could feel comfortable with. As beautiful as she was, women could not speak a word against her, out of jealousy or anything else, because she simply glowed with good-will and kindness. This, it seemed, had also put any of Lila’s concerns to rest. 
I didn’t realize that I had been holding my breath for so long until I sighed a gust of wind in relief when Mira told us that she would stay in Berlin awhile. “Would you mind if I asked Mira to stay here?” I asked Lila one night as we prepared dinner. She continued her chopping of the onions. “No,” she replied simply. I studied the side of her face, looking for signs that may offer contradiction to her answer. I found none. As I went to bed that night, I was convinced that she was truly okay with it; she had never made time for go-around games in which she wouldn’t say exactly what she meant to. As I closed my eyes and waited for sleep to come, I imagined what it would be like to co-habit with someone who, even after all these years, brought me the same abundance of happiness. 
Things between Lila and me were silently falling apart. She knew something I didn’t; something I wouldn’t admit aloud to the question that she never asked. She fucking knew, but waited for me to confront myself with the truth: that I was in love with my past. The past who had become the present. And who I wanted to be the future as well. When Mira came back to the loft one evening after her day out with Lila, I wasn’t at all surprised to hear that Lila had told her off about our relationship. Not that there was anything more than a friendship. But Lila had finally had enough, and went first to Mira to accost her because of my feelings. I was still uncertain that the feelings I had were actually mutual. But I understood why Lila had decided to come clean—she feared I would never move on from the limbo I had placed myself in, would never decide to chose one over the other, and if I did choose Lila, that I would never stop loving Mira. She had outed my cowardice, and now I felt as if I were naked on stage at the opera house. 
“I feel horrible about all this,” Mira said, her face just as downcast as her eyes. I started at the sound of her voice which had snapped me out of focus for the composition I had been going over. “You have no reason for that,” I replied, feeling my own sense of guilt creep slowly back in. “I dunno, I mean, if I had never come to Berlin, you guys would’ve gone on happily. I feel like I’ve absolutely desecrated the sense of peace your lives had.” She sighed and flipped the page of the magazine she had open on her lap. “That is nonsense, Mira. Maybe we would’ve stayed together, but it would have been less of a love than what I feel for you.” She looked over at me and I could tell this was really weighing on her. I moved from my chair to crouch down in front of where she was perched on the edge of the couch. “These things happen, Mira. Who fucking knows why, but its certainly not the end of the world. Its a beginning. Lila will move on. She is still beautiful and brilliant and highly desirable. There wouldn’t be a thing you or I could do to change any of that.” She maintained eye contact with me as I spoke softly to her, trying my best to give her comfort in her grief. She had been careful to avoid any physical contact with me. Only once had she let me hold her hand while we stood on the balcony and I smoked my last cigarette for the day. And once she had laid her head on my shoulder while we rested on the couch. Mostly though, she still felt as if I were not hers to touch. Not until I spoke with Lila. 

Unfinished Business (Mira pt. 3)

“Well, this is all bollocksed up,” I muttered to the burnt slice of bread peeking out from the silver top of the toaster. I stood in a pair of his clean knickers that I had nabbed from the laundry basket on his bed and a black tank top, puzzling over how to rid the smell of burnt toast from the apartment. It was almost alarming how comfortable, and moreover at home, I suddenly felt. Before I could make a move, I heard the lock turn and the door open. “Oh fuck, burnt toast. My favorite,” he said, coming into the kitchen and giving me a smile. “I know,” I replied, grimacing. “Sorry for the smell.” I walked over to the balcony door and gave it a pull; the glass slid open easily with a rumble along the track. “Are those my shorts?” he asked as I came back into the kitchen. “Erm, ya, sorry,” I said, shrugging awkwardly. He smiled, relaxed as always. “It’s ok. They look good on you.” He reached for a bag of what I knew was bakery contraband. “Thought we’d have a proper breakfast,” he said, bringing the bag to the table and fetching a few plates, knives, and miscellaneous breakfast elements from the fridge. “I thought you’d be in the studio by now,” I remarked, scooping coffee into the french press and setting the kettle to boil. “I was there already. I’ll need to go back.” He checked his watch. “I don’t have much time actually. I didn’t want to work on an empty stomach, though,” he added, winking at me. “Of course,” I replied as we sat down. “And I wanted to see you, of course,” he said, very seriously. I smiled and shrugged a shoulder. We had slept separately last night, but there had been an undeniable gravitational shift to pull us towards any surface we could get into a supine position upon. A lion’s heart had enabled us to resist. That, and the feeling that I would’ve been making love to a man who technically still belonged to the lingering energy of Lila. 
I cleared my throat of bread crumbs, sipped a tangy bit of coffee, and wiped at the corners of my mouth. “So, I, uhm, well I’ve been in Berlin for awhile now, and I was thinking I should probably do another travel piece rather soon, and I was going to book a trip, four days I think, to Spain, Costa del Sol, and I thought perhaps, maybe, you’d like to join me?” I offered, reaching defensively for the butter knife and smearing a hefty glob onto the soft white bun. “You know we can go as friends or something,” I added, shaking my head, hoping to make the situation less forward. I had never asked a man to accompany me on a writing trip. Ever. The words sounded more foreign to me than the language I had produced them in. “Mira, I don’t look at you as a friend, and I suppose I never have,” he replied factually. He went on. “I’d very much like to have a holiday. I think I’ve been on two or three since the studio opened. I’ll need to speak with Lila to get this all—settled first, and then I’d be free to join you.” We let that bit about him speaking with Lila sink over us before he spoke again. “Are you sure you want company? I didn’t think you much liked travel companions when you are writing,” he said, a knowing gleam in his eye. Sometimes, I somehow forgot how well he did know me. “Aaahh, yea, that’s still true, but I thought, I dunno, it could be an interesting change,” I replied, laying my palms face up on the table. “Indeed,” he said, cutting into another roll. Indeed. 
He departed without ceremony or display of affection. We were in a precarious state of limbo that demanded us respect both Lila and our newly rekindled emotions. A large part of me was wishing that he would come to Spain with me that very weekend, getting things straight with Lila so that we could finally figure ourselves out without that uncomfortable presence hanging about in the background. Another part of me, though, wished him to decline the trip, from which I would then never return, sending my regards via courier who would also collect the rest of my belongings from his apartment and send them on to London while I drowned my sorrow in Tinto de Veranos and the waves of the Atlantic all along the Spanish coast until I made it to the shores of the Mediterranean on the Costa de la Luz. “Oh fuck off,” I told myself, “Give him a chance.” “Its a fucking mistake,” the other side of reason argued. “You’re fast approaching middle age, and now is not the time to fling shit at the wall and see what sticks.” I closed my eyes against the late morning sun flooding the balcony, and tried to focus my attention on the emails I was sending to various editors and employers. Instead, I opened a new tab, punched in the URL of my blog and logged in. After several clicks, I hit ‘post’ on a raging impulse, and uploaded to the homepage was a selfie of Marius and I, taken that very morning on the very place where I was now sitting to bask in the summer sun. We’d see what my readers would think of that. God knew that what the readers wanted, they always ended up getting. One way or another. 

Unfinished Business (Mira pt. 2)

And so it came that after nearly twelve years, I felt a calling to return to Berlin. God only knew why. I certainly hadn’t a clue. If the city had been bubbling with life when I had been there before, by now it was bursting at the seams. Prosperity and trendiness marked every corner and window front. The hum had grown louder, the personality of the city stronger. 
I waited a few days before contacting him. Marius. Often on my mind but never on my lips, his name and his smile resonated with me since I left him on the platform all those years ago. I debated whether I should write him, but in the end, curiosity won out, and I wrote him a clipped, friendly email asking him if he was still in Berlin. Seeing the words of his response on the digital page a day later gave me just as much excitement as being back in this city. After choosing neutral ground on which to meet upon, I took a deep breath and submerged my head under the metaphorical waters of what I would come to know as unfinished business. 
Not the bright-eyed young man I had known, but rather an established, well-kept forty-three year old man stood to greet me at a small table of a bustling restaurant. His eyes and smile, though, remained exactly as they had been. And our easy art of managing conversation made me feel as if it had been a few months, and not over ten years, since we had last had a proper chat.
“Marius?” A woman’s voice from behind. He turned to look and stood up. 

“Hello darling.” He gave the woman a quick kiss and helped her out of her jacket. “This is Mira, the friend I was telling you about. Mira, this is Lila, my girlfriend,” he said proudly, looking from her to me and back. We shook hands and sat down. I hadn’t known what I should expect. I did know he had a girlfriend, yet her edgy, fashion-forward style threw me for a loop. Her thick blonde hair pouring over her shoulders and down her back, voluminous and straight, and her perfectly penetrating jewel-toned eyes made her attractiveness undeniable and almost uncanny. She was tall and thin and otherwise intelligent and remarkable and if I hadn’t already finished my first glass of wine, I may have even been a little intimidated by her. 

But there we sat, we three. I wondered how much Lila knew about the origins of Marius and I, but in the end found it irrelevant; we were only heading forward in time, never going back. 
The bristles on his face that composed the shadow of a beard were a mix of browns, blondes and grays. His hair, now a bit more clipped than it had been back then, was still dark, with the occasional strand of grey falling to light. My hair, on the other hand, had held back on the grey, the first appearing, or becoming noticed, during my three day mini-crisis. So far, it was just the one, hidden under a layer of curls on the back of my head. Proof that nothing stays the same—not even something as simple as hair color. 

Feeling welcome by everything, I decided to stay in Berlin. Not having been there in ten years, I allowed myself to think that it was high time for something to be written about the city. Much older than I had been the first time, I found myself in a completely different place—both literally and figuratively. Mostly though, I spent my time with Marius and his colleagues, headphones clapped over my ears listening to the recordings they made, or practicing my rusty German in conversation with them. I would write a feature on them, I decided, and if the editors didn’t like it, I would publish it on my blog. 

The neighborhood where the studio was located had become even trendier than it had been ten years ago. With shops, cafes, bistros, and hotels lining the one-way streets, it was a almost only accessible on foot or bicycle. I spent my days drinking coffee at a little blue table in a corner of my new favorite cafe, shopping at the boutiques, and dining with Marius and Lila almost every night. 

“How long do you plan to stay in Berlin, Mira?” Lila asked me casually one evening over post-dinner gin and tonics. 

“Until I become inspired or coerced to go somewhere else,” I replied, half-joking. She smiled. 

“You know you don’t have to stay in a hotel. You can stay at my apartment if you like. It’s not nearly as luxurious, but I promise it’s clean,” Marius offered. I flicked my eyes quickly to Lila, who looked accepting enough. 

“That’s a generous offer. Thanks very much,” I replied, smiling. 
The next morning, I appeared on his doorstep toting my three bags. He opened the door wearing a pair of fitted grey jeans with a black t-shirt, hair still damp from a shower. 

“Come in, come in,” he said, “welcome.” I smiled a thank-you and rolled my luggage over the threshold. 
The apartment was an enormous upgrade from what we had shared back in the day. Two spacious and airy bedrooms with private bathrooms attached to each stretched out the length of either side of the open living room. The back wall of the living room was all glass, sliding open to the wide concrete balcony. Above the living room was a loft, his office, set up with a desk with recording equipment and a computer, a violin rested in one corner, a guitar next to it, and an electric keyboard stood against the wall across from the desk. The living room itself was dressed with a grey sofa, a love seat in front of the glass wall, and two matching chairs across from the love seat. In one corner was a a compact bar, and in the other was a baby grand piano. Luxurious was precisely the word to describe the place. 
When Lila walked in two hours later, unbeknownst to us, we were sitting together at the piano; I was plinking, he was playing, and we were both singing, an open bottle of Chardonnay and two empty glasses on the table next to us. We both turned around upon hearing the sound of something large and heavy thudding onto the counter in the kitchen. 

“Lila?” he called. She came out of the kitchen smiling. 

“You guys sound great,” she said lightly, looking from him to me. “I see you’ve opened a nice white to start the day.” She disappeared and came back with a wine glass for herself. She filled the three. “Cheers to you and you,” she said, never taking her green eyes away from mine. 

I had been in Berlin for almost four weeks, two weeks longer than I had stayed anywhere since I left Switzerland. I had a budding friendship with Lila, and found myself on a coffee date with her on a warm April Monday. She had asked me to do some shopping with her, and we had spent the morning under the soft lights of the boutiques, each of us toting three full bags by the time we seated ourselves outside a fairly empty cafe for refreshment. We had just finished talking about how she and Marius had met, and she was lighting a cigarette. 

“He’s not been very affectionate lately,” she said, turning her head to the left, the cigarette smoke escaping casually from her lips. If I had been paying better attention, I would’ve seen her watching me from the corner of her eye. Instead, I shrugged. 

“I dunno. I mean, as a friend, he’s usually a great big hug-giver,” I said, smiling smally into my half-drank coffee, and then at her. She took a calculated drag from her cigarette and stubbed it out in the small white ash tray between us on the table. I waited for her to speak; she looked as if she needed to say something. Instead, she averted her eyes from mine to look at the activity surrounding us on the outdoor terrace. Four o’clock: time for the cafes to fill up with people in search of a nice piece of cake and a coffee to accompany it. This cafe was no exception. I joined her in people-watching, oblivious to her observations of me.

 “He’s been different, you know.” Her voice startled me. “Since you got here,” she said. Then, I felt her green eyes boring into my cheek.

“What do you mean,” I asked, cupping my cooled off coffee mug. She was silent, still staring at me. 

“He’s in love with you.”

I said nothing but I felt my brows crease together. She huffed a breath of air out through her nose. I noticed my hands, warm and moist against the cool ceramic of the mug. Then I began to shake my head. 

“That’s not—really, it’s not like that. He and I, I mean, it was a long time ago, we don’t—he’s not, in love, with me, anymore. We’re just fr—“

“Don’t,” she said, raising her hands, palms facing me. She lowered them slowly, as if she meant to push away the earth beneath us. “Don’t,” she said again firmly, coldly. 

I was still shaking my head, frantically almost. 

“I knew it, from the first moment I joined you at the restaurant that first evening. I felt like,” she waved her hand and rolled her eyes, “like I was the third wheel, like I had joined an exclusive party of two,” she finished. She rummaged in her purse. As she looked down, her blonde hair fell like a curtain between me and her face. 

“I, I don’t know why you think that, really. We, we haven’t seen each other in such a long time,” I reasoned, trying to keep the rock slide from turning into a crushing avalanche. 

She made a sound in her throat as she began sprinkling tobacco onto a small paper. 

“I hate you for it, you know. Not you as a person, really. But the idea of you. That you could come here after all these years and he just—,” she shrugged, “forgets that there was ever another woman in his life,” she said, rolling the paper carefully shut, bringing it to her lips to be sealed. As she lit the end, I tried to think of something, anything, to say in my defense. I was speechless. 

“I don’t think it’s any fault of my own, though,” she went on. “I just, well, it fucking still feels like a betrayal. From both of you,” she said, taking a deep drag and pushing it right back out. 

“Lila, I—“ My speech faltered as she pushed angrily back from the table. She stood up quickly, slinging her bag over her shoulder. 

“No, Mira, you don’t get to say anything.” She stubbed the cigarette out aggressively and straightened up. “I just need you to fuck off right now, ok? I like you, really, I do. But, just, fuck off.” On that note, she turned from me and walked to where her bike was chained to a light post a few meters away from the cafe’s terrace. She slid a pair of dark sunglasses onto her face, mounted the cycle, and rode away without a backward glance in my direction. 
My coffee was empty and I was alone. I flagged the waitress down and asked for a glass of wine, please. While all the others drank their caffeinated hot beverages and over-indulged in sweets, I finished off my glass of wine before asking for the bottle. 

Luckily, I had the good sense to cork it and take it with me while it was still a third full. But where was I to go? Back to Marius’s? He and Lila did not live together, but she still might be there, insisting that he throw me out to go back to the boutique hotel I had crawled out of. I decided I would leave, but first I would have to get my belongings. 
I arrived back at his building after moseying through the alleys, taking the long way, occasionally taking a pull from the bottle of wine stashed in my bag. My shopping bags bumped against my legs, threatening to trip me and send me on a trajectory that would end in a meet-cute with the ground. I pulled the key from my pocket and let myself in to the hallway before taking the lift up to his floor. I tried to be as inconspicuous as I could when I came in, muffling the sound of the door closing with my body. 

“Mira? Is that you?” he called, coming around the corner from the kitchen. Something smelled really good. He was smiling at me. “Did you have a good day? It looks to have been productive,” he said, gesturing to the bags. I remembered to breathe, and then smiled at him. 

“It was good, thanks,” I said politely, walking past him to head towards the guest room. 

“I’m just preparing dinner. I hope you’re hungry,” he said to my retreating form. 

“Let me just, erm, freshen up, and I’ll be out in a jiff,” I replied. I shut the wooden door behind me and found myself in the welcome silence of the sleek bedroom. Before I even realized what I was doing, the clothes were stuffed and rumpled in my suitcase, and I was gathering everything I had in the bathroom and funneling it into a cosmetic bag. I straightened up and glanced at my reflection. “Get a hold of yourself Mira,” it muttered to me. It was right; if nothing else, I had to say a proper good-bye to Marius. I quickly changed my clothes and tentatively stepped out into the living room. He was putting on a record, a bottle of wine stood next to an empty glass. He turned around, bearing a full wine glass and a smile. 

I took a deep breath and went for it. No point tiptoeing around it. “Marius, I’m not really sure how to, well, I just had this rather startling conversation with Lila, actually. And she, well, she said that she believes that you, that you, well-oh fuck it, that you’re in love with me,” I said at last. His eyes dropped to the floor. 

“I know what she thinks,” he said to the wooden paneling of the floorboards. “She’s been telling me since you arrived in Berlin.” 

“And what did you say?” I asked very quietly, feeling a mounting discomfort that I had not ever known before. 

“I told her she was out of her mind and left it that,” he said, shrugging. “But you know,” he continued, looking up from the floor and into my eyes, “that Lila is a self-assured woman with exceptional intuition. That’s what attracted me to her initially. And so, after awhile, I realized that she was right.” 

My stomach dropped. He poured wine into the second glass and handed it over the space between us. I took it with a gulp. 

“Why don’t we eat some dinner? None of this can be solved on an empty stomach,” he suggested, leading me gently toward the kitchen, toward the something that he had cooked for us. For us. Bloody fucking hell. There hadn’t been an “us” in over ten years. I grabbed his arm rather suddenly and he looked back at me in surprise. I let go immediately. “Eh, sorry, I just—do you think we could have a cigarette first?” I asked, wiping my suddenly moist palms on the thin fabric of the dress I had changed into. He smiled and gestured toward the wall of windows, the balcony an open-air piece of relief behind it. 
My hands shook as I tried to gently perform the art of creating a hand-rolled cigarette. I knew he was watching me in his nonchalant, unbothered way. Finally, he gently took the crumpled, gossamer rolling paper from me and began crafting me a perfectly executed version, which he handed to me and pulled the lighter from his pocket to offer me use of its flame. I puffed deeply, coughing several times, looking away in embarrassment. For fuck’s sake. 

We smoked in silence, watching the Berlin sun drop away to be borrowed by another part of the world. It was still warm, but my arms prickled into gooseflesh every time the gentle wind whispered past. He stubbed the end of his cigarette into one of the flower pots housing robust blooms. I watched him with a calculated amount of reserve, feeling painfully self-conscious while alone in his presence. I thought of the parts of him beneath his clothing I had seen, almost memorized, those years ago and found myself blushing profusely. “Jesus fucking Christ,” I muttered, casting the butt of my cigarette into the same pot. He pushed the door open and we went back indoors. I moved into my bedroom to find a shawl to drape around my shoulders, and when I came back, he was back in the kitchen removing a large pot from the stove. I hoisted myself silently onto a stool and waited patiently for the meal. Instead of offering my help, I poured a generous amount of wine into both of our glasses. 

The only sounds were that of cooking and the plating of food, and the swallows of wine slipping down my throat which only I could hear. 
While I had been alternating between staring at the dwindling contents of my wine glass and at the fresh manicure I had given myself that morning before shopping, Marius had been laying the table with beautiful things. “Do you want to come and sit down?” he asked me, a certain amount of hope in his eyes. I slid, somewhat unsteadily, from the stool and, clutching my glass, made my way to the place he had set for me across from his at the dining table. The fixture over the table was turned to dim, a handful of tapered candles took over the job of providing light. There was a mass of wildflowers in a vase, and a basket of freshly baked bread beside it. There was a platter of cheese, and a colorful green salad alongside it. The round white plates were artfully arranged with sautéed greens, roasted carrots, asparagus and potatoes, and there was a lush looking cut of beef glazed in a succulent sauce. “I meant to serve in courses, but I thought the meat might overcook,” he explained, gesturing to the elaborate spread. We sat down and he poured me more wine. We ate in silence until I ventured a compliment. “This is delicious. You’ve become an excellent cook. I hope you didn’t do all of this just for me,” I said, smiling. He smiled back. “Actually, I didn’t. I thought Lila would be joining us as well and we would have dinner altogether, but I gather she is otherwise indisposed,” he replied. I focused on cutting my meat, which took very little effort, and said nothing. “Mira,” he said, making me look up from my fascinating plate. He smiled smally. “Cheers.” I wiped my mouth. “Cheers,” I said, raising my glass. They came together with a delicate clink and then were drawn to our lips to have their contents ravaged. 
At some point or another, normal speech resumed, and we put a form of temporary amnesia into place in order to avoid the elephant lurking, stomping about, just outside the dining room. As the wine warmed my body and I laid the shawl over back of my chair, I felt my soul warming as well. Warming to what, I could not say exactly. But I knew it was happening. Somewhere, some great mechanism was turning, creaking back to life, bringing us together again. Most importantly, I knew Lila was right; either he loved me very much, or was in love with me. The difference hardly mattered. I was not here to trifle with technicalities. No, I knew why I was here, and it had everything to with what his eyes were saying to mine, and how the now comfortable moments of silence said what words could not.