It’s been pouring rain for the last thirty minutes, a rain so thorough you can barely see to the other side of the street. Everything is gray and wet, trees saturated and emerald. People stand in doorways waiting for it to stop while the brave and the impatient run through it, immediately soaked as though they’ve just been pushed into a pool.
We exist somewhere in between.
A group of us sits and waits in the Bio Market on the corner, planning an exit strategy. Jonas and I scan the fresh bread brochure we received with our purchase of various fruits and vegetables, a carton of soymilk and organic crackers.
“This one looks good,” I say, having no idea what the hell dinkel is but instinctively knowing it likely tastes like cardboard and that I will probably like it.
In my time in Berlin (roughly two hours and three minutes), I’ve discovered that I really like German supermarkets. French supermarkets smell like tepid eggs, vegetables on the precipice of rot, and many stinky cheeses. Rarely, if ever, is my appetite stoked by walking into a Fran Prix or a Monop. There are only so many prepackaged lentils, weird moppy bits of shredded carrot, or undercooked salmon over pasta shells a person can take.
Germany is a revelation; I thought the only place in the world that pandered to the health-conscious neuroses of models and celebrities was the Whole Foods on Fairfax and Santa Monica.
After Jonas and I settle on a sprouted loaf of bread as dense and heavy as a brick, he runs to the car to come back and pick up four of us. The remaining four of our group will be left to fashion makeshift umbrellas out of their own bread brochures and biodegradable plastic bags.
Nine million gallons of rainwater, two overworked windshield wipers, and one blurry Berlin landscape later, we’re running across a large street, luggage in tow. There is another group of people waiting outside of the apartment building; apparently the friend of a friend of a friend is shooting something here today, a line of clothing the designer describes as “hipster and thrift.”
I follow Jonas through glass doors and the mouth of a corridor, passing a row of mailboxes, fifty percent of which have been wrenched open and left bent and useless. His landlord tried to give him a key last week.
“Which one do you want?” he asked, standing in front of twelve unusable boxes, and Jonas just looked at him.
“Seriously?” he asked, because what good is a key to mailbox if you can just stick your hand through the middle and grab everything inside.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” the landlord said. “A new box will take a couple weeks.”
Ah, Berlin. I love you too much already.
The hallways are ratty and smudged, the ceilings high and everything made brighter – for better or worse – by a large window above each landing. It’s dour and ancient but not disgusting. No, New York apartment buildings are disgusting; the “foyers” always reek of unfamiliar spices and old trash, the stairways narrow and the steps worn and crooked.
Jonas puts a key into a door with a painted-over slot for mail (a recurring theme here apparently being the difficulty in getting letters) and three or four different peepholes.
He pushes the door and light spills out from inside, reflecting off of stark white, bare walls. It still smells of fresh paint and floor varnish. It is unfathomably pretty and not at all what one would expect when viewed from the street below, starring up at windows hovering above an orange sign and an unimpressive bakery.
“Stop it,” I say, tempering a healthy dose of apartment envy while I poke my head into two massive rooms to the right, a room to the left and the kitchen beyond, through to another hallway. This apartment exists only in dreams and the Upper East Side.
Now I don’t just want to date Berlin; I want to marry it.