The day I lost my iPhone, credit cards, a photo, a student ID, a residence permit and the purse that contained them all, I was with a friend who was visiting Berlin for fall break from Vienna. We used to sit on the bench every night, drinking enough “përlinër bilsnër” to fill up Spok’s pool, and talking until hedgehogs came from the surrounding bushes, making the rustling sound of their tiny hands trying to swim through the fallen leaves.
If you can picture a hedgehog opening their spines and beady eyes catching you like this,
you may be my late-night mate sitting on a bench until late at night.
On this night, when I lost my phone and all, my friend and I caught up on what we’ve been up to since they left college, like I told them about a fight I had with my other best friend. And about the time I forgot my purse somewhere in Berlin, I was telling them the story of a ceramic sheep, a cool souvenir which Nick and Liza brought from their fall trip to Bologna. This sheep has curly hair with enamel coating, and when you shake, it shimmers faintly like a sixth magnitude star, which is the dimmest in the sky to our eyes alone. I keep it on the top of the fridge in my kitchen, so that other people can also see its ephemeral light.
But when I was describing the sheep, I got ‘sheep’ and ‘lamb’ mixed up, and even pronounced it as Raum, or RAM, or lame… you know, it’s always been like this. Once I was explaining something about a hedgehog, and friends thought I was describing a turtle. There’s always a gap between me and people. That’s why sometimes I wish I could be something animal like a cow, I could just eat and ruminate in the grass all the time, there would be no need for me to speak, right?
But they were good at catching my thoughts from my scattered brain. This time was no different, as they caught that I meant to say “sheep” while actually saying “lamb.” With them I didn’t need to beat about the bush but could talk about everything without fear, I could be honest. Imagine how warm it would be, someone like this sitting next to you on a cold night, a night so freezing that the wind blowing through the crack in the window makes you shiver and curl up in your coat…
“And the reason Liza chose that sheep for me,” I told them, “is because it was the lone sheep that no one would buy, as the lights didn’t turn on perfectly and it only shimmered, and she tried to save such a flawed sheep. And she knew that I’d also love it so much.”
Even after they have disappeared from college, I sometimes sit on the bench as we once did, and text them that I’m back here again. I haven’t changed. It feels like I’m a snowman inside a little snow globe, with time stopped only for me. They sometimes reply to my text, with a pic of the stars all over the midnight sky, from a bench at the top of a hill in Vienna.
Today I was on a bench, emptying a bottle of bilsnër, and felt the wind blow through the space next to me — it swayed the bushes and trees, flurrying the remaining leaves in the sky. I stretched my arms, trying to catch the scattered leaves falling down onto the bench like snow. And I felt love. I tried to count how many times I’ve met flawed sheep in my life, and remembered how loveable they are. And I felt love for those friends who can find flawed pieces. If I could sit and have a moment with them, I don’t mind losing something like ‘a purse’ holding all of my important stuff.
The morning after a fight with my best friend, I woke up with a pain like my head was splitting, feeling as if I was in a deep fog of uncertainty. I sat at a bed, carefully rubbing my head, ruminating over the past night — memories were so cracked, with many pieces missing. Even the scenes my brain barely kept were like broken computer screens. What I could only recall was the moment my best friend was leaving on the M1, as I stood at the bus stop.
Losing memories feels like water spilling from your hands, or a scarf fluttering in the wind that keeps running away from me. I’m in a vast plain, stretching my arms, trying to catch the scarf, and Please wait! — I shout. You know, I’m not good at catching those scarfs. Do you remember the day you first saw the snow? Or the day you first saw a dragonfly?
Actually, I can remember the first time my friend saw it. Last winter, Lilith saw the snow for the first time, and we built a snowman in the cafeteria garden, getting snowflakes all over our coats. I love when we return to being kids, as if time hasn’t flown. And she told me that it never snows in her Southern hometown. I was waiting to ask her if her family was excited to hear about the sparkling snow we saw together. But she didn’t return after the winter break, so we couldn’t speak, nor say bye.
At the end of the summer, George helped me carry a huge blue carpet from Adam’s apt to my flat. After laying the carpet in my kitchen, the kitchen transformed into a blue ocean…
… a dragonfly flew in from somewhere, flurrying in the kitchen for a moment. I stretched my arms towards it, tried to get it to land on my hand. But George was pretty cool about it, calmly saying he had never seen one in his Northern country. We looked at it together, then I opened the window. I saw its wings shine; it was gone. A perfect dusk, the yellow lawn beyond the huge windows of the HKH building was full of the remains of daylight.
It’s a wonderful thing that we happened to meet in this vast world, and it’s more marvelous when a nice random moment comes along. I’ve always wished I could catch and save those moments before I forget and lose them all, just as RAM disappears after the computer goes to shut down.
* * *
A few days after the fight, my best friend called me and we met up at the Spree River. We sat and talked on a concrete bench, and I remembered the missing memories… those were welling up from the bottom of my head, connected to me like a chain, helping me understand how I lost trust that night. I spoke honest things for the first time, then dropped those words into the river — they were drained into the dim water, along with junk like a long piece of fabric and an empty bottle of beer. I just looked at them pass by.
Summer was ending, the day was fading away. The sky was getting dimmer, the bench had lost what remained of the afternoon warmth. I began to shiver. My thick coat didn’t help it. I had to go home so as to not catch a cold. We left the bench, and he went back to Bologna. I haven’t seen him since.
A beautiful morning during the fall break, I found my vase shattered into a thousand pieces in my room. There was a strong wind that night, and I was out all night long while leaving the window open even though the vase was on the window ledge. I pictured the wind coming into the room through a crack in the window, fluttering the curtain, and blowing the vase away.
My collection of random junk I kept inside the vase was now scattered all over the floor, along with the thousand shards of my vase. After I took off my pea coat, I still didn’t clean those fragments but carefully crossed the room to my bed. I was so drained that my head was about to shut down. I lay down on my bed and quickly fell asleep — feeling I was an anchor that lost its chain, receding to the deepwater, hoping I would forget about everything, wishing everything was only a dream…
When I woke up, my eyes caught the sparks from the floor — I realized a thousand pieces shining by the sunlight through the window — Yes, I had the vase-crush. I sat on the bed, eating yesterday’s ßmünch I left on the desk, looking down at those shimmering remains. I was unexpectedly amazed by their beauty. It reminded me of the past night. A friend kindly gave us a free pizza, we were rejected from a club, and my friend lost her grandma’s scarf while she was trying to capture the night’s random moments on a polaroid camera…
Some of the things scattered on the floor were broken, some damaged, but all had to be thrown away. It was very painful for me. These items were once so important. But I learned that the pain was only momentary and it cannot kill us, over time, by losing so much stuff, falling out of my hands…
But I still hold on to my memories. They haven’t spilled from my head. My vessel is not empty, yet. That makes me believe that I would never let them, memories, moments, fade away. So I was able to let these items go.
The sheep was the lone survivor — because it was in my kitchen, on the top of the fridge, glowing like the star so far away.
One rainy afternoon, I didn’t have an umbrella. But my friend Sonja kindly gave me hers when I was gonna go to REWE and buy one. So I bought flowers instead of an umbrella, and gave them to my friends I thought were down. I was really happy when she gave me her umbrella and didn’t want this kind, nice chain to disappear.
I visited their flat after midnight. I was sitting at a chair, looking at the vase of flowers on the kitchen table. My friends were there with me, in the silence, with only the sound of water dripping into the sink…
I was reflecting on that night. I was at a student party, but I didn’t catch what any of them were talking about. Every conversation was so scattered to me, as I stood amidst the crowd, it all sounded like beating about the bush, as if there was a gap between me and them.
I walked to the window. Through the glass, the street blurred in the rain, yellow lamps faint in the fog… those seemed so unreal. I began to fall into my own imagination, feeling as if I were inside an abandoned satellite in space, looking at another planet through a porthole, with time having lost its meaning only for me…
There is a vast plain on that planet, the wind that blows all over the ground, and people with deep gaps. The gaps are stretched all over the plains like the surface of dry-land, so everyone is inevitably scattered and isolated from each other. And I sometimes come out of my own, a dwelling such as my own snow globe, and take a look at the crack — on a ledge, I’ll find a small bush, swaying in the cold eddies of wind.
Creaking of the window. You also try to come out, realizing the small bush — there are others who can realize that ephemeral, lovable life is on a ledge — I catch your eyes, and we begin to talk about everything we kept holding in isolation — but you close the window, my voice disappearing in the wind. And I shut my eyes. Trying to forget the highlight. And leave the window…
… But when I left the bar alone, you were also there in the street. And it was snowing. The rain had turned to snow. It killed me. The snow fell silently, and we were just there, feeling it together, without opening umbrellas, letting our coats covered in snowflakes, and it was like — we were inside a snow globe.
Cracking of the moment. The crowd realized it was snowing and all came out, and the silence vanished as a thin ice broke into a thousand pieces.
Sometimes, we don’t have to talk about anything. We love just feeling the chilly wind stroking our heads, letting a moment pass by, right. That was what I was sinking into when we were walking to the tram stop. But as I was leaving on the M1, I said that I’ve always wished I could catch and save those kinds of moments into something like a vessel, as they were so ephemeral, just as the snow on the roadside disappears after it has turned to rain. And you told me that you always feel the same, and that’s why you live in the moment.
* * *
I was in the friends’ kitchen, looking at the dining table in front of me. A broken watch, a puzzle (a few pieces missing), the vase of flowers, a cowboy hat, a crystal, and yarns — random stuff was scattered everywhere on the table, and all of a sudden, I felt love. These items may not look so important, like junk for most people, but I love them so much. I love to see their table catching this random ‘junk’ and their collection growing every time I drop by. And I love my friends who can find those pieces.
But such fragments are so hard to hold onto throughout life. Because life is like constant avalanches, in which we keep cracking up. But I don’t wanna see your important things lost in the cracks, and I wish I could reach and catch them all…
“By the way,” I said to my friends, “I’m writing a piece for Die Bärliner, it’s gonna be something like memory as RAM. Do you mind if I write about this moment?” Then I could remember the moments of the night you caught me.
As the night was dropping, I said bye to my friends and went back to my flat. Then, I bumped into another late-night mate. She invited me into her room and showed me the tapestry of an elephant that she brought from India to her room here in Berlin. It was made of sequins, shining in the morning glow which came through the opened window. It caught my heart, made me almost cry.
The day my little brother was gone, I was on a bench, counting the shadows of the trees, stretching far from the other side of the street. My brother loved counting things, so I still count things for him today. The weak daylight shone through the branches, casting a ray and shade onto the bone-dry ground.
I found a family amidst the crowd. I reminisced about how my family used to go out like them. We went out to get dinner by train, but sometimes we ended up walking home passing through the huge park in Tokyo. And at some point, we’d hear my little brother say “I can’t walk anymore.” He is an honest person, that’s why I love him so much. I let him ride on my back, tried to catch up with my family, and everybody wait! — I shout. I forgot this memory for a long, long time…
I remembered another memory. One summer day, we were playing in the field. The sun shimmered on the pond, a smooth hollow filled with clear water, along the bushes creating cool shade. “Do you know the kind of dragonfly that flies between light and shade? Look”. On the tip of the branch that my little brother pointed to, I found a small, ephemeral mayfly flurrying between light and shadows. I saw their wings shine; then, they left, beyond the binary, where they would truly be shining, would truly be free.
The more fragile the moment, the more beautiful it will be remembered, as a piece of a crystal, lasting in a vessel for a long time.
☆ 6 ☆
Do you remember the day Pankow’s server went down and the internet became disconnected? We scattered throughout Mitte to find free Wi-fi like stray sheep looking for their own anchorage, disconnected from each other. But we ended up returning to campus, to our own home, a place to sleep, a place where we’d forget about everything.
In my flat, we happened to gather in the kitchen, and we sat and talked about random things, on the ocean-blue carpet, under the sheep on the top of the fridge shining like a star of the sixth magnitude. Even though life keeps changing, which is so splitting, I met that moment, and it was like — as if we happened to gather together under one huge umbrella in a plain, a day with unexpected rain.
Those chains are so fragile. As, after the rain stops, we will inevitably scatter, create the gaps again. But I believe — if we could live in the moment, we’ll find the clear sky, beyond the fields, over the peaks, after a night of avalanches.
I still remember this day, and feel love. How nice it would be, if you and I, if we could just sit and talk about random moments that shine through life, for one moment of life. It’s about things that we remember, or hold us back. Or what we once had, or let go of, or still hold onto and not let it disappear — a scarf, a dragonfly, flowers, a broken sheep, the snow and rain, and the wind which embraces them all.
Moeko Yamada is a fourth-year student from Japan studying ethics and politics at BCB.