Oktober 2018


The geese fly in formation above the Elbe, circling away and back and away again through a sky red at almost night, shepherd’s delight. The others skim stones across to the other shore and the river hurts the feet like glacier lakes. We walk back to the house in the dark, skirting horses.

The place has a an attic like a belfry but without a bell, stained glass bathroom windows and a nook off the kitchen overlooking an overgrown garden, overrun with cats and fruit trees bearing no fruit. The plum trees heavy with phantom plums like an empty page.

We’re sitting at a long table under painted lightbulbs with potato dumplings and Nina Simone, in a house in a village snug behind a dyke. The flat land stretches like the fens, and I feel homesick for the three years driving back and forth between the Midlands and Cambridge to study, for the mist in Michaelmas term rolling over and into the river.

What did you do this summer, girls?

I know what I did two summers ago: living wordplay, dykes on bikes on dykes; five weeks snaking from Romania back to Berlin on two wheels with a friend and a rainbow flag, arriving back just in time for a surprise birthday party. Two summers ago: the Spanish Pyrenees, hiked through Andorra, first horchata in Valencia, back to the city for sushi on Kottbusser Damm and a brief interlude before my MA course began in the countryside. A breakup in Pritzwalk, also on the Elbe. Same geese, same flat land.

But this summer? Endless, like everyone said it would be. There were bushfire warnings. No one wore much; I couldn’t imagine ever zipping up a coat again. Then suddenly it’s over and you’ve only been to one lake, a lot of your friends have left because it’s Berlin and the friends who stay because Berlin is also for living are throwing parties celebrating the fall falling. Edeka has Lebkuchen at the tills already.

What did you do this summer, girls?

I say, I don’t know. I was in Berlin. I stayed in Berlin mainly. Watched the chestnut tree at my window being eaten alive, lived with wasps for a month, sat at night in fold-out chairs on the street between my old apartment and the späti next door with friends, ate sugared almonds under a sea of kites on Tempelhoferfeld, started reading again, stopped writing for a while. Lay fallow like the fields across the river.