September 2018


It was an early September afternoon. The heat beat down relentlessly. Wasps amassed with the sleepy persistence of insect zombies in irritating clouds above the head. Jam was off the outside menu and grown men ran circles around cafe tables, sweating the sweat of the very afraid.

I was sitting outside a cafe, working, at a stage of essay writing very familiar to me. Exciting electric bursts of typing followed by crippling insecurity. The oscillation between excitement and insecurity was all part of the process, but it was also exhausting and required focus to plough a neat path between the two, like navigating the straits between Scylla and Charybdis.

I worked peaceably for an hour until suddenly everything happened at once. A henna-haired woman sitting at a table across from mine hijacked a Mexican busker’s ukulele when he came collecting money. She sung him Somewhere Over the Rainbow with a Hawaiian twang. This coincided with a distinguished looking gentleman carrying an ivory-tipped cane screaming and clawing desperately at his greying goatee when a single wasp broke free of the cloud to investigate the brambly terrain of his face. At the same time, a hollow woman dotted with needle marks and bruises ground to an exhausted halt before me with her lids closed translucently over the flickering orbs of her eyes.

The pretty waitress from the cafe next door wafted by, her shirt the blinding white of a laundry detergent ad. All the babies of Kreuzberg began screaming as one, and behind them a silent chorus made up of all the pregnant women of Kreuzberg, which equalled half the women of Kreuzberg, swayed nervously in time to the crying.

I was being thwarted by the city and nature and desire and babies. A sudden and unprecedented longing for a sensory deprivation tank washed over me, and I paid my cappuccino before beating a hasty retreat back down the road towards my flat. What was I doing with my day off work? How on earth and where on earth would I write my Angela Carter essay?

That’s when I saw it. The fridge stood mutely to attention half way between the cafe and my flat, on a patch of pavement mere meters from the street space a.k.a. The Balcony outside number 23 where I once lived. We used to sit there on chairs we’d haul up from the cellar and drink and eat chocolate made for children, but that was before half of us moved away from Berlin.

Of all the outsides of fridges I’d ever come across, this was the most polemic. People had begun communicating using the blank white slate of the door, which gagged for a marker pen. Less intrepid individuals had stuck scraps of paper to it. One scrap was less scrappy than the others: a printed A4 page of Times New Roman that spelled out an angry wish to eradicate the individual responsible for abandoning the fridge in capital letters. This person was clearly the key instigator of Kreuzberg gentrification, the note said. It was encased in a plastic wallet to preserve its rage for posterity. Another person had tried to write “HIPSTER ASSHOLES” using sparkling silver tape intended for bike handles and hula hoops, but something had gone wrong and the note read “HIPESTER ASSHOLS”.

Although many people stopped on their way past to take photos of the controversial outside of the fridge, no one seemed interested in the silent inside. I opened it and saw it was empty bar a whiff of some sour invisible thing, like the ghost of a buffalo mozzarella forgotten in tupperware without a lid. Smell aside, the inside was blank and white and free. It clearly hadn’t been cold for a while, but it wasn’t really hot either.

In a quiet moment I put my rucksack into the vegetable tray. The fridge had a separate smaller freezer compartment at the bottom. I was not tall, and the two sections together were bigger than me. I clambered up onto the freezer and into the fridge, pulling the door shut behind me.

It really was very quiet. Here was a place in which I could get to grips with border theory and liminality, I thought. Here was a place I could do some good highlighting. Here I could let the loose pages of my bath-crinkled copy of Carter’s The Bloody Chamber rain from the book without risk of losing potentially pivotal quotes. I gave myself fifteen minutes to catnap the outside away, reached for my laptop and finished the introduction so fast that the oscillating waves of excitement and insecurity followed fast and hard enough upon one another that they became indistinguishable.