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Saturday, January 24, 2009

BLUE BAR

Jason remembers the ground but not the street. He always used to walk with his head down anyway. Maybe that says something about him. Maybe it doesn’t.

Regardless, it’s hot. Hot for nine at night at least. He wonders whether it’s always been this temperature, or whether his body has become used to a different climate. He hasn’t lost his accent.

Apart from the cars on the wrong side, it could be any new Stra├če in Berlin. It’s the same modern street that springs up in every city. The sort with shiny chrome handles and upstairs clubs and spelt-out numbers above the doors. He’s seen them many times in many places, but never while walking through his past.

As he looks around, he remembers that shops used to be closed at this time of night. Now the street has, he supposes, a real night life.

All the young hopefuls mill past him, trying to look so different, appearing exactly the same. All hopes of sweat and sex and losing control. Animals waiting for their cages.

He was their age when he left. Somehow it’s all passed him by. The times when you were meant to slip your mind in a back pocket and bounce around a crowded room. Maybe he regrets it. Maybe there are more important things to regret.

It’s been six years since he’s walked this way. Now he can hardly connect to what’s around him. Still, there are little things that can’t be changed, that will stay the same whatever happens. The sky is still a deep mauve. It’s never really night.

He would be happy just to see one shop unchanged, one post box in the same spot, but the whole thing’s a half-gleaned memory. Jason knows it’s the same street, but it looks as if it can’t be.

He finds himself outside what used to be a fruit shop. Now it’s a bistro, a brasserie. A Blue Bar. With the kind of lights they use in train stations so you can’t see your veins. It’s all bathed in blue: the swinging gas heaters, the fat leather stools, the thick tall bottles. Jason feels the need to be inside this place. Not because he wants to be, but because he thinks he should be. Just a coffee, he thinks. Things to do tomorrow.

He orders a large whisky and drinks it. The ice hits his teeth and as the thick liquid descends he feels his landing wheels finally touching down. He reaches into his shirt pocket for a pack of cigarettes, except they aren’t there. It’s a habit he has travelled out of. It surprises him that the instinct remains.

He orders another drink and sits at an empty table in the corner. His mind goes through the people he will visit tomorrow. He imagines their faces, tries to age them. Maybe they’ll look the same. Maybe they won’t.

As his eyes swing around the Blue Bar, he can’t understand where he fits in. Is there still a place for him here?

He will find out soon enough.

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