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Berlin late nights, a theatre of the absurd

By: Agnes Crayfor

Illustration: Marta Braga

So, ‘things are going back to normal’. As a night worker, ‘normal’ usually means laying in

bed at 4 am unable to sleep because my schedules are completely fucked, body rhythms

confused. This would have been the norm a year back. Now, after a few shifts, I get a taste

of what it will potentially be like again. And, quite frankly, my anxiety is almost bigger than

my excitement at being able to regain a sense of normalcy.


Weeks spent in a blur and mental fog, wasting scarce and precious daylight sleeping, the question ‘what am I doing with my life’ ever lingering in my mind. I am torn between nostalgia and a physical rejection to falling back into the black hole. Since I still can’t sleep, I go smoke in the balcony and start looking back to some of my nights in the time before the pandemic.

I was barely eighteen when I came to this city, and I fell in love with all the possibilities it

brought me, and the extreme escapism of the never ending party, which was what I

needed at the time. The first night I went out to Kitkat, with some of the women who were

to become my best friends, I was wearing a chainmail bra and nothing else, and I had

never felt so liberated.


I fell in love with a stranger -the MDMA used to hit me properly back then before I started abusing it. We ended up in his ridiculously fancy apartment in Charlottenburg, not even having sex, and I had multiple orgasms just from cuddling. On the next morning, I accidentally met his parents who were coming from Bavaria for a surprise visit. My life here was off to a good start, but it wasn’t long until it started losing its shine, mostly from unfortunate encounters with men.

I remember the time before I established strong friendships, how I soon felt the acute

loneliness of moving to a foreign country. My ‘foolproof’ plan for fighting this sensation

were random hookups on Tinder. I entered a dark stage in my life, of thrill chasing and

unclear boundaries, combined with overworking and substance abuse. Ranging from

absurd to ridiculously creepy, my strongest memory from those blurry encounters is a date

in a bar with a guy who was fifteen years older than me, who couldn’t even pay for his own

beer. Embarrassed, he invited me to his shabby apartment to smoke DMT to ‘compensate’

for it. I said yes.


The next morning, I decided I had had enough, and it was time to go away

for a while. The magic of Berlin and its safe spaces could easily be tainted by the lack of

emotional responsibility of the predatory cis hetero men I had pushed myself to interact

with, and I was lucky to realize that sooner rather than later, without incurring too much

damage.

Fast forward a few months, I had gotten rid of my toxic workplace, made deep connections

and leant more fully into my queerness. Berlin was slowly but surely recovering the charm

that had lured me into it. I could indulge into its excess without destroying myself -too

much- in the process. One particular Sunday morning in Berghain I dropped a tab of acid

that turned out to be really strong, and I stayed right until closing in a psychedelic trance,

absorbed by the music, the people, and in spite of all my bad experiences I could let my

guard down, feel at home. I then watched movies with some party friends I had just met at

their home, then attempted to take a Capoeira class and nearly fainted from the effort. My

body was exhausted, but I felt detoxed, lighter and renewed. I saw if I managed to keep

these extreme experiences for a few occasions, I could begin to fully enjoy them.

I realize looking at how my relationship to Berlin nights evolved, that the most important

element has always been having people to trust and rely on and a strong sense of

community. And that has only gotten stronger during these months where everything has

been on halt. I finish my cigarette and go to bed, feeling a bit more peaceful, ready to rest.

In the end, it is in my hands to decide what to do with my nights (and days). Right now,

going out again feels like jumping into the cold pool at KitKat after twelve hours sweating

on the dance floor. A bit of a repellant thought without being intoxicated, but kind of exciting

too.