My couchsurfing request to Henry:
Hey, I‘m Sabrina. I‘m 23 and from NY. I‘m currently in Munich and thinking about going to Berlin for a bit. I hear great things! I love doing pretty much everything. Exploring, art, going to bars, going to parks, climbing things, anything outside, ect. I‘d like to couch surf in order to get a more local experience
WHY I WANT TO MEET YOU You seem like a cool person. I also like festivals, traveling, getting to know people, ect. I‘m excited to see Berlin! My dates are pretty flexible so let me know if other dates would work for you. Also, if you don‘t have a couch available, maybe we could just meet up
Hey Sabrina 🙂 for sure you can stay at my place and im also very interested to know you more :-*:-D…i dont have any concrets plans the next days so why not sharing time here together…as you said im much into clubbing and also grown up here and can show/tell you much about berlino :-). just me know if you decide to come and we plan more.can also ..nice to know you 🙂
I told Henry that I would arrive at his place at 8PM. The bus got to the station at around 6 and so I stopped and had dinner at some deli. I ordered a salad with my choice of mix-ins. My mouth was watering ordering it. I’d been essentially living on bread, peanut butter, and free food for the past few days so I decided to splurge. It was probably the second best taste experience I’d ever had (the first being the first time I’d ever eaten food after drinking. I’d ordered a falafel and somehow it was 10X better than other times that I’d ordered that same exact falafel.)
After dinner, I tried doing a bit of shopping. The stores were amazing but my big, red bag was a nuisance. Then I took the metro to Henry’s place.
Henry was a skinny, young looking boy. He was actually 26 but looked about 20 years old. He looked slightly “off” and had a slightly awkward presence but I was happy to stay with someone who looked young. Compared to Mac’s outlandish appearance, Henry looked extremely normal.
Henry said that he didn’t want to go out that night. I said that I didn’t mind but that I was going to at least take a walk. I asked him if he would like to join me and he agreed. But first, someone was bringing him Burger King and he wanted to eat it. He asked me if I’d eaten yet and if I wanted anything. I didn’t. He told me that American fast food like Burger King was causing obesity in Germany. He said that American food was much more processed than German foods. He had a friend that went to America and came back much heavier than when he’d left. He said that although he didn’t agree with fast food, he really enjoyed it and that because he didn’t need to worry about his weight, he ate it. It was true that he didn’t need to worry. He looked practically emaciated with his clothes on.
While we waited for Henry’s Burger King to be delivered, we drank a bit of Henry’s Vodka mixed with some sort of pink energy drink. I wasn’t a huge fan but I tried to be polite and drink it.
After Henry ate, we walked along the river towards the TV tower. The streets of Berlin were empty. Henry told me that this was abnormal.
I had use the bathroom and so I walked into some “old man bar.” Henry told me that this was a socialist bar. I think that he may have said that it was a KPD bar but that was a communist party, not a socialist one, so I’m not really sure. He said that his mother was a socialist and that he lived in socialist housing. Henry liked bars like the one that I had gone to to use their bathroom because they reminded him of his childhood. But he also liked “making party” at clubs.
Henry asked if I wanted to stop and pick up a bottle of wine. He paid for it. I fake offered to chip in but he declined. We opened it up and drank it on a bench by the river. Henry told me his life story.
“My father is from a 1 night stand. The husband of my mother died in a car accident. We didn’t have a lot in common and for most of the time we weren’t close but but he loved my mother so he was good to me. When somebody dies you remember the good about them. My mother was in a coma and my sisters spine was broken but German medicine is really quite good and so both were better in a week. It was possible that my sister would be paralyzed given the break but she is ok. She is in the 5th grade but going to high school. It is possible here in Germany. She is quite smart, my sister. My mother is quite smart too. She loves the maths and sciences. She’s a financial consultant. Languages she struggles with but in logic, she is quite good. My father being a police officer is maybe not so much science type but I don’t know.”
Henry’s ½ sister is now 10 and living with Henry’s mother and stepfather closeby.
When we finished the wine, we continued our walk. Henry asked if I knew about the TV tower, the most famous monument in Berlin. I didn’t. Henry said that he loved his apartment because, in the winter, when the lives fall from the trees, the tower is visible from his window. After reaching, what I now knew was the tallest tower in Berlin, we headed back to the flat.
Henry turned on his television and began to set up the pull out couch that I would be sleeping on. He asked if it would bother me if he smoked from his pipe. I was hesitant because I hate the smell of smoke but reluctantly agreed. I was relieved when he began inhaling from an object that appeared to be, and smelled like a bong filled with weed. He told me that it was very “German” to smoke marijuana out of pipes. In Amsterdam, they even have special pipes for Germans to smoke out of because the coffee shop owners know that German’s won’t be satisfied with joints or bowls. I told him that it looked like a bong and Henry explained the difference to me in broken English.
Henry asked if it was ok if he sat with me on the pull out couch until we went to bed because it faced the television. His bed was actually also a couch that he said that he really liked because it was small. He used to have a larger bed and he didn’t like sleeping on it. I told him that I’d had the same experience. When I was younger, I’d had a large bed but I felt the need to role around and take up the entire bed, which resulted in my inability to sleep. I’d never known anybody else to relate to me in my distaste for large beds so I was excited.
Henry sat down next to me and we talked. I wasn’t especially captivated by the TV because the show was in German. The conversation led me to ask Henry what he did for a living. He said some vague things about business but eventually decided to be up front with me and admit that he was a drug dealer.
“If that makes you too uncomfortable, I can find somewhere else for you to sleep,” he said. I wasn’t expecting this but Henry seemed pretty safe so this didn’t make me too uncomfortable. I told him that I didn’t know many drug dealers and I asked him about his profession.
“It’s like any real business. If people want to work for me I ask them their expectations, what they expect to get out of doing this. I don’t like to show off in the clubs. It is not cool. This man come up to me and offer me coke and another- he offers me exact and they think they are so cool but I own so much of this. They are not so cool. I try to keep my profession private. I want to expand but I am careful.”
He was very cautious about selling drugs and only smoked weed and did amphetamines. “I know people who have gone down the wrong path. My friend, he tried heroine and he did it and did it and we haven’t seen him for 2 years. But that is the industry. It is really quite sad.”
Even so, many of his childhood friends stopped speaking to him when he chose a different life path than they did.
Henry spoke in an indirect way. Rather than putting labels on things or people he describes everything with examples. Like rather than saying that hipsters are pretentious he says hipsters are like … (3 examples of ways hipsters are pretentious.) I liked it. It was like solving a puzzle. And although he would imply judgements, he never technically stated any. I wanted to learn to speak like a puzzle. I was so intrigued by every sentence that came out of his mouth; partially because of the content but primarily because of the way in which his shared his thoughts. I stared into his eyes as he spoke.
And then he tried to kiss me! Ugh, not again. I pulled away and told him that I appreciated his friendship. He tried to persuade me that him kissing me made sense. I told him that I hadn’t seen it coming and that I would have to process this and get back to him. I was nervous that if I hooked up with him, he would kick me out the next day. And I needed a place to stay so this was a risk that I didn’t want to take. He somehow knew what I was thinking and told me that he wouldn’t ever kick me out but if I wanted to leave because I was uncomfortable, he would pay for a hotel room for me. I told him that it was fine and that if he wanted to stay on the same couch with me, that it was fine. I just know if I wanted to hook up with him. So that night we slept in the same bed and cuddled.
The next morning I woke up around 8AM and began getting dressed. Henry heard me and woke up too. He was surprised that I was awake so early. He suggested that we go and pick up some breakfast. We went to a supermarket that was filled with old people and purchased some roles and juice. He bought cheese spread to put on his role and I got nutella because I hate cheese. He told me that the line to pay might take a while because old people are slow.
Henry used to live in a young, fun part of town but moved because he didn’t want to be bothered.
“Before I live in hipster area but I think people look at me and judge me and want to know my business. Here I like it better. Nobody gives a fuck what I do.” Now he lived in a community with primarily old people.
I later found out that Henry was forced to move because he didn’t fill out the paperwork for his free housing. He was able to obtain subsidised housing because he met the annual income quota. I supposed this was a benefit to making money off the books. My one bedroom apartment that I split with my roommate for $1500 each was smaller than his free apartment. I thought that this was insane.
We brought our roles back to his free, relatively large apartment and ate them. Henry was a much slower eater than I was, which was a rarity, at least in America. My family was always telling me to hurry up and finish my food.
Henry suggested that I mix the banana and cherry juice that we’d purchased. It was excellent. They had such a wide array of juices in their markets and Henry told me that they weren’t allowed to be processed. Germans had laws against processed foods.
After breakfast I told Henry that I was going to go exploring and I invited him. He told me that he was going to take a nap because he was tired but that maybe we could meet up later. I told him that that worked because I enjoyed exploring alone.
The first sight that drew my attention was a deserted playground. It looked as if it had been built with entirely recycled materials. And it was covered in graffiti. I swung on the swing, slid down the slide, carved my name in the sand, and photographed it. I later uploaded the picture to instagram.
That day I went to tons of playgrounds.
I also went to a bunch of biomarts where I ate lots of tofu. I love tofu.
I had tons of fun exploring. It was almost 9pm by the time I returned to Henry’s flat. Henry thanked me for giving him time to run his business that day and implied that I got the hint. Really, I hadn’t gotten any hint and had wanted my space as well.
Henry asked me what I’d done that day and I told him that I’d played on lots of playgrounds and explained how cool I thought that the playgrounds in Berlin were.
Henry told me that as a child, he and his friends would collect old nails. In Berlin, you could trade 5 old nails for 1 new nail and they gave you wood and tools and kids built their own playgrounds.
“The streets were covered in garbage. And in the garbage we played and it was really quite good. And we get knives and form gangs but in a kiddie way.”
But they tore these playgrounds down to build new playgrounds once the government had been better established.
Henry asked me if I wanted to watch the Matrix. I don’t normally like movies but I was tired and accepted. Henry finished up his last drug deal of the night, then put on the Matrix.He pulled out his pipe, took a hit, and then offered me one. I normally don’t smoke but I accepted. Maybe it would make it easier for me to sit through a movie. I inhaled and couldn’t stop coughing. Henry became nervous that I was going to vomit and brought me water.
I eventually stopped and we started making out. His tongue was so sloppy. It was aweful so I began dry humping him. He asked if I wanted to so I took off his shirt and began unzipping his pants. He got sort of anxious and quickly got a condom. I asked him if he wanted me to help him but I don’t think he understood my implication and declined.
He got on top, went inside of me, and started… um… spasming? I don’t think that he’d had too much experience. He bounced up and down like a jackrabbit. Or maybe like a frog. Then, before finishing, he stopped and pulled out.
“Are you ok,” I asked.
“I’m going to get my pipe. Do you want to smoke more?” I told him that I was fine. Then he offered me some amphetamines. He told me that he’d recently tried amphetamines for the first time when he was “out at party” and that he’d really enjoyed them. I asked him if they were like adderall but he didn’t know was that was. He told me that they weren’t harmful and that, combined with ecstasy they were like a kind of viagra. He half offered me ecstasy because I think that he sort of wanted me to take it but didn’t want to kill me. He said that he didn’t normally do drugs but tonight he wanted to. I agreed. He gave me half a pill of ecstasy and a little bit of amphetamines. I didn’t feel too strange. I was surprisingly relaxed. Normally when I smoke weed I become overwhelmingly sad.
We attempted having sex again. It was still awful. Henry pulled out again halfway and we cuddled and watched the Matrix. I was never so captivated by a movie in my life. I blame the drugs. It was a weirdly pleasant and relaxing night.
The next day I woke up around 8 and left Henry sleeping to go walk around. I came across a bar called BeacheMitte that had an enormous vertical playground. For $15, I could get harnessed in and play for two hours! They had three levels of challenges and on the top level, they even had vintage cars that you could sit in.
“You are the most enthusiastic climber that we’ve ever had,” The employee at the top level said to me. “You’ve done every course at least three times now!”
After I wandered, hoping to find the hipster part of town with the great shopping but I ended up in the middle of nowhere. I did come across a fake fire pit and so I wrote a story inspired by the pit and by Henry.
Here’s the Story
All was destroyed. Garbage flooded the streets. But we played with the garbage and it was good.
And we are frozen so we build a fire. There are no matches and there is no sun. But we have scraps of wood and some buckets of paint. And we cut the wood and paint it orange and stick it in the earth. And sparks burst inside of us. And in the fire we see the light, not destruction.
And we are hungry so we make marshmallows. But we have no marshmallows. But we have scraps of wood and some buckets of paint and a fire. So we cut the wood and paint it into marshmallows. And we roast them over our fire. And our mouths salivate. And sweet aromas replace those of rotting flesh and molding wood.
And we are tired so we build seats. We gather fallen trees and carve in them spots for our downstairs. And we sit by our fire and roast marshmallows and sing songs.
We look at what we have done together. We look at what we can do with our hands and with our knives.
And we form a gang- but in a kiddie sort of way. And we carry our knives around. We know we can do anything. We live in a place with only destruction. There is nothing worth anything. There is nothing to lose. So there are no rules. We can do anything.
We want a fort for protection so we make a fort. And we paint it and make it our own.
And we want a lookout in order to see our victims. And so we build a ladder and a perch.
And we want a slide so we can get down quickly to attack our pray. So we find some pipes and build a pole.
And now we are like hawks. And we are ready to attack. Our first victim was Henry. We saw him from above and slid down our pole ready to attack. But Henry was so complementary that we let him off with a warning.
The next day Henry started his own gang. He and his friends built a fort and a perch and a pole. And then they found some tires and built a boot camp so that they could make their gang strong. And as we built our own boot camp, Henry’s gang got ready to attack their next victim, James. And Henry wasn’t as nice as we were. James came to school the next day with a black eye. James told everyone how he got it. And then everyone began forming gangs. And each gang wanted to be the best. So we kept building and building. And we created a new world out of garbage. It was our world. A world of games, climbing, swing, hiding, and kiddie gangs. In the garbage we played. And it was so good.
On sunday I came across a flea market. And it seemed like all of Berlin was out partying. I hadn’t had the desire to party because I’d been cuddling with Henry but I was beginning to miss it. I invited Henry out to the bars on this day but he didn’t like to leave his apartment. He spent all of his time reading and watching movies. This sounds really boring but it was the reason that he had such a wide range of knowledge. He knew so much about so many things that he was teaching me about the history of New York. And I’m from NY and he’d never been there.
Last night, I’d asked Henry to show me where he grew up and he showed me on Google Earth. It was efficient and accurate I guess but it was a bit disappointing.