Even as I sit and read and write, and do all of the things that I normally do it is apparent that something is missing. The vessel of my being is devoid of an element essential to itself, which has been replaced with the fog.
I can blame no one else. Although, now over, I approached the trip without doubt, second guessing, questions, or caution, but instead only an unyielding desire to be cavalier in the decision that forty hours of travel, a number of time changes, a bit of drinking, and some jet lag was nothing. I’ve done it before. Why would this be different…. And, so, I wrote off people’s concerns with a smile and a bit of confidence that has been replaced with the fog.
The server at the coffee shop just asked me if I “was okay,” because the fog has replaced normal movements and facial gestures and expressions and emotions with empty eyes – those fixated on nothingness so intensely that it brings a complete stranger to ask you if you are okay, and she has an actual look of concern on her face. She is concerned, and I am oblivious.
My folks and I booked the flight to Berlin through a series of missed calls, frantic voicemails, three emails, and one actual conversation. “We would love it if you came to Berlin.” “It would make us so happy if you came to Berlin.” “There’s a problem with the flight and the ticket and we can’t talk with you right now because you’re at work and we need you to call us back as soon as you can.” “We’ve figured it out, it’s set, and everything is okay.” And, all the while it was simple on my end – I just had to show up, and be myself for three days. Three days. Land, eat, drink, party, eat, walk, drink coffee, dinner, beers, and sleep, eat, coffee, repeat, repeat. Fly home. And I forgot to account for the fog.
The idea: close the restaurant at two a.m., go home, pack, sleep for five hours, travel for twenty, land in Berlin, power through the day and, somehow, get a good night’s rest. Reality: close restaurant at aforementioned time, nightcap with beautiful woman, get naked, attempt at sleep (toss restlessly for an hour), pack, travel, land, and I allowed the fog to sneak in through what I thought was a steel gate with a moat and guns and soldiers and archers and all that shit.
Synapses are misfiring, and coherent thoughts come in and out of focus like a weak radio signal. Distant stares and not-so-subtle mouth breathing highlight conversations. Feigning interest involves a level of comprehension in physicality and expression that are so beyond current capabilities that I, honestly, shouldn’t even attempt to engage.
At first, the fog only appeared in a subtle and laughable way. I landed, went through immigration, and waited to be “picked up” by my parents – their words, not mine. And, so, naturally, I exited the airport and sat curbside for an hour-and-a-half waiting for a car to pull up. I smoked cigarettes. I lost track of time. I walked around. I took out money from the ATM, I found the address of where the family was staying from an airport computer, and I caught a cab. The cabbie, wearing a pinstriped suit and driving a seventy thousand dollar Mercedes, asked me in German if the address was in the middle of the city, and through a series of hand signals and shoulder shrugs I told him I had no idea where I was going, and I don’t speak German. Meanwhile, my folks were standing about twenty-five feet from my curbside location, but they were inside the building, just past the immigration desk. They meant, “pick up” to mean ‘meet.’ I never even considered the possibility of the latter – they were going to pick me up. I arrived at the apartment, called the landlord, and walked over to the buzzer. My brother answered and buzzed me in.
I feel fine. Just going to power through this one. Fuck yeah we’re going to party. Oh, the mix up at the airport? Their fault, we agreed. I drank four cups of coffee, the effects of which masked the fog, and I showered and changed. I felt crisp and new and well.
There were certain elements or, rather, extenuating circumstances that prior to my leaving the states I had forgotten to take into account. Most important of these was that the fog had seeped into my mind 45 days prior to Berlin, and had disguised itself so well – as something else. I had been or was accustomed to living day-to-day in a state of partials (clear-headedness, awareness, etc.). I forgot I was already in the fog before I went to Berlin. An already wounded fighter stepping into the ring, so used to the chronic ache in his hand he forgets that it was ever pain free. The ache is now normal, because the fog has masked it. And my fractured hand was the result of forty hours of travel on a return trip from South America that led straight into a month-long bender and a few weeks of heavy work and then some, and then some.
And that first night in Berlin I found the beer, with my brother, and put a few back, and sat at random cafes and talked about various facets of life that needed talking about, and ended up in a restaurant where I listened to German and French, and I spoke French and English, and I ate Weiner schnitzel, and excused myself to go to the restroom which was located in the basement just past a couple of black leather couches which I thought about lying down on for just a minute but instead attempted to take a shit which ended up with the obvious scenario of my passing out on the toilet for fifteen minutes, on two separate occasions, with my pants around my ankles, and I awoke and laughed and splashed some water on my face and walked outside and realized that nobody noticed I had been gone for a while, and I looked at my brother who was ready for whatever was coming his way, and I realized I was drunk. Or was I just tired? And I couldn’t really tell, but it didn’t matter, and what I actually needed was a couple of cigarettes and a few shots, which quickly translated into four shots and a dozen cigarettes and beers and some conversation about drugs and I don’t really know anything else except that there was a stuffed alligator behind the bar and mummies on the TV, and I’ve been up for 72 hours. And the fog took hold, firmly.
Prior to Berlin, I had been sick for a week, or, rather, I hadn’t felt well. What I mean is that it was a sinus thing that moved into a head thing that changed into a throat thing, which became a nasty cough. So, I don’t know if I was actually sick or if in the middle of a double-sided candle are those symptoms, but, in short, I wasn’t feeling well. So I took a few nights off and slept – tried to, at least. And I felt better after those few days off; so much so that tying one on the night before my flight to Berlin seemed logical and was approached with certainty in strength and endurance. And I hadn’t died yet, and I felt quite well, and the fog hadn’t shown its face in quite some time, and probably wasn’t going to anytime soon.
My boss had asked me if I needed an extra day off before the trip, and one after, just to rest, and, of course, I smiled him and told him, “No, I’ll be fine.” To which, at this point in time with as much brain power as I can muster I regret those words and would consider a plan that would leave me injured so that I could get out of work in two hours, but running into traffic seems like overkill, and I can’t think of anything else, and, anyways, I probably couldn’t sleep, anyways, so what would be the fucking point? The fog is affecting my eyesight now, and if I don’t concentrate on looking at something, really concentrate, one of my eyes inadvertently crosses, and, this, mixed with heavier breathing and sudden changes in body temperature that has resulted in sweat accumulating on my chest and forehead and the palms of my hands (but never at the same time, and never at expected times), I, simply put, just don’t look good. And much to my dismay, the four pints of iced coffee I’ve just had haven’t done anything – or, at least, had the intended effect one would think four pints of iced coffee would have.
Awoken at eight a.m. by the sound of my mother in the living room of the apartment in Berlin, I had a head cold, throat cold, nose, body aches, etc. And at different points in the day, all three family members would point out that I didn’t look too good, or ask me if I was okay, or if I needed something. After spending the majority of the afternoon hallucinating in the complete absence of drugs, I promptly passed out at nine p.m. and slept for nine hours, and was told by all three family members the next morning at different times that I looked, “very pale,’ yesterday, or some variation of the word pale. And the next day was good, and the fog was gone. And after a few beers with the brother in the early afternoon, the fog returned, and there it has stayed. And now I’m four pints of coffee in, and I can’t really see out of the eye that keeps going crooked, and I’ve slept a total of five hours in the past 72, again, or whatever, and the fog is in my head and my chest and my legs and my back. And after work, tonight, there are friends that I haven’t seen in a few days, and I will raise a glass or two and smoke a cigarette and tell them about the fog in Berlin, and once again I will step into the ring with bloody knuckles and sore tendons and broken bones. And the fog will allow me the pleasure of forgetting what it was to be whole. To be new.