This was sent to me through the post at my old Dalston address by a girl I’d been seeing when I first moved to London. I think it is a glow stick, and when you put it in the freezer it’s supposed to glow, although I have never tried it out.
We had been talking a lot before I moved down to London, and we started seeing each other as soon as I arrived. She seemed taken with my story of the small-town boy who’d come to the big city, just as she’d done many years before, and said I was like the character Billy Liar, if he’d only got on the train.
We got on well, but there was something not quite right somewhere down in the workings of us. She was a cynical realist, me a wide-eyed optimist. We weren’t really singing from the same hymn sheet on some levels at all.
But we had fun, and some pretty debauched times. On a trip to Berlin, we partied all night in a massive, graffiti-coated tower block that was being squatted by artists. A gay friend of hers who was living out in South Africa at the time bought a huge amount of cocaine from a gypsy named Guido, who looked like Anthony Quinn and apparently lived outside the building in a caravan. We got very high, taking turns to run off to the toilets, but inevitably ended up in a cubicle together, me and her practically tearing each others’ clothes off while her friend cut up lines standing next to us. Later that night we ended up with Guido in some empty bar at dawn, being drawn on large sheets of paper by a couple of odd strangers - I suddenly got a chilling feeling we were like lambs surrounded by lions.
Another striking memory from that trip is buying some beautiful gray leather gloves and a vinyl copy of The Marble Index by Nico (the perfect record to buy in Berlin) at a flea market by the Tiergarten S-bahn, when it suddenly started pouring with hailstones the size of marbles, and we had to hide under a tarpaulin stall listening to the roar of the hail hitting the ground and everything around us.
Towards the end of our relationship, she got pregnant, and wanted to have the baby. I started preparing myself mentally for parenthood and worrying about how I could earn more money; wondering if our rocky relationship would work or if we’d be separated parents. But she had a miscarriage very early on. It was difficult. She didn’t want me to go through it with her, and sent me away; I stayed away, and she wondered why I wasn’t there. The relationship was coming apart at the best of times, but it finally just crumbled.
I’ve been back to Berlin since, and had a very different experience of the place. It seems like a city to get lost in, with so much happening and in such a state of constant flux that there’s always something new to discover; Berlin has a kind of excitable energy that cynical London sometimes seems to lack.
That relationship opened my eyes to a lot of things, in hindsight.