Later that summer we drove out in Ana’s converted police van to the lakes. Conscientious Germans were always leaving notes on that van, guiding her on how to look after it (“fuck this yet again” Ana would growl, scrunching the dutiful notes into the gutter), and Ana was keen to get it out of the city after it had failed whatever the equivalent of an MOT is in Germany.
So one morning we wrapped up the food left in Ana’s fridge, packed her mocha pot and tobacco, and drove out.
We stayed at a friend of a friend’s (long deceased) aunt’s holiday cabin and swam in huge, clear blue waters.
We drank a bottle of wine each (Ana red, me white, always) a night and played cards. I finally got around to reading the copy of Gone Girl I’d picked up at Stansted airport when I’d left London. It freaked me out so much that I made Ana leave all the lights on in the cabin until I’d gone to sleep. She distracted me by planning dinners for her friends who would arrive in two days time - out in the countryside it would take us that long to procure the right supplies.
The morning Ana’s crew were due we set up two white tents as guest rooms and were suddenly cooking for eight.
We played more cards, ate a mix of breakfast and make-shift aperitivos all day long and spilled over into more than a bottle of wine each for dinner.
I hadn’t smoked weed since a not great evening in secondary school later involving every sink in my parents house and a lot of vomit. But on the last night I sat at the weed-smoking end of the table and must have inhaled a fair share.
I went to bed in the tent pitched a little further down the hillside. I had the distinct feeling of my feet rooting back into the soil. I rolled away from my friends and my head lolled out of the tent door. When I looked out from beneath the canvas flap, the hillside had turned to Tame Impala album cover psychedelia, pulsating in the starlight.
Back in Berlin, this was how it was meant to be.
Ex-pat former lockjaw Americans held parties in erratically furnished apartments. They paid friends who were bar staff by the hour to make cocktails for a group of ten of us. We smoked and snuck out the bathroom window to escape. An English goodbye. We sat on pavements outside schbetes and everyone tutted at my Club Mate obsession while the other English expats bemoaned Brexit.
Everywhere there were signs. The issue of i-D I read, that was called The Time Is Now. The delay for my flight home that meant I had six hours to kill thinking all these things through.
Robert’s intermittent txts back to me.
Ana’s messages beginning once again, after the longest gap in messaging we’d ever had, because instead we’d been next to each other the entire time.
When I got back to London, eight weeks had gone by. It was summer.