Written for The Independent:
I remember that we had left our backpacks at Zoo Station and that we were going to save our Deutschmarks by staying out all night. I remember, too, when at last we came into the crumbling old courtyard, that the music was extraordinarily loud – a wall of sound made out of euphoria and ecstasy, the herald of a new world order.
Or so it seemed. It was 1991, we were at an impromptu party in newly-opened East Berlin and I had finished school – forever. Day-by-day, throughout the long summer, the old republics of the Soviet Union had been declaring their independence while, in Moscow, Yeltsin was standing on a tank.
She was standing in a corridor. I’d split up with a girl from home after three years – so I felt naïve, out of practice, but also careless because recently hurt.
She had turquoise eyes that danced alternately with intelligence and shyness, with gentle mockery and sudden candour. I can’t remember what I said – it didn’t matter – because she spoke no English and I spoke no German and the house music made it impossible to hear.
But some mysterious male-female magic held us. And I bought her something to drink. And we stood together without speaking for what may have been an hour.
Eventually, we kissed. But too soon she made a sign to say she had to go – and I made a sign to say we should meet again and we both shrugged and I took out a pen and a little notebook because I wanted to be a writer and I suggested Zoo Station because it was all that I knew and she nodded and wrote down three o’clock, platform one, and that Saturday’s date. And she kissed me again and I held her closer this time. And then she was gone.