Chapter 44: Golden Years
from the 1976 album “Station to Station” by David Bowie
received 8:50, 30 July 2019
Look at that sky, life’s begun
Nights are warm and the days are young
Come get up, my baby
You open your eyes, and light and steel surrounds you. Those are the only two things you can see, the whiteness of the searchlights, the slender sturdy rods of metal rooted deep into the ground. And over by your side, a warm, tender hand is clasping yours.
Your eyes meet, and the same thought passes between you both: good Lord, their hands are just so soft. Then a second: why am I holding their hand — still holding their hand? You unclasp first and turn to look at the lights, the sky, the curves of the steel. Over in the corner of your eye, Thomas puts his hands back in his pockets. He’s looking expectantly at you. Has he come to the right place?
Blinking once, twice, the image before you resolves, morphs itself into recognizable shapes. A dome rising high into the night sky. The metal skeleton bare and exposed, the glass covering it a beautiful hue of deep mysterious green. Where have you seen all this before?
“It’s the Reichstag,” says Thomas. “Welcome to Berlin.”
Of course — but wait, how did he know? Berlin’s been on your map for years, but it was always “when I have the time”, “you’ll like Leipzig more”, “oh Morgan can you come back a couple of days early we need you at the Globe”. Never a chance to go, not on your own terms. But here you two are, at the capital city. Why would he know to bring you here? What do you say when one of your biggest wishes suddenly comes true?
“It’s beautiful,” you say at last.
“Oh yeah, totally,” he says, his voice less on edge now that his little surprise has turned out alright. The bracing September wind whips against the two of you as you both stare at the dome, rising high up into the night air. You sniff the air a little — damn it, why didn’t you bring that thicker cardigan out with you — but neither of you dare to speak, as if the house of German democracy will shatter under your feet if you dare make a single sound. For a few moments you two are just savouring this place, admiring the contours, the corners, the way light becomes shadow.
He breaks the silence first. “You ready to go up?”
“Absolutely yes,” you say. Can’t even grammar right now. It’s vast, so absolutely vast, bigger than you had in your mind’s eye. He hangs back, letting you lead the way — he probably knows this place better than you do, being in the government and everything, but still he’s letting you go ahead to discover it all. Now that you’ve gotten closer, the patterns in the painted girders are revealing themselves. You raise a hand to touch it — this can’t be another of Thomas’ old illusions can it? The steel is cold from the winds, almost freezing you to the bone. But you smile.
Inside it’s warmer and brighter, more welcoming despite all the glass and mirrors. It’s almost empty at this time of night, all the tourists saving their excursions for the daytime, and you two are the only couple wandering around the information boards, badly lit and most of which are about a period of history which you’re not really interested in. So you look up at the mirrors, and twenty different manes of brown chestnut stare back at you, overlapping with each other. You look yourself in the eyes, those eyes you’ve searched a thousand times. For once, you think, they look like no ordinary eyes of green. They look different — they look like they belong to you. To you alone.
Barely five minutes ago, you two were still 350 miles away, down in a deserted street. It was amazing, the way that they’d stopped and stared, the way that everyone gasped over what you did. How long had it been since someone had done that? They loved it, and you’d hugged Thomas and shouted out and allowed yourself to smile. Then you almost tripped over.
“Bloody cobblestones,” you said, brushing off the dirt from your jeans. “A dark street in Munich’s probably not the best place to be doing this…”
He had looked at you and gone “do you want to go somewhere else?” A simple question. You said yes, without even a second to let it run through your brain. You might have said yes to anything at that moment.
Then he’d taken your hand. “I don’t normally do this, it hurts my brain,” he said. “But I guess we can make do… close your eyes, the disappearance makes you a little dizzy…” And you had closed them… just like that, he had taken the lead.
“So, how’s this place?” he says now, beaming up at you. His face is all sunbeams, his eyes all sparkle. When was the last time he had looked this happy? Paris, maybe, or even when he was with Layla. Never since they broke up.
“Still amazing… can we go up?”
The walkways that curl and circle around the Reichstag dome are huge. During the day, perhaps there’d be hundreds, maybe even thousands of people going up and down them at once: a bustle of humanity, crowding around the railings, trying to see Berlin or the people down below. Tonight, though, it’s almost deserted, and the reflections in the glass, in the mirrors out in the centre of the large dome, all of them only show you and him. Without knowing it, you’ve slowed to a halt realizing this, and he stops right next to you, and your shoulders touch: his hoodie against your shirt, your heart beating on a level next to his.
Outside Berlin hums with energy, with traffic, but it seems so far away — the lights in the windows down there mere pinpricks of light, the trains rushing by . Do they know about the two of you in here? Or are they carrying out their own miracles? You two are here now, ensconced in your huge glass bubble. Suddenly it dawns on you: you can do anything you like here. Here on the walkways, you two have a clear berth to let it rip.
A glance at him — he raises his eyebrows, as if to ask “what do you have in mind?” But that’s not the question — you’re already way past that one. No, the question is if you even dare. What if security stops you and you two get ejected? What if you’re taken into custody? This is their parliament, they have to take these things seriously, right? Even if you do let yourself go — what will anyone here think of it? What will he think of it? But then you look at him, and you see it. He’s up for it too, whatever “it” happens to be. The explosions which you saw, not twenty minutes ago in a city far, far away suddenly relight within you. You’re the most powerful person in the world right now, damn it. You deserve this. Screw them, screw him, screw anybody if they can’t take a bit of fun on the nose. You flip out your phone, cue up the music, and start shuffling up the ramps.
He catches on immediately. While David Bowie’s voice, the funky arrangements, are all echoing around the dome, you two are snapping your fingers, stomping up the pathway to the sound of the drums, clapping your hands right on cue. A fling of the hand, a kick of the leg, a leap into the unknown. Everything is a blur, the lights, the faces, all the thoughts in your head — everything gives way to Bowie as his roaring voice takes you up, quivers through you, allows you to soar. It might just take you out into the night beyond the glass.
You look at Thomas for a bit. His eyes look worriedly at you — “what the hell are we doing here?” — but he’s laughing all the same and jiggling his body to the beat too. He’s a much worse dancer than you are — what in God’s name are those thrusts that he’s doing? You two join in singing the long bridge — ooh, didn’t know he was a Bowie fan too — and then shout the last line to the heavens, singing how you believe “ALL THE WAYYYYYYYYYY”. Good heavens, that almost killed you… a halt in the song, you two standing stock still like statues before grooving up the ramp once more.
For the teensiest of moments, it flashes through your mind, and good Lord is it ridiculous. You’re dancing to a forty-year-old song, in the middle of the night, right above the German Parliament. How does that even gel with anything that you’ve done — well, in your life? Who cares, really. When was the last time anything had been fun for you? When was the last time you’d been happy? If you’re going to do this, might as well go all out. You catch his eye, and he gives you a little twirl. There might even have been a slight dip — and then the song ends, and you’re at the top of the dome. With a security guard staring at you.
“Excuse me, that kind of spirit will not be allowed here,” she says. Liar: she looks like she’s about to burst into laughter. “This is the German Parliament, not a discotheque.” She tries her best to look displeased, stare you down.
“Oh I’m sorry. It’s her birthday today, I thought we’d go somewhere special to do this… but we’ll leave soon.” His slightly sweaty face struggles not to smile too snarkily. Dear God, his smile was amazing.
“Thank you. But that was some very good dancing,” she says with a small smile, and walks off without even waiting for a response.
You stand at the top of the Reichstag Dome, trying to catch your breath as the guard’s footsteps recede, drinking in each other’s gaze. It’s you who laughs first, but he laughs even louder. “God, I wish I’d been able to do that in Paris…”
“You would get yelled at by all the people. You dance like you’ve been literally possessed, Thomas, that simply WILL NOT do.”
He shrugs, and you two walk to the edge of the dome. Berlin stretches out before you, a cloth of darkness dotted everywhere with life. You have never loved a city more. You have never felt happier to be part of that life before.
“Thanks for this. It’s really awesome,” you breathe.
He grins. “Happy birthday.”
Thanks for telling me last night. I’m coming over tomorrow morning — yes we do need to talk.