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“I’m a fan of being a good rebound”, Alexander says. “It’s really a sweet spot I think. That’s why its so heartbreaking. It’s so tempting. But that kind of level of closeness and independence is very hard to sustain.”

Alexander looks like a director should. Or perhaps the ruins of one. Ice blonde, sun ravaged features. Berlin skinny but dressed slightly too formally. I am filming them, he and Elias, with no real purpose. My camera is enormous, a beautiful toy I've had shipped here for the holiday like a retired yank buying a Gondola for a trip to Italy.

“What I consider to be this absolute sweet spot,” Alexander says, “is as the rebound. Because as a rebound, you get somebody who's basically… That sucks with intimacy. They’ve exhausted attachment and dependency. Even if it gets very intimate, it's absolutely clear cut at this early stage that it cannot go back to what was. It's guttural. It's not even a question of principle.“

I’m catching cutaways of a tanned Jesus type guy canoeing topless with a King Charles at his prow. Elias interrupts, rubbing his arm and staring out at the boats.“Right now I feel like I'm in one of those films with the gamblers. Like Uncut Gems, Bad Lieutenant, any other film you can think of… The Gambler. That's where I'm at. I stayed awake and after I thought, oh, I owe so much money. Maybe I made a terrible film. I've let everybody down. It's a nice kind of feeling. It's kind of exhilarating because it feels like I'm living on borrowed time.”

Elias has a post production hangover. Soon they will do 2PM ketamine off the cover of a Patricia Highsmith biography in his cramped WG. Right now he's diminished, recovering from the cheap speed and emotional turmoil of his shoot. All Elias's film projects follow the same pattern. A circle of young acolytes form around him. Beautiful, laconic, heteroflexible. A series of meetings follow, in which G or K or Berliner Beer are consumed to excess, and Elias observes or provokes tensions between his players. Always there is a beautiful destructive girl he's half in love with - usually Slavic or Hungarian. Apparently as essential to his directorial technique as they are destructive to his final films. This latest, a Polish speed freak, twenty eight looking eighteen, passed out for several hours in the bedroom of the dacha they rented for the shoot. On waking she became truculent and refused to perform.

“I doubt she'll come to the premiere”, Elias says. He's removed his shirt and my camera pans up and down his tattoos, mostly the logos of defunct Swiss and Filipino brands. “If she does I'll ignore her. I'm never speaking to her again”.

“I thought you were in love with her,” I say.

“You told me you were going to marry her,”Alexander interjects.

“Did I?” Elias looks out over the water where the spree widens out after Admiralbrücke to a broad basin daubed with mandarin kayaks. He laughs in his disconcerting way, “I can't remember”.


Alexander’s films  seem to exist in the same aesthetic universe. Crude mumblecore affairs that tease the epiphanic. I met him first a year ago, shortly after Laura and I escaped Berlin. We left knowing we would return, seeking whatever ill defined freedom it gave us. Elias had taken us to a 'screening', which turned out to be a house party. A tiny personal moment I unwittingly invited half a dozen friends to. Fifteen people gathered in the living room of Henry, a British philosopher turned composer.

Alexander had been screening a film that detailed a holiday he’d taken with Henry and some friends, in Crete or the Seychelles or some other Mediterranean German colony: Although of course all of them are auslanders. They travelled as friends whose connections intersected without touching. In the film, pieced together from smartphone videos, each friend at some point passionately kisses every other, as Henry's voiceover narrates passages from the Symposium. Alexander afterward described it as a 'very heterosexual' kind of intimacy.  I found a touching vulnerability in the artifice. So linked to this idea - sacrosanct in Berlin, that heterosexuality really is an construct to be destroyed.

“My friends and I blow each other sometimes,”Alexander says as the heat of the day builds and we sit by the water on dust and cigarette butts. “It's just a way of becoming more intimate, relaxing each other.”

“Like in your film,” I suggest.

“Like that but more so.”



A pretty futch girl, vamping for her friends on the platform at Hermanstraße. “When I first came to Berlin, as I was getting more comfortable with my gender expression” - she also really talks like this. “I was doing a lot of drag”. She puts her thumbs through the ringlets of her waistband and strides about, in precisely the way straight men never do. “I really gained an understanding of these macho guys, you know? What small dick energy really means.”

“Thank you for saying that. I'm so glad we're having this conversation”. Her friend, an Evan Rachel Wood B-Boy, with straight gelled wet hair scraped back so tight her skull is visible in streaks, sits across me right after on the U-Bahn. Anxiously manspreading and jawing a little from whatever experience they shared.


Laura and Cass and I take a tour of the old flack bunker in Gesundbrunnen. The climax is an Olympian vista of shattered columns. A confetti of reinforced iron rods arching down to hundreds of thousands of tonnes of rubble. This bat cathedral is all that remains from an incomplete post war demolition. I'm struck by an awareness that what creates space is confinement.


Two days later I'm in the Grünwald, a planned forest to the South West of the city. My new camera is a trashy Christmas tree, dangling improvised accessories. I'm just glad to be a part of something. We are filming the ending of Elias’s film: The story of a bachelor party that descends into drug abuse, ritual magic and finally a Vampire’s Kiss style transmogrification. Alexander is his star and I follow as b-cam, Elias crossing and crisscrossing my path as Alexander stumbles and screams through the sparse foliage. Blood seeping from his mouth he rolls in humus and chews up leaves. What could be ludicrous is beautiful.


In Trixxter, Sean is riding Mandy’s back. His new girlfriend is a babyfaced Amazon, she throws him round the empty dance floor like Aline wrestling R.Crumb. “This isn't too far from what I do for a living”, she intimates. She's a kind soul, sweet and open in the way all the real-live whores I've known have been. Girls who could do anything and chose this. The happy hooker is alive and well and living in Kreuzberg. Outside she draws us in the beer garden, one of those single unbroken line ‘artists way’ left brain exercises, and tells us about growing up in the American midwest. She’s tells us about how she embarrassed herself in front of the cancelled rapper ‘Mr Yes’, apologising for his treatment in Germany. “Best of luck with that,” he’d told her. I head inside for two euro beers, and pause in the concrete basement as the last song plays. A Nomi-esque mix of opera and harsh analogue synth that makes me think of the brief belch of freedom that was post recession Dublin.


In the queue for KitKat Laura sends me for beers. The crowd is dotted with real honest to God gimps. Outside the späti a gutter punk sits plastered, his paint-huffer snout perfectly chromed. I return to find a sleazy adjacent Cali guy low key hitting on herself and Cass.

I’m in two minds about this whole KitKat thing, I confess to a friend before leaving Dublin. “You don’t take your dogs to a butchers shop”. Its the kind of joke whose irony is no longer obvious. I feel a hundred years old.

I’m relieved when we’re turned away for lack of leather. More from fatigue than a reluctance to allow the chaos in. I haven’t been sleeping this trip. I never do. Not in a cool night city vampire way, but like I’m cursed with immortality just not eternal youth. Late nights and 5AM sun dicing the too broad gaps in the Friedrichshain altbau curtains.

As we loiter trying to figure out next moves, small groups of  Italian pickup artists begin to approach - asking about alternative clubs, halfway suggesting we tag along. I return back to the bouncer to ask, “Is tomorrow a regular night, could we get in then?”

“You’d have to dress a lot kinkier than that.” He says, smiling down at my little fit.


We used to live here, in a politburo palace on Frankfurter Allee. An icy place with painted floors and period furniture. After we left the owner said it looked like we hadn’t cleaned in a year. Painfully German she returned exactly the amount of our deposit left over from the furniture replacement. These days we are fastidious, recognising the contradictions inherent in the monstera and unvarnished floorboard aesthetic.

I fuck Laura in the bedroom and after she finishes ask if she minds if I visit Cass in the living room.

“I’d prefer if you didn’t”.

I agree to just kiss her goodnight. When I return, Laura is half asleep. I lie awake laughing and furious. Caught between the insecurities of one unconscious lover and the frustrations of another. I wake Laura to argue, a first. Back in ireland Laura is dating our former third, Mary, which makes these frequent clawbacks draining.

Next night with her permission I visit Cass and make her cum with my fingers on the lambswool living room carpet. The condoms keep making me lose my erection, but at last it survives the transition from foreplay and I finished hard and quick. Im getting worse at this. Age or sleep deprivation, depression or over indulgence. I have little sympathy for myself whatever.


“I like to go all night”, Sean tells me. “It was one of my differences with Analitta…Well no, she liked to go all night too.” He’s dressed in a purple belly top and matching cap and short shorts. All purple to match the Deutche Wohnen aesthetic. Sean is an activist. We argue online about the utility of protest. He has twin degrees in bioinformatics and architecture, but cannot make an appointment or hold onto a relationship. He has become that most German of things - a perpetual student.

Whats the Myles Manley line,  ‘your forces are spent, and you're a drag, well twist the knife, twist the knife’? Days earlier Sean hit on Cass in the gay club. I’d been too zonked to continue. Knowing it would happen. Predicting and in fact understanding the whole thing. How the nuanced line between throuple and swinger had escaped him. Laura took Cass to the darkroom and he followed, approaching them to say, “I’m not sure what to do now”. Eventually he took the hint. Afterwards a thirsty German guy kept touching Laura and followed them out of the dark room onto the dance floor till they fled, stinking of cigarettes.


“Maybe you should take Cass on some dates, queer spaces, enjoy your lesbian time,” I suggest. But the only place Laura wants to take her is an underwear party in the basement of Yamamori Tengu and I’m too insecure for that. Maybe because the girl running the night approached Laura on the street to invite her. Maybe because she’s already the subject of so much instagram desire. Theres something about desire for ones partner from an imagined horde that feels exhausting. Unequal. Maybe it would be different were I twenty eight and beautiful. Had I my own fanbase. I’ve always been better at performing for an invited audience.


At the playground my German nephew tells me, “Open your mouth, stick out your tongue”, and when I do he says “Lets lick each others tongues”. “Silly,” I tell him. “Don’t be so silly.” He's at that age where everything is ‘kacke’, and huge enjoyment is to be had from talking about ‘penis’ and 'gina’. Right away I imagine him relating this story to his mother. The potential accusation, losing access to my nephews and then later my whole life. At the edges of reason I ask myself - ’Is this normal, has someone hurt this child? Are all four year olds such perverts?’ I push him on the roundabout, stealing his baseball cap and jamming it back on his head as he spins by. “Run after me, run after me”, he yells out. I do, at first exhausted but breaking through somehow. Running in the widening gyre that surrounds his spin.

He is on my back and we are leaping over the sand of the playground and he is screaming. Laura is talking with my sister on the playground bench. German parents are staring. Chasing him I bash my head against the steel bar of a climbing frame, pull a prat fall and play dead, feeling ridiculous.


I spend too much time this trip with my elder-gay friend Ernst. “Ernst”, Rolf, the piano player in ‘Schönhildas’ tells me, “…has one fatal flaw. Jealousy.” I think he’s being unfair. Rolf has boyfriends on three continents and works as a mixologist in a nude bar. Ernst is an old romantic still pining for his soi-disant boyfriend Dieter. But I come to see the truth of it. I used to imagine Ernst wanted to monopolise me because of a crush. Now I realise he is a true misanthrope. It has cut him off from everyone. A raconteur by nature, witty, irreverent and charming in the old aristocratic way, he has become a hermit, looping echolalia about how he must leave Berlin. Nothing is possible here. He must establish himself somewhere else, perhaps New York where he improbably owns an apartment in the West Sixties - though he lives like a pauper in a garret in Schöneberg. His life now is painting and teaching painting. Add to which Narcotics Anonymous which he lately joined after a night of debauch in ‘New Action’, which he claims caused “No hangover at all, only a slight headache from not sleeping.” We have become brittle with each other. “You should end it with both those girls and spend a few years just working,” he tells me. I am amazed at the impunity. His loneliness is uninviting. I know the personal renaissance a breakup brings, but I could no more discard love than I could amputate a limb.


I return to Berlin over and over finding friends hardly changed, as though the city were encased in aspic, and only myself older and more negative, encumbered by the quantity of my failed aspirations. Slowed by slow damage. But anyway different. Different anyway.