One evening in the late 1980’s, I heard my cousin’s voice as I passed the Carriage House Inn; an old fashioned, old man’s bar. It was a relic of Park Slope’s pre-gentrified past. I’d never been inside but had been fascinated by it since childhood because of the dusty model stagecoach in the window, hence the name. He was my favorite relative even though he was almost old enough to be my uncle, so I decided to stop in and say hello. There he was; holding court at the bar, jolly and not quite sober, arguing with one of his friends about the game on TV. Although we saw each other on a regular basis (Sunday dinner was always a day long event at my aunt’s house), we’d never spent any time together socially, probably because of the age difference. Now that I was in my twenties, it seemed only natural. He was happily surprised to see me and offered me a drink. Over the course of a beer our conversation went from small talk to more personal things. It’s strange how you can know someone your whole life and never really get a sense of them. Gradually, this happy go lucky joker became brooding and sullen, the beer made him honest.
“You know what really scares me? I’m forty years old and I’m alone. I don’t want to end up by myself.” My father’s side of the family had a very high percentage of people who never married, for various reasons. It had never occurred to me that my cousin was on his way to becoming one of them, or that he ever thought of it. This was the first time he’d ever spoken to me as an adult, I felt honored and obliged to help.
“Well, what are you doing about it? Are you dating?” I asked.
“I work odd hours and I never get a chance to meet anyone.” He worked nights but that alone couldn’t damn him to eternal bachelorhood. Then it hit me “Well, look where you hang out, look around. You spend your time in an old man bar for Christ’s sake! Look, there are no women, just a bunch of old guys watching basketball! How do expect to meet someone in a place like this?” I felt so noble. “You are never going to get laid if you stay here!”
I continued this concept for a few more minutes until I convinced him of the impossibility of ever meeting a girl in the hell hole we were in. The bartender came over and asked me if I wanted another drink. I really wasn’t crazy about the beer so I asked “Do you have Jaegermiester?” This was in the days before it was mass marketed as the drink of choice for frat boys the world over.
“Did someone say Jaegermiester?” I heard a voice behind me ask. I turned around and standing behind me was a very cute blonde! “Yeah, I did, you know it?”
“Know it? I love it! I didn’t know anyone else knew about it!” We immediately fell into conversation, and then I remembered my cousin. When I turned and glanced over at him I could see what he was thinking by the look on his face. He’d been coming here for years and never seen, let alone met, a girl while I pop in once and within twenty minutes I’m putting the munch on a cute one. I felt like my fine noble lecture was a load of hypocritical bull, but she was too cute to pass up. I introduced him, and myself, and dove back into my chat.
After a few minutes she told me that she lived right above the bar, had never come in before and just wanted to see it. “If you’d like to come up to my apartment, we could have another drink.” The invitation was obviously just for me. I turned to my cousin; he was just staring into space. “Larry… um, you know… I think I’m gonna go with her.. are you ok?” God knows what he was thinking at that moment. Maybe if I hadn’t come in she could have wound up with him, maybe she was supposed to be the girl of his dreams. He shrugged with a resigned smile, “Sure, go ahead, I would.”
I felt like a complete cad but, young buck that I was, I couldn’t pass it up. We went upstairs to her small, tidy apartment. She poured us more drinks and sat on the couch with me and took out some photos of the work she did. She was a prop designer for the theatre. She was currently working on some furniture pieces for a new Broadway musical version of The Phantom of the Opera… I wonder if it ever took off. Then we started getting, um, comfortable and she asked if I’d like to hear some music. “Do you like Bowie? I have him singing Heroes in German!”
“I love Bowie! Yeah, put it on.” I was thinking two things simultaneously; it’s a great make out song and how could this rarity have escaped me? She put it on and came back to the couch.
Ich, Ich bin dann König
Und Du, Du Königin
Obwohl sie, Unschlagbar scheinen
Werden wir Helden, Fur einen Tag
Wir sind dann wir, An diesem Tag
Hmm, I can’t believe I never heard this before… she smells nice, I can’t believe poor Larry… oh wait, this is from Cristiane F., he was performing it in a concert scene… I wonder if I’ll be staying over… the back wall of Connie Planck’s studio was the Berlin Wall, how cool is that?
Ich, Ich glaubte zu träumen
die Mauer, Im Rücken war kalt
Schüsse reissen die Luft, Doch wir küssen
Als ob nichts geschieht, Und die Scham fiel auf ihre seite
Oh, wir können sie schlagen, Für alle zeiten
Dann sind wir Helden, Für diesen Tag
This girl is… wait a minute, is she crying? “Are you ok?”
“Yes, I’m fine. It’s just that this song reminds me of someone.”
“Are you sure? Maybe I should go so you can get some sleep.”
“I was going out with this guy in Berlin and this was our song, it just got me a little depressed for a minute.” Then why the hell did she put it on in the first place? Great, now she’s really sobbing. Obviously she’s not over this guy, I’m not about to compete with him and I’m not about to be a rebound; perfect because I’m not him then inferior because I’m not him.
“Tell you what, how about I go home, I’m tired anyway, and I think you really need some sleep. Next time we’ll have a proper date, alright?” She thought about it for a moment and smiled with red eyes, “Ok, you can come over and we’ll order some Chinese food.”
“Sure, sounds great.” She gave me her number and I told her I’d call in a day or two, knowing full well that I wouldn’t.
After about a month, guilt managed to catch up with me and I thought of her again. She really was a sweet girl and I was, as usual, an asshole. I found her number and called, it was no longer in service. I looked at the buzzer on her building, her name was gone; she was gone. Maybe she went back to Germany. Maybe she was standing, by the Wall. I hope so.
Dann sind wir Helden
Für diesen Tag