The Scene: Smoothees, a minimalist, white-walled place with 'fresh and healthy asian fusion food,' in the Prenzlauer Berg section of Berlin, on Kastanienalle (nunber 100 if you must know). Soothing female voices with minimal instrumentation as background music. Blond wood woodblocks to sit on at wooden tables. The menu whiteboard in back of the counter is mostly in English. 'smoothees your vitamin dealer' [all lowercase]. 'Create your menu!' Main + sauce + veggy [their spelling] + side. The short, kinky-haired, brown-eyed young lady at the counter speaks very little English, despite all this English, including menu items in English, such as teas (I order black tea but have to say 'schwarz tee'; my daughter orders the same with some milk and cinnamon (orders in broken Deutsch) but it comes out later looking more like a frappe [but I am getting ahead of the story]) and homemade brownie, those are the words, in English, and which I order. All this is right after a raucously wonderful time at the excellent Babel restaurant, a Middle Eastern place (meal for two with drinks, 12.90 euros), where we riotously conversed with Jim and Renee, Americans with whom I erupted into conversation with based upon correctly identifying a New Yawk accent (they are fresh here from Prague since November and their friend and colleague Dario (originally from Venezuela but fresh from Prague and en route to London tomorrow). (I had my first Turkish [Arabische] there; it wired me up; the man behind the counter nearly scolded me when I asked about milk; so no milk, but a dash of Kierkegaard.)
The Mystery: At the table in back of E. and me, as we first arrive, are a man and a woman. The man, handsome and professorial, is perhaps my age, late-50s-ish, to my eyes, all gray-haired, gangly, a face not unlike john Le Carre's, a courtly voice, a blue cardigan (was it blue? was it dark or light?). He is almost huddled with a woman quite a few years his junior, also attractive, blonde, stylishly dressed, silk scarf, gold earrings, red lipstick. Their conversation appears to be intimate, though dominated, in a solicitous sort of way, by the man. Off to the side a tall young man with a porkpie hat turned backwards is lying down in a bedlike area with candles, reading a magazine. Without warning or provocation, he gets up, tosses the magazine, and joins the man and woman at their wooden table. E. and I are intriqued. Who is who? The mystery begins to consume our conversation. Oh. Somewhere out of the blue (out of the fecking white walls?) another young man has appeared, and he sits facing the woman -- all of them have their backs to me, but E. can see them to observe. They begin to consume us, delightfully, in our conversation.
Where did Young Man Opposite Youngish Woman come from? When did he come in? What is thte relationship between Mr. Professorish and Youngish Woman? I assumed husband and wife at first, but the intimacies became shrouded. Her eyes were intent on Mr. P and on Young Man Opposite.
E. was studying them intently and reporting back to me, in increasingly hushed tones for fear they might be on to us: body language, cues, posture, emotional weather. I sneaked a look behind me when I could or upon going to or returning to the bathroom. E. posited that the two young men and the woman were all siblings. Hmmmm. I still held to husband and wife for Mr. P and her, because she sat angled toward him slightly while facing the two younger men; the two younger men were now directly opposite Mr. P and Youngish Woman. I objected to the sibling concept on the grounds I saw no rivalry betwen the woman and the two young men. At one point, Young Man With Cap got up, waved, left, and then returned. No conspiratorial caresses betrayed amorousness between Mr. P and Her.
I compared this to some sort of Beckett play.
Who was who? Why did we care? Why could we not sift it out? Why did we want to so much?
And were they thinking the same of us?!
The teas were in large glasses, very hot. E. did not care for hers. We switched. Then switched back. The 'homemade brownie' was not what I expected (not fudgelike and chewy as in Amerika), but excellent. Sprinkled with coconut and a slight trail of honey. Very good but somehow not oversweet. E. knew enough German to know that they were out of vanilla ice cream and Cute Kinky Hair kindly apologized to us, or so I was told.
For an after-dinner dessert.
And a mystery theater.
P.S. And, Dafathsdays, the ghost of Rudolf Hess was spotted yesterday among the tomblike, blocky mini-city of the Memorial to Europe's Jews, rattling in his rusty chains.