The Ubiquitous Loneliness & Blind Dates
In Berlin there are countless bars completely packed on a regular Wednesday night until 5 am. This isn't just because Berlin is a big city. The people meeting in these bars are singles or people meeting for their first date. Or people who work in advertisement or film.
The most exciting to watch are blind dates. On an ordinary Wednesday evening, a man and woman enter the bar. They are immediately noticeable because they are tense and not familiar with each other. And of course the woman immediately asks for the bathroom: if she likes him, she checks her make-up, but if she doesn't, she's calling a friend to lament. They both order drinks with little alcohol, beer or wine, maybe to avoid the danger of letting too much of their inner selves out on the first date.
After they sit down the spectacle begins. The perfunctory questions are checked off the list and answered without embellishment. What do you do for work? Are you from Berlin? How was your day? He always initiates the conversations and she ends them with a crossing of her arms. He keeps the questions going - shyly trying to break through her wall - which she answers with a stone faced 'yes' or 'no.' Communication is prevalent, but words are scarcely exchanged. Their bodies speak for them. His arms rest on the table as he leans forward. The nearer he comes toward her, the farther she leans away. He still gives such an effort but it's become forced: smile, answer, nod. They finish their first glass of wine and she excuses herself once again to the bathroom. Waiting for her, he symmetrically straightens everything on the table. When she returns, the lighter, cigarettes, candle, and napkins all stand together in a row. She notices nothing. He probably doesn't either. She just looks at her phone and smiles honestly for the first time. The next doomed-to-fail conversation is dared, but this time the topic seems to interest her: life blossoms in her face and she releases her hands from her self-embraced gripp to tell a story. It remains a monologue, though. Her face and hands eventually return to their prior closed-off positions. She doesn't want to impress him and he can't be impressed anymore. After the second glass they leave the bar and part almost as they had met: as strangers. So often it seems blind dates in Berlin remain blind dates.
In such moments you can almost physically feel the ubiquitous loneliness in Berlin.
By Stefanie Talaska
Translated by Aislyn Rose