In the sixth chapter of his series The Longest Line in Berlin, writer Anthony Dwight Peebles brings us into stories on social media jails, three-way loving, lovers' quarrels and Joni Mitchell. Through these adventures, we get to understand our narrator a little better and vicariously experience his rather exciting life.
Jamal's goodbye party.
“I remember that one time I was placed in Facebook jail.” Lola said, as if this was a normal thing to say over drinks. My ears sprang open wider than my mouth, and I was more than ready for one of Lola's fabulous stories.
“What the fuck is Facebook jail?” I howled. The entire table laughed uncontrollably.
“So, there are two types of jails on Facebook. The first time it happened, it was only three days.” Everyone raised three fingers. “I posted a picture of my tits in a private group chat, and then I got the message that I had been banned from Facebook. It was crazy, like I could still use Facebook, but I couldn't post, or respond to anything. It was like surfing through my feed, but with no powers. The second time, it was for a whole month.” Lola sipped her Veuve Cliquot, laughing a little, then cracking up hysterically.
“What did you do the second time, Lola?” Jamal asked, wearing his Basquiat crown that his friends got him for his going away party. We were at our favorite wine bar to send Jamal off for his trip for the winter. He was leaving me for three months. I hadn't really processed that, and this story was a lovely diversion. I couldn't for the life of me remember where he and his family were going. Since Malik had left to see his boyfriend in NYC, I had grown accustomed to having Jamal all to myself. Now, I'd be alone again.
“I don't know why they were so mean to me. It really wasn't that bad.” The thing is, Lola makes this face when she lies that pretty much says, “HEY, I'M LYING.” It's actually one of the funniest things, because after she makes this face, she starts laughing, giving herself up in the process.
“So I reposted a fucking video of women singing and then for like .9 seconds a dick appears and fucking Facebook put me in jail. I ain't never been in real jail,” Lola made the symbol of a cross on her chest. “I mean 30-day Facebook jail ain't no punk. I know jail is fucked up, but imagine having access to all of your Facebook friends' shit and not being able to say you like it… Just sitting back being a super lookie-loo, with nothing to say! Like, just banish my ass, don't let me be able to access my high, but not get any of the fucking dopamine. Imagine this bullshit.”
I looked at Jamal. I know we all had that moment when we thought: “They got dicks on Facebook? Like, DICKS?” I know Jamal had this thought as well, 'cause he thinks like me. He probably wondered: “What are they doing in these groups and what kind of groups are there in Facebook-landia?”
I'm in many groups, but none of my groups are related to dicks. And then I looked at Lola and thought: how many groups have they got for Lola? ‘Cause Lola likes all kinds of devilish shit – God bless her – but to think all these things exist on Facebook…Jail? Dicks? They got dicks on Facebook?
We danced and laughed and smoked and drank great wine all night. The moment that took all of our breaths away was when Lola's cellphone was passed around showing the video of the women singing and the infamous dick. The women in the video were nuns and they were singing. The dick, from another video, stuck out in the chorus, just for a second, but the image hit a chord, literally. The women continued singing, and I died.
I don't remember laughing as hard as I did that night. We all have a great time when we're together. We woouldn't be like this for a while, the lot of us. With Jamal leaving and Sebastian and Cloe moving to Senegal for the winter months, my little berlin community was traveling without me.
I couldn't help staring at Jamal as he laughed and talked with our friends. His mouth always fascinates me – especially when he is speaking – but also when he is silent.
“He looks so far away” I thought to myself, “just there amongst the smoke, picturesque, as the music and the silence engulfs us all. He – my man, leaving me for the first time, for three months.”
He looked at me, with those eyes. Blew a kiss, looked down, and then back up to his conversation. I bit my lip and hungrily devoured the Veuve in my flute.
Two weeks later. Enter William.
It didn't take long to get to the airport – I love taking the train to the airport for some reason. Travel always excites me, and this ride is cathartic. I love the idea of catharsis, like a revelation of your own existence that carries you toward a new place. I'm in Berlin going to pick up my ex-boyfriend. Let's be transparent: I bought his ticket. And, now I am going to pick him up from the airport because he doesn't have enough money to take the train; but I am not thinking about this one bit, nope, not one bit.
“Hey baby.” Hug, kiss, and eye-contact – always the eyes. Fine as fuck. Him and I, on a train. Laughter and meeting friends – you know Berlin trains. We exit, and walk to my place. Two hours later, we're naked, having champagne underneath the Christmas tree. I like Christmas trees for that reason. Sex in Berlin during the holidays happened mostly under the tree for me. Nothing to unwrap, just a good fuck.
“I can't believe… I mean… You're here, William.” I looked into his eyes and laughed out loud: “What the fuck is happening?” We kissed, and held each other. It felt like Joni Mitchell's album Blue (1971), I said. I love him, I said later. Can we love everyone and just be fucking happy? I screamed yes out loud and William laughed.
Thirteen days later. William is still William, but who am I?
“Who's this?” William's voice gets annoying after a few days and it's been 13 days since he has been here. So, his voice is annoying as fuck right now.
“I'm Mahari.” Just as beautiful as his name sounds: Mahari looks. Benin and Turkish, his parents both work for the UN. He is fine. FINE. I met Mahari at a market in Kreuzberg. I was showing my neighborhood to a friend visiting from Brooklyn, and we bumped into Mahari. He was into me right off the bat, but my friend led the conversation. I thought my friend was getting all of Mahari's information for me, but it turned out he wanted Mahari for himself. This was quickly squashed by Mahari and I spending the entire night together.
“Oh, you cute. I'm William.” Something about William in Berlin is not right, feels off. Like what are we even doing?
“Cool, what are you blokes up to?” Mahari asked, looking at me.
“We are heading to a gig. I'm singing at Südblock.”
“Yeah, you should come with us.” William quickly grabs Mahari's arm and they walk briskly away. I catch up after a while to hear William explaining who he is to me, and why he is in Berlin. He tells him we are going to Johannesburg and I'm listening intently because I didn't know any of this.
My set goes without a hitch. I watch William and Mahari dance the whole time. It was sexy to watch, though better to be sandwiched between, which I soon am. Both of them hold me as the dark room brightens and colored lights hit varying spots on the wall. I like this bar: smoky, full of boys and no space to dance at all. We still do somehow. A make-out session happens, and it feels good. Now, William feels perfect here in Berlin. Now, I am looking into Mahari's eyes and saying yes, this is cool too.
One week later. At war with Ethiopia, and I'm not Italy.
“Can we just walk around while we are laying over?” I hate when William asks me questions. I'm like do what you want, but it's only 4 hours and we are in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Where we going William?
“Where we going in 4 hours William? Do what you want man, but I'm not leaving this airport.”
“You always do this to me. Shut me down, like you have thought about all of this already and I'm just boring you with my silly requests.”
“No, it's not that, it's I don't want to leave the airport. It feels like not enough time. And that's it.”
“That's it? You're done. Conversation over, Frederic is done everyone!”
I didn't see the man but felt him first, staring at William as he explained how fucked up I was. I felt someone sit in the same seat I was sitting in. He turned his back to me and just sat there.
“Can you move? What are you doing?” I screamed. He jumped up and walked away like nothing happened. William continued to berate me until he was exhausted with me and went shopping in the airport. I took out my journal and wrote the word Ethiopia down. Lion. bob marley. Love. I wrote all of those words down and then I wrote down Hallie Selassie and I smiled. I sat back in my seat and dreamt about my return to Johannesburg. Sipping the last of my cold coffee, I closed my eyes and waited for the gate to be called for our flight – which I paid for as well.
Featured image: courtesy of Joni Mitchell website.