“We’re seeing other people,” he says. “We just don’t talk about it much.”
I’m lying in the crook of his arm, dismantling and rebuilding the events of the afternoon. I say nothing. There’s a sharpness to his smell that reminds me of tomato plants, or pesticides.
“It works out better this way,” he says. “I mean, it’s the details, right? Would you want to hear the details of what goes on?”
Maybe. I know that if this man started to tell me about his wife fucking another man, I would listen. I would ask all the right questions, like: did she enjoy it? Did she put her underwear on again afterwards, or did she stand naked—did she walk, naked, around the room? When she poured the dregs of the champagne into the toothbrush mug, could she taste the minty shadow of everyone who’d been through the hotel before? Or was it just bubbles? Did she smile?
I pull the duvet between my legs and straddle it like a dolphin. “No,” I say. “I wouldn’t want to hear a thing.”
I cannot be here because I am lying in the middle of a tiny road in rural France. It is dusk. My bicycle lies beside me. I’ve a broken collarbone, cracked ribs, shock, a phone that can’t tell me where I am and a fine view of the Alps as the sun sinks and the temperature drops and absolutely no cars go past.
I cannot be here because I was thinking about my lovely Nan, dead these past two years. I was remembering her standing on the path in her back garden one summer evening when I was a child, and telling me how she couldn’t see in the dark, had no night vision at all and that as a young woman the doctor had told her to eat carrots, but it hadn’t worked, and how she was always falling over at night, especially during the war when they had had the blackout. I was thinking that I too have terrible night vision, and then suddenly there was a pothole, I hit it and went sailing over the handlebars.
You tell someone something and then immediately regret it. You can’t take it back, so you try and pretend it never happened. They inevitably tell at least one other person. You don’t find this out for months until one day this other person drops it on you, and they tell you that someone else knows as well. You try and explain your way out of it, because you’re incredibly embarrassed by this whole story. It makes you feel exposed and vulnerable like you’ve been walking through a grocery store naked with multiple dildos strapped to your head.
It’s not until a couple of days later that you realize that this other person, who doesn’t know that you know that they know, has been acting really weird towards you for a certain amount of time that correlates exactly to the length of time that they’ve known the thing that they don’t know that you now know they know.
You start finding out that more and more people know from all this random information that starts coming at you from all sorts of arbitrary people. For example, like the post person who has taken to leaving your neighbours’ packages with you, even though the neighbours are at home, just so the post person can get a look at the person who said that thing even though you immediately regretted it right after you said it, and you’re only left to wonder how the hell they knew about that. Or like the bus driver who said to you, “You’re that kind of girl, eh?” Which makes you feel really creepy and weird, even more so when he follows it up with an attempt at making a sexy tongue flick. This then leaves you wondering how the bus driver knew as well, and who seriously thinks sexy tongue flicks are sexy anyways?
As the festive holiday season once again approaches, bringing with it tidings of rectal rehydration, beatings, freezings, drownings and various other forms of torture carried out by the US government and its many client states, and numerous corporate mercenaries, as well as of course the ongoing killing of pretty much anyone they feel like with no regard whatsoever for things like international laws and conventions, or, you know, the Constitution of the United States, I wanted to add to the good cheer, and the general spirit of selfless giving and heartfelt concern for the least fortunate among us, by making available a bad play I wrote back in 2006, in a sour and despondent mood.
Lee Holt, who we had never met before, arrived promptly at Fort Gorgast on the Friday afternoon. His first words to us are The Reader’s favourites when assembled in this particular order: ‘What can I do to help?’. Help Lee did, for which we would like to thank him. I would also like to thank him for being the first to come and hang out with me in my hut in the woods on Saturday morning. We talked publishing and compared the sizes of our hangovers and it was all very pleasant. What I don’t want to thank Lee for is bringing this particular story to read at the Open Mic. It has haunted me ever since; in the hope of somehow freeing myself from it by passing it on to you – kind of like a virus, I suppose, or a bad penny – I am publishing it here with Lee’s permission. It’s dark and disturbing, and you should read it at your own peril.
I’m the kind of person who researches the hell out of things, so when I decided to come to this event, I wanted to know everything I could about Fort Gorgast. I read up on its nineteenth-century construction, its obsolescence in military terms in the face of advancing technology, and its eventual occupation by the Red Army in the closing days of the Second World War. I was struck though by the lack of history right after the fort’s construction, so I kept digging. I live in Potsdam, where the Institute for Military Research is located, and I spent some time in the archives a couple of weeks ago. And I found some things that I hesitate to share with you.
Join us at Another Country on Saturday 26th September, where we’ll be celebrating the launch of an anthology of award-winning short stories. Compiled from the winning entries of the Reader Berlin’s 2015 Short Story Competition, these are ten tales of our city you won’t want to miss…
Our daytime and evening courses are now online! Beginning September, you can choose from Scriptwriting, Poetry, Memoir and Creative Writing. You’ll find daytime course details here and evening course details here.
We’d like to say welcome to award-winning memoirist Kenny Fries who will be leading a 7-week workshop on Tuesday evenings, and welcome back to Faber author Clare Wigfall who is returning to The Reader to host not one but two daytime courses.
We are very sad to be missing the Fort this year but are very exciting to be welcoming Ryan Van Winkle back to Berlin. On Saturday 25th there will be a launch of Ryan’s new book, The Good Dark, at Shakespeare and Sons on Warschauerstraße, in Freidrichshain. He will read to us and so will some surprise guests, I’m sure. Here he is in the trailer to his poetry show Red Like Our Room Used to Feel:
On Sunday 26th we will be holding a workshops at Another Country in Kreuzberg, followed by readings in the evening. Details and sign ups to follow.
Words in a hurry. Our friends SAND Journal are running a flash fiction and non-fiction competition. Prizes include money, beer, prestige, and time spent with the ever charming and informative Finn Ballard Tours. Word limit 300. Deadline July 15. Entry €5. You can submit your entries here.
We are pleased to announce the return of the ever popular Jane Flett, a BBC Radio short story author and one of Salt’s Best British poets. Over the summer she will be leading not one, not two, but three new courses! These will focus on getting your fiction up and running, and most importantly keeping it running. Starting June 17th and 18th. To reserve places on these courses please email email@example.com
More information on the morning course here and the evening courses here
Finally, we’ve pinned her down! Culture journalist, tutor and international woman of mystery, the fabulous Kimberly Bradley (ever wondered how Kim Bar got its name?) will be in town on May 30th and dishing all the journalistic dirt in a very special one-day workshop. If you’re a journalist or ever aspired to being one, this day is for you. More details here.
And on May 8th at 12pm, we’ll be giving one ticket worth 45 euros away! To enter, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org with KIMBERLY BRADLEY in the subject line. The winner will be notified the same day.
On Saturday April 25th at 8:30pm at 1820BAR, the humanoids behind Berlin’s English literary journal SAND, along with fabulous author and publishing services co-host, The Reader Berlin, invite you to join us as we present SAND Issue 11. Our newest issue, featuring the winning story from The Reader’s short story competition, questions identity. How much are we defined by the city we live in? We’ll kick off the night with readings from four of our Issue 11 contributors, and The Reader’s Victoria Gosling will present the prizes for the competition winner and shortlisted writers. And then, what else would we do with all you smashing people together in one place?