The only thing that can save us now is five gallons of juice, Laugenbrötchen, and three packs of mozzarella cheese, I’m sure of it.
I’d woken up to a text from A. “Life is pain,” it’d said. I had nodded, dizzy, not quite sober, wondering if she could read my mind or if she was as hung over as I was. Note to self: do not have grand finale goodbye party BEFORE carrying all your belongings down the five flights of winding stairs. Life is pain.
J, M, and I exchanged half-awake, half-sober grimaces. If I didn’t drag myself down the stairs and to the grocery store soon, nobody would. My stuff would stay in the old apartment and the new resident would end up putting our dehydrated, whiskey-hardened corpses out with the rest of the big trash. Better get up then.
Out on the street I was startled by the bright light and the bustling people. People out buying groceries, walking dogs and children, eating lunch on restaurant terraces, wearing fresh clothes and well-kempt hair.
Do they know? I wondered, glancing around conspiratorially, hair sticking out in every direction. Can they tell I’m still drunk? Am I walking straight? Is this even the right dimension?
It must have been though; the store sold me the supplies, and I didn’t even forget my debit pin. Now I just had to get back up the stairs, pack all of my stuff into the van, paint the apartment, take a box of kitchen stuff to friends, and move to Dresden. Just.
While I’d been stumbling around the store, A had shown up with a headache and a bruise on her leg the size of an encyclopedia.
“What happened to you?” we wanted to know.
“Vodka. Bike. Road.” She groaned back. “Life is pain.”
It was our mantra for the rest of the afternoon. Even after H showed up with guacamole. Especially after marching everything down the stairs and into the van. It took five hours, but at 8 o’clock we were finally finished. The van was packed so tightly that it was only safe to open the front door. Our hangovers were gone. My apartment had been toothpaste-spackled and sort-of painted. A had wandered home to sleep, and H and I had tried to casually hug goodbye as if I hadn’t cried about moving for a full hour the night before. M and I packed J into the back of the van with the rest of the boxes, and I waved goodbye to Richard Wagner Straße one last time.
“Goodbye stupid dark cave apartment!” I yelled after it. “Goodbye bitchy anal-retentive floormates! Goodbye Frankfurt! Goodbye Nordend!” I blew the city one last kiss. We were on our way. It didn’t feel real. It still doesn’t.
The first time I came to Dresden I had peered excitedly out of the train window, expecting a skyscape of city lights to appear on the horizon, beckoning me into Dresden’s heart. It never came. You arrive in the city without fanfare. Without welcome. Without even really noticing you’re arriving anywhere at all until all of the sudden there you are. Right in the middle of it.
The Frankfurt skyline makes your heart beat faster when you come home to her: a smattering of skyscrapers sparkling down at you, luring you into Gothem with glittery promises she’ll never fulfill.
The Dresden skyline sits quietly by the river, stoically gazing past you into dark memories. She doesn’t bother luring you to her; she doesn’t need to. She doesn’t give a damn, and besides, you’ll come anyway. She simply sits, introspective, arms shredded by scars that remind you that she’s experienced a level of tragedy that you will never understand.
And despite the scars, because of them, she is beautiful. You’ll love her for her stony-stoicism, for her distant, tragic air. Her abandoned buildings, her shrapnel-pocked facades. You’ll love her because you’ll never understand her, never really be able to wrap your mind around what has happened to her, she’ll remain dark, mysterious, untouchable, beautiful.
Welcome to Dresden.