There has been a shift in tempo; time spirals here. Days are long and short, tumbling over themselves as they pick up speed, winding up a continuous crescendo that either never quite peaks or lives in a constant state thereof, while simultaneously baring a still presence that my life at home struggles to maintain. I feel as if a river, living in flow, always moving forward and witnessing the new world around me. My days fill, with work, testing sculpture patterns and album cover mock-ups for the artist I intern for, and with play; I pause for dew-fringed parks and bars with red lighting and open windows, the varying locations where I get to bear witness to the sweetness of smiles on my new friends’ faces. But despite the chaotic continuity and lack of rest an urban lifestyle brings to a self-identifying extravert, I paradoxically find myself alone more than I am used to.
Berlin spans 344 square miles. Paris is 40. For a European city, it sprawls like New York and Los Angeles. My days are made up of little commutes, 30-minute intervals that have become of great importance to me. In the mornings, if I go to the artist’s studio, I’ll take the U-Bahn one stop to Alexanderplatz, a bright turquoise aquarium that swarms with creatures hurrying to their human obligations. An easy transfer to the M2 tram, a quiet ride that takes me to the uppermost armpit of Prenzlauer Berg, where urban residential blurs with the hazy wafting of German suburbs the wind brings in. From my stop, it’s a ten-minute walk to the decaying East Berlin warehouse that hosts ateliers for local artists and music lessons for school children. I dedicate these mornings to the indulgence of music, downloading a new album when I can remember, immersing myself in my headphones’ world.
If it’s a workday at my boss's home, however, I opt to walk the 25 minutes through Mitte, past Alexa Mall and all the name brands that remind me I’m American. I pick up my pace, craving the burn of a pepped step courtesy of a recently downed espresso. A few doors down from his place is an apartment complex with a small cutout of a black cat that has been fastened above the street sign. It reminds me of my own cats at home, and I smile to myself each morning I pass it. I hope it notices.
These moments are quite common, now. My commutes, away from the wheel I have grown so comfortable behind in rural New York, have taught me to slow my eyes, to let them wander over my surroundings. I feel as though I am consuming the world around me as I gaze over it, the colors and textures satisfying something I can’t quite fathom. The wallpaper in the building’s stairway peels so that the light can hit it with more fever. The bathroom glows orange with joy amidst its perfect gloss-finished tile. The artificial orchid that floated on my path this morning politely asked me to pick her up and take her with me. The shadows in the cemetery danced to celebrate all the lives buried in its heart. These little gifts I get to witness contain a sacred lesson beneath their aesthetic pleasure; they teach me that amidst the speed of an ever-moving life, the densest beauty can be found in the slow intervals of solitude. I will remember this, Berlin.
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I am Multimedia Journalism student at Skidmore College. In my free time, I make a lot of art and go on as many adventures as I can with my friends!