It was midnight in Berlin, and I was soaking wet and covered in feathers.
Seemed like as good a time as any to go hitchhiking.
See, I'd met these guys at a bar, and they said they were heading on down to the Tiergarten for some festival or other, did I want to come along? So I said yeah, because you know, why not? Plus I figured the best-looking one was kind of into me.
So I ended up in this massive tent on the Strasze des 17. Juni, soaked to the skin--did I mention it was raining like the second coming of the fucking Flood? I kept looking around for some weird guy in a dress to come sailing up in a boat the size of Kansas and scoop up two of each animal, one male and one female, which is pretty damn heteronormative, if you ask me. The air was ripe with the odor of hot, wet bodies and alcohol.
We were drinking vodka straight out of the bottle and listening to--hell, I don't know what you'd describe them as. A percussion band, I guess, except with a band, you'd expect some sort of musical instruments, you know? These guys had a car. Yeah, that's right--a car. Which they were ripping to pieces and banging the shit out of with hammers and God knows what.
It was actually pretty good. Heavy. The kind of music you don't hear so much as feel, deep in your sternum and in your soul. That makes your whole body vibrate, different parts to different notes, until you feel like some Stone Age tribesman banging rocks together. Like an artificial heart; as though if you got it just right, you could cheat death itself. It was...real, somehow. Intense.
Then some guy with a pillow climbed up on what was left of the hood. As he ripped the pillow in half, scattering feathers all over the crowd, we all jumped up to catch them, high on booze and that crashing beat. Though we didn't catch many, we didn't have to, because they fell right on down anyhow. And feathers? They meet wet clothes, they stick like shit to a blanket.
So there I was, covered in feathers, watching the hot guy and hoping... Well, hoping for a lot of things, but one of them sure as hell wasn't what actually happened. Which was that he started sticking his tongue down the throat of some anorexic Goth chick. Despite the fact anyone could tell just by looking at her she wouldn't blow him without a condom in case she accidentally swallowed some and put on an ounce.
It kind of put a dampener on the whole thing, though I'm damned if I know why I let it get to me like that--hell, it wasn't like I'd been looking for a relationship or anything. What's the point? Everybody leaves you in the end. I learned that lesson the hard way when I was seventeen, and it hasn't gotten any less true over the dozen or so years since then.
So anyway, that's about when I started thinking it was time to head on home. Well, home for the duration, which was actually some bargain-basement hostel on the wrong side of Charlottenburg. It seemed a hell of a lot farther away than it had on the way over, and the rain hadn't stopped any, so I figured, what the hell, I'll stick out my thumb, see what happens. Did I mention the drinking vodka out of the bottle part?
What happened was, a Porsche pulled up. Which kinda surprised me, because weather like this, it's usually cheaper cars that stop. Your Porsche drivers tend not to empathize a whole lot with guys who have to walk home in the rain. Plus they tend to get pissy when you drip on the leather upholstery. "You want a ride?" the driver asked in German.
I was thinking Duh, but I didn't say that, obviously, because for one thing, he was doing me a favor, and for another, he was kind of hot. More than kind of, I decided as I got a closer look. He was tall, at least as far as I could tell while he was sitting down. Lean and sort of wiry. Light brown hair, pulled back into a ponytail, like he'd been growing it since the Wall came down. Looked better on him than you'd think--he had the type of face you associate more with crew cuts, dueling scars and maybe a monocle, probably going by the name of von-something-or-other. Like in The Prisoner of Zenda--not the Stewart Granger movie, that was just a rip-off. The other one. The one with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as Rupert von Hentzau, throwing a knife at Ronald Colman. Damn, I love that scene. Good-looking and dangerous. Just how I like them.
And he was gazing at me like he'd been starving for a month and I was an all-you-can-eat buffet. Seemed like the night was looking up. I gave him my best smile as I climbed into the Porsche, where I buckled up and started shedding feathers. "Thanks. I'm Leon," I told the guy. He nodded, and we shook hands briefly like we were in a business meeting or something. I didn't snicker. Sometimes your good-looking guys can be touchy.
"Christoph." His sleeves were rolled up, letting me admire the flexing of his tanned forearms as he turned the steering wheel with a firm grip, pulling away from the curb. "Had a good night in the park?" He sounded a lot more sympathetic than you'd expect, given what I was doing to his upholstery.
"It wasn't so bad." I let a little extra warmth seep into my voice. "Getting better all the time, I'd say."
"Oh?" Christoph asked. He gave me a look slanting down across one sculptured cheekbone, like he knew what I'd been implying and he didn't mind one bit.
I met that look and held it. "Oh, yeah," I said, my voice deep with promise. "I'd say things are definitely looking up."
A teasing smile hovered on his lips as he nodded. "It's good to finally meet...someone like me."
He'd been finding it hard to meet guys? I guess Christoph had never tried hanging around the Siegesaule on a summer evening. With his looks, he'd have been beating them off with a stick. He had to take his eyes off me to watch the road, but his gaze kept creeping back in my direction every time it got a chance. There was kind of a buzz about him, like suppressed excitement. Damn, this guy was seriously into me. I could live with that.