The Race is On

Yesterday, Erica participated in a 10K run in Charlottenburg. She arrived at around 10:30 a.m.to sign up. The race began at 12. I got to the place I wanted to watch her from, which was about the 8K mark, at about 12:20. I walked along the curb and stood in the shady median. A few minutes later, here they came, the leaders, five Kenyan men, trotting down Kantstraße with enormous strides and an unbelievable pace. Not far behind them came the white people, Germans in spandex running shorts and glow-in-the-dark sneakers, Germans with low foreheads and sledghammer jaws and names like Til Schwertfeger, and Woldemar Radnitz, and Brünhild Guttmacher.

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Across the street from me, standing under the bus stop shelter and shouting and waving his arms and laughing in short bursts for no apparent reason was an old drunk who’d stuck one of his empty beer bottles upside-down in the sewer drain in front of him. After a while, he was better to watch than the runners. More entertainment. He turned his back to the road, yanked his drawers down to about mid-thigh. I thought he was going to take a piss right there in the shelter, but then he plunged both hands into his drawers, tugged them up a little and turned around facing the runners. As they came up the street, their reward for having gone 8K so far was to see him leaning out from the curb, his hands rummaging down below, jerking, groping, fondling, his little feet dancing.

A while later, he got bored, went elsewhere and I stayed there watching the runners. Some of them, judging by facial expressions, looked like they were in agony. They probably were. That’s why I don’t run. Running long-distances had always been my idea of torture, but I have to hand it to some of the people in this race, and not just the winners. One man over 80 finished in 54 minutes. The over 70 winner finished in 41 minutes, the over 60 winner, 36 minutes. Erica, to give you an idea, is 28, had been training for the race for a few months, and finished in the top 1/3 of her age group, but was still 2 minutes slower than the 80-year-old.

I waved to her and clapped when she passed me on the road, and then I walked alongside the runners under the yellow leafy trees to the finish line at Schloss Charlottenburg.

The first thing I did when I got there was get a beer at the beer trailer.

Then I looked for Erica, but the crowd was huge and festering and I couldn’t find her, nor did I have a phone. We knew this going in. My phone broke a while ago and I haven’t bothered yet to replace it. Our plan was to meet in front of The Museum Berggruen at 2 p.m. if we didn’t find each other before. She would be there with a colleague from work and the colleague’s boyfriend, Germans with names like Heike Weinwurm and Wolfhard Krapper. Heike had heard much about me through Erica and was anxious to meet this paradox that rented out construction equipment, worked with crackhead mechanics most of his life, and yet also wrote poetry, read the Ancient Greeks and drew cartoons.

It was a failure.

I stood outside The Museum Berggruen from 1:35 p.m. to 2:20 p.m. (not including a short trip for a second beer), and there was no Erica to be found, no Heike Weinwurm or Wolfhard Krapper.

There had to be some good reason. Something must’ve been miscommunicated. But we said The Museum Berggruen at 2 a.m., I knew that for sure. At 2:20 I did a lap through the thinning crowd at the palace but still had no luck. I thought about the drunk wanking under his trousers at the bus stop. There was nothing that could’ve symbolized my quest for Erica and the waiting around better than that.

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Only later, after I got home, did I find out where she was. She was at ANOTHER museum, one that was next to the palace. She claimed I said the Museum Berggruen was next to the palace. I don’t remember that. All I remember was saying we’d meet at the Museum Berggruen, and that’s exactly where I was. Still, I didn’t have a phone. So something had to be my fault. A smart woman will always make the thing your fault. You might as well just accept it and begin there.

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