Imagine you thought you were cool. Like, you have nice shoes, ridiculous hair and that one person called you cool once without the sarcastic tone your brother uses with two fingers flexing either side of his head. You decide to go on holiday to Berlin with your girlfriend assuming it’ll be all gin cocktails, communist wallpaper and film photography - and for a while it is. You stay in a shipping container in East Berlin. You buy exotic film stock that isn’t available in Boots by the bucketload to get some nice hashtags for instagram. The shop assistant makes a mockery of the term assistant as she shuns you and refuses to make eye contact and who’s only form of communication is to point at the total price on the till. Every other shop assistant in Berlin does this so it is ok. You visit glittery bars with uncomfortable communist chairs and shoot with Cinestill 800T. You are fucking cool. The underground is fucking cool. Communist colours are fucking cool. You travel for ages for the “kickass” avocado on toast in that wee vegetarian cafe ‘cause they were fucking cool. Before you get there you experience a sound and know immediately that a German mother has discovered her baby has stopped breathing. You are not cool. You are helpless, unhelpful and in need of help. The train stops. a crowd gathers. There’s someone doing cpr, teenagers are are filming. You realise you aren’t a photojournalist because you fucking hate them. The mother faints. The mood changes. The baby breaths. The train moves. You travel 3 more stops. People get on and wade through the crushing atmosphere. You get off, onto the street. It’s too bright. It’s disgustingly normal. You order avocado and sit in the back. Some English musician with moustache wax talks about a music video with the confidence of a mediocre middle class white man at a visibly uncomfortable German woman who is obviously making it for him. Something about how he couldn’t be kidnapped by women, gender roles and did she know any “hot” women. You fucking hate him and his stupid glasses. A man with his hair in a bun and trousers that fit his waist but the crotch inexplicably hits his ankles, slowly, quietly removes his boot and places it on the table takes a solitary photo and leaves.
Text message from Ryanair. Your fucking flight is cancelled. You spend hours live chatting to a customer services agent who must be from Berlin as he makes a mockery of the word service. You go to the airport. You have 2 rolls of fucking ridiculous film that either makes everything fucking purple or fucking green and grainy. You fucking queue for fucking 8 hours. They close the fucking customer service desk as you are 10 people from help. You travel halfway across Berlin to a hotel with tartan carpets and a fucking underground bowling alley that’s fucking closed only to be kept awake by English football fans next door. Next day you wait another 10 hours to get 3 people from help. They close the desk. You fucking flip. They refuse to arrange a hotel. You cry, loudly, publicly, They get you a hotel room. It’s right beside the airport. Your room looks out at a giant Ryanair poster which is as effective as last night’s neighbours at lulling you to slumber. The alarm goes off at 4am, it does not wake you, you are already awake. you shower. your skin is clean. your clothes are dirty. your clothes are hand luggage. You join the queue at 4.45. it’s the shortest queue you’ve seen in what feels like decades. it’s 9am. You are 2 people from the desk, they swap shifts. For a split second your internal monologue sounds like the Berlin underground 3 days/a lifetime ago. you reach the desk. your body slumps, your eyes plead. No seats available for 4 days. she click buttons and disappears. You cry silently, internally. She returns with handwritten tickets with reserve1 and reserve 2 on them. you might… might get on a flight today. if 2 people miss a flight - who misses a flight? You get back to there hotel in time to eat a bowl of bran flakes and drink a cup of putrid coffee the special section of the the restaurant for stranded Ryanair passengers and gaze past the cordon at the banqueting businessmen. You have a few hours to kill. Your hand luggage wheel is broken like a Dunnes Stores trolley. Your travel pass has expired but you’re on that train into town. You eat anything but avocado. You arrive early for your flight. You are good at waiting. you talk to an English hippy woman. She’s had a wonderful trip. You’ve passed security, there is no escape. There is no smoking area. You are not good at waiting. You remain pleasant. You suddenly have to run from one end of the terminal to the there. The hand luggage wheel is more broken. You feel affinity with that wheel. You join a queue. You slowly approach a policeman with handwritten tickets. You are not fucking cool. The ground staff see your tickets and put you to the side as everyone boards. There is only one seat. You and your girlfriend try and persuade the other to take the seat. You need to sign on in the morning. The staff flick paper and speak German. The phone rings. 2 seats. You run. Hand luggage whacking your thighs. The 2 seats are together. you sit down. The seat is warm and wet. You convince yourself it isn’t piss, that it’s coffee, but you know it isn’t. You don’t complain. The man beside you has the window seat. He never looks out of it. He looks at pictures of a woman and child the whole way. He sobs, silently, violently. You land. You are not in Berlin. You are not cool. Your hairs a fucking mess and the brogues you accidentally bought at a flea market are busted and Bus Eireann have moved the bus stop. You wait. The bus is late. you eventually get on. Your legs are still a bit damp. Your legs stick to the seat. You need something. You crave solidity. You need to feel that everything will be ok. That you haven’t changed, that the world hasn’t stopped, that there is hope.
You have a 15 minute rest stop at Monaghan bus stop.
And it is fucking beautiful.
Éamonn Brown is an artist/photographer. Born in Letterkenny he has flip flopped between living in Derry and Donegal. Éamonn attended the art school in Void Gallery and has exhibited in group shows in Void Gallery (Derry), Millennium Court (Portadown) and I.F.S.C.I. (Rome). Éamonn is currently studying Broadcast Production in Kerry ETB.