There is a special kind of ringing in your ears when you have to get up early after a whole night of talking, laughing, and drinking. The occasion was worth celebrating—the 1st anniversary of E.’s stem cell transplant. Whatever scientific trick the magicians at the Charite hospital pulled, it seems to have worked. We’re here now. Friends and loved ones. Celebrating life. Well worth the hangover.

Nobody warns you about it, by the way, but as you get older, hangovers tend to take their sweet time with you. Back at the uni, a short nap did the trick. Then, it became a whole day. I foolishly assumed that this would be it. A full day of cotton mouth and a headache for a full night of drinking. Fair trade. Now, however, some hangovers spill over the next day. It makes me wonder, what else haven’t they told me about getting older?

To set the rest of the scene, it was Sunday morning. Eight-ish AM when I left the house to meet with a friend. Thick fog, wet concrete, misted glass, and a breeze making you wonder if it’s raining.

On a Sunday morning, Berlin tends to be a strange place. Too early for crowds of eager tourists. Few people go to work. Everything is closed. No business people, and it’s too early for church. What you get is a cup of tea done the old-fashioned way, how my grandmother used to make it. A spoonful of black grains into the cup, add water. Wait till it no longer burns your tongue, and then enjoy. But know when to stop, or you’ll find yourself spitting the dregs.

Here we all sit on the U-Bahn. Dregs at the bottom of the cup. We, who didn’t know when to stop.

I’m happy enough to let the slideshow of the cityscape scroll past the window opposite me, but a man has entered the train cart and is making everyone nervous. He sat right next to a girl—a hiker from the looks of it, with the obligatory sleeping mat tied to the top of her enormous bag—who pretended not to notice him. He talked to himself, clacking his whole mouth every sentence or two, bumping his fist angrily against a plastic wall.

Fortunately, people in Berlin aren’t really aggressive, and so the guy contained whatever he was on to himself and the wall to his left. As he got up to leave at Hauptbahnhof (Central Station), he pressed one agitated hand firmly into the other—calmer—one behind his back, and left the train walking like a gentleman on a stroll, black pants, chains, leather jacket and all.

The girl appeared unrattled. She changed her shoes, repacked her bag, and left at the next station. And so did I, to meet my friend M.

We worked together. He’s a great guy. We’re still figuring out how to stay good friends without the usual stream of pretexts to have a short call.

You never know, do you, when it comes to friends you make at work. Some of them disappeared just as suddenly as they appeared. Nobody’s fault, really. Once the flow of organizational gossip dries up, the engine stalls, sputters out one last “we must definitely catch up,” and then you never see each other again. Happens. On the flip side, however, I met some of my best lifelong friends at the office. Many years and companies later, when we meet, it feels like picking up a conversation where we left off yesterday. 

On my way back, I catch a different line. S1. When I step through the front door, it’s around midday, and nobody has had breakfast yet.

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