Ka De We

Aleš Šteger

Artwork by Yohei Oishi

Of course I had to buy her in the enormous marble colossus, which was the opposite of what its name promised. Ka De We. As if some baby were trying to pronounce its first few words, but they wouldn't come. The main entrance led straight to Kudamm, with which it coexisted in perfect symbiosis for a century. Then when in World War II the Wertheim on Leipziger Platz burned down, a universal synonym for luxury, it became the lone bastion of sophistication and consumerism. It wasn't possible to say who was whose parasite, the largest shopping street to the largest shopping building or vice versa? They were sucking from each other what they had in common: the glittering swagger of the west. Through the back door, after I was won over by the department full of white and mirrors, in which the faces of cosmetics vendors were checking their powder, I stepped into one of the side streets, not far from Moscow's Arbat. Vodka and matryoshka looked at me from small shops with Russian wares, dream characters who, repressed, swam to the surface from the bottom of Berlin chic arrogance. On the way I came across her every time, when day after day I went into Kaufhaus des Westens to check that they still had the darling of my dream. As with the most valuable there was a period of mutual seduction seemingly without end. Procrastination does not drive the price, but awareness of fate, because I knew that the admired folds of skin would become a part of me. That she carried me, as I her, my black notebooks, pencil stolen at Ikea, always another book and already totally chewed up Falk's map of the capital. I therefore deferred our union entirely until the day that began by threatening with a real catastrophe. Suddenly she wasn't on the cool glass shelf so familiar to me. Desperate, I looked around and caught sight of her, how she was hanging like some whore around a stranger's neck. When he set her down, I knew how to read her hint. Immediately I grabbed her. I probably could have bought a similar one anywhere, but only this one meant Berlin to me, a reckless girl with coarse cow leather on my shoulder. I saw a living photograph of my daydream on the next floor, in the men's clothing department. Nevertheless they got off like peacocks by the construction site between ladders and buckets and stacks of plasterboard, not at all disturbed by the absence of the fourth wall of the commercial illusion. Later I saw them again, in one of the cafes that border Wittenbergplatz. Their muscular bodies aligned their tattoos with the predatory claws of the afternoon sun. Through a narrow slot, as with a glimmer of jealousy, the snakes watched the outline of two women's bodies, which like large glasses of beer stood before them on the table. The smaller one, who before was resting his head on the larger one's shoulder, was now stroking his nape with his right hand, while he didn't stop stroking his own neck with his left hand. For about twenty minutes, half an hour, his rings played with the tiny curls on the napes of their necks. Only when he was thirsty did he stop stroking his lover, grabbed a glass, drank from it, and while drinking continued stroking himself with his left hand. They paid separately. I gazed after them. I'd like to put them into the new bag, the image of the embracing gay couple was so idyllic, two silhouettes, glued invisibly somewhere, which were slowly being lost in a crowd of plastic bags, which, hand in hand, walked with shoppers in the distance.

translated from the Slovenian by Brian Henry