Strange Magic III: The Phone Booth

After a first quiet funny, a second very surreal, the third story by Irina Dumitriu is somehow the most emotional one of the 10 we choose to be part of the Sophiensaele Booklet. Irina Dumitriu comes from a far away land and has been living in Berlin since 2005. By day she (theoretically) plays with atoms and molecules in a Physics Institute, by night she listens to music, dances, writes, reads, draws, listens to more music, sleeps. There’s not much beyond that. And I hope you will fall in love with this story that feels like a breeze of rainy Berlin November.

The Phone Booth (a snapshot)

It’s evening, I’ve just finished dinner (spaghetti with tomato, basil & garlic sauce, a glass of red wine), I’m listening to music. (Einstürzende Neubauten’s “Zeichnungen des Patienten O.T.”). The sounds crushing out of the speakers, the screams, the passion make me lie down on the floor and listen from there. From time to time it feels like the sound is all around me, outside on the street, in the neighbors’ apartments. The room is spinning.

I keep hearing screams that do not seem to come from the speakers and I decide to check so I open the window. The house is at a crossing, right below my window there’s an old phone booth. From time to time people use it – short calls, probably telling someone that their iPhone’s battery is empty and they’ll call back later. It’s full of stickers and posters advertising parties in the neighborhood. The workers from the construction site across the street use it as a coffee place in the morning, chatting andsmoking their cigarettes around it.

Inside the booth stands now a tall, skinny guy dressed in black jeans and a black hoodie, trying to insert coins into the slot and dial. He has a dog. He’s crying, screaming a name, talking into the telephone but I don’t think the girl (it’s a girl’s name he keeps on saying) is there to hear. I don’t think he managed to dial, he’s too wasted. He can barely stand, the dog waits respectfully a few steps behind, looking almost worried. I stay at the window, watching. I don’t know if I’m worried or just curious or sorry for him. He’s now pressing his head against the phone booth’s wall and screaming “come now, come!”. My eyes fill up with tears, I cannot move away from the window. There are groups of loud and merry people passing by (it’s Friday night), cars, bicyclists. There’s music coming from somewhere, music coming from my speakers, Friday night noise, lights. He keeps screaming into the receiver, crying, banging his head against the booth. He turns to the dog and yells “come closer” then back to the invisible girl on the phone “come now! come!”. I am crying now, too. No one around seems to care. The music stopped, the people disappeared, there’s just that “come! come here now!” followed by a scream filling up the air. I closed the window and put my headphones on after 15 minutes of crying and shaking along with the lonely guy downstairs. There is this strange type of loneliness in Berlin – sometimes painful, sometimes glorious, nurtured by the long months of darkness or by the fact that everyone is cool enough not to care about what happens to the people around them. In the middle of all the noise and glitter there are big patches of silence, people wearing nice clothes and drinking alone while walking, people pouring their souls out into a telephone like the guy from my phone booth. People like every one of us, because it’s not always noisy and crowded, sometimes in Berlin you can find yourself surrounded by this deep, clear silence and just be lonely for a day, a week, a year. This, too, is part of the beauty and Berlin is the most exquisitely lonely city I have ever seen.

text: Irina Dumitriu

Read the first Strange Magic story.

Read the second Strange Magic story.

on November 22nd, 2013
updated on November 23rd, 2013
in Stories
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