illustration: Mi Lewicz
Everybody in Berlin has some sort of crazy neighbour, right? And there are plenty of stories about them. The next submission of our Strange Magic series is exactly about meeting the new neighbours. The author, Yonatan David Weizmann, is an Israel-born writer living in Berlin since 2009. His works include radio dramas, short stories and magazine articles, and have been published in both English and Hebrew. He is currently an Masters student at Oxford University’s creative writing program. He also plays the trumpet and looks better with a beard.
There was a note in my mailbox: “Magic Friday”, it read, “come meet the new neighbors”. On the U-Bahn, coming back from work, I thought about it while sitting under a guy in a monkey suit, hanging upside down from the handrails. I won’t go if he is, I decided. After all, he was covered in (fake) blood. When he got off at Alex, I said to myself: why not?
Coming closer to my building I saw a steady flow of people entering a shop that I’d never seen open before. I followed them in, and found just what you’d expect of a Neukölln joint: Bare brick walls, furniture dragged in off the street, candles everywhere, and lots and lots of smoke of all kinds. Above me, pieces of straw dangled from the ceiling, as well as a several precarious looking pieces of concrete. No one cared about me or about the potentially deadly blocks. I was trying to figure out if I could somehow approach the bar without risking my life when I was suddenly slapped on my back. “Don’t worry”, a commanding voice said. I turned around and saw a paper-mâché teapot on a human body. “If it falls”, the Teapot added with a smile, “I’ll protect you”. He then shoved me towards the bar – a plank of wood magically balanced on a door lying horizontally. “Let’s drink!”, he declared, and waved at the man behind the bar, who looked like Alice in Wonderland after a fistfight. “You live here?” he shouted at me, pointing up. I nodded. “Lucky you! We’re your new neighbors”, he said and spread out his arms, then spun in place. “And this is our, your bar!”. It’s about time we have a normal bar in the Kiez, I thought to myself. I just hope they’re normal.
As Teapot pushed me through the crowd like a baby stroller, we passed two mermaids and a zombie unicorn, all smiling at me. At the bar, Teapot raised three fingers at Alice, who slammed three shots of whiskey, a jar of pickles and a tiny medicine bottle with a dropper before us. I wondered what the little bottle was, but my thoughts were interrupted by Alice. “Nice costume”, he said. I looked down and realized I was still wearing my lab coat from work. “We’re going to get along great” Teapot shouted. They downed the whiskey, and I did the same. Alice poured us shots of pickle brine and down they went too. Someone bumped up against me. I turned to see two guys making out, each wearing half a tuxedo and half a bridal gown. I should drink more, I thought, turning to face the bar, and a third shot was waiting for me. I felt great. Everyone was so strange, so pretty, so nice!
Soon I was floating through the room like a leaf in a breeze. Dancing, shouting, spinning. I looked down at the floor. It was pulsating. Teapot appeared again and said “good idea”, then pulled me by my sleeve into the kitchen. I watched, amazed, as he opened a cupboard and walked in, leaving the door open. Music washed over me, along with a strange feeling – something like dizziness, but pleasant – and I followed. I went, slowly down the wobbling stairs, and paused as The Virgin Mary passed by me. “…Used to be a real-estate agency” she said to a French policeman with day-of-the-dead makeup and a big smile on his face “owned by a guy with four fingers and a love for Hawaiian shirts”. I don’t know why but everything made perfect sense.
Downstairs I found a dance floor, busy with creatures of all shapes, jumping wildly up and down. “Strong whiskey”, I thought, and watched the DJ, standing in the back behind a statue of a wolf, turning nobs with his right hand and smashing a red telephone against the wall with his left. “Great whiskey!”. Teapot, Alice, and the unicorn zombie were all shouting at me to join them, but all I could do was smile and watch, amazed, as the walls and floor throbbed rhythmically to music and all the lights changed colors each time I blinked.
Someone hugged me. I turned around and saw a naked guy with Ziggi Stardust makeup on his face. “Do you like your new neighbors?” he asked. I nodded. “Do you like me”? I nodded again. Ziggi came closer and kissed me. I kissed him back while my mind exploded and I heard Teapot say in my ear, “no point fighting it”. Then I realized what that little dropper bottle on the bar was, but by then it was too late. Everything was beyond my control, and I was enjoying it. “I really do like my new neighbors”, was my last thought, before I truly stopped resisting, and let Berlin’s strange magic take me over.
Text: Yonatan David Weizmann