Alone, at 5am, I stepped off the bus. Alone, I took the U-Bahn to Friedrichstraße. Russia, Estonia, twice Finland, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic were behind me and Berlin was my final destination. A month of classes, and then my sojourn abroad would be complete.

By now, I was used to drifting. I became a walker, a wanderer, gliding down endless streets, avenues, alleys as languages flowed over me, understood in varying degrees. Friends faded in and out as I moved around. But often, I was alone. I was toughening. I was learning I am who I can trust.

And now, shaping myself, I could sense the future, both certain and unknown.

I was gaining some control as I wore down my soles.

View from the Reichstag Building

I had a mission for Berlin, which was to attend Russendisko. I had left Russia, but Russia lingers, you know. And I had known for almost a year that this institution which collided two of my academic interests into one was not-to-be-missed. In class, months and months prior, we had read German short stories by Russian-born author Wladimir Kaminer. He founded Russendisko, a regular, well, Russian disco at Kaffee Burger, which is not a café nor serves burgers.

Tilly, my Berlin buddy, falafel-frequenting, eco fest visiting, and biergarten companion, gamely accompanied me as we got lost searching for Kaffee Burger. Late night wanders in Berlin, by now, were rather normal, however. Around midnight we found it. We shelled out our ten euro and ducked inside.

I was surprised, for here, Russia’s shadow presented a different, more casual face. This was expat Russia, the Russia-interested, the Berlin hip, the fun seeking. I didn’t spy any high heels! Bad/good Russian music blared, and this time, it was comforting in its own crazy way. Now, I could appreciate it.

The crowd spun around us, stepping on Tilly and me, its synchronized dance circles jolly and insane, singing along. I joined in as best I could, tripping around, I’m sure, with a big smile on my face. An outsider, but uncaring. My travels, filled with their solitude, rendered me, could it be, confident? I did it. I was here. I had made it, came out the other side and a path stretched out ahead. Big things were coming, I knew. And situations still shimmered in the edges of my mind. But now I could block it all; for minutes, it didn’t matter. Slough the feelings off, jump faster, stomp harder, break your shoes rather than your heart.

The future is coming, and for a moment I don’t care. I just scream along.

The next day, I had to go to H&M and buy new shoes.

Where East Berlin Met West