Berlin is for Lovers: Chapter 4

“I can’t believe I’m moving to Berlin!” Nora shouts as she dances around like a maniac.

Sashi multi-tasks on her yoga mat on the floor. She’s surrounded by a blizzard of flash cards. It’s almost finals, soon she’ll be done with school for-ev-a, but until then, she’s got to make sure she passes her classes. Of course she will, but you know, how’s she going to make the over-achiever olympics if she doesn’t get all As?

Sashi’s lack of involvement in the conversation doesn’t stop Nora from continuing. 

“How am I ever going to learn German? I took six years of Spanish and can barely ask, ‘Donde esta el biblioteca?’”

“La biblioteca. And you’re pretty lucky that America has homogenized the world. Not that I’m saying don’t try to squeeze in a bit of zee Deutsche, but as a native English speaker, you’ll survive.”

“But will I? I’ve never lived alone. I’ve always had you, or my mom, or the ghost that most definitely lives in this apartment. And this time next month I’ll not have any of y’all to watch out for me. You know my binge-eating flairs up when I’m anxious. What if I snack myself to death? How many jars of Nutella can a body handle in a 24-hour period? I should probably Google it, just to be on the safe side. It’s not like I can ask Ulla to be my eating parole officer.”

“I’d be way more concerned about choking to death. Stay away from grapes, okay?”

Nora’s gone from jokey-scared to full of panic attack. Sashi tries every parent’s favorite toddler tantrum tactic - misdirection. 

“Who was that German girl you had that writing class with in college? Maybe she knows people who live in Berlin.”

“Oh yeah, Heidi! She was, like, legit German.” 

Nora pulls out her phone and does the requisite .5 seconds worth of research to locate her long lost friend.

“Heidi lives in Berlin! Thank you, Universe! I might just make it after all!” 

Sashi smiles as she turns over a flash card. One disaster averted, back to work. Nora, however, has gone down a Heidi-stalking rabbit hole. 

“Oh that’s some serious pink hair. Hey, you think I could pull off something like that?”

Sashi takes a deep breath and strains her eyes to look at the phone. 

From the head up, Heidi looks like a total My Little Pony personified. Although her hot pink mane is a stark contrast to her all black outfit. Will Nora survive in punk Berlin?

Nora’s look constantly tips people off that she’s from the South. (Big Hair, Don’t Care; not afraid of color; florals are a girls best friend.) 

“Sorry, Nor, but I don’t think Punk Pink is your next look.”

“I bet you could pull it off though,” Nora sighs. Sashi can pull of anything. 

“With my cap and gown?” she laughs, “My mom would just LOVE that.”

Nora picks up a heavy card stock invitation from the table.

“Your graduation party’s gonna be so classy, though. Your mom will too busy to notice your hair.” 

Sashi makes a face. Nora continues to over do it.

“Brian’s parents are, like, in love with you. It’s so nice they offered to throw you this amazing fete at there house. It’s going to be soooo ritzzzzy.” 

Sashi swallows her feelings. 

“Don’t tell me you’re still mad that I’m missing it? You know I tried to push back my start date.”

“Sure, Nor, whatever.”

“C’mon, don’t be mad. Shouldn’t you happy I’m finally putting my career first?”

“It’s fine. Just stressed since in addition to everything else I have to do, now I also gotta find a new social buffer between my parents. It’ll be hard to replace you after two decades of service to my family.” 

“Hey, I just heard of a new app called ‘Floater.’ You can hire people to just awkwardly linger at parties, or you can specifically attach them to certain people to create a social divide. It’s genius, really. Want me to hook you up?” 

Sashi can’t even. 

“Okay fine, I have a better idea! What if you Skype me in! Put me on your iPad, hand me over to your mom, and I’ll walk around chatting with her while steering her away from your dad and Sheila. You’re always saying your mom loves technology way more than human interaction. She’s practically one step away from having a robot boyfriend.” 

“And your mom is like one step away from setting up her daughter with a robot boyfriend.”

“Ugh, speaking of the Thousandaire Matchmaker, my mom legit wants to arrange marriage-me to some random dude she sold a house to. I’m so sick of her trying to marry me off!” 

Sashi can’t help but smile. 

“So you’re finally over that stupid engagement idea? Thank God. It was getting a little desperate.” 

“No, I just meant obvi I’m going to meet my soulmate in Berlin.” 

Sashi rolls her eyes. Nora amps up her drama level. 

“I know you don’t believe me, but whatever. Remember how I put it out into the Universe that I was ready to meet The One? And then the next day Ulla asked me to go to Berlin? C’mon, it’s fate!”

Sashi has finally had enough distraction and throws her flashcards in their air.

“Nora, I mean this out of love, but shut the F up about this dumbass engagement scheme. It makes you sound like an idiot. Isn’t it time for you to grow up and act like an adult?” 

Nora grabs her coat and heads to the door. 

“That’s exactly what I’m doing.”

Next thing she knows, Nora’s surrounded by small elementary-school-aged children practicing the basics of German. 

Ja! Nein! Bitte! Danke!

Nora closes her eyes and takes a deep breath as one of the little boys pulls her hair with his Nutella-covered hands. 

The next day Nora sits in the conference room between Dane and Jill, the no-nonsense top boss.

Ja, so danke schön to Dane for recommending that German class…” 

Dane delivers his cheesiest smile.

“What else?” Jill demands. “Have you gotten your work visa yet?”

“Zander submitted my application to the German Consulate, and I just had my interview on Monday. It’s actually a funny story, the woman who I met with couldn’t understand why I was the person specifically needed for the job. She kept being like, ‘Why not have a German person just do this job?’ And I was all, like, ‘Did my mother get to you?’” 

Nora laughs to herself. Her mom totally would start World War III if she thought it meant keeping her baby from falling for some Euro dude.

Nora realizes she’s still talking. Jill is not amused. 

“But I’m sure it’s fine. The visa should go through no problem; I’ll definitely get it before I leave.” 

“You do realize if you screw up this assignment, you’re fired, right?”

Nora looks down and nods. Dane’s eyes twinkle with like a deranged Abercrombie model. 

Back at home, Nora’s propped on her bed reading her German assimilation book out loud to Sashi, who’s studying in her room next door. 

“Listen to this: Take off your shoes anytime you enter someone’s home… Ugh remember that guy I dated who always made me do it? I hated that.”

“Not to mention that Sex and the City episode,” Sashi adds from the other side of the wall. “Don’t pack my Manolos you try to pretend are yours.”

"It's not my fault if they walk themselves into my suitcase."

Sashi gets up and comes into Nora’s room. Nora looks up at her with her most serious face. 

“Always offer sparkling mineral water to your guests, NOT tap water. It is seen as VERY offensive.” 

Sashi can’t help but laugh. She’s going to miss her best friend, the one who will do or say the craziest thing just to get her to smile.  She waits for the next German assimilation bomb to drop. 

“DO NOT EVER bring up World War Two.”

Ick, she didn’t mean that bomb analogy literally. Nora shuts her book. She'd rather not think about that side of Berlin if she can help it. 

Sashi turns her attention to Nora’s overflowing suitcase sprawled open on the floor. She begins excavating to see which of her worldly possessions might be smuggled out of the country. 

A jumbo-size package of five lint rollers. 

"Come on, Nor, this isn't necessary. You know they have stores there.”

Ja, but I just started getting really paranoid about the language barrier stuff. My teacher warned me that not everyone - especially older people - will know all the 'weird' terms I use in everyday life. What if ‘lint roller’ makes no sense to them? I don’t want to have to go into a pharmacy and ask in broken German, ‘Wo ist die – ‘“

Nora pantomimes brushing her arm. Sashi laughs. 

“I’d be way more freaked out about stocking up on pregnancy tests. Can you imagine trying to find those…”

Sashi sticks her hand between her legs, squats down, pretends to pee on her hand, looks down, grows distressed, screams “No!”

It’s really quite a performance, but Nora’s not having it. 

“Don’t even joke about that! I’m all for getting engaged fast, but I don’t want to be some German baby mama! You know what they say, first comes love, then comes an amazing wedding registry… Oh, note to self, make sure to find stores that have internationally shipping options.” 

“I told you, I don’t want to hear about it.”

“Yeah, but you know what, you only have a few more days with me. So I demand that you hear me out. I really have that feeling, you know, the one I get when I’m onto something special, like when I found this apartment on Craigslist.”

“What are you even talking about?”

“You thought it was another MoneyGram scam like we almost fell for when we first moved here. But I just had a hunch it really was a no-broker-fee miracle. And that’s how I feel about my Berlin dream guy.”

“That you won’t have to pay 15% up-front and out-of-pocket?”

“No! Although, if I had to, I could thanks to Brian subleasing here and Füchs covering my Berlin airbnb…” 

Nora gets all dreamy-eyed. Sashi tries to ignore her as she pulls out more articles from Nora’s first attempt at packing. Ill-fitting suits from her first post-college interviews? Uh, no. 

“For the first time in my life, Sashi, I am going to be the one with money. And switching up the Pretty Woman gender roles could make for an interesting fairytale.”

Sashi finds Nora’s “make a man love me” dress - a slinky red number that might as well have a big tag that says Bad Decisions Ahead! sewn onto the front - and cannot physically hold it in any longer.

“Listen, not everything has to add up to some epic real life rom com! Go to Berlin and try not to screw up your freaking job for once.”

Sashi doubles down on her Real Talk. 

“The truth is, I AM worried about you, okay? You make your worst decisions when you’re insecure. New country, new office… new coworkers.”

“Appreciate the concern, but THAT’s one mistake I won’t make again.”

“Just to reinforce the message, I had Brian make you this.”

Sashi walks into the other room. Comes back with a framed poster. 

Nora closes her eyes. 

Five months earlier: It’s early morning but Nora’s dressed to impress in that same slinky red dress. A strip of fake eye-lashes dangle from her left eye as she delicately tugs at her sticky bra that’s half stuck to the wall and half-stuck under Dane’s dead-asleep head. She realizes it’s a losing battle - either her dignity or this modern marvel of an undergarment that’s still remarkably tenacious after a long night of sweaty dancing. She makes a mental note to leave a positive Amazon review while simultaneously hating herself and her choices. 

“In my defense, love-of-my-life Luke had just ghosted; I was vulnerable! Not to mention I’d just started at CircleShape, and I was completely convinced Dane and I were the next Jim and Pam.”

“Nora, by the Holiday Party you knew he was an express train to Douche Central Station.” 

“Okay, well maybe I knew he wasn’t a great guy, but I had no idea how vindictive - key word being dick- he’d turn out to be. Thank God you can’t get fired for poor decisions.”

“Yes, you can.”

“Well, either way, I’m still employed and the recap of that night did lead to my all-time most viewed post! Five-hundred hits!” 

Sashi puts the frame into the suitcase. 

“Just take this with you. Hang it up. Make it your mantra.”

Sashi hands her another poster conveniently hidden under Nora’s bed. 

“You want to take this one too?”

“You know that poster is ideologically opposite to everything I hold true in my heart. But tell Brian I do appreciate all his ‘art’ you’ve commissioned on my behalf if he finds it.”

“You know it was a joke. But also those three months when you ate downstairs every night were not your finest.” 

“I’ve turned a corner, you know that.”

“You’re right, you have. And Berlin is your big chance to reinvent yourself. I believe in you, Nora, but just make sure you aim high enough.”

“Aw, thanks, Sash. Love you too.”

They hug it out before Nora tries forcing Sashi into her suitcase while doing her best Sarah McLachlan impression. 

Next stop Berlin!