CHAPTER VIII – THE CHARRIOT/ INSOMNIA IN AMSTERDAM/ BACK TO BERLIN

So we walked back after a while and then the next day I flew back to Europe. Like in a pop-up book, the page about America, with the Coney Island magician, the Overlook Mountain Hotel, the two-faced town of Hudson, the coyotes and the fisher cats folded back up as it turned. Somewhere over the Atlantic, in the recesses where sleep deprivation and jet lag live.

The rain was pouring down, and it was cold. This time I was in Amsterdam. Walking for hours on end in the rain, so soaked and cold that I was not even trying to get to a sheltered area. I still wasn’t crying even though it was the only thing I wanted to do. The architecture, the cold and damp weather of October reminded me with brutality of my childhood and teenage years.
I was walking along the canals and the narrow streets trying to put the child to sleep, thinking that if missed connections were a country, I would be its queen. I thought myself to be very clever. But really, I wasn’t. With those dramatic movements across the planet, my patterns were becoming more obvious. I was really really good at leaving. If there was one thing I was good at, really, it was that. I was still a romantic. Therefore I was a better friend than I was a lover.

Have you heard, my love, about the movements of the continents?

Have you heard, my love, the tectonic plates are shifting

Away and towards one another

Away and towards one another

Have you heard, my love, the concerns of the geologists?

Have you heard, my love, they say the ice caps are melting

And creating dead water

And creating dead water

No wonder my love if I crossed the sea

Oh I know you never meant to hurt me

But you did, you did anyway

And now I walk the earth, half a planet away

Have you heard, my love, about the heartbreaks of the millenia?

Have you heard, my love, that the collapse of mountain chains

Are worse than the worst of our days

Are worse than the worst of our days

Have you heard, my love, about the movement of the continents?
Have you heard, my love, the magnetic poles are shifting

From one end of the globe to the other

From one end of the globe to the other


Amsterdam, Brighton, Liverpool, Edinburgh. Where was I?

In front of the Liverpool General Library, I saw two dark figures run towards me. I recognised them instantly, and ran towards them too even if it wasn’t very fast because I was still pushing the buggy with the sleepy child. We hugged and embraced. The joy of finding each other again was overwhelming. Augen, Augen and Eye reunited.

We sat at the back of this tiny pub, where the telly was on and there was this ugly display of neon green that happens when the footy is on. But it didn’t bother us too much. Even the lads at the counter didn’t take notice of us. I had to ferociously defend my energy, these days. Giant leaps from one end of the planet to the other, followed by minuscule, tired steps. The fire was on, and we ordered wine and beer, and followed the conversation started half a year before.

Real life had kept interrupting the investigation. In the form of a headache, a fit-for-work assessment from the DWP which had set Julie back by years, in the form of dept that kept growing, or anxiety that kept Milk awake at night. Julie had received a nine-pages report on her assessment, destroying systematically everything that was hers and her. 

  • – Can you believe what they said? That I should be over it by now.
  • – If you turn up for these assessments, you’ve failed. And if you don’t, you’ve failed too. There is no way of doing this right.
  • – It’s a war on people, not you. You haven’t done anything wrong.
  • – Are you going back to Berlin?
  • – What happens to the people who are in this situation and don’t have anyone to support them?
  • – Well…. There has been a lot of…

The word died on the threshold of our mouths. We thought of Julie’s brother. We thought of my friend Finn. We thought of the teenager who’d tried to kill herself whilst I was in Hudson. We finished our drinks in tears and in silence, happy to be together despite it all. We made plans. We knew the investigation was ongoing.

I had too little time on my hand and too big a stretch of land to conquer, in my small ways. I felt that a territory was being defined: the land of missed connections. It was made of jetlags, rushed farewells, embraced that are over before they even begin. It was the Charriot.

Like that time I was sitting in a living room in North London under a harsh white light. I’d spent the afternoon taking cocaine, and then had had the terrible idea to eat a couple of hasch cakes. I was pulled in different directions, like different parts of my brain trying to sing and recite different songs at the same time. Or like trying to exist on two different planes of reality. My mind kept looping every few seconds (these twenty-three seconds that encompassed all of the creation and all of the truth). Within those 23 seconds, I would forget where and who I was, almost completely, only to be reminded at the start of a new cycle.

It was just like that, in the land of missed connections. There was no point in trying to fight the Charriot/the land of missed connections physically. Two horses, two giants strands of reality, too strong and heavy for me to hold with my bare hands. Yet I was in Amsterdam jetlagged and sleep deprived pushing a crying baby through the cold and heavy rain. Yet I was in Liverpool so exhausted that my head was spinning and I couldn’t sleep. Yet, I left cities after cities, friendships after friendships, feeling like a traitor and a coward. There was no point. The trick was not to withhold the pressure and the tension physically, but to lean in. Resilience. Will and attention, focused but not forceful.

Every single story comes with its end already written in the first word. The alpha is the omega. These violent pleasures have violent ends, and so on.

Edinburgh, Vienna, Berlin.

That leg of the journey would take me back to square one. This time with the acquired knowledge that not much is real, and that nothing is constant. In Edinburgh, the threads started to tighten together again. I found myself sleeping on an air mattress of the family home of a dentist and speech therapist. I mean -that can’t have been by accident. Surely.

What was happening is that we were on our way to Berlin. I could tell that the Ouroboros of time, space, the Investigation, the 23-Seconds, were about to loop back on themselves. Threads that led from my teenage years, across the many fragmented version of myself, who I had been to myself and to others during my life as an infant, a child, a young adult.
It was obvious that it all led to Berlin. A city striving for reunification, like ourselves. It was obvious that if I looked carefully, something was magically going to present itself. Perhaps the truth promised in a dream, the time loop of 23 seconds, which repeated itself and encompassed the entirety of time, space, what residues lie in between and of our experience of it. Over and over again. This is how it went: I was pacing up and down at the bottom of the stairs at Görtlitzer Bahnhof. I had left Milk and Julie behind in Liverpool -as I do, you know by now. It was becoming clear that in the absence of my partners in crime and justice, I had delegated their roles to everyone I had met in the mean time. This time, I was waiting for Morgane and Quentin, who had made the journey to the German capital especially to see me.


It was cold and miserable. I was pacing up and down, making the police officers who were patrolling around the station nervous. This specific spot is where we used to buy our drugs, but now there was nothing left of that time. The heat, the confidence that we felt, the drug dealers. A thought came to me. Perhaps after all the Conversation wasn’t imposing itself on me. Perhaps I was imposing it on the world. Things were starting to shape up. I’d notice at the beginning of the year that I’d started having premonitions of how things -relationships- would unfold. But now, I was realising that I had been wrong this whole time. I was making these things happen. I would think them, and out of my thoughts they would actualise themselves into the world. Careful what you wish for.

A flow of information came pouring down, as I was lying in bed with insomnia by my side. Things appeared in a new light, in such a way that I thought I had broken through. The Investigation had seemed, for a split second, over. Instead of wondering why oh why the same things kept happening to me, why oh why I did find myself in these impossible situations, I was realising that I had complete responsibility over these situations. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I didn’t know it before, but the message had needed to be hammered down. I was living my life exactly the way I was leading it. There was no dramatic irony, no supernatural power at work, apart from my own impact on the things that surrounded me. It was fucking scary, it was fucking great. No one else was rowing this fucking boat. Sleep-deprivation hilarity ensued. I fell asleep.

Berlin. White trash, on Halloween night. I dressed up as Eleven from Stranger Things, mainly because my hair had started growing again and so it seemed like too great an opportunity to be missed. White Trash was closed, they were getting ready for their big Halloween party. I missed Julie and Milk, I missed a lot of people. I walked into the tattoo parlour attached to the punk venue, and pointed at a little flash representing a tooth. ‘Can I have this one?’ I yelled, almost out of control. Adrenaline came rushing through my body. ‘Where do you want it?’ asked the tattoo artist. Someone joins in the conversation, a fierce woman I’ve barely met. ‘Have it above your elbow’, she said, slowly rotating her arm to prove her point. Just above her elbow, a tattoo of a single eye. Laugh pouring out of my mouth. From the other side of the room, Quentin yelled, showing the single eye tattooed above his own elbow. Augen, Augen and Zahn, reunited again.

At times, the clues becomes grotesque. Almost vulgar. As the tattoo scars were still fresh and hurting, we found ourselves at a party in someone’s home. The walls were painted dark purple. The whole place was an insane cabinet of curiosity. Of course, the synchronicity having spread to my travelling companions, someone calls for my attention. ‘Look’, they said, pointing at a particular cabinet filled with glass eyes. Laugh pouring out my mouth. Tasted slightly bitter this time.

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