Terri Nunn’s Advice on Where to Live

Sometimes, you never know where you’ll be from one day to the next. That’s how life goes when you’re on the run. Not from anyone in particular, but mainly from yourself. It was that way for Xavier, who started going by X long after he should have (which probably would have been more age-appropriate in high school when people are supposed to make such grand gestures of “rebellion”). The minute his mother died, leaving him with his verbally abusive father, it was “Goodbye Norma Jeane.” He had no reason to stay in Montana. Most people didn’t. He wanted to go as far as possible, and that appeared, to him, to be Japan. Unlike other white men, however, it wasn’t about the prospect of fucking Asian pussy. It was more like a desire to feel as though his past life had never happened, and in order to achieve that, he needed starkly different environs to trick his brain into helping him along with the ruse. Tokyo got old after five years of living in cramped spaces and teaching English in cramped classrooms. He also wasn’t that interested in Asian women. So he moved on to the next city, and this is where the pattern really blossomed. Anytime he experienced even the slightest dissatisfaction with a place–whether because of the look or how the people acted–he would simply abscond.

In his seventh year of doing this, he still had yet to go to Berlin, where he had heard tales of both woe and delight. On the one hand, there was its oppressive dreariness. On the other, Dildo King. He was going to have to find out for himself if it was a city worth making a temporary life in. Temporary was all he could give to any entity, and all any entity could give to him in return. That was the lesson he had taken away from the loss of his mother, who had lyingly promised him that she would never leave him alone with his father. Women can be sentimental fools that way, and dying has a way of intensifying one’s propensity for denial. Maybe it wasn’t her fault entirely for fucking up his worldview, but she had done so nonetheless.

Before making arrangements to go to the city that Hitler once fashioned his final bunker in, X was still overspending in Paris. And in a way, maybe X, too, was fashioning his own final bunker by making a flight out to the alleged promised land. Berlin was an ideal city as a final point of no return. A place where one could finally stop running, X imagined. He decided not to take the metro to the airport, that he was due to treat himself to the luxury of a car for the sake of recharging a bit. The older he got, he found, the less threshold he had for unpleasantness–for just sucking it up for the sake and glory of traveling. There seemed, with each journey, slightly less glory, after all. Slightly less meaning and wonder. Waiting for the car he had called on a road nearby Gare du Nord–for he had intended on getting to Orly by some form of train–X caught a glimpse of himself in the glass encasing some irrelevant-to-his-life advertisement. His brown hair was disheveled, his skin not tan so much as dirty. He looked like a vagrant, there was no question. He wondered if he felt like one, too, but from what he could tell, vagrants felt nothing.

He was surprised to see the driver pull up in female form. He didn’t know why it was always so shocking to him that women could do this task as well. He supposed he just assumed they were too smart and shrewd to be forced to. Getting in the car, he half apologetically explained that he couldn’t deal with taking the train so had called her at the last minute. She didn’t express an emotion one way or the other on the matter, just nodded and got the car moving. The radio was playing, random hits from every decade. That’s what you had to do now to be a “successful” radio station, in addition to offering people the chance to win $10,000 every week. He always wondered where they were getting this money from. If it was so easy to procure, why couldn’t they do something more valuable with it?

The drive felt long, maybe even longer than the train would have—but it was a small tradeoff for not having to be among other people’s energies. It was exhausting. Half the issue with being a mobile citizen was that you could rarely find a moment to yourself to decompress from the outside world. The outside world was you entire world, in effect. Being permitted the luxury to freely go inside his mind without having to be pulled out of it by any outside parties was just the recharge X needed before entering Berlin.

Pulling up toward the airport, Berlin’s classic, “Take My Breath Away,” began to play. X laughed to himself. “What’s so funny?” the driver asked, finally interested in something about him. “Nothing, it’s just I’m going to Berlin right now.”

She didn’t register the irony. Now that he looked at her closely, she looked to be about twenty-two. She would have no idea who Berlin was (most people who know the song don’t even know the band by name), so all this sense of fate was lost on her. He signed. “Thanks for the ride.”

“Have a good trip,” she offered rotely, but without really meaning it. She could never have guessed that his entire life was one endless trip with no final destination other than the grave.

The flight was short and the sky clear throughout. As they landed, the sight of the Fernsehturm made him think of Terri Nunn wistfully singing, “Take my breath away.” It was an extremely uncomfortable in its cheesiness thought, and X believed that maybe his own bathetic mother had possessed him in that moment, took the reins long enough to make him admit he had the ability to surrender to a bit of romance now and again.

Walking down the street to his interim hostel, X decided the sirens in Berlin sound already funerary, like a slow and mocking death knell more than an urgent attempt at life-saving. Everywhere you turned, stoicism and grayness. Stern faces and worn out places. It was not something that took your breath away for the reasons you would want. Still, he reasoned, as he entered the building, “Watching I keep waiting, still anticipating love/Never hesitating to become the fated ones.”

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