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  • I was sitting in Berlin at the hotel bar at the Kempinski, writing stuff down. I would leave tomorrow. The drinks were stiff. Should be, considering they were eleven euros each.

    There was a woman sitting at a table. I was looking around the room when she smiled at me, like she expected something. She gave me a stare, and then started reading a newspaper. I had started writing on a napkin, but soon the bartender gave me a pad of hotel stationary to write on. This was a classy joint. The lady at the table was at least my age, if not older. I wouldn’t look over to see, because if I did I would have to go over there. I was reminded of Bill Murray in Lost in Translation, when he screwed the lounge singer. Lonely people alone in a hotel bar. I started to get a buzz. Is this my chance to have a meaningless one-night stand at a five-star hotel in Berlin? There was a big screen TV, with the sound off, a James Bond movie playing, from Russia with Love, of course. The cool jazz and soul playing, US3, Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, further enhanced the euro-bourgeois player mood. We were the only two customers in the bar.

    I stole a quick glance and she was reading. Not bad for an older woman, dyed blonde, with some sexy euro reading glasses, drinking white wine. She stood and retrieved another newspaper, and I was able to check her out as she walked away. Nice. She must be German, since all the newspapers are in German. But I did not move, I sat and drank and wrote.

    An American guy came in and began looking through the humidor for a cigar. “Which one is good?” he asked. “Depends on your fantasy,” replied the bartender. In the hotel cafe, next to the bar, were a bunch of Americans, all loud and being American. Seemed to be a bunch of students of some sort. I am repulsed but at the same time I want to hang out.

    The James Bond movie starts over again.

    I rose and walked through the bar towards the bathroom, but with the added goal of taking a closer look at her. She looked directly at me as I walked by, making indiscreet eye contact, Peabo Bryson playing. I do look good in a black turtle neck, I though as I checked myself out in the bathroom mirror. I hadn’t shaved since I arrived Berlin, my head and face were all the same hair length. But upon my return I passed her by, sat at the bar, and picked up my pen.

    Does she want a walk on the wild side? She had a plaintive look on her face when I walked by. Are you a man or a mouse? She cleared her throat. Does that mean something? Feeling groovy with whiskey, I start clicking the pen like I’m thinking. More Stevie Wonder, Hotter than July, my favorite Stevie album. She keeps clearing her throat. She wasn’t doing that before. She stopped reading and sat there, nursing her wine.

    She stopped clearing her throat, I kept writing. Is she wondering what I’m writing about? Thank God she doesn’t know. I’ll tell her it’s an Op-Ed piece on the Belarus elections. But am I just getting off on being the guy alone writing? Is that just a way to stand out? To be different? Is it all ego? I’m acting as I write. Who am I performing for? Blame the bartender, he gave me this big pad of paper.

    I grabbed a handful of cashews, this was a classy joint, not peanuts, but cashews. Now “All Along the Watchtower”, in some foreign language. Not German, but Slavic, though not Russian.

    “May I join you? I’m tired of writing.”

    “What are you writing about?”

    “An op-ed on Belarus.”

    “How interesting.”

    Was this how Ian Fleming wrote? Sitting in a fancy bar imagining conversations with women? Or Tom Waits for that matter (though perhaps in a different type of bar)? I hope that I don’t fall in love with you.

    A man who had come in the bar and ordered a drink walked over to her and said something real close up. They exchanged a few words then he walked away. Then she rose up to leave, with half a glass of wine left behind. No bill. Would she return? The bartender talked to her for a minute or so, and I wished I could understand German. The bartender turned up the music, might be closing time, and he picked up the drink menus on the tables. I had been sitting at that bar for a quite a while.

    She did come back and sat back down. Even though she was back at the bar, I felt the time had definitely passed. What had that guy said to her? “Come up to my room?” Maybe she was some high-class whore working the hotel on a slow Monday night. She seemed to know the bartender. She began clearing her throat again.

    Each time I finished a drink, the bartender asked if I wanted one more. One? Give me twelve! The music played - “I’m alone again but that’s OK I’m on the move again. Dream of all the cities and their towers.” Every once in a while she would talk on her cell phone. Who was she talking too? No one was calling her, she was making the calls. Then she just played with her phone, bored. Maybe she was simply waiting for somebody.

    She downed the wine she’d been sipping the whole time, had a conversation with the bartender in German, having a laugh, and left. I get pissed at myself, I got no game. I just spent 66 euros on five drinks. Exchange rate – $1.25 to one euro. Sometimes you gotta live. I took the last one up to my room, and soon was left to wonder - why do they always have the worst porno on hotel pay-per-view?
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