This is your Alltag now.

I never thought that I would fall out of love. But when I did, it hit me hard.

He had been so demanding.
“You have to call and make that dentist appointment.”
“You have to reschedule the plumber for next week.”
“When are you going to finally file your tax return?”
“When are you going to cancel that subscription? It’s a waste of money!”
“Here, translate this hastily written, but VERY IMPORTANT document.”

Every day now.

How did this happen? In the beginning, I could do nothing wrong. I was so impressive, it seemed. I got so much praise for doing so little. Everything was fun, and I felt so special.

Until today, on this nasty, gray morning. I already had a headache thinking about everything he wanted from me. Even if I did it all flawlessly, it wouldn’t matter. There would always be more. While I was still in bed, I gave in. I cracked. I finally did it. I downloaded the app.

The temptation has been there for months. How badly could it hurt to just look at some other options? He knows that I’m not going anywhere; I’m still in it for the long haul, no matter how tedious and thankless things get. After all, I’m financially dependent on him. Just a few swipes couldn’t hurt, right?

I picked an old, stand-by picture that makes me look about ten pounds thinner, finalized my profile, and took a deep breath.

I had no idea how thrilling it would be, or how addictive it would become. Within a matter of hours, I felt like I had tumbled down a rabbit hole.

Duolingo French. The infatuation was instant and overwhelming. It wasn’t even lunchtime, and I’d already reached level six. He even offered me a LinkedIn Badge! Whoa there, hoss. Who even does that on the first day? I was so energized. That whimsical, playful sensation of discovery was back, and it was like water in the desert. My attention was undivided.

After a while, I was amazed by my lack of remorse. What would German think? After so much time, after all he’s done to help me and support me? Well, for now, he can just deal with it. I have needs.

Things were so exciting with German in the beginning. He was aloof, distant, and a bit intimidating; not conventionally attractive, but fascinating to me: the Benedict Cumberbatch of languages. This made his initial warmth all the more surprising and satisfying. I was hooked. Hell, I was entertained just reading candy bar wrappers. I bought books and magazines that were far too advanced for me, just to skim them and dream of the day when German and I would be together for real. I felt like everything was possible.

As distracted and obsessed as I was, of course, it was still an overwhelming time. These heady, early days with German coincided with a long, mournful breakup with Spanish.

Spanish and I had been together for many years. It was automatic. We started going out in middle school and just never broke up. When it was just the two of us, we got along wonderfully, and I could really be myself. Out in the real world, however, it just didn’t work, and we couldn’t bring ourselves to acknowledge it. No one else seemed to think that we belonged together, and over time, I felt that he was even a little embarrassed by me. In the end, I had to face the fact that the sunken cost fallacy had kept me holding on long after I should have let go. We just weren’t going anywhere together. Costa Rica might have worked out; not everyone rolls their R’s there, and I might have found a job with my environmental science degree. At the end of the day, though, I’m a blonde, slight introvert who loves cold weather and can’t dance.

I tried to juggle them both for a while, but Spanish knew it was over. He saw me and German cuddled up, watching Run Lola Run and The Lives of Others, gazing at Klimt pieces in the Neue Galerie, and feeding each other brunch at Loreley on the Lower East Side. I suppose I really did embarrass Spanish. I completely failed to understand a Catalan waiter at a Tapas bar, and the owner of a bodega reduced me to ashes when he told me, in English, that he’d been in New York City longer than I’d been alive and did NOT need any help from me. When the time came to register for my next semester’s classes, we parted for good.

With Spanish out of the picture, German I spent more time together. We wrote essays, read some poetry, and even listened to some weird hip-hop music. He was coy and kept his distance, but when he heard me give directions to some tourists from Frankfurt, something about those directional prepositional phrases changed everything. He finally saw me as long-term material.

When I moved in with German, things got very serious, very fast. We barely spent any time apart. He was so impressed by all of the things we could finally do together. Interviewing for jobs, getting bank accounts opened and insurance policies set up, even handling medical emergencies… it was all such a thrill! I felt so cute and smart, even while screwing up adjective endings at the immigration office. Apartment hunting was rocky, but it brought us even closer together. And the best was yet to come.

We started translating. It was so intimate and tantric. The interdependent creative process was like nothing I’d ever experienced. It made me feel alive.

Well, until recently. Now he wants it ALL THE TIME, and I’m just like, “Can we please take a break for one day?” I get chafed.

So, now I’m having an affair with French. Let me tell you, as self-assured and eccentric as everyone thinks he is, he’s a hell of a good time. It is all food and fashion with this guy, at least according to his Duolingo profile. He’s into some weird stuff, like random numbers that don’t seem to follow any rules and sticking hyphens in unexpected places, but my God, he’s smooth.

Then reality sets back in.

I’m finally out of bed, and I realize that I have to make a choice. German will be back any minute, and I can picture exactly how he’ll come at me with his fussy demands.

But, if I actually dated French, would things be any different? We’d drink lots of wine, eat tiny portions of exquisite food and do a lot of shopping. That could be amazing for a while, but it wouldn’t last forever. Eventually, we’d have to go to the doctor and register with the authorities and face the bureaucracy, too. Plus, he’s critical. I’m just a beginner, but he’s already cringing at my diphthongs and lamenting my inability to differentiate between the 20 different ways to pronounce the vowel E. He’s kind of playful about it right now, but everyone has their limits. People change.

So, I’m going to put the smartphone down. I’m going to try to inject some spice and fun into things with German. If I’m honest with myself, I really haven’t been trying very hard lately, either.

I’m going to order tickets to the Schaubuehne. I’m going to take him to Potsdam for a bike ride, and we can go to the Allied Museum. I’m going to get us a Groupon for a beer tasting, and I’ll even make homemade Spaetzle, God’s gift to vegetarians in Germany. I’m going to download that hilarious Moritz Matthies audiobook about the meerkats at the Berlin Zoo, so we can listen to it while we sort the recycling and de-calcify the electric kettle. And I’m going to start watching Tatort with him again- finding the plot holes in Germany’s longest running crime show was always one of our favorite ways to wind down on a Sunday night.

This may not be the last of my play dates with French, but I have to try to make it work with German. Who knows, maybe one day the three of us can all be friends. We could take a trip through Switzerland and revel in the cheese. I know that German can still be cold, aloof, and sometimes even downright ugly to me, but we’ve built a life together. I have to fight for it. I know we can still have fun.

WORK FLOW.

THAT’S RIGHT. Strap on those carpal tunnel braces and crack open that Red Bull, because you know what time it is: TIME TO WORK.

A

Lesser mortals would just go to bed, but NOT YOU. You are a GOD DAMN PRODUCTIVITY NINJA. If that little paper clip from Microsoft Word could fist bump you, IT WOULD.

A

Your decision to leave the party early was met with a serene, understanding nod from your hostess. That poor, sweet goddess of hospitality. You will both be up all night. Only one of you will deal with other people’s vomit.

A

Yes. IT IS TIME. Fueled by passion, mastery, and the very real threat of being kicked off of this project, you will compose pages and pages of flawless prose before the first birds of morning sing.

A

The list of tasks competing for your attention literally covers three A4 pages, single spaced. PAY IT NO HEED. Like the millions of evil cats that lurk within the internet, its only goal is to derail your efforts.

A

(Your partners’) brilliant findings must become a compelling argument that rests like a verbal grapevine on a trellis of in-text citations. As the only native English speaker in the group, the weeding and pruning of this glorious vine falls upon you. This is not coincidence. IT IS DESTINY.

A

You are IN THE ZONE. As the final track of Bonobo’s “Black Sands” fades out, it is official: Times New Roman is substantially more professional than Arial. Double spacing has been deemed unnecessary. This is not high school science. This is GRADUATE SCHOOL science.

A

After two hours of staggering mental activity, a FULL PAGE (including footnotes and citations) of BRILLIANT SCIENTIFIC WRITING has emerged.

A

Because you are an open minded thinker willing to embrace many possibilities, you revisit your harsh, swift decision about double spacing. DOUBLE SPACING IS INDEED NECESSARY.

A

No one can appreciate your ADVERB WIZARDRY if the damn paper is illegible.

A

All machines require fuel, and you are NO EXCEPTION. Deep within your backpack, that turtle shell of academic piety, lies a tiny, crinkly bag of Haribo’s latest confection: sparkly Orangina-Cola winegum marshmallow licorice bears. The bears sacrifice themselves to the GREATER GOOD OF SCIENCE. Your hands and eyeballs tingle.

A

Alas, you have reached a treacherous crossroad. Your BRILLIANT PAGE and the preceding chapter are STYLISTICALLY INCONSISTENT. You have been called many things by friends and foes, near and far, but STYLISTICALLY INCONSISTENT is NOT ONE OF THEM.

A

For the next hour, you will add and remove commas with the SWIFTNESS OF A FENCER.

A

Suddenly, the Brooklyn Nine-Nine theme song screams at you out of nowhere. WHAT IS THIS NONSENSE? (It is yesterday’s cell phone alarm.)

A

You hoist your head up, momentarily disoriented by your crusty eyes and fuzzy teeth. Your hand flies up to your cheek. It is indented with perfect, tiny squares.

A

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? You look at the screen.

A

36 pages of the letter N.

A

No surprise. Even your FACE is productive.

A Letter to Ireland

Dear Ireland,

You and I don’t even know each other all that well yet, but I think it is safe to say that you are my BEST FRIEND. I can’t even begin to tell you what a good friend you are, Ireland.

You listened with polite interest while I explained that my Irish heritage isn’t Gangs-of-New-York/Bostonian thug Irish, but southern Irish: way older, way whiter, and substantially more obnoxious.

You generously poured more and more whiskey into my ginger ale while we made fun of the kind of Americans that we BOTH hate, plus all of the things that are (objectively, non-ironically) wrong with Ryanair!

You taught me that “craic” (pronounced crack) is not only an illegal drug, but the Irish word for fun and equally addictive! You only started rolling your eyes after the first thirty craic puns, which I thought was pretty accommodating.

While we were shopping downtown in Dublin, you had the directness and sincerity to tell me that the Aran sweater I picked out at the Avoca store made me look like a “feckin’ eed-jit,” and you were totally right. Later that day, when I ran out of cash, you took me trick-or-treating for Cadbury bars and Vitamin Water in the Google offices and wholeheartedly supported my new plans to learn to code (which I promptly gave up on after about thirty minutes on Codecademy.com)!

During all 60 (90?) minutes of that important rugby match, you listened to me explain with Alzheimer-level repetition just how different it is from American football, and how “I have an Irish friend who plays American football! Professionally! In Germany! Isn’t that random?”

Afterward, at the bar with your “work mates”, you swiftly took me aside and explained that “shifting” is slang for “fucking”, which is why everyone craic-ed up (ha! Another one!) when I said that “Shifting consciousness is an important aspect of environmental sustainability.” Then, you high-fived me and totally restored my credibility when I said I didn’t understand how “shifting” sounded more sexual than “work mates.”

More than anything else, Ireland, I know that you’ve totally got my back. Coming from Atlanta, a city where class and crime are painfully racially skewed, I learned from you that it is often in my best interest to also be afraid of white people. I always thought that “nackers” meant “tits”, but it actually means those guys who were peeing on the bus! It’s such a fun word to say, but now I also know that it’s probably better not to shout it.

 

Also, I know it’s a few months too late, but I really want to apologize for that time I passed out in the paddle boat while you were visiting me in Berlin, leaving you lost in an East German river with a potential medical emergency on your hands. I thought you handled that with aplomb. Did I mention that you are my BEST FRIEND?

 

Ireland, you drank that pint of pure foam that I poured at the Guinness Storehouse and gracefully intervened when I set off the security sensors around the Book of Kells. You are totally in the wedding party if I can ever trick anyone into marrying me.

 

After that boozy long weekend in December 2012 and the leisurely week we spent together last September, I’m hooked. Now, I’m delighted to tell you that I’ll be back in Dublin multiple times before the end of the year! I know you’re excited. It’s gonna be awesome. No. It’s gonna be GRAND.

 

Can’t wait.
Love,

H.

 

Five Must-Haves for Every Apartment!

It’s spring cleaning time, and that means out with the old, in with the new! Here at Nothing of The Horse, we’re excited to introduce our favorite new housewares that add fun and pizazz to any young, hip home!

1. Bag of bags!

These days, no apartment is complete without a bag of bags! Nothing shows off your commitment to environmental sustainability like a sizeable collection of reusable shopping bags, artfully swirled together and presented within the biggest bag! Our spring bag collection includes the following, plus many more!
– Six (6) each of H&M, Lidl, and Rossmann (Plastic)
– One rare, “forbidden” yellow IKEA bag!
– A New York University alumni tote complete with receipts, several pennies, and artful rips for that fashionable vintage look!
– A special edition Holiday TESCO bag, straight from Ireland!
– A vintage linen tote from Aldi, complete with six species of moth larvae!

2. Soaking pot!

Make your new kitchen feel like home with a soaking pot! The swirling, iridescent sheen of dish soap on the surface will wow visitors, and the gentle aroma of burned pasta will remind you to check which eyes are hot before you set anything on the stove! Our spring edition of the soaking pot comes with your choice of “stained wooden spoon” or “partially melted spatula” and one of three customizable passive aggressive notes! Don’t pass up this charming and easy way to add coziness and personality to your kitchen!

3. Mysterious toothbrush!

Mystify your roommates, visitors, and potential significant others with this lightly used toothbrush! Who does it belong to? How long has it been there? Will I offend anyone if I throw it away? You’ll ensure hours of fun with this great brain teaser for the whole flat!

4. Stack of junk mail!

Nothing adds creative, shabby-chic style more easily than a stack of junk mail! Bright ads and eye-catching, shiny plastic packaging make this the perfect accessory for any landing or corridor! The best feature of the stack of junk mail is its versatility. Has it fallen off the shelf/stool/neighbor’s unclaimed package? Just shove it into the corner! The stack of junk mail will continue to add color and flair! Be sure to check the stack of junk mail periodically- it could contain some real gems such as overdraft notices, updates to your health insurance information, or your rich ex-roommate’s subscription to The Economist!

5. Vintage groceries!
Do you love quirky, retro products AND artful food? Why not try vintage groceries? Our standard set of peanut butter, mayonnaise, non-dairy creamer, and Bavarian-Style mustard adds spunk to any refrigerator shelf! Even better, our customizable options allow you to add other exotic condiments from around the world! We guarantee expiration dates of at least 18 months before date of purchase. The vintage grocery set makes a great gift and will delight Campylobacter, Clostridium and Staphylococcus lovers everywhere.
Be sure to look out for our sprouted onion kit, available this summer!

Time to move out.

1. It is 8:30 am on a Tuesday. I turn off the shower head and crank open the bathroom window to let out the steam. I habitually step out of the shower, right foot first, and reach for the towel bar without looking. I grab nothing but tile.

SHIT.

I have two options. I can reapply all of the germs I just removed by drying myself off with the tiny, communal hand towel that hangs next to the sink, hold said towel daintily across my nether-regions, and walk briskly to my bedroom at the other end of the apartment. Or, I can make a brazen, sopping wet dash and pray to all available deities that no one else is home. Less than a second after I have committed to the second option, I hear the unmistakeable scratch-click of a key going into the front door. I skid to a stop with windmilling, Scooby-Doo arms, pivot, and leap straight back into the bathroom. I slip on the tile, land squarely on my right elbow, and yelp in pain. My well-meaning roommate rushes to my aid. He flings open the door and is greeted by my pasty, naked ass sticking straight up in the air.

2. It is 1:30 pm on a Monday, and the marijuana smell makes its way into our apartment with clockwork punctuality. Each time, it is slightly different, coupled with something else: weed and laundry detergent; weed and ammonia; weed and tire-fire.
The doorbell rings, and my roommate Pete and I both go to answer it. We open the door to two police detectives who casually flash their badges and ask to come inside. On this particular morning, in a very successful attempt to avoid working on a term paper, I have been binge-watching vintage episodes of Tatort, Germany’s long-running crime show. So, their appearance is particularly amusing to me. The detectives say that a number of residents in our building have called to complain about a strong marijuana smell coming from the ground- and first-floor. I exclaim that no one in this apartment smokes weed, and Pete explains that some of those phone calls have been from us. The problem is that we both speak up at the same time in a loud and confusing garble. We are both wearing pajamas and have unwashed hair. Also, I am holding half a sandwich. This does our credibility no favors.

The cops laugh and say that this is the last independent confirmation they need in order to break into the abandoned convenient store downstairs. Pete and I gather some snacks, sit in his window, and watch as a SWAT team hauls out a FOREST of marijuana plants, hastily wrapped in blue plastic evidence bags. The plants are followed by an impressive hydroponic growing setup, and finally, a small, elderly man with a combover walks out with his hands on his head.

Our apartment is located directly across from a prison, the JVA Moabit. Accordingly, a number of our neighbors are in the police force. I still haven’t decided whether this weed farm location is absolutely genius or unforgivably stupid.

Exactly one week later, at 1:30 pm, we are greeted by an overwhelming, unmistakeable cloud of garlic. We have new neighbors downstairs who will eventually be arrested for money laundering.

3. I’m searching for a new apartment: a small one, just for myself. On my way up to this particular, nondescript flat, I share the elevator with a GIANT TURD that I pray is canine. The previous tenant, a friendly, quirky Irishman, explains to me that “this is what keeps the rent down.” I ask him whether the neighbors would mind me practicing the mandolin during reasonable hours. He gives me a confused smile and his eyes dart back and forth. He says, “Well, I’ve lived here for several years, and they’ve never had an issue with my harpsichord.”

I was so distracted by the thought of the elevator turd that I did not notice:
He is standing next to a GIANT HARPSICHORD.

4. I wake up and immediately check my email. There are several replies from real estate agents and property managers confirming appointments to view apartments. One message stands out, and I realize that I’ve accidentally sent an application to a scam ad.

The scammer’s reply is inevitably a variation of the following:
A long-winded email in unmistakeably Google-translated German, explaining that the sender is a neurosurgeon/engineer/attorney based in London/Dublin/South Africa. The apartment was purchased for a son or daughter studying in Berlin and is now being rented out to others. As the owner is not currently in Berlin to show you the property, he or she requests an absurd amount of personal information in order to “mail you the keys” so that you can “view the property yourself”- which is a ludicrously implausible proposition.

I decide to test the extent of the scam by sending the following reply:

“Thank you for your email. I have been searching for an apartment for a very long time. You see, my situation is rather unique- I make my living training and showing horses and one of them, a miniature Shetland pony named Pumpkin, has to live with me in the apartment because of the high level of care he requires. Since you aren’t currently living in Berlin, you probably haven’t seen the press bits in Zitty, TIP, and Berliner Morgenpost- we have become a big attraction in the Mauerpark and the Tiergarten and at children’s events throughout the city. Pumpkin has been trained as a therapy horse for autistic children and has extensive, up-to-date paperwork regarding his pedigree, immunizations, and health.

Obviously I have a very sophisticated system for managing Pumpkin’s feed, and of course, his excretions. My current landlords will be happy to provide you with a reference. Our building is being renovated, and the small yard that Pumpkin uses while I am at the university is being paved over. Since he is no bigger than a large dog, some property managers have been willing to consider me as a tenant, but many have balked at the idea. Since we are scheduled to appear regularly as part of a science and sustainability curriculum at an elementary school in (Borough), the apartment on (Street) would be absolutely ideal for us. Please let me know how you feel about this matter. I am currently commuting into (Borough) from Kladow, near Wannsee, which is both expensive for me and distressing for Pumpkin.
Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to your reply.”

Thirty minutes later, a reply comes, asking for Pumpkin’s credit report.

5. I am standing in my dream apartment: a bright, cozy flat in the mercilessly gentrified but very charming Bergmannkiez. It is early in my apartment search, and I naively believe that my chances of getting the place lie in my ability to charm and woo the current tenant. In reality, this depends upon my ability to convince an anonymous property manager to select me over twenty competing applicants with German passports and better credit histories. There is one other person viewing the apartment with me: a rich, unsympathetic Swedish boy who speaks no German and already lives around the corner where it is, supposedly, “a little bit too loud.” Boo fucking hoo, I think, but my bitterness subsides when I get the idea that I can use him to make myself look better. I humbly mention that I live across from the prison on Alt Moabit, so don’t I ever sympathize with just how annoying that noise problem is! The prison on Alt Moabit, you ask? Yes, the area is bleak and isolated, and I sure am excited to move to a friendlier, more exciting neighborhood!

“What, really? That’s where I’m moving.” Our hostess says, stonily.

My face locks into a smile and I emit a wheezy laugh. Then I realize that she wasn’t kidding.

I hand my application over with both hands, give a small, awkward bow, and quietly leave.

6. After snoozing my alarm for roughly six hours, I wake up on a mattress on the floor. I gag when I taste the fuzzy beer carpet that microflora have laid down upon my tongue. As I navigate my way to the bathroom between the small, indecisive piles of garbage and random Ikea bits that litter the floor, I notice that I’m asymmetrically sore: my left calf, my right butt cheek, small muscles in my shoulders and torso that I never knew belonged to the human body. The day before, a half dozen patient and generous friends helped me schlep the contents of my entire life out of my old apartment and into this one.

Our incredible luck (good parking spaces, no back injuries, no dropped personal items cartwheeling loudly down the stairs) ran out in the evening. We were nearly finished building the bed frame when we realized that the center beam which holds the slats in place is sold separately. This, of course, after two friends got inside the giant paper and cardboard dumpster to see if there were any way it could have been pitched along with all of the packaging we discarded. (I will eventually go back to Ikea and buy the beam, only to realize later that the slats are the wrong size.)

Somehow, a fat bumblebee has made its way into the apartment and is forlornly buzzing around my single, flowerless houseplant. I open the refrigerator to find several unopened beers and a sad, dusty, single cookie: all that remains from a box so large, it would have lasted the Duggar family about a week… if they ate only cookies. I’m so sick of the cookies, I can’t even look at it. I feel overwhelming sympathy for the bumblebee.

I sit back down on the mattress and just grin like an idiot. It’s an obnoxiously beautiful day: the sky is Pantone 638 with Super Mario clouds. I don’t care about the mess. I’m here in my own, affordable place, in my favorite part of my favorite city.

I love my roommates, and I will be in touch, but I am excited to live alone, where I can use ALL THE MUGS and clean ONLY MY HAIR out of the shower. Assuming that I’ve put the shades down, the location of my towels is now more or less irrelevant. There will be no more passive-aggressive notes about how the silverware must go prongs-up in the dishwasher. No more gaggles of strangers watching Germany’s Next Top Model on full volume in the living room while I’m racing a deadline to turn badly written German text into mediocre English text. I can fill the entire refrigerator with my new-agey rabbit food and weird fermentation experiments. I can practice the mandolin in peace.

Amen.