He got onto the U-Bahn at Gneisenaustraße. He had savored every last bit of his cigarette, hastily, his eyes half closed, before sliding between the beeping doors. Catching his breath and coughing, he let his eyes wander while fumbling with his headphone cable which had gotten entangled with the bag he was wearing. He plunged down on a seat across from me, took a deep breath in and his phone out. His hand was moving quickly, mechanically. Left, left, left, right. Right, maybe right, left, right, right. Pretty faces, hidden from my view, passed by his screen for split seconds. Pretty faces, all looking the same, saying the same, wanting the same. His hand flew ever quicker, his tired face lit by the phone’s cold, harsh light.
Yet, the medicine didn‘t kick in. The more he swiped, the more sad he looked. The quick fix didn’t seem to work anymore. No one could offer what he was craving. Connection, understanding without talking, passion beyond expectation.
The sharp noise of an iPhone being locked abruptly put my thoughts on hold. He had let his phone slide into his pocket shortly before the train reached Stadtmitte. While I was watching him exit, his steps heavy, his hands reaching for the thin piece of high-tech again, I wondered where he was going. Maybe to meet with yet another stranger, maybe home to some Netflix, some more cigarettes, some more lonely searching in the dark. But maybe, maybe he‘d also forget about his phone, forget to text back, forget to hunt, forget to remember and wander the streets of my city. And maybe he’d be content, just himself and the night.