When you’ve met your ‘ideal man’ but the romance fails, how do you even know what to look for any more?
Getting up early is one of my least favourite things, up there with flying long-haul and filing tax. I’ve set two alarm clocks five minutes apart, to make sure I don’t sleep in, but I’m so dazed from the first one that I forget about the second one and I’m already in the shower when a giant hammering starts up in my hallway. Dr Now, my irascible neighbour downstairs, has been woken by Alarm Clock Number Two and is thumping on his ceiling with a broom.
“Sorry, sorry!” I sprint from the bathroom to the bedroom, and then from the bedroom to the kitchen, and drink a pot of coffee in under four minutes while I stash keys in bag, and bag in book bag, and exit the house five hours before I would normally.
The sun is blazing and I wince my way to the park on the corner, where Tiny is lolling on a wall, face turned blissfully to the UV rays. “Beautiful morning!” he says with the positive attitude of those to whom early rising comes naturally.
Our little cobbled-streeted neighbourhood seems to be experiencing its own version of morning rush hour.
“Where are they all going?” I ask, bewildered.
“God knows!” Tiny looks blank. “They’re all creatives, after all. It’s not like any of them have real jobs to get to.”
Soon it’s clear that everyone is headed to the same place as Tiny and I: the new bakery that’s already so popular no one can get a seat but everyone hangs around anyway, wanting to see and be seen. “Bohemian Berlin isn’t what it used to be!” Tiny snatches up the last two organic walnut rolls before they can be bought by a well-groomed hipster with hands full of gleaming Apple devices.
We take our breakfast outside to a bench, giving Tiny ample opportunity to eye up the parade of urban males: shaved heads, massive beards, buttoned-up shirts, rolled-up trousers, acres of man-ankle. “Not my type…” he muses a little too audibly. “Definitely not my type… That’s my type… And that could be my type…”
“But none of your types look anything like your boyfriend,” I say at last.
“That’s right. I have various types. A street type, a club type, and just one AtHome type. Don’t you?”
I’m at a loss for words. After divorce, how do we really know what our types are? Obviously we think our type is the one we marry – until divorce proves conclusively that it’s not.
I catch a tram far, far away from HipsterLand into the depths of a Berlin suburb, feeling increasingly confused. So the good-looking, volatile, Scandinavian artistic man I married wasn’t my type. Neither was the businessman who knew a lot about the sharemarket but had never heard of Virginia Woolf. Neither was the nervy yet confident youthful actor… Should we try harder to identify our type, so we can actively seek them out? Or should we allow Fate to choose and decide on our type retrospectively?
Thoughts rattle in my head, the tram rattles to a halt – and there’s the vast grey school building, looking as inviting as the row of early starts that lie ahead. I’ve enrolled for a full-time language course to take my mind off my recent break-up with Glove Boy, whose raw upsetness seemed not part of his usual actor shtick.
Inside the classroom are 20 unknowns. Bearded, clean-shaven; spiky hair, no hair; suits, jeans; Korean, Arab, Japanese. “Guten Morgen,” I mumble. As I head for an empty seat. I can’t help wondering: will all these people soon reveal themselves to be types? Are we just variations on a human theme? Cursing Tiny and his insouciant certainty, cursing divorce and the uncertainty that comes in its wake, I open my blank notebook. I’m as expectant and clueless as the page before me.
Should we allow Fate to choose and decide on our type retrospectively?