When I was little, I looked up to the grownups in my life and assumed that they generally had it all figured out, this whole business of life, I mean. Now that the passage of time has turned me into one of those grownups myself, I’ve realized how utterly untrue that assumption is. It’s one of the best-kept secrets in life: if we’re all honest about it, none of us, no matter our age, really knows what the hell we’re doing. (Though some are better at pretending or at self-denial than others.) Life is mostly guesswork. Ironically, I think that’s one of the greatest tidbits of wisdom that my years have given me. We humans are all just bumbling through life doing the best we can, and if we get to the end of our days on this earth having loved and been loved, then that’s more than enough — it’s pretty damn good, actually.
Love and be loved — much easier said than done. Still, love is everywhere, sometimes in the places we least expect it. Like on a back road winding behind a Bergmannkiez cemetery, which I randomly came across last summer when – true story – looking for a shortcut to my favourite ice cream place.
Züllichauer Straße has a deserted, back alley feel to it, with a soccer field on one side and lined all along the other side with the back walls of old cemetery mausoleums. For some mysterious reason, this long stretch of cemetery wall has attracted a steady stream of lovelorn vandals who have covered the bricks with an effusive stream of earnest, passionate graffiti. “Ich bin für dich allein.” “Ich liebe dich für immer!!!” “Meine einzige große Liebe.” “Du bist ein Traum! Ich liebe dich über alles!” “Je t’aime, Marie.”
Maybe those love stories are still gaining new chapters today. Maybe they ended long ago in bitterness and tears. But in the moment when those lovelorn boys and girls, men and women, each came here with bursting hearts to spraypaint their adoration for all the world to see, that story was everything.