This morning I woke before the sun rose and meditated on an idea I read recently. This idea is about the beauty of living life as if all of life were music. Living a musical life, so to say.
There is a lot I wish to share with you about this subject, but for now, I wish to let that cook a little while longer before serving it up.
Instead, allow me to share a story about an extraordinary encounter I had with a magical musical person named Pierre.
This is the story of our meeting and what it meant to me.
I hope you enjoy.
It takes a dark night to see the stars, and the darker the night, the brighter the stars.
For me, the whole of March, 1994 was one long and very dark night.
That made the star named Pierre that much the brighter, and our unexpected encounter that much more life changing.
At the time, I was living in Berlin and Berlin in the winter was just the right place for a sad sack like me.
At the time of this story, my life was lived underground; Swimming in a sea of sad emotions.
So it was with a very typical sort of heaviness that I struggled one Saturday morning as I made my way into a coffee shop on the canal in Kreuzberg.
It was the morning after a particularly heart shattering evening.
To explain how I got to this desperate sort of place, is a bit tricky.
On one hand there are the usual reasons; a massively broken heart, a complete disillusionment with humanity, no life focus, living in a foreign country in which I knew almost no one, walking the streets of a city that hadn’t seen the sun in about 4 months.
That might be enough to explain my state of mind, but really the word that comes to me that encapsulates it all is aloneness.
Yes, so alone, so alone, my heart did groan. It wasn’t the absence of people that brought about this loneliness. It was the feeling of not having a single soul around me that I felt could understand me. It was as if I was an alien dropped onto the planet.
No, that’s not quite right. If I had been an alien, everything would have been awe inspiring, or terrifying. No, I was human alright, but somehow a human with an experience so singular that no one could really see me, or feel me.
There was nobody who I could share this experience with who I felt could hear me and relate to me. And in any case, what could I possibly say about my experience?
I could say nothing at all about what I was going through at that time.
And this was only the emotional part of my struggles.
This time of my life was special for something else too.
The truth was, I was barely keeping it together in the world. I was barely able to function, and it cost me great effort to do so. I simply couldn’t talk because I was almost always overwhelmed with the intensity of my experience.
I was living in a kind of mystical state where I was affected through and through by every bit of stimulus that came my way. For example, one day, I walked out of my apartment, and there was a small patch of grass. Just a little patch of grass. Harmless, right?
Well, as I was walking by it, I glanced at it and was suddenly paralyzed. What I saw that overwhelmed me was every single blade of grass all at once. In a moment, I lived fully in the color of each blade, the shape of each blade, the life force of each blade. All these blades together was just too much for me.
There was simply nothing left to do, but go back into my apartment, where I stayed for the rest of the day, to digest this experience.
Living like this was not only hard because it was hard/impossible to describe. It was hard because it required all of me to live with it. I simply couldn’t find the strength to be normal. No good manners, no pleasant words, no cleverness. Those were luxuries I simple couldn’t afford. So I didn’t. I didn’t talk, and mostly I kept to myself.
So fast forward to the night before my moment in front of the cafe. I was at the flat of a friend, having dinner and after, a little pipe of hashish.
This guy, named Josh, was an ultra-intellectual. The kind of guy who gobbled up Walter Benjamin for breakfast, and had written an article about it by lunch. He was a chain smoker and a voluminous talker. He could monologue through his cigarette smoke for hours without pause. That usually suited me perfectly as I couldn’t talk practically at all.
But on this night his talk was horrible for me. It was just too much stimulation and I was drowning in his words. He ranted on and on as I sank into a desperate state.
By an hour of this, I was too overwhelmed to leave. Finally, he went to the toilet. In that 5 minutes, I was able to catch my breath, gather up my stuff, put my shoes, scarf and coat on and stand at the door with hand on the door knob to say my goodbyes as soon as he made his reappearance.
Having escaped, I wondered the night time streets in a state of exhaustion and utter despair.
My pain so acute.
I looked for relief.
I found it.
I passed a rundown house with a red light on — international symbol for the world’s oldest profession.
I went in.
There I sat in my chair like a casting director as the ladies paraded before me, doing their best to seduce me.
I chose the girl with the sweetest looking eyes.
Imagine her surprise when, in our private room, I informed her that she had no need to take off her clothes.
All I wanted for the usual price for sex was a long embrace.
This was a little tricky to explain as she was Russian and spoke no English and only a bit of German.
But I got my hug, and it helped me make it through the night of horrors.
Which brings us to that next morning as I was walking into the cafe. Cafes for me were like sanctuaries.
The good music, the coffee, the pre-occupied people who I could study. The talk of the talkers which was like beautiful white noise to me.
I had a lot on my mind, and was eager to get my coffee, grab my usual table towards the back, and do some journal writing.
Once situated, I opened my journal and began writing.
I wrote and wrote and wrote.
I wrote anything that came to me.
Then something pulled me out of my writing. It was a felt presence. Like a magnet that took my attention off the words, pen and paper and back into the room.
I scanned the cafe until I found somebody of extreme interest.
It was a man sitting at a table in the front, by the window.
What a strange man. He was a chubby, sloppy, brown skinned fellow with an oversized T-shirt and a messy light brown colored afro.
There was nothing strange in that. What was strange was his company and how he entertained them.
He was sitting between two exquisite world class model looking women. This by itself was surprising.
From appearances, he seemed more fit to be sitting in front of a video game than next to two of the loveliest ladies I had ever seen.
And that wasn’t the strangest thing. What was strangest of all to me was that these two goddesses were drinking this man in like fine champaign. They were giggling and staring at him with clear appreciation and unmasked desire.
“Who is this cat, and what planet is he from?”
Then that was it. He hadn’t noticed me, or so I thought, and so after watching them for a moment, I went back to my writing.
Once I finished, I stood up and made my way to the counter to pay my bill.
I stood there, waiting to pay, as the song on the jukebox changed to one of my all time favorites.
It was Thelonious Monk’s Well You Needn’t.
I started whistling along with the song.
Suddenly somebody next to me was whistling also.
I turned to the whistling presence to discover the frumpy man from the front of the cafe.
We locked eyes.
I started to say something to him about the music, but before I had a chance, he looked right into me and said: “You come with me.”
For whatever reason, I didn’t even hesitate.
Without saying a word, I grabbed my journal, put on my coat, and made for the door.
The man was outside. He and the lovely ladies were kissing their goodbyes.
The ladies both regarded me with sweet smiles.
The women walked one way, and we walked the other.
Without any sort of introduction, he glanced over at me and said: ”So let me guess, you are a poet running away.” He said this in a British sounding accent.
I answered that he was mostly right. By then I had given up all titles, including the esteemed ‘poet’ title, but there was no question. I was running away.
He introduced himself.
His name was Pierre Allouyi (pronounced ah-lou-wee).
Walking next to him, any residual fear melted away and was replaced by a quiet awe as I witnessed this strange man bouncing his way down Oranienburger Straße like a little boy who knew everyone that crossed our path.
He greeted everybody with such open enthusiasm that even the most stoic german robot of human granite started to melt into a reluctant smile as they came close to this man.
Actually, as I think about it, it was more than this.
As we walked, I noticed that it wasn’t only how he greeted the passersby that made them smile.
It was that he shared a strange intimacy with them.
It was similar to the kind of intimacy new lovers give each other, but he gave it freely to all these strangers without exception.
After about fifteen minutes we arrived at his flat.
It was a typical Berlin dive; just the basics.
He invited me to stay for dinner.
As he cooked up a pasta with a spicy blend of herbs he had brought from Nigeria, we talked–mainly he talked.
He told me that I would be OK–I never said I had a problem, but I guess it was obvious.
He told me I would awaken from this nightmare, because I had the main ingredient lacking in so many–earnestness and dedication to truth.
Then, just like that, he jumped onto the floor and started rolling around and screaming; “Sometimes you just have to be ridiculous. Like a little kid. Play a little!”
At another point, he rolled his head around in circles slowly and then slower until it came to a stop. Then he explained that I needed to learn how to tune into other people’s frequencies like I was dialing a radio station.
After dinner, we sat quietly listening to jazz music.
After a good while of this, there was a knock at the door.
“That must be Sabine,” He shouted as he jumped up to answer.
I looked on in curiosity as the door opened to reveal a women every bit as beautiful as his two friends from the cafe.
It startled me to be in the same room with this curly haired bombshell of flesh and light.
What to say to this woman?
But my shyness didn’t matter one bit.
Pierre instantly took her in his arms and they started kissing with complete abandon.
After some minutes, they seemed to remember my presence, but only long enough for brief introductions and then back at it, they were, in a wild smooch fest.
I sat there on the sofa watching them move with the slow bluesy piano and kiss and kiss and kiss.
I decided it was best to leave.
I stood up, gathered my things, scribbled my telephone number on a piece of paper, and made for the door.
Even though I intended to quietly leave, Pierre was right behind me.
Before I could thank him for the amazing moment and try to give words to what it had meant to me, something happened that would change my life forever.
He looked deep into my eyes with kindness and love and fearlessness that it was like we had known each other inside and out.
He moved closely, grabbed my head from ear to ear, and planted a massive kiss right on my lips.
My life shattered in that moment.
Any sense of aloneness and despair, any sense of ‘Alan’ as a separate being exploded in that moment.
In that moment, I was him and he was me. I was Pierre kissing and also being kissed.
In that moment, I opened up and found that I was myself shining like a bright star in a dark night.
I closed his door and then it was my turn to bounce my way down Oranienburger Straße while giving a happy hello to all the people I met on my way.