We have found the place where all the old ladies go for lunch. It is a place with plastic trays, where, after you have finished, you take your tray to a conveyor belt and send it off into the kitchen. I watch through the hatch to see the hands come out to take the plates, cups and scrunched up napkins off the trays.
It is on the top level of the department store, looking over Alexanderplatz. As we sit there, I see a heart shaped red ballon flying up past the tv tower, brave and tiny. I imagine the person who has let it go is standing watching it until they can see it no longer. I do this too. When it is out of sight I dig my fork into my slice of cake and bring my gaze back down to the old ladies.
I like being in these kinds of ordinary places. The people here are Berlin grannies, sharing slices of cake and drinking tea. To one side of us is a group of people conversing in sign language. One man is particularly expressive, tapping his head, pointing towards the exit, opening his mouth wide. I don’t know what this means, but it is obviously something serious.
To the other side of us is a meet up for some kind of collector group. They have albums with cards inside them, and are passing around photographs of some sporting event. I try to look without making myself too obvious. The photographs are of things like a sports field, a tour bus. They are in an envelope from Schlecker, the discount pharmacy, and I guess the prints were processed from 35mm film. As we have been travelling I have spied only two old 35mm cameras, one being pointed as Michelangelo’s Pieta by an old man, another in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Seeing them I felt sad for the old way of doing things, which seems so careful and meticulous. But it is no surprise that it makes me feel sad, many things do.