In the center of Old Town Dresden there’s a three-story shopping mall called Altmarkt Galerie. Bradley took the escalator down to the first floor, where the restaurants were. He found a butcher who sold grilled sausages. He ordered a bratwurst and spooned spicy mustard overtop.
Up on the second floor, he stopped in front of Lascana, a German lingerie shop. While he ate his sausage, he looked at the mannequin in the window. She was wearing a blue garter belt with a matching bustier.
Bradley’s fiancée, Laura, would be joining him in Prague. He thought it’d be nice to greet her with some new lingerie. Then he thought how awkward it could be for a guy, going into a lingerie shop alone.
He went back down to the butcher and ordered the largest beer he sold. It was served in a glass stein, shaped like a boot.
He found his way to the bottom of the boot. Then returned to Lascana. This time, he marched right in. With the help of the saleswoman, he picked out two bras–one black, the other yellow. Both made of see-through lace with extra padding, which, the saleswoman explained, would push Laura’s breasts together.
To match the bras, he found two pairs of thongs, also made of see-through lace and so small when balled up they were no bigger than a two-Euro coin.
The saleswoman wrapped his purchases in pink tissue paper and put them in a shopping bag, also pink.
Germany was playing in the World Cup semi-finals that evening. Bradley planned on watching in a biergarten on the Elbe River. He had just enough time to make it back to his hostel for a quick nap before the game. But, first, he had to take a piss.
“Where’s the toilet?” he asked the bartender at Shamrock Irish Pub.
“Sorry, mate,” he spoke with an English accent, “customers only.”
“I’ll take a pint of Guinness.” Bradley put a few Euro coins on the bar and rushed downstairs.
When he returned, the coins were gone and in their place was a pint of Guinness. On the flight from Tampa to Berlin, Bradley watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s travel show No Reservations. In a pub in Dublin, Bourdain explained how a pint of Guinness should be finished in no more than five sips.
“You made quick work of that.” The bartender took his empty glass. “Another?”
“That’s it for me.” Bradley stood up.
“You can’t leave now. The match is just starting.”
“The game doesn’t start for another hour.”
“Don’t mean to disagree with you, mate.” He gestured towards the television behind the bar.
Bradley sat back down. “Another pint, please.”
Bradley woke up feeling like an elephant was sitting on his chest. It was the same feeling he used to have every morning, before he quit smoking. He slipped his shorts on and walked down the hall to the bathroom. He took a long piss then, in the sink, coughed up a lump of yellow phlegm.
In the mirror, he saw two German flags, one painted on each of his cheeks. He didn’t bother washing them off. Instead, he returned to his room.
A pack of Camel cigarettes was sitting on the floor by the window. Also, there was a book of matches with a four-leaf clover printed on one side and Shamrock Irish Pub on the other.
He crushed the Camels and tossed them in the trash bin. His dirty clothes were sitting in a pile beside the bed. He reached into the pocket of his jeans and dug out his cell phone. It was blinking with a series of text messages, each from Laura.
She wanted him to know that her sister had invited her to the beach. She stayed behind because she had made arrangements to video chat with him. She reminded him that last night was the third time they’d made plans to chat. It was also the third time Bradley had stood her up.
She hoped he was having fun. She was certainly having a good time back home. Her boss asked her to pick up extra shifts, which meant she only had one day off. She spent that one day in front of her computer, waiting for her fiancé who, apparently, had forgotten she even existed.
Bradley was certain he’d packed a bottle of Advil. But he couldn’t find it. Even after turning his backpack inside out.
He dug the crumpled cigarettes out of the wastebasket. He straightened one and smoked it by the window. Then, he turned his laptop on, pulled up his email, and typed in Laura’s address.
I’m so very sorry.I’m still recovering from jetlag. And I keep forgetting you are six hours behind. Let me know the next time you have a day off. We’ll chat then. I promise. XOXO.
He pushed send and closed the laptop. He went back to the window and smoked another cigarette. He started to piece together the events of the previous evening. But stopped himself. On the bed, he spotted the pink bag. He took the lingerie out and, neatly, displayed it on the mattress.
He ran his hands along the lace, imagining what it would look like against Laura’s soft skin. He thought of her breasts. The way her nipples hardened when he took them in his mouth. He slid one hand down the front of his shorts as he pictured her ass in the thongs. First, she’d try the black one, then the yellow.
The image of Laura’s ass faded. In its place, Dobie appeared. The harder he tried bringing Laura back, the clearer he saw Dobie. It was as if she was lying in bed next to him.
He cleaned himself with a dirty t-shirt. Then went down the hall for a shower.
Before Dresden, Bradley spent some time in Berlin. His second night in the city, a woman stopped him as he was walking up the stairs to the metro.
“Do you speak English?” Dobie spoke with a British accent.
“Excuse me?” Bradley was struck by her blue eyes.
“I’ve rented an apartment from a woman who doesn’t speak any English.” She took her backpack off and let it drop to the sidewalk. The damn thing was almost as tall as her. She pushed a blonde curl out of her face and handed Bradley her phone. There was a map of Berlin on the screen.
“What address are you looking for?” Bradley got his map out of his pocket and unfolded it. “We’re right here.” He pointed.
Dobie grabbed one end of the map, her hand touching Bradley’s. Together, they tried to find the street she needed.
“I’m sorry.” Bradley folded the map back up. “I just flew into Berlin yesterday. I’m not sure I can help you.”
“I guess I’ll just walk around till I find it.” She picked her bag up off the sidewalk.
Bradley thought about the neighborhood they were in. It was a low-income, residential section, far from the tourist center. Soon, it would be dark.
“My hostel is just around the corner,” he said. “I’m sure the man working the front desk could give you directions, if you want to follow me back.”
The next morning, Bradley was in the dining room with his complimentary breakfast of cold cuts, cheese and black bread, when he heard a voice coming from the lobby. He took one last sip of his coffee and abandoned his breakfast.
Dobie was sitting on the couch, her head buried inside an oversized book on Berlin architecture. She was wearing a yellow dress. The way she had her legs crossed, Bradley could see all the way up to the top of her thighs.
“I wanted to surprise you.” She got up off the couch. “But he wouldn’t give me your room number.” She gestured towards the man sitting behind the front desk. He pretended not to notice. “I figured you had to come down at some point.”
She gave Bradley a peck on the cheek. “Ouch,” she touched her lips, “somebody needs to shave.”
“Did you find your apartment?”
“That’s why I came here, to thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” Bradley switched his messenger bag from one shoulder to the other.
“What are you up to today?”
“I was going to head down to the Tiergarten.”
“They’re having a flea market this morning.”
“I know. That’s why I’m going.” He moved his bag back to the other shoulder.
“Mind if I join you?”
“Some company would be nice.” He let the bag fall to the floor.
Bradley woke with a pain in his neck. The mattress was barely big enough for one person. Never mind two. For a moment, he thought he was back home, with Laura. When he realized where he was he looked down and, with relief, saw he was fully clothed, lying on top of the duvet.
Slowly, so as not to wake her, he slid his arm out from under Dobie’s neck. She rolled onto her side, draping herself over Bradley.
It took much maneuvering, but he managed to break free. He checked under the covers. Dobie, too, was fully clothed. In her sleep, her dress had come up. She was wearing a tiny pair of red panties. Bradley pulled the covers up to her neck. Then he sat at the desk and wrote in his notebook:
Please leave the key at the front desk.
He tore the page out and set it and the key on the nightstand. Then, he slipped out of the room.
He took the metro to the TV Tower. It was early. All the shops were closed and the garbage collectors were just starting their day. He walked to the river and headed towards the Reichstag building. He tried to remember how many beers he drank the night before.
“One more before we call it a night?” Dobie said, standing outside the hostel.
“There’s no place around here to get a beer this late.”
“We could raid your minibar.”
“I should go to bed.”
“What’s that over there?” She pointed. Bradley turned his head. She stuck her hand in his pocket and pulled out his key. She dangled it in front of him. He reached for it. But she was too quick.
“Alright, you win. But just one more. Then I have to go to bed.”
When Bradley got to the Reichstag building, he sat on the river bank across from the Marie-Elisabeth Lüders building. His first night in Berlin, in commemoration of the Reichstag’s one hundred and thirty year anniversary, the Germans projected a movie onto the front of the Lüders building, a history of Berlin through the eyes of the Reichstag.
When they got to the Second World War, they made quick mention of Hitler before moving on to the cruelty of Soviet occupation, skipping over the Nazi concentration camps and the 65 million people who lost their lives in the war.
Nothing happened the night before, Bradley told himself. It was just two people in a foreign city, having drinks and watching a soccer game. He was pretty sure they’d not kissed. He was certain they’d done nothing more.
Dobie was far too drunk to walk back to her apartment. He had no choice but to ask her to spend the night. The room was so tiny. There wasn’t enough space for him to sleep on the floor.
“Those red panties,” he said out loud. Had they been any smaller, he thought, they could’ve passed for dental floss.
He got up and started walking. Hitler’s bunker wasn’t far from the Reichstag building. There wasn’t much to see. The Soviets blew it up when they took control of the city. But, still, Bradley wanted to stand on the spot where the most evil man in history had met his end.
In the courtyard of Dresden’s Zwinger Palace there’s a baroque fountain. Bradley was walking by when an older British couple stopped him.
“Will you take our photo?” The man handed Bradley his camera and showed him which button to push.
As the couple arranged themselves in front of the fountain, Bradley closed one eye and, through the viewfinder, framed his shot.
“Try and get the Palace in back,” the woman said.
Bradley counted down from three. Just before he snapped the photo the woman laid a big kiss right in the center of her husband’s face. His fair British complexion went bright red.
“Better take another.” He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
Bradley took two more before returning the camera.
“That’s awfully kind of you.” The man shook Bradley’s hand.
“Hold on.” The day Bradley arrived in Dresden, he went to the Museum of Military History. In the gift shop, he purchased a thick book on the Dresden firebombings. He pulled it out of his bag and flipped to the photos in the center. “There’s something in here you might find interesting.” He held the book out so the couple could see.
“Is that this fountain?” the man said.
“Sure is.” Bradley smiled.
“Are those bodies?” The woman leaned in for a closer look.
“When the Royal Air Force incinerated the city, some Dresdeners thought they’d escape the flames by jumping in the fountain. They were boiled alive.”
“Dear God.” The woman put her hands over her heart.
“Come on, sweetie.” Her husband grabbed her by the arm.
Bradley sat on the edge of the fountain and thumbed through the photos. He found an aerial, taken the day after the bombings. The fires had been put out but there was still a cloud of smoke rising from the smoldering rubble. The caption explained how Allied forces dropped one round of bombs then allowed enough time to pass so the Germans would think the attack was over. As they emerged from their shelters, the Allies reappeared with a fresh round of incinerator shells.
Bradley closed the book and walked back to his hostel. He decided he would catch the next train to Munich.
He made it all the way to the central station, turned around, and walked back to the city center. He went into the first porcelain shop he saw. Outside of China, Dresden is the world’s largest producer of fine porcelain.
He found a tea pot with cherry blossoms painted on the front. It was the kind of thing he knew Laura would love.
Bradley stowed his bag in the overhead compartment above his seat. Then went to the dining car. He couldn’t find an empty table so he approached an Asian backpacker who was sitting alone.
“Is anyone sitting here?” he asked.
“Please.” The backpacker gestured towards the chair across from him. “I’m Bin.”
“Nice to meet you, Bin.”
Bin was a med student at UCLA. In the summer, when school was out, he traveled.
“I flew from California to Japan. After Japan, I spent a week in Australia. From there, I made my way through Asia. Then I hopped on the Trans Siberian Express. Now I’m passing through Europe on my way to Africa.”
“That’s some trip.” The waiter came to take Bradley’s order. “I’ll have one of those.” He pointed to Bin’s ham sandwich.
“And to drink?”
“Will you have a beer with me?” he asked Bin.
Bin took out his change purse and counted the coins.
“Put that away. This one’s on me. We’ll have two pilsners. The big bottles.”
The waiter went to the drink cart and got the bottles.
“Cheers.” Bin held his up for a toast. “Thanks for the beer. I’ve had to really stretch my money on this trip.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“What about you? Where have you been?”
“I’ve been traveling through Germany. I’m going to meet up with my fiancée in Prague. We’ll go down to Vienna. Then Budapest.”
“You’ll love the baths in Budapest. There are so many hot women in that city.” The waiter came with Bradley’s sandwich. He unwrapped it and took a bite. The bread was soggy. “How does your fiancée feel about you traveling without her?”
“She’s not thrilled.”
“My girl is giving me all kinds of grief. When we started dating I told her I was a traveling man.” He took a sip of beer as he looked out at the German countryside. “She expects me to be at her side every minute. She doesn’t trust me. She thinks I’m going to cheat on her. Are you eating that?”
“It’s all yours.” Bradley slid the sandwich across the table.
“Food in Germany is so expensive.” Bin wrapped the sandwich in a napkin and put it in his rucksack. “How long are you over here?”
“I’m in Europe for seven weeks.”
“What type of work do you do?”
“I’m in the insurance business.”
“How’d you manage to get so much time off?”
“The summer is our slow season.”
“Maybe I should get into insurance. In the medical field, you get no time off.”
“My father owns the company I work for. That makes it a bit easier.”
“That’s great, man. Most Americans get only two weeks a year. My father has warned me to get traveling out of my system while I’m still in school. Once I get a career and start a family, he says there’ll be no more time to travel. Should we have another beer?”
Bradley held up his empty bottle so the waiter could see. He got two beers out of the cart and brought them to the table. Bin tried to pay but Bradley wouldn’t let him.
“You still have a lot of traveling ahead of you,” Bradley said. “Save your money.”
“Thanks, man. I really appreciate it.”
“And you know what I think? I think your father is full of shit.”
“I’ll drink to that.” They toasted.
His first morning in Munich, Bradley stopped for an espresso and a marzipan croissant at a bakery near his hostel. Then he took the metro to Munich Central Station and boarded a train to Dachau.
Once he found a seat, he took his phone out and checked his email. Dobie had sent two messages. One thanking him for the fun she’d had in Berlin. It’s not the same since you’ve left, she wrote. I’m bored.
In a second email, sent minutes after the first, she said:
It looks like Deutschland is going to make it to the finals. You should come back for the match. They’re having a carnival behind Brandenburg Gate.
There was a message from his realtor. He sent a new listing with a short note:
Not sure when you get back but thought you should see this property. It just came on the market today.
Without looking at the house, he deleted the email. Then he pulled up a message from Laura.
Did you see the house Brian sent? He wants me to look at it this afternoon. I know we agreed to put the house hunting on hold. But this one has my dream kitchen. And the backyard is huge. There’d be room for a swing set and a sandbox.
He closed his personal account and opened his work email. There were five pages worth of new messages. The most recent from his father.
When I agreed to give you the summer off, it was under the condition that you’d be checking your email while away. Barbara was on the phone with your client, Mr. Warren, all afternoon. He had a billing problem. His coverage nearly lapsed. He says he sent you a dozen emails. He also left numerous voicemails. “Too many to count,” were his exact words.
You’ll notice your paycheck hasn’t been deposited this week, or last. I hope this doesn’t result in any overdraft fees. As soon as I receive communication from you, I’ll consider authorizing those deposits.
Hope you’re having fun. I also hope you’re not using the company phone. You will be held accountable for all international charges.
Your mother sends her love.
Bradley opened another window and pulled up his bank statement. He had forty-six dollars, roughly thirty-eight Euros, in his checking account. He went back to his father’s email and hit reply:
I’m glad to hear Mr. Warren’s billing issue has been resolved. Please thank Barbara for me. I would do it myself but, while the company is accruing international charges, I don’t wish to be online any longer than is absolutely necessary.
Now that I have responded to your email, like you requested, I trust that you’ll authorize those deposits.
Send mother my love.
Bradley hadn’t noticed the train had come to a stop. He looked out onto the platform and saw a blue sign with white letters that said Dachau. He grabbed his bag and was nearly crushed by the closing doors as he darted from the train.
The concentration camp was a twenty-minute ride from the train station. There was a line to board the bus. Mostly, it was high school kids on field trips and middle aged tourists who’d paid bearded university students for a guided tour.
Bradley decided to have a look at the city before going to the camp. Before leaving America, he’d read a book on Dachau. Not the concentration camp but the city. According to the author, being from a city that shares its name with a concentration camp is a source of great shame. Many travel to Munich to have their children, so as not to burden them with the name Dachau on their birth certificates.
There was a pediatrician who had a practice in Dachau. During the war, he sent handicap children and the children of ethnic minorities to hospitals where he knew they’d be euthanized by Nazi doctors. He was thought to have been responsible for the deaths of thousands of little boys and girls. Because he didn’t do the actual killing, they were never able to indict him. He remained in practice until his death, more than fifty years after the war.
Bradley had his address. He checked the map. Dachau was a small city. It would be a short walk.
The practice had been on the second floor of a three-story building. The third floor had been the doctor’s living quarters. On the ground floor, there was a bakery, which was still in business when Bradley arrived. He went in and ordered a pretzel, cut in half, like a bagel, with butter spread in the center.
The woman who served him looked to be in her early sixties. Bradley wanted to ask her how long she’d been working at the bakery. Had she known the doctor?
He stood outside and ate his pretzel. When he was finished, he crumpled up the wax paper it was served on and pitched it, like a baseball, at the picture window, startling the woman inside. She yelled at Bradley in German. He smiled and waved. Then he walked back to the station and boarded the bus to the camp.
It was early evening when Bradley returned to the visitor’s center. He handed in the complimentary headset, which offered an audio tour of the camp in twenty-six languages. Then he browsed the bookstore before settling down in the café with a cup of coffee and an apple strudel.
He checked his account balance. After the coffee and strudel, he was down to thirty-two Euros. He pulled up his business email.
One day, I’d like to take you to Germany. Though you never went to college, I know how much time you spend watching the History Channel. Did I ever tell you, in the history department at USF, the professors and us grad students used to call the History Channel the Hitler Channel? Some of us were of the opinion that the network spent too much time sensationalizing Hitler, instead of reporting history.
I’m typing this email from Dachau. I spent the day touring the camp. Outside the crematorium, along the back wall, the Nazis had dug a trench. It’s where they used to line the prisoners up and shoot them in the back of the head. The trench was to collect the blood and brains.
I noticed those checks have not yet been deposited. Should I email accounting? Please advise ASAP. Funds are low.
Give mother a kiss for me.
He hit send then pulled up his personal email. He went to Laura’s last message and typed the following reply:
Today I toured a Nazi concentration camp. I won’t go into too much detail, as my words could do it no justice.
One of the more powerful parts of the day was going into the camp’s prison cells. Some of them were so small there was only room for a person to stand. I could not imagine the horror.
That house sounds perfect. But, I’m afraid, we will have to pass as there is not much I can do from across the Atlantic.
Bradley took the evening train back to Munich and went to the Hofbrauhaus beer hall in the historic city center.
There was a crowd of tourists outside, posing for photos in front of the Hofbrauhaus logo. Bradley pushed his way through. On the front door, he saw a sign warning people to mind their belongings, pickpockets are working the area. Next to it, there was another sign, which said the Wi-Fi was free but the toilets were for customers only.
The hall was massive, with cathedral ceilings three stories high. There were rows of wooden picnic tables lined with light blue tablecloths and filled with people drinking giant mugs of beer and munching sausages. In the center of the hall, there was a stage where a man in green lederhosen and a matching Robin Hood cap played an accordion. He was accompanied by a three-piece brass section.
Bradley circled the main part of the hall three times before settling on a seat in the back room. He tried flagging down the waiter, but his shift must have been coming to an end because he ignored Bradley. Sitting by himself, among the red-faced tourists, Bradley felt lonely. He decided he would go back to the hostel.
He was getting up when a new waiter came to the table, a fat Bavarian man with rosy cheeks and a big smile. According to his badge, he was Hans, from Nuremberg. The sight of him cheered Bradley up.
“Guten tag,” Bradley said. “One of those, please.” He pointed to the guy at the next table, drinking a pitcher-sized mug of beer.
“Yes, sir. Coming right up.” Hans spoke excellent English. “And to eat?” He turned Bradley’s menu over to the English side. There were photos next to each dish. Bradley pointed to a bowl of cocktail wienies floating in a syrupy sauce. Underneath the photo it said Nuremberg Sausages.
“Good choice.” The waiter puffed his chest and pointed to his name badge. “Nuremberg sausage is a specialty from my hometown.”
He cleared the empty mugs off the tables in his section, then went into the kitchen. When he returned he was carrying eight mugs of beer, four in each hand. He set one in front of Bradley. It was so big Bradley had to slurp up a few sips before lifting it to his mouth.
When he was half through the beer, he checked his email. Laura had not replied to his last message. But there was a new one from Dobie.
If you decide to come to Berlin for the final match, you’re welcome to stay with me. My parents wired me some cash. I splurged on a room at the Plaza Hotel in Brandenburg Square. It’s going to be insane. You should come.
He took a big gulp of his beer, then stopped a waiter who was making rounds with a wicker basket full of pretzels. He gave the guy a few Euros in exchange for a soft pretzel the size of a hubcap. Before he took a bite, he snapped a photo of himself with the beer and the pretzel. He even managed to get a lederhosen waitress in the background.
When Bradley stood up, he felt just how much beer he had drunk. He popped the last sausage into his mouth, then took a moment to find his balance before making his way to the front door.
His hostel was in a part of town cluttered with strip clubs and casinos. He dropped his bag off in his room, took a piss. Then went back out.
The strippers stood outside the clubs, calling out drink specials. Most were old and fat. But Bradley liked the attention.
When he walked by the Red Light Lounge, a woman his mother’s age opened her trench coat, revealing her saggy breasts. They were covered in nothing more than a pair of purple pasties. To match, she had a purple-sequined G-string. Her body was speckled in golden glitter.
Bradley slowed for a closer look.
“You like?” the woman spoke with an Eastern European accent. “Two for one drinks. Open all night.”
Bradley kept walking. The woman put one arm around his shoulder and, with the other, she rubbed his belly.
“You buy me a drink?” she said.
She moved her hand down to Bradley’s crotch. He felt his pants tighten. “Come. Buy me a drink.”
She walked him to the end of the block. When he turned the corner, she let him go. He went into a convenience store and bought three bottles of hefeweizen.
His room was small, even by European standards, and sparsely furnished. But he’d paid extra for a balcony, which is where he sat and drank the first bottle of beer. When it was finished, he got his phone out and sent Dobie the picture of himself at Hofbrauhaus.
Greetings from Bavaria, he wrote.
He drank the other two bottles while waiting for a reply. When it didn’t come, he went back into the room, stripped down to his boxers and got in bed. He switched the television on and flipped through the channels till he found a Spanish soap opera with German subtitles.
Two women were sitting on lounge chairs by a swimming pool, wearing white robes and sipping margaritas. A bronzed cabana boy came with a tray of fresh drinks. He said something, which got both women laughing. One of them put her hand on his leg. The other reached into her bag and pulled out a bottle of tanning oil.
The women stood up and removed their robes, exposing tiny bikinis. Bradley touched himself as the cabana boy spread oil on their bodies. Their caramel skin glistened in the sun. One woman pulled aside the straps to her top so the cabana boy wouldn’t miss a spot.
After Bradley finished, he wiped himself with Kleenex. Then turned the television off.
All the seats in business class were sold out. They had one spot available in first class. Luckily, Bradley’s last two paychecks had hit his account that morning, so he was able to board the train to Berlin.
Somewhere in-between the Spanish soap opera and sleep, Bradley’s phone chimed with a text message. It was Dobie, telling him how wonderful her room was.
You should come see for yourself. If you caught the early train, you’d be here by lunch time.
Maybe, Bradley replied.
No maybes about it, Dobie said. She told him she was at the Prater Biergarten with a couple she’d met at the National Gallery on Museum Island. Mitch and Candace were backpackers from Cleveland, Ohio. They’d been traveling for the last three months. Europe was the final leg of their journey. I should get back to my new friends, she wrote. If you decide to come for the match, text me in the morning.
Bradley plugged his phone into the charger and fell asleep. When he woke up, he had five new text messages, each from Dobie. The first came at 1AM.
We found an entire bar dedicated to the Ramones. She sent a picture of herself kissing a life-size cardboard cutout of Joey Ramone. She was holding a bottle of strong, Belgian ale.
An hour after the first message, she sent another, telling Bradley they found a club that played nothing but American music from the 80s. I’m doing shots with a Scottish woman. Mitch and Candace are dancing to Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.”
In the next update, Dobie and her new friends had been kicked out of the 80s club after Candace had a few too many Jäger Bombs. She tried to make it to the toilette, but ended up vomiting all over the dance floor. She ate half a pizza for dinner. Her puke was bright red with chunks of sausage. Talk about disgusting.
At 3AM, she sent a picture of herself sitting on the bank of the Spree River, drinking directly from a bottle of Jägermeister. One last drink before heading back to the hotel.
In her final message, she gave Bradley the address of her hotel, along with her room number. Also, there was one last photo. Dobie had taken off her dress and changed into a men’s soccer jersey. She stood with her back to the full length mirror. She bent over and reached for her toes. Then, she pointed her phone at the mirror and snapped the photo.
When Bradley looked closely, he could see that, in addition to her dress, she’d also removed her panties. He got out of bed, took a quick shower, then went down to the lobby to see about an early check out.
The train had been overbooked. Even though Bradley paid for a seat in first class, he spent the first half of the six-hour journey standing in the space between compartments.
When the toilet in the women’s room clogged and brown water leaked out from under the door, Bradley forced his way into one of the compartments, where he spent the next three hours sandwiched into a six person compartment with ten Aussie backpackers.
They were students at the University of Sydney, spending their summer break touring Europe. They wore matching t-shirts which, in reference to the movie The Hangover, likened themselves to a pack of wolves.
They’d smuggled a couple bottles of schnapps onto the train. They had an endless catalogue of drinking songs. As the bottles got lower, the singing grew louder.
When the train came to a stop in Berlin, Bradley pushed his way to the exit, managing to be one of the first passengers off. He went to the Burger King in the station and ordered a large beer. He finished it in three big gulps while standing over a trash bin. Then, he checked his email. There was a new message from Laura. She would be flying into Prague in a couple days. She wanted the address to the hotel. She wasn’t sure if she should take the train from the airport or hire a cab.
I can’t believe I’ll be there in just two days. It feels like an eternity since we’ve seen each other.
Bradley put his phone away and unfolded his map. Dobie’s hotel wasn’t far from the station.
Bradley found Dobie sitting in the bar with a tall beer and a bowl of green olives stuffed with blue cheese. She was wearing her football jersey. But, unlike in the photo saved in Bradley’s phone, it wasn’t her sole garment. With it, she wore a black skirt.
When she saw Bradley, she stood to give him a kiss.
“This is some place.” Bradley looked up at the crystal chandelier hanging in the center of the room. Then he focused on Dobie. “I like that jersey on you.”
“I knew you would.” She grinned.
“It sounds like you had a busy night.”
“You’ve no idea how bad my head was aching when I woke up this morning. Mitch and Candace are a fun couple. But they’re a bad influence. Have a beer with me?”
“I’d love to. But first I need a shower. I’ve had a hell of a journey and I’m afraid I stink.”
She returned to the bar and, from her purse, got her room key. “The elevators are through the lobby. We’re on the fifth floor.”
“Be back soon.”
“You’d better be.” She leaned in to give him another kiss.
In the room, Bradley found only one bed. He got his toothbrush out of his bag and went into the bathroom. While he waited for the water to heat up, he stood over the sink and brushed his teeth. In the mirror, he spotted Dobie’s bra hanging from the towel rack. He rinsed his mouth out. Then took the bra off the rack. It was made of silk. As he was running his fingers along the inseam he was startled by a knock on the door.
“Can I come in?” Dobie said.
Bradley put the bra back on the rack, got in the shower and pulled the curtain shut. Without waiting for an answer, Dobie turned the knob and pushed the door open. She was carrying two bottles of beer.
“I thought you might be thirsty.” She stuck her hand through the curtain. Bradley took the bottle. Dobie set the other down on the sink. She hiked her skirt up, dropped her panties and sat on the toilet. Bradley heard her peeing. Then he heard the toilet flush.
“What would you like to do for dinner?” she said while washing her hands.
“There’ll be plenty of currywurst vendors at the carnival.”
“Sounds good to me.” Bradley turned the shower off. “Cover your eyes.”
Dobie held her hands over her eyes. Bradley stepped onto the bathmat and patted dry. Dobie separated her fingers and peeked. Bradley saw what she was doing. He wrapped the towel around his waist. In front, it stuck out like a tent.
“I’ll leave you alone.” Dobie looked down, giggling. “Why don’t you get dressed and meet me in the lobby.”
Bradley waited until he heard her leave the room. Then stepped out of the bathroom. He took his clothes out of his bag, folded them, and placed them in one of the dresser drawers. In the bottom of the bag, he found the bra and panty sets he’d purchased for Laura in Dresden. He laid them on top of his t-shirts and shut the drawer.
Brandenburg Gate was right outside the hotel. Behind the gate, they’d set up a stage with a giant screen where they would project the final match. The street between the Gate and Victory Column was closed to traffic and lined with vendors selling food, beer and souvenirs.
To get in, Dobie and Bradley had to pass through a security checkpoint. A police officer patted Bradley down, then let him pass. He instructed Dobie to wait outside the gate. He spoke into his radio and, moments later, a female officer appeared. She was a tall Aryan woman. She wore her blonde hair up in a bun on top of her head. Bradley couldn’t help but notice the snug fit of her uniform.
She instructed Dobie to hold her arms out at her sides and stand with her legs spread. Bradley, along with the four male officers and a dozen football fans, watched as the female cop ran her hands up Dobie’s thighs. Then she patted her breasts. When she was done, she stood aside so Dobie could enter.
“Men are such pigs,” Dobie said, loud enough for the crowd to hear.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Bradley played innocent.
Dobie and Bradley were already drunk when the man standing next to them pulled out a metal flask with an iron eagle etched on the front. He threw his head back and poured the liquid into his mouth, not letting the flask touch his lips. He winked at Dobie and continued drinking while moving the flask farther from his mouth. When he had it at arm’s length, he jerked his wrist, cutting the stream off without spilling a drop.
He passed the flask to Dobie. “Drink up,” he said. He was a bear of a man. The liquor seemed to have little effect on him.
Dobie looked at Bradley, shrugged and took a hit before passing the flask on. It was cheap whiskey. It burnt Bradley’s throat.
All analysis predicted an easy victory for Germany. But, halfway in, the game was tied and neither side looked to have the edge. Bradley could feel the tension coming off the crowd. Around the carnival, they’d set up triage tents.
It got so crowded, the police had to begin turning people away. A man who was refused entry threw a beer bottle at a cop. It ricocheted off his chest and shattered on the cobblestone. Five officers wrestled him to the ground. Four sat on him while the fifth cuffed his hands with zip chord.
When they pulled him to his feet, Bradley saw his nose was leaking blood. It colored his beard and stained the front of his shirt.
“Let’s get out of here,” Bradley said.
“Good idea.” Dobie took one more drink, then returned the flask to its owner.
They tried to push their way to the exit, but the crowd was too thick. Instead, they ducked under the barricade on the side. An officer blew his whistle and came after them. Dobie took Bradley by the hand and ran into the park. Behind them, they heard the cop shouting in German.
“I’m in no shape for running.” Bradley panted.
“Don’t be such a girl.” Dobie ran ahead.
When they were far enough away, Dobie lay on her back in the grass. Bradley got down beside her. She rolled onto her side and buried her face in his neck.
“You’re drunk,” he said.
“So are you.”
It had been two hours since Germany won the World Cup and the celebration showed no sign of letting up. Walking to the central station, Bradley saw a man holding his wife’s hair back while she vomited in the gutter. He passed another man who was pissing in the window of a pub. The people inside toasted him with mugs of beer as they snapped pictures with their phones.
At the station, Bradley learned that he’d missed the last train to Prague. The earliest he’d be able to get out of Berlin was 8 AM. Finding a hotel room, he knew, would be impossible.
When they got back to the room, Dobie opened the nightstand and pulled out a bag of brownies.
“Space cakes.” She popped one in her mouth. “Mitch and Candace brought them over from Amsterdam. They’re strong. You only need a little piece.”
“I’d better not. One bite and I’ll be asleep for the rest of the night.” On the way back to the hotel, they’d stopped at a liquor store for a bottle of Jägermeister. Bradley took a hit, then passed the bottle to Dobie. “If you’ll excuse me,” he got up off the bed and walked to the bathroom, “nature’s calling.”
Sitting on the toilet, he felt like he was on a carousel. In an effort to stop the spinning, he focused on a fixed point in front of him. When that didn’t work, he went to the sink and splashed cold water on his face.
“Don’t come out until I say it’s okay,” Dobie spoke through the door. Bradley cupped his hand over his mouth and nose and smelled his breath. He squeezed a dab of toothpaste onto his brush. “Can I come out now?” he said after rinsing.
“What are you doing out there?” He pressed his ear to the door.
“It’ll be worth the wait, I promise. Just one more second…okay, you can come out.”
The first thing Bradley saw was Dobie’s football jersey and her skirt in a pile in front of the dresser. On top of the dresser, he saw the black bra and the black panties he’d purchased for Laura.
Dobie was lying on the bed. When Bradley looked at her, she spread her legs. She was wearing the yellow bra with the yellow panties. Through the sheer lace, Bradley could see her nipples.
“It’s a perfect fit,” she said. “I must be Cinderella.”
Bradley went down to the platform where the train was scheduled to depart. There were three homeless men, each rolled up in a sleeping bag and surrounded by trash. The stench of urine was strong.
Bradley found an empty bench. He lay on his side, using his bag as a pillow. He could see the time on the screen that listed the trains. It was just past 1 AM. He put his head down and closed his eyes.
Dobie got the Jägermeister off the nightstand. “How about a drink?” She offered the bottle to Bradley. When he reached for it, she pulled away. She spilled some onto her bellybutton. Bradley looked at the pool of liquor. Below it, he admired how the yellow lace complemented her fair skin. Underneath the lace, she was almost completely shaven. She left only a small, V-shaped patch of pubic hair.
“Come on, then,” she said, “take your drink.”
Bradley got down on his knees beside the bed, pressed his lips over her bellybutton and sucked the liquor up.
“That tickles.” Dobie put her hands on the back of his head. He climbed onto the bed and kissed his way up her stomach. She arched her back. He reached behind and unclipped her bra. Her breasts came spilling out.
Bradley woke to the sound of exploding glass. It was a liter bottle of Russian vodka. The homeless man, shouting German obscenities at the trash bin, had spiked it onto the platform.
Bradley sat up, careful not to cut himself on the glass. There was something familiar about the homeless man, who’d stopped shouting and was now pissing on the bench next to Bradley. Bradley recognized his windbreaker. And his khaki pants had a familiar mustard stain on the right knee.
Bradley reached for his bag. It wasn’t there. He checked under the bench. He looked up and down the platform. There was no bag. But, at the far end, by the stairwell, he spotted a pile of clothes.
Bradley had Dobie’s right nipple in his mouth while he worked her left breast with his hand. When he bit her neck, she let out a moan. Then, abruptly, she sat up.
“What’s wrong?” Bradley said.
She swallowed a burp. “Dear God, that’s awful.” She covered her mouth with her hands. “I’m so sorry.” She got off the bed and lost her footing. Bradley took her by the arm. “That last shot might’ve been one too many.”
As she walked to the bathroom, Bradley kept his eyes on her ass. When she closed the door, he removed his clothes and got under the covers.
He waited for what seemed like a long time. Then he got out of bed and knocked on the bathroom door. “Dobie? Is everything okay in there?” He knocked harder. “I’m coming in.” He turned the knob.
Bradley dug through his clothes. His wallet wasn’t there. Also, there was no sign of his laptop. He checked his pockets and was relieved to find whoever robbed him had been just regular thief, not a pickpocket. He still had his phone, his train ticket, twelve Euros in coins and his passport.
He rifled through the trash bin, pulling out a plastic shopping bag. He shook it out, gathered his clothes and put them in the bag. He decided to leave his windbreaker and his khakis with the homeless man.
Dobie was slumped over on the toilet, snoring. Her panties were around her ankles. Bradley took her from under her arms and lifted her to her feet. She stopped snoring and slurred, “I’m so sorry.”
“Let’s get you to bed.”
He reached down and pulled her panties up. He thought of the mall in Dresden, the lingerie shop and the butcher who sold him the sausage. He tried to get Dobie to walk. But it was easier to just pick her up and carry her to bed.
As soon as her head touched the pillow, she began snoring again.
Bradley put his clothes back on. Then packed his bag. He found a piece of hotel stationary and wrote a short note thanking Dobie for the time they’d spent together.
Enjoy the rest of your summer abroad. Safe travels.
He placed the note on the nightstand. He gave Dobie a kiss on her forehead. She stirred. But didn’t stop snoring.
Outside the station, Bradley found an all-night newsstand. Twelve Euros got him three cans of Berliner Pilsner and one chocolate bar with salted hazelnuts.
Walking to the river, he was so tired he had to concentrate on keeping his eyes open. After a long night of celebrating, the city had finally gone to bed. Soon, the street sweeps would come out to scrub the pavement.
He sat on the bank of the Spree and cracked the first can. He hoped if he drank fast enough, he would forget how tired he was. Across the river he could see the Reichstag building. During the war, it had been destroyed by Allied Bombs. Bradley had seen pictures. The Allies hit the building so hard, it was left barely standing. Shortly after the war, the Germans rebuilt it.
Bradley got his phone out of his pocket and pulled up his email. There was a new message from Laura. She wanted to make sure Bradley had an extra power converter. If not, she would stop at the store after work. She wasn’t sure how many sweaters to pack. She wanted Bradley to tell her how cold it got in the evenings.
Bradley put the phone down and crushed the first can. He burped. Then pulled the tab on the second can.
He looked out at the Reichstag building. Behind it, the sun was rising. He tried but was unable to find any signs of destruction. He couldn’t imagine how they were able to put it back together like that.