postcards from jenna
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BERLIN

Postcards by Jenna Matecki
Artwork by Miratrick

 

01

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It’s very crisp 
things are 
precise for the most part
I’m told that Berlin is so much less so compared 
to the rest of Germany - who knows what the truth is
it’s what you compare it to 
There are 
wide avenues
parks where people actually use the ping pong tables and the
tennis courts with gusto 
big leafy trees
graffiti and stickers everywhere, of course 
but a lot of it is excellent artwork and 
the walls themselves are clean
It’s daylight from 
3am to 9pm which means
almost everyone who parties late 
watches the sun rise
The buildings are all more or less the 
same shade of pale yellow and eggshell white, finding 
the old ones feels like opening a treasure chest vortex to the 
good parts of the past
This city changes from east to west or 
west to east - history
has a scene here
From Brandenburg Gate where Napoleon had a power trip to the 
Bundestag where Merkel does Merkel, 
the wall, 
the memorials.
The new is in 
The kids in xberg, the
neon in Neukolln, the picnics in Mauerpark 
I biked from Wedding to Friedrichshain the rushing air 
felt so good
I watched the sunset pink from Oberbaumbrücke bridge with 
Fernsehturm tower in the distance, people sat and smoked together on the shores of the Spree
I sketched the kebab guy at the Warschauer Straße S-Bahn station
his eyes were expressive and warm
When you ask me to describe Berlin, 
I always use the word ‘still’ 
People don’t mind being calm and still
whether at a beer garden or listening to a child tell a story
They still very much love rules and speaking direct
though they are 
creative and chill 
From day one until now
I still find a mismatched melancholy here - 
cool, but with a pulse

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02

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It was 3am, I was
sober at the rave, the music was
beating, thumping
How is it possible
that a few days ago I was in Mexico City?
An artist here who grew up in San Francisco
pulled me aside and chose to give me a drunken pep talk just before I stepped up to finish a live painting that a new friend started on stage

“GET IN THERE. THIS IS BERLIN. YOU ARE AN ARTIST IN BERLIN. MAKE IT YOURS.”

He held my shoulder while he
yelled into my face like a
coach before a match
Behind him a group of people stood mesmerized around
an old washing machine tumbling with lights - they looked
exactly like glitchy video game characters
As I picked up a red pastel and
adjusted the earplugs that I wore so I can still hear in 30 years
I laughed and thought about how much I miss you
“I miss you” is a phrase I speak often lately -
You know,
you all know
that “I miss you” is a stronger sentiment from me than
“I love you”
these days

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03

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My wish this summer
is to have the courage
to say goodbye to whatever needs to stay in my past
in the way that Zofia said
goodbye to me at the Krakow airport - she
waved, made faces
As I walked through security she
jumped up and down in the distance so I could still see her -
yelling my name and giggling
In her eight years she already learned something that
people take lifetimes to get a handle on -- hers are
joyful goodbyes - she
blows kisses
as they leave

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04

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You don’t need to be famous, rich, or have a fancy degree
you aren’t lacking an essential something, no matter who for a
second suggested that you did
We’d all love you even if you saved the world and no one knew
I love you, Mr. McHenry, because when
we were theatrically running towards each other to hug
after not seeing each other in ages,
you noticed a random Berliner standing near us
was watching
and you hugged him first

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05

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It’s not your fault
it never was
It is all happening in their
own sad minds - they
imagined the whole thing
Their worlds were born from
legitimate pain they once experienced
or their grandmother’s grandfather once experienced -
it has nothing to do with you
- As if you could be the ills of the universe -
They just haven't learned how to not
pass it on - to
pour water on it instead of
hurting everyone around them in some
twisted search for balance
Pristine logic isn’t failproof without feeling
just like
feeling needs to be rooted in actual reality in order to make sense
No one gets an award for turning every positive into a negative
don’t for a second think that could work for you too it
doesn’t for them either
...Why then?
I wish I knew.
Listen to me when I say that
I'm so sorry, and
I see it happening too -

We all do, love.
We all do.

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06

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I learned yesterday from Dr. Jan at
a renowned climate institute in Potsdam named PIK
that the North Pole is melting
And it’s too late, it won’t stop anymore, that’s how
ice works
The land will flood or dry up, fires will burn, the sky will get
more and more angry
Fresh water
will be so much more precious than it already is in the
coming years
It’s too late to prevent this now
We need to adapt and change how we do things, how our systems work, how we move around, how we
nourish ourselves
We need
to slow down and listen to the
subtle movements of time
The way forward is a few steps back, it’s dealing with the effects as well as the causes, yes it’s
trees, bugs, vegetables - it’s
spokes instead of smog, clean energy, tech - yes, but
it’s also about education, planning, investing, infrastructure, equality, it's
finally working towards getting the Tough things right instead of
inertia
If there’s anyone I trust
to be able to know what that all means and
get started on one tiny piece of it that they’re capable of tackling
If there’s anyone I trust to see the hope in this and
do something about it
it’s you

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07

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Dear reader, this chapter might be a bit of a downer.
Honestly, it’d be strange if this entire book was fairytales.
I told you this wasn’t a long vacation,
the rest of the colors can’t work without some blue.

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08

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She lives life size in a painting that is framed
on the wall at the foot of my bed in Berlin
I went through the thought exercise of moving her to a different room but then shrugged, it somehow would be
bad luck

She’s standing there,
naked from the waist up
looking at me, tough or afraid? I can’t tell what she’s emoting
it’s like all the potential sensuality
that one could find in a painting of a topless woman
vanished
she’s a bit like a warped Mona Lisa - any tenderness or charm
isn’t there
She’s judging? Or a bit sad?
You’d find her in one of those terrifying dreams where you’re naked in a public place and
everyone else is clothed
- except her and she’d
still look at you that way
What did you do wrong,
where she’s naked too but you’re the one who is
embarrassed?

Her hair is golden brown, wiry and coiffed back, puffy in the way that hair was -
her eyes are blue
her nose is thin, she’s turned
slightly to her right and
looking back at you,
eyebrows tense, lips pursed
arms down, breasts bare
If you speak first, or offer her a blanket
she'll just continue to stare or perhaps
walk away

She’s clearly very uncomfortable -
no woman would ever choose
to be that cold while immortalized in brushstrokes
unless her life was
difficult and there was little to be
hopeful about
No woman would ever want to
look that way while naked

I’m too afraid to ask
my wonderful landlord who she is or where he found her
for fear that he’ll say
“My mother.”
Or worse
"She lived in your apartment."

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09

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I don’t even know exactly how I found it
I needed a sauna
so I walked in one day
Saunabad has since become my hideout here in Berlin
It’s a neighborhood sauna, the locals in Prenzlauer Berg go
The manager Tommy knows my name now and we’ve all
seen each other buck naked
It’s a nice kind of community because everyone unites in honor of taking care of themselves, as they are, and
not having to talk to anyone
It’s not a fancy sauna, and it's much better that way
They took a ground floor apartment and backyard
and turned it into a pocket of Finland
after the lockers and the showers and
your fluffy robe is fastened and secured tightly around your waist,
you flip flop into a shady garden with a
sauna house running the length of it to the left and
four white recliners to the right
A wall with stacked wood is at the back
There’s a pergola overhead that is completely covered in long trails of ivy, when you’re
laying in the recliners after a good sweat you can see
dappled light on the walls and fuzzy bees
flying about the sun rays and the green
The sauna house is glorious
It’s all wooden oak
On the hour, every hour, the sauna keepers with their felt hats on
come in and drizzle essential oils like
lavender and eucalyptus on the stove stones
They then fan the air around -
You’ll feel the heat wave even from your spot on top shelf
The air is called löyly once it’s steam, Fins refer to it as a life force,
I read about this in books about saunas (yes, on the road you start reading about creature comforts like saunas)
As you dip in and out of the sauna you can jump into a cold shower
or plunge pool
back and forth from the cold, to the hot, to the lounge chairs
Wrapped up in towels or baking together
without electronics, words, or sounds other than
water dripping, shuffles, and sighs
of relief

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10

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Hi. It's me. The universe.
I stole your computer.
It’ll be found by some caring soul and sent back to Germany in two days but you’ll get it in four weeks because German customs in Cologne will seize it and want to charge you an import tax
They will only speak to FedEx and not directly with you because
those are the rules.
I did this on purpose because I like to be cruel and inexplicable sometimes.
I know that your entire business and all your writing happens on this laptop.
This timing will also coincide with a
well-intentioned bartender giving you a drink that had pineapple in it.
Most people don’t believe you when you say that you are very allergic to pineapple, but this is the one rare ingredient he needed to not screw up, and well, he did. Oops.
You will be physically unable to smile for three weeks while your lips and throat heal which will
push you more and more inward, this is very unlike you, you are
Friendly and love meeting new people but I’m determined to make August difficult for you.
Given that you are prone to thinking that I’m fundamentally good I’ll end on this:
It’s very, very important that you don’t have your computer on you this month and that you
haven’t been able to smile ---

That's all I can share with you at the moment.

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11

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“I see you, beauty"
he said in his thick Jamaican accent
He placed his fingertips gently on my swollen cheek and I
had to blink
We spent the last three hours
talking about his adventures as a weed smuggler in the 90s
The flowers his daughter picked for him
on her way home from school
All the things you can learn about someone
from the music they listen to
“I will catch you
in the next life, we will meet
on a boat like my boat, and
have the time to be dear friends”

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12 

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Grocery shopping is when you’re reminded most of
where you’re not -
Food stores are the last places where people think of foreigners and the first places where you crave local sundries from
various times in your life like
real corn tortillas, spiced hummus, fresh ground cardamom,
smokey mezcal, shishito peppers, fizzy kombucha, green castelvetrano olives, those particular forest mushrooms, and
New York apples.
I must mention the apples.
Next time you see me and
if they’re in season
Please bring me apples.

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13

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To the Berlin polizei:

I’ve jaywalked multiple times here.

Thank you,
I feel much better now after
getting that off my chest.

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14

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I want you to know that
I heard your voice crack when you called me up to say that
the person closest to you died young and I still
thought you were incredibly brave
when you asked for help and admitted
that you’re not capable of making any decisions right now
except for discerning what
feels good or doesn’t

I sent so many thoughts out to the ether
in your name
I pulled as much as I could
on the threads that connect us all -
The sand here promised to
help cradle your tired feet and the
birds said
they’d eat your leftovers,
the Havel swore
to keep your tears safe

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15

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We were dancing close and you
held my waist as we moved
and sang along to all of our favorite songs
We sipped vermouth and
were in stitches listening to
each other’s stories
on your balcony over a
street that I already know and adore, and
I can’t voice
just how much I needed that
evening with you
I felt pretty, blooming, and
free it was an
Answer I give for why
I live my life the way I do

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16

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"Marco!"
I threw my keys into the dish at the door.
"…"
"Maaaaarrrrrcooooo!"
"… hi?"
"Where is the 'polo!?'"
"Huh?"
"... I say 'Marco!' and you say 'Polo!' when I'm trying to find you. You never played that?"
"Nope."
"How did you find each other while you were growing up?!"

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17

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If Alex Von Humboldt,
the genius 250-year-old Berliner who explored Latin America, invented modern science, and
used poetry to describe nature
were alive today he’d be
tattooed and hanging around Kreuzberg like the rest of us.
He’d get his bike tuned at Standert and
pass around flyers about the climate strike on the 20th. He’d
swim with his brother’s family in the Schlachtensee on the weekends,
and chat about how much he loves Frank Ocean over a glass of wine with his partner at St. Ambroeus.
He’d use a knife and fork to properly explain how isothermal lines work while having nerdy friends over for dinner.
While thinking through a thought,
he’d habitually touch the beads on a necklace that an old Colombian friend gave him and say
“hmmmm.”
You would always be sure to find him on
his usual run through Volkspark Friedrichshain on Thursday mornings.
He’d listen to a podcast in French and
pound the pavement, wearing
bright yellow Adidas trainers
and a determined look on his face.

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18

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The word ‘kind’ -
Signs that line the main streets
Printed at the top of all the news sites
A greeting from one person to another
Written in the contracts
Carved into tree trunks
Painted at the bottom
Of all the coffee mugs
Sewn into socks
Marked on whiteboards
Chocolate chipped on waffles
Whispered before bedtime
Heard in every compliment
Engraved on all the rings
Salve for every sadness
North star of the brave

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19

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Her eyes were the color of ice
she invited me to step behind her counter
We were at AAA - her print shop that’s been around since 1993
She unfolded a light grey tissue paper
and the first two postcards for the Berlin chapter were there, perfectly
set and printed
After these particular two months,
it was a miracle that they still happened.
I felt it all when looking at them.
“They’ll be ready Wednesday”
“Thank you so, so much for this.”
“You are welcome, Jenna”
“What is your name?”
“Grit.”
“Your name is ‘Grit!?’”
Ich heiße Grit.”
“Thank you, Grit.”
“My pleasure. Your postcards aren’t ugly enough for Berlin.”

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Klappe zu,
affe tot! 

Hallo. Thanks for reading the Berlin chapter. Did you sign up to receive a postcard? Super. Who do you want to hang out with next? Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Barcelona? Let’s be honest, we all know who will stay up until 6am this time…