Note: Juvenilia, written when I was a teenager. I'm now a bit embarrassed by it, but am leaving it up here because a number of people were kind enough to read it and say complimentary things. Feel free to enjoy it, but don't judge me on it. ;-) - May 2020.
Even he doesn't know exactly what he is. He is a showman, painted, ambiguous. He is smooth mask and fluttering lashes, red lips painted in a moveless smile. He is a conjuror, here and then gone, fleeting, ephemeral. He is a mirror, distorting, yet reflecting; a caricature, an image. He is threat and charisma, erotica, ecstacy, fear and cruelty and seduction, truth and lies. He is nothing. He is all.
He is everything, and more than everything. He is the very heart and person of Berlin, a wall waiting to divide. From the dressing room above the cabaret where he sleeps (sometimes with a chorus girl, a guest, sometimes a pretty boy – he never wants for bedfellows.), from there, he hears the rush and traffic of Berlin, the fruit sellers crying their wares, the clatter and shambles of carthorses across the cobbles, the rumble and chug of trains, ceaseless night and day. One of those trains will bring a young American writer, abandon him a while, then carry him away again. The next train will bring another. Another dreamer, another failure, another marked man. It's all one. From the dressing room above the cabaret, he hears the daily tramp of boots, marching in goose-step. Few still, but not so few as yesterday, nor the day before. Slowly, infinitesimally slowly, the party is rising. Fatherland. Fatherland!
It would be a lie to say that he cared. He doesn't care very much either way. He will still be here, in the dressing room above the cabaret. Perhaps he will cock his head, and his black eyes will glint oddly in the white face, but that is all. Go or stay, he doesn't care. Perhaps, in the gaudy half-light, he will stoop, watching his own eyes in the mirror, and apply a layer of blood-red paint to lips that pout and quirk as the city burns all around him. Perhaps he will sit in his shirt-sleeves on the sweeping staircase and drink a toast to old Berlin, or dance for her a eulogy across the darkened stage of an empty nightclub. Perhaps he will die for her. Perhaps he will kill for her. Perhaps, just perhaps, he will do nothing at all.
You see, he knows about people. Has made it his bussiness to know. He knows that hearts and lips grow cold, that children will wait all their lives for a sign which never comes, that, though all the odds are in their favour, some people can just never win.
He know these things because he is these things; is every heartbeat, and every breath, and every thought of every man, and every woman, and every child. He knows that an English cabaret singer will die in Berlin, and 14,000 with her. He knows, too, that in America far away, a man who will never now become a father will be found dead in his flat, with a manuscript, and the simple words 'For Sally.' The Master of Ceremonies knows all these things.
But that comes later. For now, he straightens his bowtie, and checks his gold cufflinks. His lashes flutter. His red tongue licks at the painted smile. There is a drumroll, and a rush of applause. He bows to no one, for there is no one there to see, and steps out onto the stage.
"I don't care much, go or stay,
I don't care very much either way.
Words sound false when your coat's too thin,
Feet don't waltz when the roof caves in.
So if you kiss me, if we touch,
Warning's fair, I don't care...