Aurelia and I were walking back from the mensa to Friedrichstrasse. It was cold and the melted snow had frozen again and was easy to slip on. Aurelia almost did slip and I suggested that she follow the narrow muddy path on which I was slithering. She refused, explaining that she met such adventures only in Berlin and that therefore she preferred the ice.

Suddenly, on the left, we saw a lamp store, with large, round and colorful lamps. Aurelia wanted very much to go in. We entered. The showroom reminded me of a Eurovision setting from the 70’s. The saleslady wore multicolored make-up, tight, black leather trousers and a leopard jacket, a combination of the lion-tamer and the acrobat in a circus. I stepped back, closer to the door.

Aurelia walked into the showroom, where two men were sitting and working on a laptop. She walked between the lamps slowly, as if watching the fable as well as playing a character in it. She approached the ball-like lamps with hesitation at first, then with the confidence of a merchant examining stock, or of someone exploring a wonderful magic, leaving behind mundane concerns. She stood on one leg to reach a lamp, whose size was double that of her head.

“We’re just looking”

“We’re just looking”, I explained. “Naturally”, said the saleslady without taking her eyes off Aurelia. She then approached me and said: “It is good to know that the lamps are actually white and that on the light bulb itself we put a colored filter, which can be changed every day.” I walked into the back show room where Aurelia was now closely examining a large, green lamp. I told her. She asked: “you mean the pigments really change?” I said “no, just the filters, that’s all”. 

“Even an elephant can stand on them”

Aurelia went over to the sales lady and inquired: “How does it work?” The lady lifted up a lamp, screwed off the white cover and revealed a plastic, orange filter that was covering a fluorescent light. Aurelia said: “ah, so that’s it?” the lady said proudly, “yes, and you should also know that the lamps are made of such a durable material that one can use them as a table base, leave them outside, in the garden, even in the rain”. Aurelia looked skeptical and I nodded enthusiastically. The saleslady added, as she was screwing the cover back on the lamp: “they are so resilient that even an elephant can stand on them. They will stand up even under 1000 kilos”.

She returned the lamp whose viscera had been exposed and covered up again to the stairs where it had originally stood. Aurelia asked: “and those cost 490 Euros each, because of the elephant and the rain?” “Yes” said that saleslady. We thanked her and got out of the store. Aurelia was silent for a few seconds and then said: “but an elephant weighs more than a thousand kilos, doesn’t it?” I agreed. She continued: “it might be useful to be able to leave the garden lamps in the rain, but where I come from—why should there be any elephants walking around?”   I thought: “If you ever live in Berlin, right here in the center, and the animals are set free from the zoo into Tiergarten, your lamp, and the color of the filter you’d choose for that day, will be a reminder of a rounded life, until an elephant comes by”.

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