A city lives through the stories that it's streets tell about them. And in these days, street art ( or graffiti ) is the picture book which illustrate these stories.
I usually like to discover a city on my own, armed with enough reading material to start a traveling library. However, graffiti is not considered as a legitimate art form in many places, so when I heard of a free tour around Berlin which would be focused on street art, I had to sign up.
The tour was lead by a Londoner who stepped straight out of the pages of a Neil Gaiman book and his trusty dog.
And the group that gathered around them consisted of people as different and similar as a group of graffiti lovers could be. Among them were people I would meet again, and have a good time with, but I did not know that then.
So it was our guide who told us the story of Lena. See the pretty girl in the picture below? That is her, and this is her story.
The paintings of Lena appeared on the walls of Berlin one day, all with the same plaintive message "Lena, come back. I miss you." Unrequited love is an all too common and all too terrible thing, so many in the city sympathized with him. As the number of paintings across the city grew, the messages along with them also grew in their sense of loss. As the artist began to tell Lena that he would do everything, anything, to be back with her, the city waited with bated breath.
If you are a romantic who has experienced unrequited love, you would not have been able to stand these messages follow you around the city, whatever you plan to do, wherever you plan to go. So, in a sense of kinship, other people started to put out their own street posters, asking Lena to forgive the artist and go back to him.
If you have a heart, then being on the receiving end of a love that you do not reciprocate can be a terrible thing. Those who have experienced it thought back to their own experiences of the dark side of love, and rallied behind this girl they have never met with counter messages.
"Lena, do not go back to him. It is not going to change" and "Lena, are you safe, if in trouble, call xxx-xxxxxx" with their phone numbers in the posters. Lena became the friend, sister and daughter of people whom she had never met. Women who look like Lena were reported to be seen in different parts of the city. The city was on alert : one half to find her, the other half to shield Lena.
The Berlin radio station picked up the story and one of the RJs invited the artist to make his plea mainstream via his radio channel. However, it turned out to be more shocking than anyone expected it to be.
That day on air, the artist told the world the truth. There was/is no Lena. She was a figment of his imagination, an inanimate piece in his project to check how Berliners would react to a plea of love.
So, if you missed out on the love of your life in Berlin, do not put out posters asking her to get in touch with you. The city is going to shrug it's shoulders and move on, still in shock from the fact that Lena was not real.