East Berlin, 1951


In East Berlin, 1951―lifetimes ago―on Schlausen Strasse, in the rain by the puffenhaus―the ladies in the showcase windows enticed us with erotic dances and suggestive hip strategies.

Down the street, a beautiful Arian woman shagged an elephant under a street lamp, her mascara running down her cheeks as she puffed on a cigarette while engaging the panting elephant in talk of existential loneliness.

Behind them a lone monkey howled as it thrust its empty metal cup up to gods that never particularly cared about monkeys. In the dull reflective surface of the monkey’s cup, confused soldiers danced around a bayoneted rat yelling “Vas ist? Vas ist?” One of them uttered something about the next time being the last.

A tall man in black overcoat, black hat and black eyes took pictures of them from behind a mailbox marked “Verboten.” He click, click, clicked for whatever eyes wrapped their horror around East Berlin in 1951, on a drizzly night.

The blare of a car horn sent three teenage girls―with sudden old age disintegrating the whites of their eyes―plunging for the sidewalk with their wrinkled teen hands griping their heads, while red lights blinked from a passing plane, its propellers roaring ominously over a city still uncurling from fear of the sky.

A sentry in a guard booth lit a cigarette as she dreamed about the last time she ate bratwurst and brochens with curry sauce―about one or two lost lifetimes ago, before the planes and tanks came. Down the street from her, we talked about movies and baseball and threw an empty bourbon bottle into the shadows of a narrow alley and waited for the sound of crashing glass.

It never came.


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