Warning: This work has been rated 16+.
Dust tickles my nose as I wander aimlessly through Berlin’s streets. Rubble from the war still lines the crumbling buildings, the war that no one will talk about. Depression and fear clings to us like a shadow. Men and women try to ignore the damp unwanted entity; it’s business as usual. The Statsi prey on those whose shadow is too small, they eat happiness and leave despair; it revitalises them. The Soviet Union hasn’t tried to help us clear the reminders of the war; they want us to suffer further. Occasionally, a scribbled Swastika covers the bleak building sides, drawn there by someone who remembers the days of prosperity. “They lie” these Germans claim, “The Allies lie about who we are; about what has happened.” Eventually these men all disappear however, and we learn quickly not to speak of such ‘lies’. Between two buildings, rubble is piled high in a cramped laneway. The dust blankets the cracked pavement either side. In the thick dust I scratch ‘Happy 12th birthday Angelika’ and a cake bursts to life, the candles alight. I blow them away to the sound of cheerful applause, but my breath scatters it to dust again; the gritty grey pavement stares up at me. From the opening between the two buildings the edge of my world is visible. The wall rises high above the streets, tall proud and secure. Barbed wire twists around the top, hissing and coiling, a long slinky snake. I sit against the opening of the alley. A crack in the surface of the wall grows and I claw at it. The concrete falls apart easily in my fragile hands. A large hole is formed, sun shines through it; Cartagena lies beyond.
“Cartagena,” my mama tells me “is such a beautiful place. The water stretches out beyond you, far into a never ending horizon; a sea made of a million blue diamonds. They shimmer and swell and disappear at your feet into silky sand.” At her words I can feel the sand against my feet. “Sun warms you to your very core, a sweating onion, refreshed by the water.” Cool lapping water tickles my ankles, making me giggle. “The fishermen stand against a setting sun; silhouettes whose smiles can still be seen.” her stories always calm my racing thoughts. “The lights from buildings light up the bay and the beach and cast beautiful moving shadows on the water that dance and sing.”
“Where is Cartagena Mama?” Her answer is the same of all my questions
“It lies beyond the wall.”
I feel the guards’ eyes piercing me from their high towers. Slowly I put back together the crumbling concrete. The hole fills piece by piece, the cracks disappearing until all that is left is solid mass. No cracks, no dents, a smooth and secure surface. The wall lies once again several meters away from me in the laneway opening. If I ever got closer to the wall a bullet would quickly pierce my fragile skin right between my eyes. Upon shaky legs I return home, haunted by disappointment, my dreams beyond the unbreakable barrier.
Home is damp. The small and cramped space accumulates dust and mould. Papa sits at the table enjoying a newspaper he found discarded. Under his breathe he mutters a word I don’t understand with disappointment; “Propaganda.”
“Why do you read it?”
“The lies humour me,” a smile tugs at the edge of his lips, “when that wall is brought down you and I, mein schatz, will be there, with our bare hands, tearing the cracks in the concrete.”
“Will our life be different, Papa?”
“You will have all the food you would ever need! You will vote for who leads you, and you will be able to travel to wherever you want,” He grins devilishly.
“We will go there every single year on your birthday if you so wish. You can play in the turquoise garden of water with the mermaids Angelika. We will live under a democracy, we will have the freedom to travel wherever you like. Freedom you have never experienced!”
A hiss sounds from the kitchen; “Don’t speak so liberally! You never know who may be listening.” Mama’s scared, but she and I, we know nothing will shut him up.
I wander aimlessly through these bleak streets again. So long it has been since they held such grittiness and depression. But I see what my mood reflects out on my surrounds. They took him away, the Statsi took him and his friends. Papa! In desperation I scream for him, although I know it is useless. The words those men spoke were dangerous. We all knew this, but they weren’t careful enough. For years I have joined in on their discussions, political and social, usually done in absolute secrecy. But to hold a political discussion so publically, to invite so many people, what was he thinking! The fantasies we spoke of, the destruction of the Berlin Wall, it is being dangled in my face, just out of my reach. “Fick dich!” I hope my grief rattles Stalin’s skull. Political retraining in Serbia; a perfect excuse to use slave labour to industrialise; this is what Papa told me. I squeeze into the space between buildings. Happy 15th birthday Angelika.
That wall, it blocks out the sunlight, the happiness. It isolates me from a world I seek desperately. I despise East Berlin, I despise the Soviet. Communism is the work of the devil! From the laneway I claw violently at the cracks in the wall. It crumbles and crashes down. The opening that is formed still holds a scene of Cartagena; the beautiful shimmering water, the tropical landscape, the fishing city, but I have learnt so much. Beyond the wall I see capitalism, democracy and true leadership. I see the freedom of speech that creates such beautiful music and stories. I envision the protests that take America by storm, people crying with happiness as they achieve what they desired. Beyond the hole there is the latest fashions, excessive money and luxury. It surrounds the paradise of Cartagena, but I have to hide my desires behind the Berlin Wall once again. Piece by piece the space is filled and returns to the solid concrete barrier.
The ideas outside the wall follow me through all my days, they swarm like bees in my skull, violently trying to break free. I want to talk, explore and criticize, but I’m conscious of the censorship that filters information, and the consequences of if I speak out of turn. At school we listen attentively to lies, at home we share whispers about the west, whispers slowly disintegrating into silence. The dreams I used to see beyond the wall are lost to me now, and I stare at solid concrete with bitterness consuming me. It mocks me: ‘you will never escape,’ it jeers, ‘those dreams are useless’; the long slinky snake still hisses, warning me away. Mama is quiet now, her memories of Cartagena fade and she stays still. Her skin discoloured, her breathing shallow and her eyes sunken. A shell of a person consumed by grief. Papas been gone for two years now. There is no doubt in my mind that he will not return, but I try to believe he’s on the other side, at Cartagena.
Mama’s reality disintegrates, until she no longer responds, leaving loneliness in our house. She stares out the window, with shallow breath and absent eyes, the sweat glides down her pale thin features.
“I’m leaving, I’m going to the west Mama,” desperation, fear, anxiety.
No response. I don’t want to leave her but I can’t stay any longer. Fear clings to me, feeding on my depression. I miss my Papa, and who Mama used to be.
“They’ll kill you if I escape, they’ll torture you for information, come with me Mama. Come with me to Cartagena.” She blankly stares without blinking, deaf to my words; a conversation with myself. Not even the slamming door as I leave can wake her from her despair. I make a promise that I cannot keep, to face what I wish to do.
“I’ll come back for you I promise,”
The Berlin Wall, intimidating, forbidden and undeniably solid, rises from the cracked and broken earth, the barrier that has caused such chaos and despair. Beyond the wall and death strip I can hear the laughter already for the wealthy living on the other side. Guards patrol the base and watch from the towers above. Lay a hand on the wall and they’ll be forced to act. From the alley the pounding of my heart makes the earth shudder, drawing the snake’s attention. Abandon Mama, but see Papa again? Filled with strangling fear I rise onto my shaky fragile legs, trying to find the will to move forward. Like I did as a younger girls I claw at the wall, forming a gap in the solid surface. Papa! Standing on the beach at Cartagena bathed in sunlight, smiling. The serenity of the scene draws me close. I follow his beckoning hand, with sudden wave of euphoria. ‘Just a few more steps, mein schatz ,’ Closer and closer. I hear the voices but they don’t reach me; they don’t matter.
“Step away from the wall, step away or we will have to-”
I climb through to Cartagena.