Travel Diary: Berlin

By: S. Davis

September; Germany:

Why am I crying? Of all places, here?

As I’m connecting the dots over the last 24 hours and strolling to the Naturkundemuseum with a chunk of cheesy bread in my mouth the noise of the city begins to dissipate, as if the volume is controlled by a DJ. There are fewer people on Chausseestr and it’s now silent in the early afternoon. Shops are busy, life is abundant yet you can hear whispers as if they were screams. According to my map, I’m a few blocks away from my destination – which happens to be in close proximity to the Berlin Wall Memorial as well. I have this afternoon filled just like that.

My neck is tight. What the hell happened last night? Did I go clubbing again or did Whitney and I get drinks? Was it both? Was I with Natasha yesterday? Maybe I should check my phone for clues. That’s not going to shed any light on what happened before I fell asleep; my nights are meant for memory-making and not picture-taking, especially when I’m on vacation. My phone spends most days, shut off, and in my locker. There’s no real point to being on vacation and being tied to an electronic leash. Its primary use is as a backup camera to my traditional model.

I’m rambling now and I’m flummoxed as to why my neck feels like someone put a screwdriver through the left side of it and kicked it through, puncturing the skin on the right. I need to eat more. Rewe’s right over the bridge…done. Wait, I already went there and I haven’t finished the bread or fruit cup yet.

The clouds are gathering once more – and I’m certain it’s about to rain shortly. It’s quiet, even the cars are less noisy along this street. Greenery, fantastic; oh, this isn’t a park in the city. It’s the Dorotheenstadt Cemetery. It’s so peaceful. Tranquil. Is it open to the public?

I have time. I can walk around for a bit, I think. Let’s put this food away, this is not a space of recreation at all. After taking a gulp of water I carefully enter the gates and feel the ambience. Two senior women are wrapped in a conversation on a nearby bench and smile as our eyes meet, I smile in return. I examine the headstones: the names, dates of a human’s existence, the family plots, the long lives and the incredibly short ones all resting here.

Pellets of rain rest on my right hand and I look to the sky. There’s still a great deal of sunlight so I have some time before I have to find cover, maybe 15 minutes or so…I guess. A marble headstone catches my attention and then an intricate tomb, another plot holding several generations of an entire family line, a teacher, a wife and her husband, a mother and her son, a beloved brother, the headstone of a child; the rain subsides.

My feet swiftly become fastened to the cement. My shoulders feel heavy. I rotate clockwise and counter-clockwise. I’m centered and I’m not able to move forward or backward; I stop spinning. As I look to the sky, the tombs, the women on the bench near the entrance and the dog walking its owner along Chausseestr…

Why am I crying? Of all places, here?

I spent hours at the Holocaust Memorial and I felt intense gloom. The lives shattered, entire families wiped out of existence; pointless extermination. Murdered; killed for no other reason than they were born and were labeled by a tyrant as different. Some of the notes I read at the exhibit forced me to sit and soak in the despair. Why didn’t I shed tears there? A few times I felt as if I was on the verge especially when I listened to the story of a woman in Nazi Germany, her name adorned the wall from the projector and under her name was a date of birth yet there wasn’t a date of death. It was empty. I’m melancholy as I type this with that image so clear in my mind. I’m in that room once more; that sad, elegant, respectful, poignant, tragic presentation that I listened to for a long stretch of time.

Tears traversed my eyeballs and not a single one escaped my eyelid. Could it be that I expected to cry, at least subconsciously, and therefore it didn’t materialize because of that same underlying expectation? There’s no answer and I’ll leave it at that.

Clouds are beginning to block out the sun as a tear runs down my cheek. I focus intently as it splashes on my sneaker and I look up at a statue of a pained woman. She’s braced on an urn, unable to stand upright with her grief. It took wind out of my chest. Maybe I’m repressing inner pain but I bent over, almost taking one knee, stared at my sneakers and let the process take over. It hurt and I was heartbroken.

I licked the tears from my top lip and exhaled. There was a child’s headstone that took me to another level. I’ve been in cemeteries before – and I’ve never had a reaction like this…but on this day, for reasons unknown, it was befitting. I grieved and didn’t wipe a single tear from my face. I wanted to feel it all. There are times I can be robotic, to the point where I even question what’s brewing within my soul. My heart’s beating and I’m in tune with my emotions. A human exists; Sean is still there.

Death doesn’t shake me; I’ve been exposed to it more than I’d like to admit. When life gives you lemons, right?

My brain begins to send signals to my feet and I’m able to move again. The tombs are intricate, large and small. Some are worn and others look new or freshly cleaned. A small portion of the headstones have recent dates of death and those affect me immediately. A light drizzle turns on a dime and the rain intensifies which forces me to pull on my beanie. I feel angry, I feel depressed, I feel weak, I feel strong, I felt it all. I shut my eyes and say prayers as I walk along the resting.

I mourn. I’m sure the emotion here is connected to this cemetery, these people, and the experience at the Holocaust Memorial. This was a slight detour. The ones I love when traveling without a plan. It’s the reason why I don’t make any.

Lastly, to the three joggers and two bikers: You’re assholes.

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Diaries
Part 1: France
Part 2: New York City (JFK)

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