Germany was like a step-mother: utterly familiar, utterly despised. ~ Erica Jong
It’s a good day for a lie-down, overcast and
wet-wooled – even the rain wants to be horizontal.
I am day-dreaming of goose down when I
enter the train, scoot into an open seat,
press my cheek against the streaked window.
The station’s soothing voice announces,
Zurückbleiben bitte, someone runs in just before
the doors close, slams me against the side
of the compartment, takes a lungful of my air.
In an accent foreign as my own, he asks
my name, if I “want some fun” back
at his room. I buy time before the next stop,
tell him I’m “Whitney from America”
(anything but my real name in his mouth).
Now he locks his arm through mine and thick
fingers jab my ribs. His leg, an anchor –
his pocked face smirks like he’s already
notched his belt.
I imagine the defence move my brother
taught me where I smash my palm heel into
some asshole’s nose, shifting bone into brain.
(Where is my Siegfried in this country of the
“Nibelungenlied”. What would Kriemhild do?)
My eyes ransack the forest of businessmen,
cutpurses, hausfraus, the heroin chic: rows of
enameled faces, cow-dumb, indifferent as teeth.
Let the Ausländer fight it out!
Thigh-grab, elbow-jab, hand-slap – his broken
English splinters the air. Whitney Houston
in my head singing “I Will Always Love You” on
some godforsaken loop as I mentally run through
my list of German imperatives: Hilfe! Polizei!
Vergewaltigung! (a word that takes longer to say
than the act it defines). I backhand him across
the mouth, escape before the doors slam.
He’s waving (waving!) through the glass,
a blurry fat-lipped sneer retreating – the air
staccatoed with rasps of my breath. It begins
to hail marbles (even the gods are throwing stones),
feathers or lightning bolts would feel just the same.
Only later with candlelight und Butterkuchen,
do I re-surface to Vivaldi’s soaring strings on the radio.
I mention my morning combat-commute.
My host shrugs his shoulders before loading
the Meissen with another helping of Schadenfreude.
He says, Da muß man durch : ‘one must go through it’ –
as if it were a tunnel, something to be run through.