Love across the Berlin Wall
“Did you hear the news on the radio, Sam? The Berlin wall will fall this week,” said Anna peeking towards Sam avoiding the barbwire on top of a bullet-ridden Berlin wall.
“Yes, I have heard Anna. Finally, we will get rid ourselves from this human-made obstacle.”
“I am very happy right now Sam”. Anna had tears in her eyes. “I want to start a new life with you all over again,” said Anna her voice quivering.
“Me too, Anna. I am planning so many things for you and with you,” replied Sam, cupping his cold hands over Anna’s rose-colored cheeks.
“Stop it Sam. Are you trying to make me cry.” grinned Anna.
“Yeah, that’s what I am here to do. To make you cry so that later I can caress your brown fluffy hair and kiss you while you lay your head over my lap.”
“You won’t change Sam. However, today I won’t cry of fear, but rather cry of happiness.”
“Don’t cry, Anna. Let’s celebrate by spending the day at Schmidt’s. I will buy you a nice cup of coffee and your favorite chocolate pastry.”
Schmidt’s was a popular hangout spot for the youth of West Germany. It was located about 200 yards away from the Berlin wall. Mr. Schmidt was an octogenarian war veteran and had a special affection towards the younger generation.
“Really! It would be great. When should I meet you there ?” asked Anna inquisitively.
“Today, I would come to pick you up later in the evening.”
“Why would you do that? You know that the soldiers will knock you off if you get caught crossing the wall.”
“Oh! don’t worry about that Anna. I have a clandestine pact with a few soldiers. I would exchange joints with them to cross the wall.”
“You won’t change. Fine meet me in the evening.” Anna rolled her eyes.
“Yeah. I will. Love you.” said Sam and climbed down the mud embankment inclined to the wall
“Love you too, Sam,” said Anna and they quickly parted ways seldom they get caught by a patrolling soldier.
On November 9, 1989, the Berlin wall came crashing down. The event not only symbolized a new chapter in German history but also brought the intensity of the cold war to an end. Many had predicted that the cold war would turn into the world war III.
The collapse of the Berlin wall led to mass migration of people across Germany. Most people living in East Germany were relieved to get out of the clutches of Socialist Russia. Sam’s family was one of those who had a hard life in East Germany.
Anna’s family lived across the wall in West Germany. This region was relatively better off than the eastern part due to the influence of capitalist economy propagated by the Americans.
After the fall of the Berlin wall, rapid changes took place in the lives of Anna and Sam. Both had a year of courtship before they decided to tie the knot. But, Anna’s mother didn’t approve Sam as her son in law.
Anna pleaded hard with her mother, but her efforts went into vain.
“Why do you dislike Sam, mom? Give me at least one reason,” shouted Anna hoarsely.
“I have nothing to say, Anna. My dislike for Sam is something which you would not understand. It would be better if you can find love in someone else.” replied Catherine, her eyes staring at the newspaper.
“What? How could you tell me to find love elsewhere? Aren’t you a human? I and Sam have been in a good relationship for the past 5 years. I can’t think of anyone else other than him.”
“Well then. You have left me with no choice. I am never going to approve Sam into this family.” said Catherine still acting non-interested in having this conversation.
Anna stormed out of the house immediately and went looking for Sam who worked in a carpentry shop at the Goodison lane. The economy is witnessing a steady growth with the fall of the Berlin wall and there has been a rise in consumer goods production.
Sam was carving a delicate floral pattern on the doors of a cupboard carved out of mahogany wood. Beads of sweat trickled down his forehead on to his fixating eyes. The electric bulb flickered hissingly due to fluctuating voltage, casting weird shadows all around.
“Sam, we need to talk something important,” shouted Anna rather impatiently.
“Hey, I am working Anna. I would meet you at lunchtime in about 30 minutes. Please have a seat.” replied Sam waving towards Anna with a chisel in his hand.
“I am not in a mood for waiting anymore, Sam! It is urgent. We have to talk right now here itself.” said Anna stomping her feet.
“Alright Alright! Wait then.”
Sam placed aside his carving tools and asked his superior Mr. Mueller that he needed a break and would work overtime to finish the pending work. Mr. Mueller seemed furious with Sam’s request, however, seeing Anna standing near the door, he obliged.
“So, what’s the hurry, my dear. Missing me badly these days I believe,” said Sam, a grin plastered across his face.
“Are you crazy. If I don’t hurry up now, you would never see me again in the coming months.” Anna replied with a pale face.
“Why! What’s the matter,”
“My mother doesn’t approve you as her son-in-law.”
“Well! I am not surprised. I can believe that. She never speaks kindly to me.”replied Sam with a smirk.
“Oh! come on Sam. Be serious! Just now I had a tiff with her and she seems resolute to reject you no matter what.”
“Well! Did you ask for any reason? I mean, I hardly find people who dislike me. Yeah some do ridicule me of my freckled skin but I don’t think your mom would have a problem with that since you too have a freckled skin.” laughed Sam.
“Seriously! that is your opinion. Though she didn’t give any reason for rejecting you.” Anna said with a blunt face.
“Then what else could be the reason, Anna.”
“How would I know. Did you get caught by my mom while doing any shady deal earlier ?” asked Anna
“Oh come on! The whole past of this society was an illegal act of the rulers against us gullible people. Was there anything legal here?” replied Sam rolling over his eyes.
“Hmm! Then what could be the reason for her disaffection toward you?” murmured Anna.
Sam thought deeply for a while and replied: “Maybe, my past indeed has some connection which makes your mother disapprove me.”
“What is it, Sam?”
“You see, I come from a modest family of artisans. We don’t have adequate resources and very much sustain ourselves hand to mouth. We also do not have adequate savings, as we believe in enjoying the present moment. The uncertain future was rather predicted as bleak by fortune tellers and thus we literally made hay while the sun shone.”
“Are you implying that…” muttered Anna.
“Yes, Anna. My poor financial status is mostly the reason for your mother’s intense dislike towards me.”
Anna sat on a log of teak wood kept beside her deep in thought about what the future held in store for her. Sam placed a relaxing hand over Anna’s shoulder and tried to comfort her.
“Are you Okay. Say something, Anna.”
“I don’t know what to say,” replied Anna nodding her head.
“Look, I know things have been rough in our society because of the political turmoil. The economy has been in doldrums and it is tough to survive let alone become rich here. I am trying my best Anna.” said Sam in a low voice.
“No No! Don’t be sorry Sam. It is known of your fault. Perhaps my mom has seen the worst side of life and is not willing to see me suffer the same fate. However, my love towards you is strong Sam. I cannot live without you ever.” said Anna and placed her head over Sam’s shoulder.
“I am sorry again, Anna. I have disappointed you,” replied Sam, gently caressing Anna’s wavering brown hair. “Have you applied anything onto your hair? It is sticky as slime.”
“Yeah. A new hair oil my mother brought me.” smiled Anna.
Catherine felt that a new place of residence is necessary to distance Anna from the memories of Sam.
In the year 1992, Anna’s family moved to New York City where Anna got married to a rich investment banker Michael Cooper who earned a respectable six-figure monthly income.
As time passed by Anna lived a wholesome life with 2 beautiful kids, a son and a daughter in a farmhouse at Cold Spring in Putnam County.
Though she was loyal to her husband, sometimes she did wonder about Sam.
In the year 1999, Michael had an official conference in Frankfurt for two days. He decided to take Anna so that it would be like a short vacation. Anna at first was hesitant to go back to Germany. However, the trip presented an opportunity for her to know the whereabouts of Sam.
In the foggy winter of December 1999, Anna was back in German soil.
Here, she met Kandi, wife of one of Michael’s colleague. It was Kandi’s first trip to Germany and she wanted to visit Berlin. She tugged along Anna. Though Anna was initially reluctant to go but Micheal insisted her to show Berlin to Kandi. They flew aboard the Lufthansa and landed at the Berlin Tegel Airport.
Anna showed Kandi around the city of Berlin. The Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag building, Museum Island, Potsdamer Platz among others. Anna next traveled to the neighborhood around the Berlin wall where she used to reside ten years ago.
Memories flooded across Anna’s mind as she traced the red brick streets adjacent to the Berlin Wall. The East Side Gallery has come up with mural paintings painted all along the 1316 m long remnant of the Berlin Wall.
Kandi was spellbound by the history of Berlin as she glanced at the remnants of the wall. The erstwhile bullet-ridden wall was now transformed into a vibrant splash of colors depicting the various moments of Berlin’s history.
Anna was becoming curious and restless to know the whereabouts of Sam. She, however, was also feeling guilty that her action may be considered as infidelity towards her husband. However, courage overcame Anna’s apprehension and she led Kandi towards the artisan colony where Sam lived.
The colony was filled with several small shops stacked against each other and numerous artisans who were producing a multitude of handicrafts such as vases, furniture, iron railings, embroidery, book publishers, painters among others.
Kandi bought a couple of handmade carpets for her home and was looking at a set of antique lamp sets.
Meanwhile, Anna strolled out to the adjacent shops trying to locate Sam’s workshop where he worked as a carpenter. After a while, she was tired and dejected because she couldn’t find the shop. The place had undergone a change in the past decade and she felt lost.
However, Anna did remember the name of the shop in which Sam worked. She approached a shop named William’s Printing Press.
“Excuse me, could you tell which way is the “Mueller’s Woodworks”?” Anna asked a middle-aged shopkeeper.
“Yeah. The shop is on the backside of this alley.” The shopkeeper waved his hand to show the directions “Go straight this way and then turn left after crossing Ferdinand’s Cargo Services. You see the yellow board over there?”
“Yes. Yes. I can. Thank you for the help”
Anna then quickly traced the directions guided by the shopkeeper and soon reached Mueller’s woodworks.
As she approached the workshop, her palms became sweaty. She felt a lump in her throat and her walk became jittery. It seemed as if the world was slipping away from her feet.
Hesitatingly she stood in front of the workshop and noticed how every artisan was busy in their works. She frantically searched for Sam, breathing heavily.
However, her shoulders drooped down when she couldn’t find Sam. Gathering some courage he approached Mr. Mueller, the proprietor of the workshop.
“Hello. Could you tell me where I can find Sam? He used to work in this workshop.”
“Umm… Are you asking about Sam Begovic?” asked Mueller hesitatingly.
“How do you know him?”
“Well, we were in a relationship about ten years ago. Can you tell me where I can find him now?”
“Oh dear! Are you that lady who thought of marrying Sam?” asked Mueller squinting his eyes.
“Yeah. Well. It is true. I am that lady, Anna.”
“Oh! I am really sorry Anna. How am I supposed to tell you this?”.
“Tell me what?” asked Anna her voice shaking.
“I am afraid Sam is no more. He passed away a couple of years back.”
“What?” Anna gasped out. Her face turned pale and her nostrils flared up.
Mueller offered her a glass of water and patted her shoulder. After a while, Anna composed herself from the shocking news.
“Why? How? When did all this happen?” Anna asked in a somber tone.
“Well! Sam didn’t intend to tell you this but he suffered from a rare disease of bone cancer. He knew that the disease would consume him someday soon. So, he told your mom to avoid you getting married to him.”
“I cannot believe this.”
“Yes. Me neither. Sam was like a son to me. He told me about his cancer a few months before he passed away. He told how deeply he loved you and didn’t intend to leave you widowed at such a young age.”
Anna felt short of words and calmly stood up.
“I am sorry again Anna,” said Mueller.
“Thank You! Mr. Mueller. I am short of words right now.” replied Anna her face still had the bewildered look.
Anna left the workshop and returned back to Kandi who was seemed to be in a shopping spree. Anna was aware that her emotional breakdown should not be seen or known to Kandi or Michael. She didn’t speak of the incident with anyone else in Germany.
After reaching New York City, Anna met her mother and narrated what she heard from Mr. Mueller in Berlin. Anna’s mother said she indeed knew about Sam’s health condition and thus prevented her from marrying Sam.
Anna became aware of the compulsion of situations which made her mom act in a rather rude manner ten years ago. She felt sorry for her mom and apologized to her.
The fall of the Berlin wall and its aftermath on the lives of Sam and Anna depict how life can be unpredictable to anyone. The world needs more love and gratitude rather than hate and violence so that the future generation can learn more of human values, rather than getting involved in barbarous acts.
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