Sunday, May 27, 2012


„Like a shower: hot, cold, hot, cold.“

So many neuroses, obsessions, and addictions.  We have to try so hard to qualify as normal.

And worst of all is the undeserving idol—no, object of affection, bordering on mild dependency.  Whose ego is better fed?  His, no doubt.  But mine still longs for those morsels of desire, for those memorized moments of bliss.  I am what I am, and rarely apologize for it.  He even less so.  We understand each other as few others do, and yet not at all.

Who can get away with telling me what I’ve done wrong, what I’ve failed to accomplish??  Seven years, nearly to the day, I’ve lived my own life.  I rolled up the futon and stuffed my hamper full of second-hand clothes, a milk crate full of books in the ´92 Honda, and drove off to the Philadelphia unknown.  To that fabled Quaker city with so little brotherly love.  I sat with my Langescheidt pocket dictionary, a painful investment at the time, and attempted to translate the stack of documents that arrived at our row house as I cowered, sweating in my tiny, blue-carpeted room brightened by the streetlight that lit the corpse that lay there, 2 a.m., July 5, 2005.  And two months later, my parent cried at the airport, but I was too stunned, too disbelieving.  Europe.  Europe?!

But I can say, and say again: I did it!  I came to this country with my ethics, with my fearful, wounded heart full of hope and courage, with my doubt and dismay and conflicted loyalties.  And here I am!  I love and am loved and I am happy.  I am known for my integrity.  I am known for defying stereotypes.  I have been told by my students, “Your analyses are always correct—you’re my favorite.”  “I like you because you’ve lived for a long time in Germany, but you haven’t become German, you’re still yourself.”  And a simply eavesdropped, “Dobrá.”  I spent hours today with someone else’s baby in my arms.  And I’m “die Tante Kelsey” for at least two now.

And I hate how “häppie” is not “glücklich” for Germans—it’s some pathetic, tragic-comic stepbrother to true happiness.  Just try to deal with the conflicts we have in daily life, just try to live in a society more than three times larger, two times older, and 100 times as complex than this one!  And just see what kind of ironies, what contradictions arise.  Every exchange student and journalist is welcome to her own opinion.  And each will form one.  And how many will go on to tell the same old story 1000 times without remembering the audience that’s already heard it?  Or are they just hungry for more of the same?

And if I had a euro or a dollar or 100 yen or a pound for every time I’ve heard, “Es tut mir leid, aber die Amis...” or “Das ist nicht böse gemeint, aber...” I’d never have to work again.  And they live off welfare and they live off their parents.  They live off half-realized dreams and half-decent intentions.  And I do what I can.  My heart opens and closes like loose sphincter.

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