It’s been 10,361 days.
I’ve been waiting for this hour for 10,361 days.
Time has slipped by like sap rather than sand turning each unbearable day into a year. But now, the minutes freeze as everything goes deafeningly silent. I can see the dark shapes of people running outside my grubby window. They’re jumping up and down and I’m sure they’re cheering, but none of this registers with my ears.
I ease my aching bones out of my armchair. They crack in protest, but I ignore the fresh wave of uncomfortable pain. I stumble through the dark halls of my house. My shaking figure parts the dust in the air, my eyes glancing at the book on the table. It’s filled with determination and dreams of a younger man, a younger man who had not waited 10,361 days. I crack the door open and breathe in the cool, crisp night air. Thousands of people are sprinting towards the Wall, brandishing wicked, gleaming weapons.
I can’t find my voice to warn them. What are they doing? Don’t they know how ridiculous they’re being? They’ll be shot down before they can even make it to the Wall. I run my hands through my long, greasy hair. I turn around, moving my hands to cover my ears. I can’t bear the sound of gunshots ending another young kid’s chance at freedom.
But they don’t come.
I turn around slowly and stare at the sight. Young kids, bundled in huge coats and sweaters are dancing on top of the wall. I wince, waiting for the world to turn red. I wait for the soldiers to march in and bring this rampage to an end with a stream of bullets.
They don’t come.
I start walking in a daze to the Wall. I start at a slow lumber and only get faster until I’m flying across the filthy cobblestone streets. My long bathrobe flows out behind me, trailing behind me like a river. I push my way through groups of hugging families and rowdy teenagers and come to its base.
For 28 years, the Wall has hovered over us. Everyone has felt its large presence even when it is out of sight. It casts a disapproving, solid shadow over everything, far beyond its physical reach. Now the shadows of celebrating people mingle with the rectangle of blackness and I realize that it is true.
We are free.
I’m at the base of the Wall and spend no time in jumping over the Wall. On the other side there are hoards of people. This side of the Wall comes to life with a rainbow of colored block letters and abstract people. Families reuniting with tears of joy, lovers kissing ferociously in the cold night air, and friends hugging each other, not able to conceal their splitting grins. The air smells like jubilation and triumph. I’m not focused on that, however. My mind is set on finding them.
My voice is old and brittle after years of not speaking. It jumps up and down but I ignore that and call the names again.
I catch stares from passers-by, but I don’t care. I’ve spent 10,361 days waiting. I can’t wait a second longer. I’m running fanatically through hordes of people, calling out my family’s name. My lungs feel like they’re about to burst with pressure as I howl their names out into the night air. Could they have…? No. I remember my last words to them, I screamed it to them through the barbed wire as the wall was being constructed.
Stay where you are. We’ll be together before you know it, I promise. I’m crying now. Tears stream down my nose, landing on the ground in a zig-zag pattern as I flounder around the mass of Germans reuniting for the first time in 28 years. Where are my family? Why am I not reuniting with them?
I’m stopped by a tall man in a grey suit. I look up at him then scrutinize the scene around me. “Have you seen them? Stephan and Angela Becker?”
He surveys at me with pitying eyes, dark as coal. He pats me on the back and glances nervously toward the wall. That’s all the answer I need.
They aren’t coming back.
The knocking down of the wall will not change that they aren’t coming back.