Simple Machines

How’s your German?”

Grandma’s voice hung all over me for a solid minute. I could tell there was too much static on the line. The occasional hissing and crackling of the smartphone betrayed the immeasurable distance between me and her. Yet in that same distance her voice, stern and all-too-familiar, clothed my consciousness with an awareness of her presence. I stopped, almost at a loss, and started racking my head with all the German words I could think of.


Mom, who was beside me all the while, laughed at the sight of my own difficulty. She was always the smarter one. She spew German phrases out of her perfectly parted lips and left me with no chance to figure them out. Before I knew it, the conversation morphed into God-knows-what-they’re-talking-about, leaving me and the rest of my dire attempts to dissolve into a lonely pool of Ja and Nein.

I’ve always wanted to learn a different language. Next to an all-expense paid trip to Europe and an entire lifetime lived in France. Part of my projected future was a picture of me standing by the Siene river next to the man I love. I could perfectly fit into Augustus Waters’ description of Hazel Grace: the girl with such cliché wishes. God, my life was literally a living cliché.

But Germany. Germany was something else: the land of Nietzsche, the name brandished with unfulfilled promises and unseen hopes, the longing of a distant dream. Germany brings to mind the middle of 2007, and how Mom and I stood in line waiting for those motherfuckers to grant us Schengen visas.

But it never happened.

I remember spending Christmas sick and depressed altogether. In my mind burned the wintry air of Berlin, snow falling as gently as I dream. I remember ending the year full of skepticism towards the world. Mom moved on as easily as changing clothes but I remained cold and uncommunicative. I fucked the rest of the year beyond repair.

Grandma was on the line the other day. Her words sparkled like stars as she fed me once again with the illusion that life could actually be better once the papers are done. She said this time around, a student visa would be my hallway pass to a better brighter world that is Germany. I turned to Mommy with a surprised look on my face but beneath it all was my doubt. But I demanded no explanation as to why they were planning on this all over again. I realized there are things we allow on our lives to pave way for other people to live their own. I figured I have no right to take away their happiness any more than darkness could swallow the light.

We’re machines made only to agree or to disagree. We are no more than mere splinters of the machine spinning together to make a single move. Like levers and pulleys, our lives are so constricted by actions in an effort to move another, to lift their weight or to alter their course altogether.

I guess I stopped revolting, that’s why. One day you just wake up, completely forgetful of things, completely washed up by ocean tides of insights that take you to an acceptance of people. I guess I just allowed myself to be taken away and be moved by firmer hands. After all they’re my family. At the end of the day Germany remains just as the shaded part in the map. Still too far away, still too good to ever be as real as the sound of traffic by the window. Only time could tell.


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