08 September 2007

Back to Berlin

The woman across from me kept speaking, taking my occasional eye contact as encouragement to continue. Oddly chatty for a German. I was used to solitude in the crowded trains and somewhere after Nuernberg I lost track of what she what she was talking about. My mind wandered as the landscape sped by.

Germany was my adopted home and the train was taking me back to Berlin, the safe house and Smitty. After my trial, Ottowa had ostracized me and gave me orders to establish a safe house in the newly unified Berlin. General Calrissian had told me how to establish contact with Smitty and told me he could be trusted.

I found the house in the former East Berlin. Her beauty still evident under a patina of neglect: plaster cracked, brick exposed, a tree grew from a rift in the wall. Many of the former tenants had taken advantage of their new found mobility and had left for the West, leaving squatters in their stead.

Smitty offered to make the necessary arrangements for "legally acquiring" the house. I made the adjustments to secure the building. Renovations proceeded apace and soon the building was a wonderful hodgepodge of opportunistic artists, musicians, and students. A disco was established in the basement.

Those were heady days. Everything was wide open. The East had opened up quickly and those from the West were quick to exploit the price differences, leaving bakeries and grocery stores empty.

The disco flourished. House parties were common. No one suspected that Smitty and I owned the building. He spent most of his time in front of the computers: surfing, hacking, monitoring. He would complain about the disco's music being too loud. He complained about the food. He was perpetually grouchy. When I would arrive late at night, I would often find him playing a game he called "Civilization," in which one builds a civilization through settlement and conquest of continents. I often asked him of his progress, and he would mutter obscenities about the Aztecs and Babylonians and the computer cheating.

I understood little of what he did. I wandered the streets of Berlin, establishing many personas, making many contacts. Computers were his realm. He spurned the sunlight favoring instead the glow of the computer screen. He sent the missives to Ottawa. He received our orders. He hacked into banks. He slept little. He asked me to fetch Doener Kebabs for him.

Over time Berlin became home. I left for missions and returned to Berlin, Smitty doing the debriefing. Other Commandos came and went. Smitty and I remained. The neighborhood changed. Pressure started coming from the city government to restore the building. After Sierra Leone, I left all the responsibility for the safe house to Smitty.

Now I was heading back home. Odd. I have no relatives in Berlin, yet it is home. Smitty is the only one in Berlin who knows who I really am, yet I have many friends there. Is home where one feels safe? Is home where one keeps those trinkets that bind one to the past?

The conductor announced that the next station was Berlin. The woman across from me smiled. I smiled back. Smitty could wait one more night.

1 comment:

Sarge said...

Ah, Cpl.,

I remember how proud you were of that dancefloor! When you used to play that "Way-O" song and the Rasputin song, how everybody would clap for you. How everybody loved that young kid who could dance. If they had known that only hours earlier you had assassinated an important advisor to Foday Sankoh near Heubel Jewelery on Schloßstraße, how much louder perhaps, they would have clapped!

And that girl you tried to introduce me to! So smitten, and it turned out she was CIA! It seems we were younger then than even we were in our school days!