Thursday, August 6, 2015

Leave My D'Angelico Guitar at Checkpoint Charlie



"I'm not here for or against any government,” Springsteen said, speaking in German. “I've come to play rock 'n' roll for you in the hope that one day all the barriers will be torn down.” July 18, 1988 Bruce Springsteen in East Berlin 

          Steam still escapes their mouths as they are locked in a passionate kiss.  The fire, not lit long enough to warm the room, warrants the sheet covering the couple, still dressed where nudity is not necessary. Biatrix hasn't taken off Alex's oversized Grenztruppen visored service cap and it is tilted sideways on her head as the two consummate the first time of seeing each other in over three months. Each thrust from Alex emanates gradually louder moans from Biatrix.

          The room that was cold and silent, is now slowly filled with the sunset, which is red as a nosebleed and filling the dank , East Berlin flat. The room and the couple are tinged in deep red tones making it appear  as if the world is on fire outside. It's heightened by the last of the light reflecting off the Spreekanal below. Outside, the faint sound of a crowd could be heard, but not by the couple who can currently only hear the sounds of each other and the straining bed.

             Just as Alex is about to name a fifth deity and collapse onto Biatrix, the crowd outside finally became obvious to them both. Just about as obvious as the footsteps tramping up the stairs.

          "Was zur Hölle ist los? Was zur Hölle ist los?" He says in a frenzy because he's supposed to be sitting in the gate guard booth a few blocks away.
     
          "Yes, just what the hell is that?" Biatrix's soft British has a hint more curiosity in it. Her brown bobbed hair makes her look like a cabaret girl. As she pushes Alex off her, a young East German border guard enters the threshold of the door. 

          "Oberleutnant!"

          Biatrix, still clad in the hat, has wrapped the sheet around her barely clothed body, leaving Alex to fend for himself by holding onto his private parts after saluting.

          "Wachtmeister?"
         
          Their level of professionalism strikes Biatrix. The Sergeant quickly updates Alex, his first Lieutenant, without being bothered of what he just interrupted. She puts her pants back on as she gathers something about a press conference gone horribly wrong. She buttons her white dress shirt and finds her sports jacket on the floor.

          She looks out the window at the throngs of East Germans passing under the window of the flat on Wallstrasse. The protests have been growing but there is something different about this. Even the massive demonstration at Alexanderplatz was impressive, but there is energy in the people below.  These people are going somewhere. They have bags with them and a look of determination.

         "Ich muss gehen." She looks at Alex as she mutters to herlelf. She must go soon.

          "Danke." Alex quickly dismisses the Sergeant and rushes to the window.  He smiles at Biatrix and kisses her.

          "It's happening." Still without pants and his shirt unbuttoned, Alex smiles as he stares out the window. "And it's happening by accident!" He starts to button his shirt as Biatrix hands his uniform trousers to him. His hands are shaking as he takes them from her.
        
          "They can go? To the West?" She begins to help Alex with his pants as he buttons his coat. "Just like that?"

           "Not really, but yes, really. Krenz just announced on live television, that starting immediately everyone can pass through the checkpoints to West Berlin...What he was not educated about or simply failed to mention was that you can apply to pass tomorrow and then still have to wait another day to go and that you won't be able to return to the East once doing so." He grabs his hat off the dresser and places it neatly onto his short blonde hair. "The communist leader in East Berlin just started a revolution."

          "I have to get back." Biatrix leans on Alex as she puts her boots on.

          The two stop and stare at each other, seemingly alone in the midst of the end of the world they've come to know. With shouts of wir wollen raus, we want out, fill the streets, the two lovers study each other.
  
           "You'll be helped by my superiors and the allies." The ecstatic mood quickly sours at the realization that British spy and empathetic and brave East German border guard are at a precipice. "You helped us. You helped so many of them."

          "Meine mutter, go to her. She will be worried. Please. I don't know how I'll..." he stops. He turns his attention to his boots, pulling them over his trousers. Then he begins to laugh.

          "What?" She asks as the moment is becoming absurd.

          "Can you please go to my flat?"

          "You're kidding. The guitar?" Biatrix puts her purse over her shoulder and habitually checks for all of her documents.
        
          "You can drop it off at the Checkpoint."

           "So you want me to casually drop off your 1964 Excel D'Angelico, in cherry red, amidst the throngs of people waiting to breathe air in the free world?" She starts to laugh as well.

            "I mean, if you could grab some of my records as well that would be great." He puts his hands on her shoulders. "Bee, I'm asking you to get my guitar.  You know that is the only thing I have from my father...For the past five years you've been smuggling people into West Berlin and valuable medicines into East Berlin all the while maintaining a secret relationship with an East German border guard under the threat of  detection by the Stasi."

         "Fine." As she grabs her coat a ruckus is heard downstairs. Thinking the crowd outside is simply overtaking the vacant building, they rush out, leaving the fireplace roaring.

          Downstairs, they are met with a family carrying their bags and seemingly their worldly possessions. "Raus aus meinem Haus!" Three burly German men cross their arms in deifiance as children begin to run past them and up the stairs.

          "Your house, this place has been vacant for years!" Biatrix doesn't even bother to answer them in German.

          Alex grabs her hand and leads her past them. They all stare at the East German soldier, uncertain of his next actions. "Willkommen zuhause!" He shouts to their surprise. Welcome home. Exiled to the west, a family is finally welcomed to return to their own home.

         At the front door, they embrace before going their separate ways. Alex kisses the top of Biatrix's head while also smelling her hair. He speaks, her hair muffling him. "I love you. Be safe."

         She squeezes him even tighter. "You need to get away as soon as possible. I'll be at Cafe Adler every day at one o'clock. If you've any problems have the allied guard call for me."

        The crowd is bumping into them as they kiss. He dissolves into the masses moving towards Checkpoint Charlie.

       Alex easily gets to the checkpoint but find that Justus, the young Sergeant is being met with defiant members of the Stasi Pass and Control Unit. They won't let anyone through.

     Now, being the most senior member of the guard at the checkpoint, he orders all gates opened. People flood through, leaving their East German passports ripped up as they enter into freedom. No more worries about the death strip, the heavily fortified no-mans-land between the East and West divide. No one else's father, like his own, will die the horrible way he did, sacrificing his life for most of his family's freedom.

       Ten days go by and each afternoon at 1 o'clock, Beatrix arrives at Café Adler. The café conveniently sits opposite the Allied side of Checkpoint Charlie. It's where she fist saw Alex, albeit from a distance as he was guarding the East German gate.

          She successfully rescued the one personal possession of Alex's that meant the world to him, only because it was his father's. The cherry red D'Angelico guitar made it's way safely to the Alex before she was quickly pushed through to the new world with the crowd.  She was met with the welcomed cheers of the Weissi, or the people of West Berlin who were handing out flowers making it feel more like Woodstock than November 9, 1989. Immediately she went to Alex's mother's flat to tell her that hopefully soon, her son would come to the West.

         Biatrix looks at the clock on the cafe wall as she sits in the back room. The cafe, set up like a railroad flat, is packed. Her allied spy hangout will become a tourist trap, she thinks to herself. The lights from the Television crews around the world have turned the dimly-lit cafe into Times Square.

        She sighs and makes sure she's left a tip. Her head down, she makes her way to the front of the building.  Someone bumps into her as she makes her way to the door.
  
         He's no longer in his green uniform, but is wearing jeans, a leather jacket, and a Bruce Springsteen t Shirt,  his guitar case flung over his shoulder. It's also been ten days since he's shaved, making him almost unrecognizable to her. Alex smiles as he turns to her.

          Beatrix leans over to the nearest table, picking a flower out of a canning jar. "May I?" She doesn't look for acceptance before handing the flower to Alex.

          "Willkommen zuhause. Welcome home."

"BerlinWall-BrandenburgGate" by Sue Ream. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BerlinWall-BrandenburgGate.jpg#/media/File:BerlinWall-BrandenburgGate.jpg

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