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Upon the Sand

Hannah Aaron

East Berlin

November 10th, 1989

          Singing echoes around the Berlin Wall, not-quite-in-tune voices rising over the percussive tinks of picks chipping into stone. Some of the songs are German and familiar. Some Lotta only knows because her friends would listen to smug gled-in records on smuggled-in record players while their parents were at work.

          Lotta sympathizes with those records now. She feels as if she is spinning and spinning, waiting for the music to end, for the needle to lift and place itself into its holder, for the faintest hint of comfortable, familiar static to return as the vinyl comes to a stop.

          Nothing is quiet anymore. Nothing is still.

          Not since the borders were opened yesterday on the ninth of November.

Night creeps up, and the streetlamps flicker to life. A crowd—children, teenagers, young adults, middle-aged adults, the older and the elderly—buffets the wall, some with chisels and others with the sheer potency of their elation. Some of that elation has been bolstered by drinks as if this is a New Years’ celebration. Chips of the wall spray like tiny bursts of gray confetti.

          People pick up fallen chunks of concrete, weigh them in their hands, then pocket them like shells plucked from the seashore.

          Lotta thinks of the vacation to the beach she and her parents had taken almost eleven years ago. She’d been six then, little and brightly blonde. She’s forgotten most of the trip, but she remembers dragging her toes in a line, back and forth and back and forth, through the Baltic Sea-chilled sand. Then she’d stepped away and watched the water slip over her shallow trench, softening the edges until just a small seam was left behind. Something had caught her attention—perhaps her mother had called her or she’d heard the shriek of a particularly close gull—and by the time she looked back, her line was gone. She hadn’t been able to remember where she’d marked the shore.

          She’d held a grudge against the ocean for several months after that trip. How silly, she thinks, lips twitching.

          The breathless, happy shriek of a child makes Lotta look up. A little girl is in transit, passing from one man’s arms—her father, perhaps?—to the outstretched hands of a man who stands with other men and whooping teenage boys on top of the wall. The wall-man catches Lotta’s stare and nods in her direction to the ground-man.

          Ground-man looks at her and a smile widens across his face as he asks, “Want a boost?”

          She shakes her head, but he is already moving toward her, already wading through the mass of people pressing around them. He takes her hand and pulls her closer to the graffitied wall. She squeals as his arms wrap around her waist and her feet leave the ground.

          “Another one, Walter!” he calls, and the wall-man, Walter, helps Lotta scramble up beside him while the child clings to his pants’ leg.

          He steadies Lotta with a laugh and then turns back to the other men. Lotta looks down and promptly sits, legs dangling, the backs of her scuffed tennis shoes brushing the West Berlin side of the wall. She is not so high up, truly, but all those faces, all the noise prove dizzying. There is a crowd here, too. Smiling and laughing.

          Singing.

          And then a West German girl steps into the cupped palms of a boy’s hands and hefts herself up onto the wall. She sits beside Lotta and faces East Berlin.

          She’s dark-haired, olive-toned. Probably Turkish, Lotta decides. She thinks, She can’t be much older than me.

          Lotta is startled when the girl leans close and bumps their shoulders together, grinning. “I’m Lotta,” she says in precise German. “What’s your name?”

          Lotta blinks. For just a moment, there is silence. Then, like the needle meeting the surface of a record, sound rushes back. As well as her voice.

          “I’m Lotta, too.”

          A tentative smile purses her lips, but then she’s grinning like the other Lotta. And laughing.

          And singing.

Spring, 2019 Issue