The wall along the river went up later than the Berlin wall. I was six or seven. It didn’t go up all at once. Rather, it was built a small section at a time. First, it covered the view of the gardens on the other side of the death strip. Then, it took the view of the bottom floor of the houses and its people as well, as it crept along the river like a snake, all quiet and gray and cold. The glass shards embedded on top were supposed to keep people from climbing over it. On a sunny day, they glistened in the sun to prove there wasn’t any blood on them. And it was true. Fewer land mines went off at night and there was less machine gun fire from the watchtower. We slept better. Both, us East and us West Germans.
By the time the wall came down, I was in my thirties. When they finally rebuilt the bridge across the river, people floated flowers down it to celebrate their reunification. Roses, carnations. Roses for love. Carnations in memory of those who had died in their efforts to reach the West. And candles. To symbolize hope and memories.
The morning after the ceremony, a blanket of fog soothes the valley. I can’t sleep anymore and go down to the bridge. An old, bent woman shuffles from the east to the middle of the bridge. She carries a wicker basket on her back creating a halo of baby’s breath around her wrinkled face. Carefully, she sets the basket on the banister. She takes out the delicate flower stems one by one, releases them from her hand, and allows them to gently drop into the lazy river. When I ask her about it, she smiles. “It’s for all the babies who were frightened by the mines and the gun fire for all these years. Have you ever seen a child startled in their sleep? Their breath stops for a moment.” After she has gifted the last flower, the fog slowly swallows her.