We were born in darkness and hunger, and that was all we ever knew. My brother said we were like axes lodged in stone, impotent objects frozen in unknown space. Silence overwhelms us. Wind is a silent phantom, ice a silent beast. Sometimes it crackles with anxiety, sometimes it groans with hunger. Sometimes it terrifies me.
My grandmother says, Das Militär steckt in unserem Blut. My grandmother says, The military runs in our family. What is lost in translation is the word steckt. Hides, is stuck, is plugged. Somehow the military exists in our blood, lingering. The verb steckt suggests something active, positive or negative, but a presence nonetheless.
Mrs. Rudikoff had an unsettled and frightened look on her face when she left our apartment in Spanish Harlem that evening. She also appeared to be full of judgment; mostly towards how my brothers laughed instead of how they should have taken pity on her when she said she felt attacked. Also, she probably was judgmental because she knew when she would tell her daughter that there were 40 tiny mice running on the floor in the Manhattan complex her daughter would scream.
Once, she positioned herself in her usual armchair next to the window, where her duvet retained its usual cocoon shape. She sat watching the empty street, the fence, the garden plot, the stump, the fossil. She went down the pink porch in her thin cotton socks to see the fossil.
We are the walls who have stood for one hundred years and we will stand for one hundred more at the discretion of God, the weather, and those who reside inside of us. We have stood regardless of the scurryings of rodents on our backs and the people who painted our faces anew.
On the first day of our last week at Camp Lookout, when the summer was coming to an end, and the nights were colder, and every time we sang “Way Up in Northern Michigan” we felt like crying, the counselors decided to do a joint survival expedition.
You kept thinking about this concept of a Berlin family ever since your mom said it. You felt that she was right. More than just being incredibly fun and laughing at your jokes, these friends were there for you when you needed them, and you have tried to do the same for them.
What do alumni Aya Ibrahim and Tuvshinzaya Gantulga have in common with students Wafa Mustafa (BA3), Mais Hriesh (who has since graduated from Bard NY) and the once-neighboring “Family Without Borders” who now resides in Budapest? Aside from the fact that they all appear in this email, at some point in the past three years