Keep You

In The Art of Travel Fall 2017, 15. Farewells, Berlin by Ashley JankowskiLeave a Comment

I decided to wait to write this until I was on the plane.

I did not say goodbye to Berlin; I was too busy saying hello. New places and hidden spaces, every day in Berlin changed my eyes. Gone was the thick New York City glaze. My eyes, removed from the rubble, were opened wide; observant, reflective and green. I was seeing again. I saw a new world, I saw a new way. I saw parts of myself that I had long ignored. Color, pain, passion. I smiled, I slowed. The city is just too big for a four month test trial.

I did not say goodbye to Berlin; I couldn’t think of the words. As my bedroom walls cleared and my suitcases filled up, the apartment became so barren. It made my mind feel barren, too. Did any of it happen? Berlin, did you happen? Memories seemed to slip away as the clock wound down. I helplessly searched my mind for proof that this happened. I couldn’t. Everything was white – the bed the walls my mind.

I did not say goodbye to Berlin; I didn’t want to. Closure suggests a decided end. No, I want this city to stay open for me. So many unanswered wonders about the city; I did not get my fill. As my time left abroad dwindled, my worries emerged: Berlin… my city. You are not pocket sized. However will I keep you safe and close? If you change without me, will my memories of you change, too?

Window seat 14F, Berlin zooming out beneath me. I was homebound.

I reread my personal travel journal on the plane ride home. Page one. My first day: Berlin. My handwriting was colored with fresh nerves and cursive composure, a reserved font size on straight lines. I wrote of my first whiff of the new world: the streets, the air, the skies. I listed my hopes, in between which I now read my blatant, yet unnoted fears.  

I had been dormant. Berlin, I realize, brought my unshakable Winter to a close.

I flipped through the pages and watched my semester unfold. September, October, November, December. With each page, my words became undone. Rules dissolved. My passport filled. Black and blue and lead reigned the page with honesty and intensity. As I turned each one I watched myself bloom, alive. Alive again, at last.

The journal fit snuggly into my backpack, and rests quietly on my bedside table. It is a rather childish one, blue with a purple strap. I bought it immediately after I landed in Germany with naive desperation to document each and every leg of my new journey. I didn’t realize it would soon hold a city, mine.

Like a music box, enclosing the entirety of a tiny world held shut with a golden latch. Spin the key right once, twice, three times hear it click. Open, sweet delicate melodies fill the air, familiar to my heart. I’ll hum along. On the tips of her toes, I’ll watch the girl in the center tu-tu-twirl. Fearless jubilation.The forgotten yesterdays will become new again and nothing will ever change.  Berlin, you happened.

A fire burns within these pages; I have enough good in here to keep me warm for the rest of my life. It is here you and I will be kept. Whenever I feel cold, I can access my city, Berlin, my eternal Spring.

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