A Berlin story : Eva.

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I first met Eva at the bottom of an escalator, late in the evening of a brutal Berlin winter. She was just standing there at the foot of the thing, trying to judge when to take that first frightening step onto it. There was nobody there but us, and I’d the feeling that a few of the late workers like myself had already squeezed around her to exit the U-Bahn, which is what they called the underground or metro in Berlin.

Decision time. I said hello, talked for a bit, tried to move her onto the thing, but she was having nothing to do with it. Too complicated. That was alright. The stairs she understood and could handle, so we had a crack at them. With a bit of help, she finally got to the top of them, so we sat down on the top step to catch our breath and to look back down at the mountain we’d both climbed.

I lit a smoke and after a few puffs and a glance from her, gave it over to her. Two or three good hard sucks on it, and she’d burnt it right down to the filter; a poor and desperate substitute for what she really needed. She made the offer and I said sure, but I needed some food first. The prospect of a meal was enough to get her up and moving and anyway, it saved me having to rustle something up when I got back to my apartment. It was late and cooking for one when you’re tired can be a pretty joyless experience.

We ate the burgers and fries, slurped the drinks and I wondered what to do with her next. At some point, she realised I wasn’t going to be a client but at the same time wasn’t some weirdo going to try to save her or something, so things relaxed a bit. We exchanged first names and some pennies of small talk. She picked up on what I thought was my clean as whistle German and asked if I was Dutch. I said no but she smiled knowingly and didn’t quite believe me for some reason. She never did either. We finished the meal and she looked in better shape with some food in her. I gave her my pack of smokes and we parted outside the slop shute to go our separate ways. I never really expected to see her again but of course I did.

It became a once in a while sort of thing. Every few weeks I’d find the waif sitting at the top of the stairs and the cheeky little cow would always greet me by shouting a raucous hello Dutchman just to embarrass me, which it unfailingly did, and we’d head off for a burger; the grey suit with a tie-dyed hippie girl half his age in tow. I never kept regular hours and often wondered how long she’d been waiting there. She always said ten minutes so I stopped asking.

Over the months, she visibly declined under the wear and tear of a life in free fall. Once, she looked like she’d been knocked around by somebody but I didn’t ask about it. Our relationship, such as it was, revolved about not asking each other too many searching questions about anything outside of our little bubble.

Sure, I was a reliable source of a square meal when she was really hungry, but I think it was more about a non-threatening time out from the daily struggle of her life, a de-militarised zone, an occasional break from a chaotic existence supported by juggling a string of part-time jobs, petty thievery and an occasional dip into prostitution when things got really desperate. It was simply a burger, fries, crapola cola and some conversation, with a small side order of normality. Hold the grab ass.

Berlin is a very arty city and consequently attracts many young people to it who have aspirations in that general direction. Eva fell into that category and once had a vague ambition to be a photographer and from the pictures she showed me, had some talent. She liked to work in grainy black and white, and shot mainly wrecked buildings at twilight and sunrise in the desolate war zones of the city like Mitte and the mean streets off Oranienburger strasse. There were never any people in her pictures.

So many of the shots were from inside dark interiors, but there was very often a chink of light shining in through a broken window or a door hanging half off its hinges. I remarked on it once and she quickly shuffled through them again to see if it was true. We kicked around what it might subconsciously mean but I think we both knew it represented that ray of hope we all need to get out of dark places.

Sometimes I’d tell her stories and pass on jokes I’d just heard. Berliners love to share a good joke and being prone to going native, I’d fallen into the habit. She still had a girlish laugh which I liked to tempt out, so I used to save up the best jokes for her, just to hear it. Over the months, she shared a few scraps about her past and the odd detail of her life now.

A girl from the north country; Kiel. Estranged from an ordinary family and a runaway from them to big bad Berlin after stealing and selling one too many of their valuables. It reached the point where she thought they’d be better off without her around, so she’d done a runner. Tired of hurting them, it was sort of an honourable thing to do, because she knew they’d never report her. She’d always peeked at me sideways when she revealed something bad like that about herself, to see how I was taking it and I’d pretend not to notice.

At times I felt like the slightly disreputable uncle that headstrong kids, who’re going through a wayward phase at home, choose to confide the stuff they can’t discuss with their family. They do it because they know you’re in no position to pull a sermon on the mount number on them and her instincts in that respect were right. Anyway, she’d had that sermon a thousand times before and knew exactly what direction her life was heading towards. Nagging them to get clean never works. That’s a realisation they’ve got to come to themselves. Keeping in contact and feeding them an occasional burger to keep them alive is about as good as it gets.

The last time I saw her, she seemed too quiet. There was something in her head, something she’d accepted into her soul and it wasn’t good. What it was, she never exactly said but I’d a good idea, having seen that sort of quietness descend on some friends I’d lost. It’s a sort of mild intuition that gradually grows into a stone cold certainty of what the future holds for them and it’s a complete copper-plated bastard which never fails to take them out. The hope of any future at all goes away.

We smoked and chatted on the top step for a time until she suddenly stood up, saying she had to go and hurried down the steps a touch too fast, an elfin child disappearing back into the essentially underground Berlin where she lived. She never looked back. I knew she’d just wanted to stop by and say goodbye. Looking back on it, I think she was making the rounds, putting her chaotic affairs into some semblance of order.

A few weeks later, an elderly man was sitting on the top step where she’d usually be. Germans of his generation don’t sit waiting on U-Bahn steps in Berlin. He was grey-haired, neat and tidy, brown shoes buffed but somehow looked like he’d been dressed by one of the better charity shops. I took the stairs rather than the escalator to give myself time to prepare for the bad news. I sat down beside him and we looked at each other. He asked if I was the Dutchman and I said yes and that was the final confirmation of why he was there. He knew he’d found who he was looking for and I knew what he was about to tell me.

He was a pastor who ran some sort of shelter and started a long sensitive preamble he’d obviously rehearsed in advance but I waved him off well before he could get into the whole story, not wanting to know the details. Some details you don’t need to have in your head, because they become the ammunition your imagination uses to torture you. I was drawing a line already. We sat together saying nothing for a while. Even when you’ve all along been expecting the inevitable to happen, you still need time to take it in when it finally arrives, because today is suddenly the day and it has arrived. There’s never any sense to such waste and words seem futile.

He eventually broke the silence by asking if I was okay. I said sure and putting my hand on his shoulder, stood up and thanked him for his kindness. He was a decent man, doing his last service for her. I left him there, still sitting on the step and headed for my place via a stop at a quiet local bar I knew.

Eva was one of those encapsulated relationships we’ve all had. It has a start, a middle, a very definite end and a hard shell all the way around it. It’s old history and has by now no relevance to anyone else but you, but within that shell, still has some sort of meaning for you. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not so good. Your thoughts go back to it on occasion and you take it out, turn it over in your hands and examine it for a while and then you put it back into that cupboard in the far hinterland of your memories. Sometimes you do that tenderly, sometimes not.

I never got off at that station again, preferring to overshoot to the next one, because I knew I’d always steal a glance at the top of the steps, just on the faint hope that somehow the kid might turn up there. It’s with the help of such little acts of cowardice we all get by.

©Pointman

Related articles by Pointman:

Being there and not being there.

Click for a list of other articles.

Comments
26 Responses to “A Berlin story : Eva.”
  1. Dell wilson says:

    I don’t tune into your blog for this sort of thing, but I thank your for sharing nonetheless. Take care.

    • Blackswan says:

      Dell – “this sort of thing” is ultimately what AGW is all about.

      If our governments hadn’t splashed trillions of dollars against the wall in the name of Climate Fraud, how much more could be done to improve the lives and prospects of the Evas of this world?

      Better education, more employment opportunites, self respect as a productive member of society and estrangment from her family may never have happened.

      None of these issues exist in isolation from each other – the ‘domino effect’ applies and it’s the Evas among us who are the first to fall.

      • Blackswan is right. Society is insane. Pointman communicates information we all prefer to ignore:

        1. The top rungs of society are richly rewarded for violating moral principles – lying, cheating, conniving, etc. – without getting caught.

        2. The bottom rungs of society are occupied by addicts and mental patients, like Eva, who are unable to adapt to social hypocrisy.

  2. Fred Thrung says:

    What a truly dreadful tale. I shall never again read the name Eva without remembering this. But you do write so well!

  3. Nick Darby says:

    I read your blog because I enjoy your writing. This essay is exceptional. I suspect we are about the same age; one needs the time to develop perspective, to encapsulate, appreciate the stories that happen. We all have them. You have reminded me of some of my own, for which, thanks.

  4. omanuel says:

    Thanks, Pointman, for the message and your sensitivity to the suffering of others.

    Eva’s painful existence is a reflection of the insanity that grips society today.

    I am convinced the addiction to power at the top of the social ladder causes insanity and other addictions at the bottom of the same ladder: Alcohol, drugs (Rx and street), gambling, sex, pornography, food, etc.

    We all share responsibility for the Eva’s of this world.

    Oliver K. Manuel

  5. Don Aitkin says:

    Nice, thoughtful piece. I need a break from global warming too.

  6. meltemian says:

    Unlike Dell wilson I actually do come here for this as well as the obvious CAGW/CC etc. etc.
    Pointy please don’t ever stop your multi-faceted writings, we are all complicated people and appreciate your offerings. Your blog isn’t just a ‘one-trick-pony’ site.

  7. Curtis says:

    My day job is teaching English and I only wish I could teach my students to write like this. Take as many breaks from CC as you want. I won’t complain.

  8. Stephen cox says:

    Your empathy is all too uncommon and fits in with the position of the Pointman the most dangerous position but at least unlike tail end charlie you face your fears headon knowing in many cases with that sixth sense that goes with the territory what is unfolding in the future.

    Always a leader though you don’t wish that title you are simply the pointman because someone has to be and the others you know will not survive in that position and above all you give a damm you care in ways few understand, I salute you sir.

  9. Pointman says:

    And death shall have no dominion.
    Dead man naked they shall be one
    With the man in the wind and the west moon;
    When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
    They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
    Though they go mad they shall be sane,
    Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
    Though lovers be lost love shall not;
    And death shall have no dominion.

    And death shall have no dominion.
    Under the windings of the sea
    They lying long shall not die windily;
    Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
    Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
    Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
    And the unicorn evils run them through;
    Split all ends up they shan’t crack;
    And death shall have no dominion.

    And death shall have no dominion.
    No more may gulls cry at their ears
    Or waves break loud on the seashores;
    Where blew a flower may a flower no more
    Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
    Though they be mad and dead as nails,
    Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
    Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
    And death shall have no dominion.

    Dylan Thomas

    • meltemian says:

      “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him”.
      Romans 6 verse 9

      I think that’s the original from the King James Bible.
      I only know this as it’s the inscription on my father’s gravestone.

      Thanks for reminding me.

    • stan stendera says:

      Why am I not surprised you share my love for Dylan Thomas. There was a time when I could recite 1000 lines of Dylan Thomas’ masterful poetry. Alas the fading memory of age has diminished that, but I still break out occasionally in his wild songs. My favorite is “In my sullen craft or art” There were many great and wonderful poets in the twentieth century. Dylan Thomas in his all too short life demonstrated he was the best of all. Have you ever heard the tapes and records of his readings. If you have not you should not stop until you find them.

      • Pointman says:

        Hi Stan. Yes, he’s one of my favourites, as is Yeats. And yes, I often think of that poem as I I labor by singing light on a blog piece.

        In my craft or sullen art
        Exercised in the still night
        When only the moon rages
        And the lovers lie abed
        With all their griefs in their arms,
        I labor by singing light
        Not for ambition or bread
        Or the strut and trade of charms
        On the ivory stages
        But for the common wages
        Of their most secret heart.

        Not for the proud man apart
        From the raging moon I write
        On these spindrift pages
        Nor for the towering dead
        With their nightingales and psalms
        But for the lovers, their arms
        Round the griefs of the ages,
        Who pay no praise or wages
        Nor heed my craft or art.

        Dylan Thomas

  10. zbcustom says:

    Thanks Pointman. i came across your blog quite a long while ago from a link at JoNova’s. I haven’t missed anything you’ve posted since. Every post a gem; this one of the best. Thanks again.

  11. Blackswan says:

    Pointman

    Thank you for remembering Eva. Your acceptance of her, on her own terms, without judgement or rancour undoubtedly had her sitting on those steps longer than she might have done otherwise. It’s a salutary lesson for any of us who might have responded differently.

    Your ‘cut to the bone’ style of writing is confronting, inspiring and deeply appreciated.

  12. petra says:

    I read this, was there and realized at the end I was stunned. You’re too honest. You gave her your pack of cigarettes but she didn’t have a lighter, did she? There’s no fat on anything you write.

  13. Manfred says:

    Thank you for unconditionally reaching out to a waif. Thank you for showing the priceless treasure of your humanity. It’s rare today as folk cling and count more tightly in the face of the grasping, inexorable institutional greed that is The-Ministry-of-We-Know-Best, which would suck our very souls from us, if they could raise a price or create a market as they’ve done with the air.

  14. webber says:

    Great article but I have question. Do you believe in premonition?
    Btw I loved your visit to climate etc. A masterclass in troll control and very funny as well. I’d comment there but I don’t think I’d handle them as well as you do.

  15. stan stendera says:

    I wonder if it was Eva Braun’s ghost.

  16. stan stendera says:

    Yes, Yeats is wonderful. So is ee Cummings, especially his romantic poems My favorite is somewhere I have never traveled……. Are you aware of Poets.org where you can access thousands of poem instantly.

  17. Stephen Cox says:

    While we Mourn the Eva’s of the World let us also not forget the ones who gave us the Freedom to do so, Violette Szabo, Noor Ali Khan and others of SOE here is a Poem read by Shona Allen and written by Leo Marks for Violette for use as ID during her days in the Resistance.

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