Joanne Faries

Three puffs and then I deliberately extinguished and replaced the cigarette in my blouse pocket. I strolled across the strasse, careful not to attract attention. Inside the apartment building, I took steps two at a time (forget the creaky lift), rapped on door 75, grimaced at Helmut’s weepy eye peering out the peephole, and listened to the clatter of unlocking bolts. Once the door was open, I ignored all greetings and hurried to our radio.  

“What’s going on?” asked Georg.  

Fritz chimed in, “Look at her face.” He gestured towards me. “It’s too late for our little group to overturn Russians in 1961.” He pointed at piles of flyers urging attendance at a protest rally on Friday and shouted at Helga. “Turn off that damn mimeograph. I can’t hear.” Fritz hovered as I flicked through channels and sought the soothing tones of the BBC. I yearned for another three puffs.  

He whispered in my ear, “Marlene, tonight? Should we leave tonight?” I shrugged, feigning indifference, and changed the station to German folks songs.  

I pulled out a brown sack of sausage to hand to Helmut. “Contact to meet in twenty minutes, then I’ll have more information for our rally. Fritz, calm down.” I kissed his cheek and left.  

At the corner, I lit my hand-rolled cigarette, inhaled three puffs, and smiled. In twenty minutes I’d be lounging in a western Berlin biergarten with Johann.  Tonight we’d make love while a wall was built to seal my escape.    

First published: August, 2009
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