They said I need a union
An electrician’s union
To install a light fixture
Why don’t you do it yourself
I don’t know how, do you
No… my father did it
I look over at my daughter. She’s icing her shin, her leg propped up on a chair. Two neighbor girls sing to her in German.
I need to go to the bank before it closes
You won’t have much time
I have to try. Can you watch her
It’s no problem
I listen to the singing and push open the door without understanding a word.
I try to run and lurch down the sidewalk, feet slapping against cobblestones. The people on the street stand alert, watching me out of the side of their eyes.
I’ve memorized German bank hours: nine to noon, hour lunch, prompt close at four. With a four-day weekend, I desperately need the cash as my debit card is frozen, and my AMEX is near useless.
I’m sweating when I reach the bank. The sliding glass doors part, and instead of finding shelter, I walk into a sauna. If it’s 75 outside (whatever-the-fuck Celsius) it’s 90 in the bank.
I walk up to the youngest, and most likely to speak English, teller.
My card has been turned off
Ok, let’s see why. What’s your account number
I don’t know
It’s on your monthly statements
I don’t have those
You don’t keep your monthly statements
Here’s my passport, can you look it up
He looks to his left, staring at a white wall. I look too, expecting to understand something. All I see is pulsating white.
Yes, passport is enough
I can smell us. There’s no escape when it’s hot. They not only don’t have air conditioners, they don’t believe in them.
Ah, your card has been locked because you didn’t respond to text
Would it have been in German
I don’t speak German
Yes, but they need text from you
Can you reactivate it
Yes, what’s your pin
No, internet pin. You made it when you opened account
I forgot it
You forgot something only you would know
Yeah, I guess
That’s ok. We make you a new pin
It needs to be five lubbers
Did you say letters
I stare at the keyboard. The smell is overwhelming. I can’t tell if it’s him, me or everyone else. Her birthday. 22312.
Ok, your card will work again. Next time you get text from bank make sure you respond to it
Outside is physical relief. My sweat dries in the air as I walk. I sweat a lot more since I switched to deodorant that doesn’t kill me.
So many people are sitting at small cafés enjoying the day. I feel like I’m barreling to some inevitable conclusion, while the world stalls, everyone eating ice cream, staring at nothing.
Back at the flat I pick up my daughter and an ice-pack, thank my neighbor, and start heading for the door.
Say goodbye to the Mädchens honey
I fireman carry her to the car. She wraps her arms around my neck and kisses me on the cheek.
In the car
She goes dead weight in my arms, almost spilling onto the pavement. I juggle her into a ball and dump her in the backseat. She splays out sideways across the car seat.
I toss half a Mars bar I was saving into the backseat.
I want to pound the gas but I’m so bad with a stick that I know I would kill it. I back out slowly, letting a pack of bikers pass, and then sputter down the street. I accelerate as best I can on the straightaways while she sings along loudly to Micky Mouse.
I coast into the parking lot and see her mom texting on the phone. Three minutes late.
I had a really nice time with you. I’m going to see you again very soon
I lift her out of the car seat and hug her. She hugs me back, only for a moment, and then starts to squirm.
I set her down and she runs to the car.
I watch the car drive away. I stall the engine as I back out of the parking lot and try to shift into first.