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Not Enough

Posted on 1 min read 17 views

I cry on most of the flight home and I don’t know why. Not weeping, just eyes watering, falling on the pages of the book I’m trying to read, or caught subtly in my sleeve.

I can’t say for certain why it’s so hard for me.

This isn’t a new trip for me. But this time it feels different. There are realizations that come to me now. Facts and realities that I didn’t know existed, and that I don’t know how to confront.

I’ve felt frustrated for a long time. But now in seeing her, it goes beyond my own frustration, and verges into pain… and with pain naturally comes empathy. She’s older now, and in her I see so many things that reminded me of myself when I was young. Or am I projecting?

Yes, it could all be a mental creation, a manifestation of fear. But what if I’m right? I want more than anything to help that little girl, but we can’t even communicate. I quietly meltdown as I listen to her have conversations with strangers that have more depth than anything she can say to me. Her English will one day improve, and my German slowly accumulates, but it’s not enough when she needs me now.

Where We Come From

Posted on 1 min read 11 views

My hotel, the Schloss Wilkenhedge, is a “water castle”, which is a small castle surrounded by a moat in the countryside. After dinner, usually around 9 or 10, while the sunset is still intense, I go for a walk through the forest near the hotel. The trees in the forest are tall and thin, stretching a hundred feet in the air, and remind me of the trees in the parks that surround Portland. There’s a road through the forest that’s heavily trafficked, and as I walk the road I imagine if a car were to jump the curve (which isn’t a curve, but a painted line) and were to punch my ticket, how in many ways it would be a more natural way to go then if the same thing happened back home.

Until a hundred years ago, everyone in my family lived and died in a place like this. Not in this exact place, but not far from this place. Probably a little colder, more continental, but something close to this. In a very literal sense I was built for here, and this place will be what my daughter thinks of as home. And so how strange would it be for this to be home for me? As culturally far away as I feel, I can also recognize the many innate things that draw me in.

German Child Services

Posted on 1 min read 14 views
I’m sweating through my jeans in a hallway in Germany. I’m alone in the hallway, there’s an empty wooden chair to my right. I came here unannounced, and they’ve stuck me out here because they don’t know what to do with me. The corridor is thin and lined with rooms. I can hear voices come out rooms, I’m assuming talking on the telephone, but I can’t see anyone. It’s all sound and white walls and stale air.
A little girl’s voice comes from a room on my left. “Hallo mama.” It sounds like my daughter when she was three. For a moment I forget where I am and think it is my daughter. The sounds of her playing and talking continues. She sounds happy.
I burst into tears.
It feels like a dream, but it’s reality. I just don’t know how it’s mine.

Scrambled

Posted on 1 min read 20 views

It’s been a long weekend. I spent it with my sister in the Hamptons for her 30th birthday. I haven’t had a running three day hangover in years, and the feeling is familiar, but with added effect. I used to feel that I could be mentally productive when I was hungover. There was belief that not being able to move physically forced me into a sharper state. But now, in the time that follows, my brains feel scrambled, and the best I can do is innocuous emails. Instead of creativity, on the flight back to Denver, I can only watch movies and jot down notes for writings that I hope I can expand into something meaningful later.

Low Decibel Foreboding

Posted on 1 min read 14 views

I’m obsessed and terrified with dying. When I was young, like most young people, I never thought I would live long enough to become old. The difference is that the feeling has not left as I’ve slowly moved towards middle age. It’s not that growing older has been harder than I expected, because in many ways it’s been softer, it’s just that this low decibel hum of foreboding that has always lived with me hasn’t disappeared. When I was twenty-seven my daughter was born. That same year, I remember thinking that I would die when I was thirty-seven. I told a few people that, and it was greeted with an understandable level of patronization and smiles. And so I don’t think about it often. But when I do, it seems as real and present as the first time it barreled towards me.

I thought about it today. The terrifying part wasn’t that I could still feel it there. The terrifying part is that I’m much closer to that point, but still far from where I want to be.

My Muscle Memory

Posted on 3 min read 78 views

I’ve made the trip to Germany so many times, that the whole process has become akin to muscle memory. I board in the late afternoon in Denver, and fly to either Frankfurt or Munich (depending on the day). I work for the first couple hours and watch a movie when the meal is served. If I can sleep for a couple of hours in the short fly-through night, that’s a victory. I spend the last hour staring listlessly at the seat in front of me or the other confused passengers, as breakfast is served, and morning bursts through the raised windows. There are no thoughts, and I focus on not becoming impatient and claustrophobic.

I land in the late morning, German time. The layover’s short, and the time is consumed with passport control, putting credit on my German SIM card, and using a second wind to write a little. For the final leg, I take a puddle jumper to Munster. I pass out end-to-end on the 45-minute flight. Waking when the plane hits the tarmac. I rent a car, and drive to my hotel, where I take a post-international travel shower, which is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world.

By this time it’s nearly 4 pm, roughly 8 am Denver time, and if I’m lucky I’ve had a few hours of sleep. I’m puffy eyed, and running on coffee fumes. I get back into my car and drive into the North Rhine-Westphalia countryside, and to my daughter’s secluded home. But it’s easy, as soon as she’s with me. She runs to me and wraps her arms around my legs. It feels like nothing is lost.

It’s only after I drop her off that my body starts to collapse. By the time I drive back to the hotel, it’s nearly 8 pm. I eat a heavy German dinner, take a Xanax, and if I’m lucky, sleep the longest sleep in two months. It’s startling to sleep for more than eight hours, when you normally get five. And in the morning I feel what I almost never feel in my day-to-day life, groggy. It translates to opaque thoughts and stunted motor skills: I wander around my room looking for nothing, bump into door frames, and trip on invisible steps. How much of this is the Xanax, and how much of this is the displacement, I have no idea. It’s surreal, and would be frustrating if I lived in it for too long. But it’s welcome, because it’s a novelty and a distraction.

Even writing this is a creation of that half-lucid state. And as I drink coffee, it slowly brings me back. That’s the best use of coffee that I’ve ever found: an easy return to reality. Maybe that’s why most people drink coffee in the morning, to clear away the cobwebs. Considering I wake most days in a panic, it’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to feel the fog slowly lift.