Previously on Nayrotica…
Night fell over the government facility and it was go time. We left the party, the mingling, one at a time ensuring that a scene was not made. Gathering our belongings in our respective rooms, we exchanged a few texts that confirmed our exit strategy: we were to meet outside the front doors, in the shadows of the government prison.
Individually, we made our way to the doors—and then, as if someone had betrayed us, one at a time, we were ambushed.
We had been made.
How did they find out we were leaving? Someone must have sold us out. Had I been double-crossed? My head was spinning with possibilities. But it didn’t change the fact that we were now delayed for our escape… the officiant’s and my escape from the government barracks. Feigning grace, I uttered my departing words of kindness. I had genuinely come to enjoy those I was holed up with, and they were beyond sweet, so it wasn’t so much as pretending to be gracious but more an urgency propelling me to get the hell out. When asked why I was leaving so early, I replied, “I am just really excited to get to Berlin and be with the fella.” While that was a true statement, it was the concealer for the anxiety riddled blemish on my soul… I needed to see him in order to calm my nerves– and seeing him wasn’t even a sure fix. Using the last time I saw him as my guide, the only thing that was guaranteed when we shared the same space was that I would be a total train wreck! And hell, I was already a wreck internally, so why not become the whole package? With the thought of seeing him launching me completely into a spiral of oblivion, I continued my salutations and appreciations. Thank you for everything! So wonderful to know you! I will miss you the most of all!
Soon after a long goodbye, the officiant and I were in a cab and on our way to the city center where we would board our bus in the darkness and hope that we weren’t spotted, making a clean break from the motherland. After a journey across town and a bite to eat later, we were finally aboard the bus. We made it… The bus would take us directly to Berlin and we would be there by sunrise. The fella agreed to pick me up when I arrived. It was all falling into place… all the while I was slowly falling apart. I slept as much as I could on the bus that night, ready to spend as much time with my new groom as possible.
When I opened my eyes again, I glanced across the aisle to see the officiant snuggling with her jacket as a pillow; she was resting. A smile cracked my stoic, morning face and the sun was emerging from beyond the western horizon. Everything is going to be okay, I thought, suddenly filled with optimism. I remained awake for the duration of the ride– less than an hour passed before we arrived at the transit station in Berlin. Before getting off the bus, I switched out my Polish SIM for the German one, and I was back online. I reached out to my betrothed and he was soon on his way to pick me up. I stood in the rotunda with the officiant as we said our goodbyes, soon after standing in the passenger pick-up area.
After a handful of minutes, he pulled up in a car2go and we were off to drop my bags at his place and to have a little rest.
Wanting to iterate my appreciation for the ride and the place to stay for the duration of my trip, I told him I was excited and thankful for the lodging. This didn’t set the right tone for my arrival– his response was less of a you’re welcome and more of a why are you thanking me? It is OUR place. See, I am not used to moving in on someone’s territory, even when you MARRY them… so the response was a bit jarring, to say the least. I defended my graciousness, however it was met with more resistance. Apparently, there was no need to thank him because it was as if I was coming home. This is where it started to get really confusing for me…
The last time I saw him in Poland, things seemed a little doom-and-gloom. There were doubts that shadowed any smiles and laughter. Arriving in Berlin, I was trying to be sensitive to the delicacy of the relationship, and instead it seemed that it was exact opposite approach I should have taken. I defended my thankfulness– in retrospect, a silly thing to have to excuse– and he insisted that it was unnecessary due to the intermingling of lives on which we were embarking. This is going so well, I was in my head again. By the time we parked and made our way into
his our apartment, I was burnt out emotionally and physically. I told him I needed a nap and a little downtime. He understood and as I readied myself for a lay-down, he puttered around the flat and eventually joined me for a bit. That day, we also made travel plans for him to come to New York to be with me for a month. We were planning on a future– together. And for a minute, that made me feel better.
Over the course of that week in Berlin things never really felt any lighter than that jumping off point after my arrival. There were brief moments of levity, but it was all colored with a certain grave hue of distorted reality. What was real? Who is this person? Who have I become?
On the first day of going around the city together, we used bicycles as our primary mode of transportation. It was a grey day with glimpses of sunshine, much like the emotional state of the entire foray into wedded bliss we were making. The day started out okay, but as I am the terrible tourist, there was nothing Berlin had to offer that I was dying to see. With this knowledge, the fella took me around and shared with me some of the city’s history, which I found remarkable and very much appreciated. Cycling from point to point, I was typically right behind him, with the exception of stopping points when I pulled up next to him so we could chat at intersections or for him to point out landmarks. This was all fine and good until the moment when he was leading us across a busy street that had multiple lanes of traffic going in each direction. As he glided across the first half of the real life Frogger game that we were playing and I followed, he stopped in the middle of the busy street and I pulled up next to him. He looked at me, an intensity in his eyes, “What are you doing?!”
Unsure of what he was talking about, I replied, “What do you mean? I am following you.”
“You’re too close! You should be behind me!” His tone was unpleasant and punitive.
I was a bit in shock, “Too close? We are in the middle of a busy street! You led us here!”
Great. We were fighting in the middle of the street. The eggshells that we were walking on were now slicing up our feet and legs.
“Exactly!” He continued. “We are in the middle of a busy street, so you shouldn’t be right next to me!”
I wasn’t following the logic, and without another word, he pedaled himself forward and onto the safety of the sidewalk. I was soon caught up with him and the argument continued.
“What were you thinking?!” He inquired.
“I wasn’t… I was following you! I don’t know where I am and so I am trusting you!” I made my case, however weak it was.
He looked at me, incredulously, and biked forward. Oh hell no, I thought. We weren’t done with this “conversation” yet. I followed him as we rode on the sidewalks and into a crowd.
“What did you expect me to do?!? Just wait on one side until you made it across? Did you want me to wait directly behind you so that I could get hit by the lane of traffic that was passing behind you!? What?!”
He glared at me and kept biking, speeding up, creating distance between us. That’s when I heard the distinct shrill that harkened me back to little league football practice. The ear-piercing tone of two whistles sounded and led me to look around me– just as many police officers as there were whistles were puffing their cheeks and blowing, pointing at the fella and me. He rode on past them, farther ahead than before, leaving me to be intercepted by the officers. Not initially knowing why they were sounding the shrill metal whistle at me, I finally discerned by the gesture of them pointing downward that I wasn’t supposed to be riding my bicycle in the crowd. Unlike my companion, I chose to dismount and walk my bike through the remaining mass of people, eventually catching up with my husband. Taking that moment to breathe and try to calm myself (and knowing that I had no idea of where I was, nor did I have anywhere to go if I chose to engage further in the fight du jour), I swallowed my pride and proffered some sort of half-assed apology, which was met with a certain level of acceptance, but only enough to get us through the end of the bicycle tour. We carried on, yet I was still secretly fuming from the mid-street altercation and then the eventual abandonment in the crowd with the police. Eggshells were still sticking out of my legs and feet, and they would remain there for the rest of the week.
After monuments and museums, we ended up at Berlin Tempelhof airport– an airfield that was no longer operational after 2008. It has become a sort of park: a public space for kite-flying, cycling, gardening, and the like. We pedaled down the runways and ended up in a community garden, sitting on a bench constructed of pallets. As we sat there and gazed at the wide open sky, the sun being masked by large grey clouds, and the crisp wind smacking our faces, we had a moment to breathe. I felt like, for the first time since before the wedding, we were actually sharing the same space again. There was something about the brisk air, the sunlight shining through the dark clouds, and the fact that we were sitting on the airstrip where Nazi planes used to come and go… It was that moment that I felt I could be honest… I had to tell him everything.
“Honey. I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” I began, even though I had a pretty good idea as to why I was acting so erratically and my emotions were a bit out of check. “Since before the wedding, I haven’t been able to relax. I feel like the Facebook announcement really hurt you and that was never my intention. I got swept up in the moment and went with it, not thinking about how my actions would affect you.” I hesitated before going on, “W-w-well, that may not be entirely true…”
He looked at me, his eyes uncertain of what I was going to say next.
“I am medicated for anxiety and depression, something I have struggled with in the past… and still do struggle with it. It got really bad for a while, which led to a pretty high dose of medication.” He watched me, not understanding what that had to do with anything. “And when I met you, I decided to cut my dose in half, because I was convinced that I was okay; that I was finally back in control of my life– and it was in the weeks after that when we were planning the wedding and everything got a little out of hand.”
It clicked in his head… I saw it happen.
“I want so badly for this to work, but I know that I really fucked up and I don’t know how to fix it,” and so began the self-effacing portion of the speech I had not prepared. “You’re amazing and have been so kind and I have been nothing but a crazy person!” I started to cry. “I am so sorry. I am so sorry. Sorry.” I just repeated it and wept. In that moment I wanted nothing more than for him to forgive me and hold me and tell me that it didn’t matter.
But the truth is… it did matter.
It mattered that I was dishonest and I created a maelstrom of discomfort for both of us, Regardless of what happened next, the groundwork had been laid and I had to go on from there. No reset button would appear and there were no do-overs. I rested my head on his shoulder and we kept looking at the sky. A few million moments passed, and then we were back on the bicycles, pedaling to his home– while I struggled with the idea of it being our home, I was no longer under any the influence of any delusions of grandeur and I reconciled with my place– I was a guest in a foreign land. It just so happened that I was also married to my host.
When we arrived back at his place, we probably made some dinner, or listened to some music, or read. The thing of it is, it didn’t really matter what happened when we returned to the comfort of his beautiful flat– it didn’t matter because there was nothing left for me to do to plead my case. I couldn’t take it back, and I couldn’t afford the defense counsel that I would need to get me out of the hole I dug for myself.
The week continued and my emotional breakdowns kept coming too– no shock there. It was likely not a joy for my husband, but he weathered the storm. We stepped out for a coffee on my last day in Berlin, and I asked him, “Hey. Do you have a piece of jewelry or anything that you don’t wear anymore? I just want to take something to remember you by…” He thought about it, skeptically, before telling me that he didn’t. I felt like I was never going to see him again, so I was grasping for anything that would remind me of his so that I didn’t wake the next day wondering whether or not the whole trip had been a dream. When he told me that there was nothing that I could take with me, I changed my strategy.
As I packed my bags, my mind continued to play the twisted game of Operation: Take a Piece of You with Me and I looked around the room for anything I could find that wouldn’t go missing. Then I saw it. There on the dresser, I saw a DVD of one of the fella’s performances. I looked around and grabbed it, quickly inserting it into my computer and uploading the disc. As soon as it was finished, I took it out and returned it to its rightful spot on the dresser. Glancing around, I smiled knowing that I accomplished my task of taking something of his with me… without him noticing.
Or at least that is what I thought.
With bags in tow and the final goodbye minutes away, we were walking up the street. I began speaking of hope and potential for the future of us — that’s when he interrupted me with this paraphrase,
How can you say these things? How can you say you hope we can get past all of this when I saw you upload that disc so secretly? When you ask me for a piece of jewelry so that you can take it with you and do who knows what with? Do you want to show your friends? Tell a story that is not true? Do you want to pretend that this all went perfectly? You changed the dosage of your medication and only told me after the fact! I could have worked with you on that, but I didn’t even know! We said that we were going to be honest with each other– and I was honest with you. But you haven’t been honest with me since the beginning! So, I don’t know what’s going to happen! I don’t know what to do now. I need some time to think and to sit with all of this information. I will talk to you soon, but for now I just need a little time.