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  • We learned to navigate. How to get
    from Mohrenstraße to Friedrichstraße, from the
    Neue Wache to the Brandenburger Tor.
    You showed me with your
    hands: left, right.
    You argued with me. I was right.
    You trusted me. I was wrong.
    We got there.

    We traveled. You let me have the window
    seat. You let my head flop over into your personal
    space as bus conversations faded
    into sleep. You took ugly pictures of me
    with my mouth open. Our lower bodies went numb
    in the deceivingly uncomfortable chairs. We complained.
    We stopped to pee and to vomit. You bought
    every candy bar in the petrol station.

    We ate, meals that were quick
    and satisfying, like running over an empty
    grocery bag in a car. We spent languorous hours
    that were more about laughing together than about
    the piles of couscous
    or prune sauce.

    We met scholars, curators, professors. You asked
    questions that I would have never thought to ask.
    You provoked discussions with a few flaps of your
    tongue followed by a rising intonation. We
    continued the dialogue. You listened. Your
    face was blank. Your face sparkled with interest.

    We were always comparing. Warsaw and Berlin,
    Adorno and Young, Majdanek and Treblinka, Tyskie
    and Krombacher. Arguments enlightened us. Is it possible
    to read too far into something? We laughed. You talked
    in a weird voice. You said something stupid.
    You told dick jokes.

    We visited forgotten places. We breathed
    in the ashy air that hung,
    heavy on the black stones. We touched the rusty
    fingers of Bełzec and stood small
    underneath the Gates of Hell.
    We sat on dusty stairs at Birkenau and stared
    at the barbed wire slashing through the liquid sky.

    You cried. You took pictures.
    You avoided me. You followed me. You looked
    up at me with confused silence. You didn’t look
    at me. You couldn’t feel anything.
    You felt everything. In the midst of the screaming
    bullfrogs, of the blabbering tourists, of the grinding
    rocks beneath our shoes,
    you were so quiet.
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