A short five hours ago my heart was filled with fear that “PORK AIR” would be the last words upon which I’d ever lay eyes.
9 a.m. Light without heat. Droves of strangers with hands jammed in pockets, backs hunched against the cold. The river of people, effectively dammed by chained-off aisles, leads to a closed glass door behind which my future awaits two floors up. It is 0 degrees celsius/32 Fahrenheit, with 22 kilometer per hour winds. After minute 40 or so I stop feeling my feet.
“Ohhh, I think I’m getting sick,” moans Niels piteously. I regard his sleepy eyes and red cheeked face topped off by the woolen hat I’d scored him at a Kreuzberg market two days before. It isn’t that I don’t hear him, but personal discomfort and mind-shattering cold obliterate any shred of empathy I might have been able to muster for my most patient of companions.
“I’m hungry!” I whine a non sequitur in return.
We are both speechless for a time, huddled together with coat collars turned maximally up. After a few more moments of quiet, I make a horrifying discovery.
“Niels?” I say. “Niels! Oh, God! It’s so cold I can’t feel my butt!”
I eye the graffitied wall just up the hill past the Ausländerbehörde. “PORK AIR,” it says in bright blue bubble letters.
This is no place to die.
And indeed I did not. In fact, one might even argue that I (or at the very least my visa for Germany) has been reborn. I am now the proud holder of a Fiktionsbescheinigung (literally a “Fictions Certificate”), a thing which allows me to stay legally in Germany until the 31st of March, 2012. Huddled in bed and gazing out my window at the torso of the craggy old tree that keeps sentry over the playground, I am finally, six hours later, warm. After two weeks of uncertainty and stress, I am also finally–for now–safe.
After the initial elation of receiving my brightly colored permit wore off, tired took its place: in addition to safe I am also thoroughly exhausted. I hadn’t noticed ’til now how tightly I’ve been wound, and I’m sure Niels, for all his fortitude and toughness, was as well. My ankle is athrob–standing in the cold for 70 mins and grunting through the long hop-walk to Berlin’s unnecessarily remote Foreigner’s Office did it no favors–and my neck is stiff.
Niels and I started the day too early, we stood in the cold long enough for me to start considering the poisonous blue berries on the frosty shrubbery just outside the Ausländerbehörde an option, and the one pulse of human joy or pleasure I experienced before getting that sweet certificate in my hands came in helping an African stranger with a lilting accent to unzip his tangled hood. But at the very least I know that even if it all seems too good to be true–even if it’s German Certified Fiktion–I am here for a while to stay, and I can still call this my home.
More tomorrow. To whomever I owe an email: I’m sorry I’ve been so behind. To whomever I must telephone: it’s in the works. And to whomever I owe work? Please, please forgive me for how far the past week or so has gotten away from me. I’ll commence with operation catch up very soon. But now? Now is the time for a restorative, well blanketed snooze.
Thank you to all of you who’ve worked connections for me, to all of you who have inquired, to everyone who’s reached out with words of encouragement or invitations to hide out in your home countries. I like to think that it’s all of your collective goodness that’s helped tip the scales in a decidedly prettier direction. I appreciate you, web community. Stick around. 🙂