East Berlin

He stares at my passport while I shift from side to side on thin soled business shoes. The light is dim. Other than the gooseneck lamp beside his left arm, one lonely bulb swings on a cord behind my back, between me and the twelve people sitting against the wall, waiting their turn.

I muster the courage to examine this first example of the East German military. He wears a brown stiff brim military hat decorated by a red band. His collar bears a brass insignia, I guess to represent a low level noncommissioned officer. I’m counting the buttons on his tunic as he grunts and turns his gray eyes in my direction, focusing on the space between my eyes. I stare back not wanting to yield to his bureaucratic muscle, yet hoping to look submissive enough to obtain his stamp on my passport.

His eyes circle my face. I again shift in my shoes to dispense my nervous energy. I feel a bead of sweat rolled out of my armpit slowly making a track toward my belt.

I hear noises outside, where our car is parked. The door is slamming the truck is being trunk is being opened, there’s pounding on the seats, inside the trunk, searching, searching for any tiny excuse to detain me and my three companions. The four who must see East Berlin. Dark, deserted East Berlin on a Saturday night.




Stories about the search for meaning in a chaotic world.

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Grant Tate is an author, thought leader, confidential advisor, and idea explorer in Charlottesville, VA. His latest book, “Hand on the Shoulder” is out soon.

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