CW: brief mention of gun violence
[Fiction] Ich Will Nix Alter Werden
Translation: “I don’t want to get older”
STASI INTERNAL NOTES, August 12th, 1979: Annika Novak, noted homosexual, lives in West Berlin. Her girlfriend, Marienetta Jirkowsky known as “Micki,” lives in the East.
Every day things change here. Disregard my last letter; I don’t like the Beatles anymore. They are cheesy. Punk is my new god. I chopped off my hair, dyed the remainder turquoise. My parents are very upset, but I am sick of them, I am realizing that they are failures, an entire generation has failed. All they want me to do is learn how to knit, marry some stupid boy, and make babies. I have other plans. I am going to run away and live in a squat. I am going to learn guitar. Maybe if I play loud enough, the sounds will stretch over the concrete and you will hear me.
TROMMEL MAGAZINE, #16: The successes of socialism and its growing international reputation led to a tremendous increase in Imperialism’s hatred for the GDR, particularly in West Germany. It tried to do damage to us wherever possible. Our enemies particularly used the open border with West Berlin. That was not enough for them. In agreement with the Soviet Union and the other states of the Warsaw Pact, we put an end to the West’s plans on 13 August 1961. We closed our borders.
Won’t you come to visit me? I have many ideas; most of them involve picnics. We can wander around parks tossing bread everywhere, fattening up the geese. Go to shows every night, get drunk and make out in bathrooms and balconies. Throw our empty bottles at annoying boys.
In the summer, we will get ice cream and walk to Tempelhof. I know you like strawberry and nothing else but just in case you change your mind I’ll get chocolate and you can have some of mine. We can ride bikes around the track, have a race, or if you prefer you can sit in my basket and I will pedal us wherever you want to go. We can even stay out all night if you want. We don’t have curfews here.
And I will show you the gardens at Tempelhof that my neighbors tend. They grow sunflowers out of old boots. A flower can grow just about anywhere, I guess.
PS I am enclosing a tape for you. Side A is all The Ramones (my favorite). Side B is German and Austrian bands: Barchen und die Milchbubis, Hans-A-Plast, Schund, Martina and the Part-Time Punx. Hope you like it.
The New York Times: Stuck 110 miles inside the German Democratic Republic, [West Berlin] is girdled by 99 1/2 miles of a 15-foot-high wall, which itself is buttressed by tank traps, mines, eavesdropping devices, and dog runs.
Truth is, I feel guilty for not trying to come to you. I pretend to be tough and punk, but deep down I’m afraid. I don’t want to get killed trying to cross. You’re never afraid of anything. Even when we were little, you were always the stronger, braver one.
That’s why you kissed me first.
During the day, the western side of the city throbs with life in the cafes; at night, the boulevard, a combination of the Champs-Elysees and Times Square, goes ablaze in garish neon, demarcating West Berlin even more dramatically from the subdued, darkened east side.
Micki mein Schatz,
As I write you this I’m waiting on the platform for the S-Bahn to come, headphones on, hands jammed into my pockets for warmth. Shivering in the wind. A woman just offered me her scarf, but I shook my head no, she has on even less clothing than I do. A stranger stopped to demand how I would ever get a boyfriend with blue hair sprayed stiff & piercings in all my body parts. I told him the truth: I’m already in love, so it doesn’t matter.
Somewhere far off, a dog howls at the cold moon. Midnight at last.
From the innards of the U-Bahn, you emerge into a human and architectural landscape that is ghostly quiet, almost frozen in time.
How are things going on your side? I spend a lot of time daydreaming your life, how it is different from my own.
I know East is supposed to be dull, but if I came to live there, we could go to Kulturpark Planterwald at the very least. From the Ferris wheel, you can see the whole city.
People walk more slowly in East Berlin.
Seems unfair that the water in the Spree river gets to travel wherever it wants, come and go as it pleases, while we are both trapped. Green police vans speeding down the streets, threatening to run us over, in an attempt to keep us all in line. Our officials know very well what they are doing; shrinking lives through fear, breeding resentment like a virus. Today I heard my neighbors talking about how grateful they are that they are stuck on the “right” side. Idiots, fighting to the death over leftover scraps, wartorn trash. Forever arguing over which is more important, East vs. West, hands or feet; never realizing you won’t get far without either.
Barbed wire rips through our sky, circles the white sun. I check and check. The watchtowers are never empty.
West Berlin is a standing affront, a challenge, and it is suggestive that on the East German-made maps of the city West Berlin appears as a streetless gray zone, a blank.
I worry that you think I’ve forgotten you. Please never ever think that. I couldn’t forget you; you are part of me. I think of you all the time, about your family, Klaus, and Astrid, wondering how you all are doing. I wonder how the textile factory is? Do you hate it, or have you found some way to make it fun? We both know you’re too smart to waste away there. Anyway, things are mostly fine on my end. I took in a stray cat and named him Fritz. I miss you so much. I keep your school photo in my pocket at all times and look at it before I go to sleep. I know you’re self-conscious about being short but really, no one cares. And you have the cutest smile I’ve ever seen. I wish you knew how pretty you are.
Micki never wrote back; there was no communication possible between the two sides.
I’m sick of people saying freedom like it means anything.
OFFICIAL GDR POLICE REPORT:
November 22nd, 1980. Border violator Marienetta Jirkowsky, aka “Micki,” 16 years old, was shot at 3:30 am trying to climb over the Berlin wall via ladder. She was accompanied by young two men who made it safely over the wall, but as Jirkowsky tried to follow, an alarm was triggered. Twenty-seven shots were fired in total. Jirkowsky fell into the Spree and is presumed drowned. Her body has not yet been recovered.
Will you come soon? I’m lonely here, and Berlin grows frostier by the day.
You are so close sometimes I can feel it. This morning, I smoked a cigarette on the roof. From my perch, I thought I could see you. A tiny black speck surrounded by a cluster of green trees. I stood up to try and get a better look.
I thought you waved to me.
Bolded sections were taken from:
- “Berlin- Night and Day” by James Markham for The New York Times, 1983
- Trommel #16 https://research.calvin.edu/german-propaganda-archive/trom8016.htm
- Various GDR Police Reports on the death of Marienetta “Micki” Jirkowsky
Arielle Burgdorf is a writer from Washington D.C. and current MFA candidate at Chatham University. Her work has been published by Horse Less Press, Bone & Ink Press, Feministe, and Maximum Rocknroll, among others.