ANOTHER MAN IN THE CROWD
by Steve Rudd
‘It doesn’t look any different on this side,’ the disembodied voice yelled over the void.
‘I never said that it would look any different. But I bet it feels different,’ ventured an old man’s voice on the eastern side of the wall.
‘Not really,’ the disembodied voice declared. ‘At least not from where I’m stood.’
To some people, the momentous fall of the Berlin Wall signified freedom from years of oppression, yet some people seemed to believe that nothing was really going to change as a result of East and West Germany being reunited after having been segregated for so long.
The old man, too tired to pull himself up over the wall which was in the process of being pulled down before his watering eyes, took tight hold of his grandson’s hand. The disembodied voice belonged to a man who had already successfully vaulted himself over into ‘the West,’ and who now stood stock still: waiting for his newfound friends to make it across the now-defunct border. In good time, in good hands.
It would be some time before they made it, however, as the section of wall in front of them was being sledge-hammered down in a heartbreakingly laboured manner. Already, progress appeared to be floundering. But where was the hardship in waiting another hour or two to cross over to the other side? An hour or two didn’t compare to the years that the majority of the folk who’d been confined to East Germany had waited, and waited, and waited to be liberated from the grip of communism, from stomach-distending rations, from orders to be obeyed. The fact that the so-called ‘Communist life’ had provided each and every person in its wrath with a certain degree of security no longer seemed to matter. Everybody was too busy looking to the future, excitedly peering through the developing cracks.
‘We shan’t be too long,’ the old man called to the young man. Although he was projecting his voice in such a manner that it would be heard on the other side, the old man was stood close enough to the wall – amidst the falling debris and clamouring screams and shouts of the prevailing agony and ecstasy – that he was effectively shouting at the wall itself. The thin yet steadfast Iron Curtain.
The old man was treated to no response whatsoever. Around him, the young and the nimble were helping each other over the top. A few helpful hands ventured in his direction, but he realised he didn’t have the strength to take such people up on their kind offers.
Instead, he waited for the young man to shout back. The old man hoped that the young man might have come to his senses and that he might now understand how life was going to potentially change for the better. But still there was no response from the far side.
It seemed that he had indeed come to his senses, and he had walked off in the process… forgetting all about the fortunes of the old man and the bewildered boy.
The sun was just beginning to surface, shedding light on the grey concrete tower blocks which surrounded the euphoric scene of organised chaos. Given the fact that so many years had been wasted since the erection of the wall, there was no longer any more time to lose.
As the boy took his hand, the old man didn’t know which way to turn.