this place

It is 1:56 p.m. Wednesday. And a radio spills into the courtyard with a 1920s tune, something Big Band, muffled by the flapping of loose plastic sheeting on the roof. The tune floats through the chestnut tree, bending with every windy blow, its traditional springtime dance. Now is the time when the dirty clouds roll in from the west, Potsdamer clouds. A plane cruises overhead, a smaller craft with an engine made of angry bees. Its heart rumbles above and gently shakes the walls surrounding. It whispers away, trailing with a whistle towards Tegel.

The sun feels good. It creeps in the bedroom around this time every day, when the Potsdamer clouds allow, clawing its way over the sill and onto the drab gray carpet. It plays havoc with the piles of coins on the windowsill, so many pieces of copper and metal that together could buy a loaf of bread, separately fall out of pockets with too many holes. Here, the clouds are winning, and the sun's gone for now. The plastic tarp waves goodbye. The construction soloist on the roof has left for the day; pleased with his newly built echo chamber on the dachgeschloss, he belts out stacatto stanzas. “Oh my love.” A coworker bellows orders, or perhaps a request to pipe down. It has no effect. The call of the stage is too strong, even for the manual laborer.

The coins beg me to order them. It is the way of procrastination, or better, the absence of compelling thought. To fiddle, perchance to eat a sandwich. There are always ways to explore the other while ignoring what's right in front of you. Luckily for me, I'm staring at the world on the wall, circa 1996. It claims to be political, but I promise to be neutral. Zaire is enormous; Brazil is bigger. I wonder why no one came up with a better name for the Central African Republic. Or whether Kalaallit Nunaat really translates to Greenland, in that tongue the five people in Greenland must speak. When it's not too cold to talk. Other times, they just sit around and watch as the sun never sets. Or never rises.

A horn blows from beyond the apartment building. A conch shell, perhaps, something to signal the beginning of a game, or just a beginning. A television mumbles, bouncing its afternoon programming from wall to wall in the central courtyard. There's always one person with the TV on full strength, and you can't tell where the TV is. It's a false statement. The TV is all around you. Where are you? In my bedroom on the third floor overlooking the central courtyard at the heart of a corner apartment building on the edge of Pankow, formerly known as east Berlin.