Nick Gerrard

 

Outside the triumphal arch stands the orange bike and grill. Behind it stand I, Waffle Paul. I am also dressed in orange, with a shiny pink head. Steam is coming out of the iron and from the top of my head. An aroma of toast and toffee wafts over and hits the noses of wrapped-up Berliners and stops their rushing, just for a moment.
-My dear, come on over, let my sweet delights warm your cold nose today.
The little girl grins back and inches her way over; head down, body bobbing, eyes glimpsing up.

-This recipe comes from my Granma back in old Amsterdam, the recipe is a secret, so shhh!  . . .  I share it only with you!

-You Sir, with your wonderful Russian hat, come on, take a bite!

-Madam, your beauty is clear for all to see, Look at the roses blooming from your cheeks!

I take a hot waffle from the iron, cut it carefully then dip my favourite knife into the syrup and spread it; I wrap it in a little paper envelope, smile, bow my head and wave my arm in front of me.

-You’re welcome.

That day I see a shape lying on a bench. I glance at it, moving, in-between servings and banter. The young woman yawns and stretches and gathers her blanket around her with her finger-tip holed gloves. I catch her gaze, I try a little grin of comfort; she smiles back, briefly. In the winter months, I would pop along to the Gates on a Wednesday afternoon, just to cheer people up in the mid-week gloom. In summer I am around for a couple of days, I like to think I am a part of people’s lives; a drop off from a walk home, a stop off for young lovers; a treat for Granddad’s to give to wild-ginger-haired granddaughters.
But In winter I come out of love; ha ha! Of course, I do it to make money, but, you know, I make more from the cultural conventions, and Christmas markets, and these days I am happy I can choose what work I do, sometimes for money sometimes for other reasons.
On other days, I guide old-Dutch visitors around abandoned beauties. I sing songs on barges and whisper interesting facts in museums. I take survivors and school parties past memorials and through now thriving bohemian ghettos.

-And as you walk around you will notice the Stolpersteins, these gold tiles commemorate victims of the Nazis; please wipe your feet on them. Don’t worry! Before the war, it was the custom for Germans who tripped over a protruding cobblestone to remark-
‘There must be a Jew buried here.’ They are placed here for you to trip over, to draw your attention to people who once lived or worked here, but were taken from here. I hold my orange umbrella in the air.
-Ladies and Gentlemen onwards! Please stumble over and remember!
I work late into the afternoon; a figure walks slowly across the grass, a floppy hat and bulging layers of clothes. She carries her back-pack to the bench, takes out a book and reads. When we are the only two around I do a little fox-trot behind the grill…

-My dear, may I offer you a sizzlingly syrupy waffle?

-I’m sorry, are you talking to me?

-Yes, I am; come here, come! Please take one.

-I’m sorry, I have no money.

-No, no; no money, it’s for free.

-I’m sorry I cannot take it.

-I see you are a proud person, this is not charity, Waffle Paul gives no charity. I give only gifts, to beautiful people.

-I am not beautiful.

-You, my dear are a like a blooming foxglove, with eyes of toasted Almonds and skin to match my waffle syrup.

A smile appears, she walks over and I perform.

-Madame.

-Thank you.

She nibbles and breathes in trying to cool it down.

-It’s…Oh…hot! – Delicious though. Thank you again.

-It’s my pleasure. Do you mind?

-No, please.

I join her on the bench and light a small cigar.

-Where are you from?

– I’m Turkman, from Iraq.

-Turkestan?

-No, everyone says that, no, I’m from Iraq, but I am a Turkman.

-Sorry, I didn’t quite catch it. Do you want some soup? I have some fresh pumpkin and coconut. I love my soups! I pour a beaker full from the flask and hands the lid to her.

-There you go.

She cups her two hands and blows.

-I’m sorry, I haven’t asked you your name, my name is Paul.

-Akgul.

-Akgul. That’s a lovely name, does it mean anything?

-White flower.

-Aha! Yes, I guessed right.

I send a smoke ring into the sky.

A couple of giggling office girls stroll up to the cart.

-I’ll be back in a jiffy.

-Beautiful ladies, how you bring joy to my life, let me bring joy to yours.

When I come back, she is walking away; she looks back, hands in her coat, and smiles. I look out for her the next few days, but she doesn’t appear. Then on the following Thursday, I spot her strolling. Akgul approaches; sits down and takes a plastic box out of a bag. I walk over.

-Hi, long time no see, I thought you had disappeared.

-No, just busy, nice to see you again, do you have time for a little lunch now?

-You brought lunch, perfect! I was just thinking of packing up for a bit, it’s quiet now after the rush.

-Good, It’s not much I’m afraid.

-Not much, this is great.

I rub my hands and sit. She delves into the bag.

-I have Iranian e kalbas sandwiches and Pistachio cake.

I take a bite.

-Mm, delicious.

-You should try this, it’s Doogh; it’s a typical minty yogurt drink from back home.

We sit and eat quietly for a while.

-May I ask you something.

-Of course, go ahead.

-I’m sorry, this is delicious by the way, you have brought this lovely food and here am I thinking you were maybe homeless. She laughs a little.

-You’re right, I was. But I have a place in a hostel now. And we have a shared kitchen, and nearby are lots of Arab and Turkish shops, so I was able to get the ingredients, and I baked the cake myself.

We smile at each other, and then both look out into the distance and chew away.

-Sorry, I don’t mean to be nosey, but how long were you homeless for?

-It’s fine, only for a short time but it was not the best of times. I was scared, and cold and hungry, and slept in doorways and parks, wherever I could, wherever was quiet and dry, but I had to leave, I had to make the move.

I look at her and wait to see if she wants to add more.

-You are wondering what I left, how I came to be here?

-It’s fine, you don’t have to talk, it’s fine.

-No, it’s Ok, I don’t mind, it’s good to talk I think.

I try to smile; try to reassure her a little.

-It was the war, right?

-The war, there’s always war. Never good. Fighting on all sides. Murders between peoples. Our people were never treated fairly in Iraq, and now, well, many died. It was the worst of times.

-But you got out, you escaped?

-Women and girls were taken, some just disappeared. Many women were kidnapped for husbands even before the war. My father decided to try to protect me from various armies and IS. At that time there were lots of men coming to try to arrange weddings, offering money to families in exchange for daughters. Although my family needed money, I think my father didn’t give me away for the money. His idea was to protect me. He could see no other way to protect me. He wanted me to go to the west, to safety, but also I think he wanted me to have a chance in life, and he thought that sending me to the west, was the best option. What chance is there now over there?
-Must have been awful for you but I can understand your father wanting the best for you, but it must have been terrible thing for him to do too.

-Maybe. I know he wanted a good life for me, but I cannot forgive him for what he did. His own daughter! I can’t understand how he could do it.

-I cannot begin to understand how you must feel and also how he must have felt.

I look at her. I wipe my mouth and hands on the paper napkin and empty the rubbish in the bin.

-Thank you for the wonderful meal, and I always like to enjoy a little cigar after a meal, would you like one?

-Yes, I have taken to smoking a little since I arrived here, but only cigarettes, but a cigar would be lovely, my papa smoked cigars.

We sit and drag and smile at each other a little.
She came by once a week after that. We shared lunch, both contributing. Salads of pulses and fresh herbs from her, turmeric butternut soups from my flask. And we always finished with a little coffee and hot waffles; a story, a smile and a little laughter, a tear or two, and a vanilla cigar.

#

We move from the bench to cafes and bistros, I show her some of favourite haunts.
-What’ll you have? I’m having a cappuccino and apple pie.

-I’ll have hot chocolate and chocolate fudge cake. It’s lovely here, I love the old paintings, and the old ladies are very charming.

-Yes, this is one of my favourite cafes, one of the oldest in Berlin, traditional Jewish, well it was, the Jewish school is just over the road.

-And your family lived around here?

-Not, not at all, I just so happened to end up here in this area after the wall came down. I always lived near it, but after lots of young people moved into this area cuss it was cheap.

-It seems quite fashionable now.

-It’s getting that way yes, more and more hipsters. It used to be quite alternative, quite arty. The edge has gone a bit now, but I still love it, maybe it has mellowed like me.

-Have you mellowed?

-I think I’ve mellowed yes, through age, and necessity.

-Necessity?

-Well, let’s just say I lived a pretty wild life and now I have to take care of myself a little more.

-A wildlife? You! Really? What kind of things did you get up to? If I’m not being too nosy.

-Not, at all. Well, I was a bit of a hippy for a while. So, lots of squatting, lots of drinking, and parties, also a lot of political protests. There were happenings and drugs a plenty too.

-Yeah, well, too much really and for many years, drinking into the small hours. My health was affected quite a lot.

-Really!

-But, you’re OK now?

-I still drink but not like I used to. And I don’t go out as much anymore neither, and try and be a bit healthier, I had some problems with my liver a few years ago but I am a bit better now, I looked at her, we had something now; I needed to get it all out.

-I have to confess a little here, I did spend a short time in prison.

-Prison! You’re kidding, what for?

-No, I was on a demo and the cops just started laying into this friend of mine, a little guy, and basically, I steamed in, and well, I hurt one cop pretty badly.

-How long did you spend there?

-I got six months.

-Was it bad?

-Not too bad, I got stick from the guards but the guys were OK with me. And I started a degree in politics and history inside.

-Really, I wondered where you went to University, now I know.

She giggled behind her hand.

-Yeah, Yeah, very funny. I finished a degree later, once I got back to the hippy life in the squats, then I finished at a university, part-time. What about you? You seem quite well-educated.

-Why thank you, well my father was a big community man and a small politician; and encouraged me to study. And I tried to study though, I loved history and my interest in politics was passed from my father. I loved to study actually, but it was difficult. I also ran a small gift shop, little artefacts of Turkman memorabilia. I Sold these to Iraqi and foreign visitors. It wasn’t much but it helped my family.
-So, you didn’t finish your studies?

-I’m afraid not. Because of cultural reasons my father was prevented from working in the big offices, he could only work with the local community, for presents. I had to leave university because of lack of money. My mother washed other family’s clothes, and my store’s small takings contributed, and with the presents from the community for my Father’s intelligent advice and decision making we managed to live. My life before the troubles was wonderful, I had no problems growing up, it was only later. I still love my home, and although I hate him for what he did, I still love my papa.

I lean over and wipe some cream from her corner lip. She looks in my eyes and just for a moment, a little moment holds my hand close to her mouth, squeezes, and I feel a tug right in my solar plexus, from here to here.

The Ballhouse.

After the wall came down someone found a key and opened up a derelict to discover a peeling elegance that had been hidden away. The chance to prance and dream and whirl your love around chained up. The place has been spruced up but not changed, fixed up but not modified; dusted down but the memories left. In the garden sat hipster families, would-be artists, students and elegant old Jewish ladies; gossiping over large carrot cakes with proper silver forks, stirring cinnamon topped coffees in long glasses, seated at miss-matching metal tables, amongst the cracked slabs and flower pots. All sat enjoying a new found bohemian chic, built on the ruins of a restrictive stupidity. All waiting for a night. Waiting for a booking to be confirmed, waiting for a table to dance.
As you walk in a gentleman in a bow tie and greased back grey hair takes your coat at the cloakroom. A tuxedoed hipster in a top hat, docs and dreadlocks checks the tickets and holds open the door and bows, whilst keeping eager ticketless punters at bay.

The main dining hall fills up; motorbike jackets and fur coats are carried by waiters. From the stage, the gay instructor sets the music and jumps down to the wooden floor.
A young man with no rhythm and a lover, desperate for a partner, tries to keep up with his hopeful steps. The instructor steps in; shows him how it’s done. After half an hour the crowd applauds him back to his seat, his lover smiling widely, holding his hand tightly.

Kids are set down, tables are filled, and smokers cluster in the garden.
Waiters dart in and out of dancers and kids skidding, and jagged-edged tables, jutting out chairs. Then the dancing starts for real. First, come the professionals, the sixty-plus guys, well versed in the moves. The men in ill-fitting moth smelling red jackets and faded patterned ties. The ladies, for they are ladies, in thrown together remnants of balls long gone. They glide over the floor, empty for them only, not a rule, just out of respect. Latin rhythms dance around the high ceilings, as the couples live for a moment in the spotlights.

Steaks on slates mixed with Wagner, pizzas on planks rolled with a bolero. A German eighties dance tune, another carafe of red, laughter, chat and a Beatles medley. An old beery singalong; the dance floor fills with full people, the disco ball twists a little lighter, the strobe lights flicker faster. Eighty-year-olds groove to Abba, teenagers jive to Bowie. Partners are swapped and everyone, everyone, lets it all hang out.
Me and Akgul enter, dressed up in our best black, the doormen take our overcoats. The band is warming up. We are shown to a table. We order wine, clink glasses. My friends arrive.

My tall scruffy friend shakes her hand.

-And you must be the lovely lady we have heard so much about. Adam, charmed.

– I am so very glad to meet you all, I’ve heard so much about you all I feel like I know you already.

-And this is Evette.

My favourite bottle blonde is dressed in charming hippy chic.

-My dear, I’m so happy to meet you.

-Thank you, me too, very much!

-So, guys let me order some wine, and then we can get some food.

Tumblers of scarlet wine are filled, and again. Plates of cheese and dried strawberries on large off-white plates, smeared with quaffed quince jelly are laid down for starters.
Steaming meatballs held in the air are weaved through an assault course; wafting liver and thyme mixing with Black Velvet scent over the backs of strapless dresses.
-So, you were saying…

I smiled, Evette, was stroking her arm, I knew she would get her to open up.

-The men paid my father and they arranged for me to come to Germany to wed a Turkish man.
The journey was terrible, we were in cramped trucks, bumping and banging all night. There was crying and cold, driving for days, with little water or food. The smell was what I remember the most, there was only a bucket in a corner with a held sheet for privacy, and no one washed. Yes, the smell was the worst thing. The smell was of fear, always the smell, always the fear.

We guys go smoke outside; on the way we greet friends working there, and laugh and slap backs of old drinking partners, and I pretend punch in the belly an old comrade from the battles with police.

I look through the steamed up window; I can see the two women talking, arms linked, heads together.

-So, tell me about the marriage, now that we are friends, and no holds barred!

-So, I met my future husband eventually, he was a very boring man, not interested in me at all, he took me back to his family home. He needed me because his first wife had died. I was given a small room, every day was cleaning, washing, cooking, ironing. There were a lot of family members in this house, and many rooms, and a lot of mess to clean. The women were never satisfied. My husband just sat there, eating; wiping juice on his sleeve as he pushed me out of the way of the television.

-Gosh, I don’t know what to say to that. I’m sorry.

-I’m sorry Evette, I have made you uncomfortable. You have had enough of my story.

-No, please, it’s just I really don’t know what to say to you, I’m sorry doesn’t seem enough somehow, but please carry on.

-Sorry, yes, eventually we got married, just a small family event really, my husband was not interested; he just did what the women said. On our wedding night, he went to sleep.

-You should thank yourself lucky by the sounds of it.

-Yes, you are right. And thankfully he only made me do it a couple of times. Eventually, I became pregnant. I was still made to clean the house and work though. When my little Adalet was born I took care of him, but the other women looked after him more and more and I was treated less well than before.

Evette smiles and rubs the top of her hand on the table

– I was happy to be legal but not happy to be stuck with a man who didn’t know me, didn’t want me, and I worried for my son, the family kept me apart from him more and more.

-And to marry without love is a tragedy no.

-Yes, I believe that.

I glimpse through the window again, just checking, I see the two women look at each other, smirk, then start laughing. I grin.

#

We walk through the street stalls in the old market building selling tastes from the world. I order 6 oysters with oxtail vinaigrette and grated horseradish, take two glasses of sparkling wine, and some mini Spanish tapas and we bunch up on a bench.

-Don’t chew; just let it slither down your throat. Good?

-I’m not sure, it’s a bit weird.

-Try the serrano.

She slips a slice in and we both sip the wine.

-Now I feel good. So, how come you sell waffles?

-Whoosh! Right out of the blue!
I love that about her. I love her freeness with questions and opinions, no holding back for fear of social constraints.I giggle and take up a storytellers pose.

-Now let me see, I have done many things in my life. I was a teacher, a leftie activist as you know, back in the seventies, I also sang in bands and…

-You sang in bands? You never mentioned that!

-Yeah, singing in bands, selling waffles…tours, all showbiz!

I roll my flat cap down from my balding head into my hand and bow.

-I had some wild times but I am older now, so not much singing I’m afraid, I have to live a quieter life. Actually, I am happy to live a little quieter life now. I was always interested in politics and history, what with my Dutch, Jewish, Hungarian roots. In the old days I was on the barricades, but as you get older, you know. The Stolpersteins became very important to me; I helped set them up as you know.

-And the waffles?

-Yeah sorry, the waffles. The waffles came about because I loved doing the tours but was fed up of having no money. I love selling the waffles, I love the contact with people, it feels like an extension of the tours, to be honest. An extension of me too.

-Thank you.

-For what?

-For talking to me.

-I’m happy you feel that way; that is what good friends are for.

-And are we good friends now?

-I sure hope so.

-Me too.

Akgul places her hand over my knee.

#

I walk with Akgul through a little alley at the side of a kebab bar, I go and sit at the bar, a man manipulates mashed lamb round a metal rod and places, next to others and skewers of red marinated slashed bits, a top of charcoal. A man next to me washes his saliva away with a small cold glass of beer and a puff of a Murad; we nod to each other and I do the same. The women’s centre next door is just a few rooms, with a kitchen and a central relaxing room full of kids and leaflets and settees and chatter. Women are flipping breads on griddles, thick white arms tossing leaves, thick fingers folding thin pastry; delicate hennaed hands crush corns, shell nuts. And laughter and smiles, and big voices booming instructions, advice.

Akgul told me she sits in a circle with women on couches, women knitting on chairs, some flopping out breasts without breaking their chat. Dazzling scarfs cover deep cream eyes, some braid long silky hair others brush.

-It’s not so easy to leave. It took me two a year after Adalet was born.

-We understand, it is never easy.

-I got beaten very badly when I was seen talking to other Iranian women, in a coffee house.

-Some guys are like that, some guys are living in the last century still, you know that from home no?

-Yes, there are men like that, there are communities like that, IS wanted us all to be like that.

-We are lucky here, we have a mixture of secular and more liberal people, the real fanatics have not much power here, you are free here to speak, so please go ahead.

-We all have our problems, well most of us, but we all have problems with our men, that’s why we are here, you will even see None Muslim women come here, problems are not only for us

-I decided I couldn’t carry on, and even if it meant me not seeing my son it was better to leave and try to be happy and try to get him out somehow. I waited for my chance, and packed some of my things, and left. I spent a few months sleeping where I could.
I met the Iranian women, at the stores again. We went for coffee when I could, they were very angry about my situation; they took me to a centre, where I spoke to workers who got me into the hostel.

-And what about your son, and the family.

-The family are always looking for me. My son, I have no chance to see him now.

#

We grow much closer still. What were little flirtatious strokes and touches become cuddles and passionate embraces. During a boat ride down the Spree and passing under the Weidendammer bridge, and staring up at the lover’s locks, we kissed, for the first time. Then we walked hand in hand with a basket and blanket up to the Teufelsberg tower on the hill and ate our lunch, and I lean over and kiss her again, softly but passionately.
And love tastes of coconut and coriander; vanilla smoke and waffle syrup.

#

In a social centre, a bare room with a few help posters, a blue Formica table, three metal chairs. A bland social worker is taking notes. I stand outside in a corridor of windows, walking up and down; I can just see their heads through the glass.

-.But, I’m not really a refugee.

-But you were sent away to escape the war?

-But I was married, I was sent by my family to have a better life, I was a bride.

-Yes, but we are interested in why you left.

-That’s easy my father wanted a better life for me, but life was better back there, here was hell.

-But you escaped a war…and

-Look, there are many immigrants like me, not refugees, just immigrants, who are here for other reasons than escaping war, our story is never told. Yes, there was a war; there is always war, but…

-So, basically, you were trafficked?

-My god, not really no, not sold into the sex trade, but I was sent by my family, but what I was sent to is like slavery, so yes, like a sex slave, not like you mean but I felt like a whore

-But you were not a prostitute? And you came here illegally?

-Are you listening to me? Yes, I was illegal at first but then I became legal, but I was used as a slave, and as for sex work, I think being forced to marry a man, and then having my child taken away is being used as a sex worker. There are many women here who have the same experience, and god knows how many who cannot come to this place that are stuck in this situation. You should help them, you should help me. I want my baby back.

-But, your husband says you left, you are not a good mother, do you have any proof, any witnesses?

-You have my word.

-It’s not enough.

-There are many women here in the same situation, you must help us.

-We do help them; we will do what we can.

-It’s not enough.

#

I am doing a boat tour; I am my usual self; bouncing up and down, talking double Dutch into the mike. Akgul is smiling, the people are laughing, she cannot understand the language but knows I am quite funny. I finish to applause and titters, and take a whiskey and sit at the back next to her. She kisses me on the check. After drifting on my shoulder as the boat passes museum Island, she straightens up sips her juice and…

-I want my son back Paul.

-And we can get him back, the courts will find in your favour.

-I think they won’t, they will say I am not a fit mother; they have lots of witnesses ready to lie.

-But we have witnesses too, we can…

-They will win.

I squeeze her shoulder. She flicks my hand away and faces the window.

-Those bloody bastards will keep my son…they are terrible people, I don’t want my son there, I need him with me.
-So, what can we do?

-I don’t know. I know now though I can offer my son a good life now, and a better one than living there… I don’t want him to be a part of that family, what kind of a man will he grow into? What kind of a life do they have planned for him? And I am his mother he needs me! And I need him! He is my son Paul, he is me, and I want him back!
She starts to cry into his shoulder

-We can win.

She stiffens.

-You are so sure, I am not. You, who hates authority so much, suddenly believes in the system. I talked to other mothers, and they say I have little chance.

-But what else is there, we have to try.

-I will take him. I will steal him back if I have to.

-Steal him?

-Take him, steal him, whatever, but steal him back from those people. Will you help me?

-Will I help you? Taking a child, I don’t know, maybe we should just wait for the courts? I have a friend who is a lawyer, maybe we should ask him for advice and…

-I cannot wait, Paul. Wait for what? For more advice, more court dates, more social workers prying into my life, more lies, more fights. Help me, Paul. Please.

I turn my head.

She told me later what happened.
The women beat her, the husband beat her. But they were happy to get someone to wipe the kids arses, someone to skivvy and cook, someone to bully.

On the lover’s lock Bridge Akgul walks towards me; her face is bruised.

-Look at you! That’s it, I’m gonna fucking kill this guy

-No, Paul, don’t do this please, we must wait, we must…

-Fuck this, no one should have to put up with this…the

-Paul listen to me! We will wait and bide our time…please, we have to wait!

I stomp around huffing and puffing, with my hands on the back of my head.

-I should fucking kill this guy.

-We will in our own time, in our own way, we’ll get him.

#

I park the car in the alley round the corner from the little launderette the night before. She packs her small bundle of things and hides them. The other women in the house are busy, baking cakes and sweets and doing each other’s nails and hair, as usual. The family arrives at the Ballhouse late, as was expected. My friend’s fake free prize-tickets had been happily accepted of course. Who wouldn’t pass up a free evening of wine and food? They are seated and drinks supplied. They order almost everything on the menu, and more drinks.

Akgul’s husband eats with his mouth open, the grease from the meatballs dripping in his drool as he sits watching the twisting young girls on the floor. The children are wiped and smacked and a huge mess grows on the table. The huge wooden doors to the elegant gallery are opened by two top-hatted, tattooed-neck, black-suited and booted doormen.

She completed her chores and shakily, breathlessly replaces some of the washing with her things, and covers them. She puts on their coats and Adalet in a kid carrier attached to her front, securely, and walks out, slowly. Akgul enters on the tips of their hands. She slips the black shawl off her bare shoulders slightly and swans through the parting crowds on the edge of the floor, near to the cocktail bar. A waiter with a huge tray turns and glides the tray over her head. The pearl buttons on her tasselled purple top glisten in the disco lights, bouncing little lasers of light beams. Her long gathered silk green skirt almost covers her suede brown ankle boots. Her husband and the table stop mid gulp to stare, shocked and open gobbed. She passes him, and he makes a grab, but she shrugs him off and waiters appear in front of him, in front of his face.

-More wine sir?

The Maître de takes her shawl and helps her up onto a stool at the bar. The barman mixes a Cosmopolitan. She takes the glass, sips the pink liquid, turns and surveys the crowd.

-Why was he taking so long?

-One thirty he said, one thirty!

-Bloody Traffic was bad!

She looks out of the launderette window; just normal Berliners going about it all. I push my face up against the steamed up window and grin widely. First I was afraid I was petrified...the song rings out. People part and I stand; I stride to the far end of the floor, the other dancers move to the edges.

And I grew strong….And I learned how to get along.

-Sorry, bloody traffic, I’m parked in the alley. Are you ready?

-Yes, I think it’s safe.

-OK, you take the boy I’ll go ahead with the stuff, put it in the car and be ready. You come 5 minutes after me.

-Alright.

I take a last look around out of the window and squeeze her hand.

-Let’s go.

Akgul is helped down off her stool and walks elegantly to the other end of the floor. The women of the family urge her husband to respond; he throws down his napkin and makes to stand…the waiters block his way. The Maître de paces over and pushes him down, puts a finger to his lips…

-Shhh.

Go on now go… walk out the door… just turn around now…cause you’re not welcome anymore.

We come together, I take her hand and spin her into my side, she lands hard and tight and fits perfectly; she spins out again, and I collect her safely at the end of her twirl. She holds her son close and watches. I walk out, slowly, with the bags and turn the corner. Easy! All fine, all is going to be fine.10 minutes and we are free. The clock ticks slowly, then five minutes is up. She walks out. Trying not to be quick, trying not to look out of place, in a hurry, she walks past a man in a suit, a labourer in dust, a couple in love. She rounds the corner; I am sitting 8 cars down, the engine running. I watch her through the rear-view mirror, then get out, I smile. She walks towards me, smiling too.

And now we roll, we use all the moves, old glances, new twists, boogies, and glides. We warm into it and the crowd heats up, whistling, and clapping, and cheering.

Did you think I’d crumble…did you think I’d lay down and die.

And now the crowd come on the floor with us, all singing, all around circled round, urging us on, moving with us.

Oh no, not I, I will survive, I will survive…oh…oh…

And the crowd spins and spins into a crescendo.

I see something. She sees my face change and speeds up.

-Akgul… No!

A hand comes from behind, grabs her shoulder and pulls her, she turns and a fist smacks into her face.

-Thought you could deceive me uh? You dirty fucking whore.

She drops to her knees, grasping her son to her breast The hand goes up again. I am running, gaining speed.

-No! Scream.

The Husband looks on. As I get faster and closer, I reach into my jacket and pull out my favourite knife. Before he can react I thrust it into his chest, We both fall with the momentum. The waiters stand guard over the family’s table and around the floor, the crowd are pushing in too, no one has returned to their seats. I stand, look at my hands, I have blood on them, I look at the guy and wipe my hands on his clean trousers. He tries to get up, clutching the knife, he falls back, he tries again but falls back.

The family look on, they see they have lost.

As the music fades, the doormen help us on with our coats. The waiters stand guard over the family’s table and around the floor, the crowd haven’t returned to their seats. The Husband moves, but my friends move quicker, grabbing his shoulders holding him back. Akgul, hands Adalet to me, walks over and spits in her husband’s face.

Just turn around now, and walk out the door.

I grabs Akgul’s arm.

-let’s go!

She turns to look, stuck. I push her towards the door.

-Lets go, forget about him! Come on move!

I stop, turn, looks back at the man. The man is trying to get up but keeps fainting back, I look into him for about 15 seconds, shake my head, then we turn around; and walk out the door.

#

We packed what we could, and drove all night. Across unmanned borders, over Slavic and Austro lands, and finally to Budapest. To a flat of family members, a shared flat for those still left. A flat left by those who were taken and never came back. It was now a refuge for those in need. We stayed for a few weeks and discussed the situation with friends, good solid friends. Eventually, it was decided to go to the small Hungarian quarter of the large Serb town, where no one would look, where no one would tell.
We built a new waffle stand.

-My dear, come on over, let my sweet delights warm your cold nose today.
His smile is wide; the little boy wraps the warm delight uptight and hands it over with a smile.
-This recipe came from my Aunty back in old Berlin, the recipe is a secret, so shhh!
I share it only with you.

 

 

 

 

 


Picture credit: The original “WafflePaul”


 

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