Because I had a roomy exit-row seat on a full plane to Berlin, I sent a photo of my gloriously unbent legs to my wife. A petty triumph, the frequent-flyer’s tame version of sexting. My seatmate was a small, physically non-intrusive man, but troublingly prone to coughs and sneezes.
The day after, in November drizzle, I walked from my hotel past the street where my great-uncle used to live. I never saw his home, but was intimate with its address from legal briefs and bank statements. Continuing to the historic KaDeWe department store, I paused before its tinsel-garroted window mannequins. I felt a familiar temporal shiver, a generational shift into events I longed to understand but had not lived in the first place. Jean Améry wrote “no one can become what he cannot find in his memories.”