I rise early in Mitte's Backpacker Hostel (http://www.backpacker.de/eng/home/), without even the benefit of an alarm clock, I note with smug satisfaction. I shower and shave, then dress in the same clothes I've been wearing for four days. I judiciously re-arrange and re-pack things, while silently marveling at how much dirty laundry a month in eastern Europe generates. I pad the vodka bottles well. I remind myself to pick up German chocolate at the airport.
I run through the checklist of Items I Do Not Want the US Fatherland Security Chuckleheads to Confiscate. Satisfied at my unwieldy arrangements, and with one last lingering look at the Backies room filled with sleeping twenty-somethings, I descend to the reception floor.
The lovely young German woman at the desk hands me a cup of coffee, and I am surprised to discover that I have a few moments of leisure with which to enjoy this. A cab is then called for, and in moments I am darting about Berlin towards Tegel airport, the window a blur of lush greens, scrolled ironwork, polished steel skies, parked Volkswagens shining in the mist, windswept Berliners, and the traffic signs that are the same but different, still startling me at their sameness/differences. The Germans build extraordinary electronic billboards at the entrance to the airport, setting out flight information and gate numbers most conveniently. I reach Tegel with all kinds of time to spare.
This, of course, is when the chaos hits. Flights are delayed. Hours are lost at Customs and Immigration. The Big Blue Monster that is my sturdy military duffel bag, suffers an invasion by polite German uniforms inquisitive of the shard of rusting Gdansk Solidarnosc steel I stole for my cousin. I run through Frankfurt International to make my flight home to Portland, which began boarding five minutes before my plane landed. Somehow I manage to buy six bars of German chocolate before breathlessly boarding Lufthansa Flight 468.
I would have thought that some sadness would settle, upon leaving Berlin and Poland and Europe behind me, but I am too exhausted to be melancholy. In these moments, I am adrift in an archipelago of strangeness, and utterly empty of substance. Impressions wash over me, and details pierce my surface, leaving stains and scars I notice only much, much later, in the middle of the night or while brushing my teeth or in walking down a familiar Portland street that suddenly no longer feels familiar anymore. In these moments, exhaustion becomes me.
There is so much, and so little with which to say anything of substance. In Canada at the moment, visiting relations and mulling over a Berkeley prospect.