I like trains. I like their rhythm, and I like the freedom of being suspended between two places, all anxieties of purpose taken care of: for this moment I know where I am going.
Beyond all of that, I could see the wall I had seen from inside the train, the wall that runs along the train line. I assumed that there, behind it, was the west, and I was right. I could have been wrong, but I was right.' If she had any future it was over there, and she needed to get to it.I sit in the chair exploring the meaning of dumbstruck, rolling the word around in my mind. I laugh with Miriam as she laughs at herself, and at the boldness of being sixteen. At sixteen you are invulnerable. I laugh with her about rummaging around for a ladder in other people's sheds, and I laugh harder when she finds one. We laugh at the improbability of it, of someone barely more than a child poking around in Beatrix Potter's garden by the Wall, watching out for Mr McGregor and his blunderbuss, and looking for a step-ladder to scale one of the most fortified barriers on earth. We both like the girl she was, and I like the woman she has become.She says suddenly, 'I still have the scars on my hands from climbing the barbed wire, but you can't see them so well now.' She holds out her hands. The soft parts of her palms are crazed with definite white scares, each about a centimeter long.The first fence was wire mesh with a roll of barbed wire along the top.
For anyone to understand a regime like the GDR, the stories of ordinary people must be told. Not just the activists or the famous writers. You have to look at how normal people manage with such things in their pasts.
You see the mistakes of one system—the surveillance—and the mistakes of the other—the inequality—but there’s nothing you could have done in the one and nothing you can do now about the other. She laughs wryly. “And the clearer you see that, the worse you feel.
Betrayal clearly has its own reward: the small deep human satisfaction of having one up on someone else. It is the psychology of the mistress, and this regime used it as fuel.
Miriam is upset. Her voice is stretched and I can't look at her. Perhaps they beat something out of her she didn't get back.