A new piece by alumnus Geoffery Kronik (fiction, ’12) appears online in The Common:
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.”
When I was in my teens, my great-uncle worked at the KaDeWe in the men’s department. He sat before customers and helped them buy shoes, but I did not know this until my mother told me years later. He had returned to Berlin in 1975, when I was twelve, forty years after he fled Hitler, and I never saw him again. A lifelong bachelor, with few friends and no children, he died in Berlin in 1998. He and I had no relationship that I knew of, until his death revealed a contractually binding one.
Finish reading online.