Edsel is ten years old and visiting his seventy year old grandfather, Hans, in his dilapidated apartment in Berlin. Edsel likes doing this; Hans is full of stories about when THE wall divided Berlin. It’s hard to grasp there was an East and a West and the people in the West were free and those in the East imprisoned, or at least, that’s what his parents have told him. Edsel regrets that his parents work so hard to afford what they call ‘the good things of life’; the benefit is that he spends lots of time with his Grandpa Hanspa.
Hans’ third floor apartment is small; he downsized when his wife Zelda died. Hans’ daughter, Ellie, despairs of his untidiness, but Edsel doesn’t care as he and Hanspa stand in the remarkably untidy living room. Floor to ceiling shelves, containing books and cardboard boxes, cover two walls while more boxes are stacked under the windows. The wall with the door to the rest of the apartment is covered with old photographs; that’s where they often play ‘Who’s that?’ guessing game.
What shall we explore today? Hans asks. You pick a box and we’ll see what’s inside. Hans holds the stepladder while Edsel climbs. Make sure it’s not too heavy; we don’t need a calamity. Edsel chooses a box, feels its weight and passes it down to Hans.
They sit at a large dusty mahogany table with the cardboard box in front of them.
What’s inside? Edsel asks.
I don’t know. Open it and see.
Edsel is excited; it’s always an adventure with Hanspa. He opens the box and sees tissue paper. He carefully removes the paper. What’s that Hanspa?
Hans smiles. It’s a wig. A Beatles wig.
Edsel laughs. Beetles don’t have wigs.
Hans puts the wig on. There, I’m John Lennon.
I was twenty-one and in the East German army. I was expected to shoot people who tried to get over the wall. I hated it. I escaped through a tunnel.
Edsel is shocked. Why did you escape?
Because I was a Beatles’ fan – they were the best pop band ever – we weren’t allowed to listen to their music, or have nice clothes or fun. The people who got me out bought me the wig as a present.
Hans takes off the wig. Having this didn’t make me free. The people in the west were just as trapped as those in the east: one by the fear of fear, the others by the fear of poverty. We used to sing, All you need is love, love, love is all you need. It’s true, but not easy without money. I’m sorry, Edsel, you’re too young for this.
I’m old enough. Why did you keep the wig, Hanspa?
To remind me of my innocence. If I hadn’t escaped I would never have had you, Edsel. That’s good enough for me.
Don’t cry, Hanspa. I love you. Edsel pulls on the wig, it covers his eyes.
They hug and laugh.
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© Phil Cosker 2020
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