You and I are too young to remember this. There used to be a wall here. A wall, yes, dividing the city. At least so they say.
They say it was made of slabs of concrete strung onto one another like beads, and on top barbed wire hung like Christmas lights on steel posts, studded with thousands of little metal stars.
They say the wall came out of nowhere, shot up from the ground overnight. They say that, before, there was a string of daisies growing on this stretch of land. Reality is what you make of it. Neither you nor I were there, who knows. Someone said they needed a wall, and like magic, one morning there it was. No one could remember what the city looked like before.
It happened so suddenly, it caught many off guard, fatefully on one or the other side. For decades and some lifetimes, only that one side was real, as real as the frostbites and blue skies that rule us all. To the West of the wall Coca Cola was served in diners. To the East its existence was a myth. One side went dark when the sun set on the city, the other was neon lit.
‘The artistic and contemplative construction of a world more real than reality itself.’ In this case, two mutually exclusive worlds, painfully, surreally real. The good were on one side, the bad on the other, but they could not agree which was which. A few meters apart words like freedom, value, happiness, meant radically different things.
I wonder if the sun shone equally on either side of that wall. If the color red on the left was the same shade on the right, if the air was colder on one side at night. Did the five am smell of bread hot in the oven seep through the wires from West to East? If you can smell bread but never hope to see or taste it, is the bread, are you real?
Then twenty-seven years ago, and just as suddenly, one morning under the same blue sky the mysterious wall disappeared. People crossed the few meters from one former side to the other, to a nondescript bakery where they bought the bread they had been smelling in the old world.
They say a coin in the fountain is a wish fulfilled. They say Nero once burned Rome. They say carrots improve your eyesight, drinking milk will make you tall. An apple a day, an onion a day, every day they say so many things. I could show you photographs, if it will help you believe, of walls built and people killed by what other people say.
Nothing is permanent, not even walls. Not even realities. Along with the men and ideas that built them, one morning they will disappear. And if walls and worlds can come down overnight, anything can change. I wonder what historians will say about us, in one hundred, no, twenty-seven years.
I hope no one remembers the wars we fought, the bombs we dropped, the food we threw away, the daisies we uprooted and walls we built because we were afraid of what was different. I hope they say we brought them down and planted fruit trees in their place, and had a party in their shade to welcome those who crossed over from the other side.
I hope only Christmas lights are hung on the posts, only red helium balloons are released. I hope when someone says 'there used to be a wall here,' no one believes it is real.