Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bea*lin I(vi): on darkness and the bea*nevolence of strangers

Time: 00:14, Wednesday night (Thursday morning).
Location: U-Bahn 1, heading west toward Hallesches Tor, to transfer to the U6 and then go north back home to Wedding.
Predicament 1: The U6 has probably stopped running for the night.
Predicament 2: I have only been in this city for less than 2 weeks and I don’t know how else to go north back home to Wedding.
Predicament 3: My phone is already on battery saver mode with less than 30% charge to go.
Predicament 4: I am on the opposite side of a large city from where I should be.
Predicament 5: I am wearing a short dress and platform sandals, carrying a purse with my wallet, phone, passport, laptop, camera, and keys.
Predicament 6 I am alone.
There is a small group of similarly aged English-speaking people on the train with me.  One uses her phone to check train times.
“Excuse me,” I say. “What train did you just say leaves in 8 minutes?”
“The U8,” she says.
“Oh,” I say. “Could you check the U6 for me?”
 “Where are you trying to go?”
“Toward Tegel.”
She checks.  
"What's going on?" her friend asks.
"He's trying to get to Tegel."
Nothing shows up.
“Sorry,” she says. “You’re kind of fucked.”
I get off at Hallesches Tor anyway, just to be sure.  I'm glad to be away from them anyway.  How did she seriously use masculine pronouns on me just now when I'm wearing what I'm wearing and done up as I am?  Ugh.  Cis people.
I sprint down the stairs and under the construction zone to transfer to the U6.  I find the screen with all the ETAs of incoming trains.  The Tegel screen is blank.
“Okay,” I reassure myself. “This is what God made you intelligent for.”
My phone is not connecting to the Internet as I climb out of the subway station.  No checking directions online.
I find a bus stop.  It lists the next 6 buses that are coming.  I recognize the destinations on a couple of them.  I look at a map.
If I take the M46 toward the Zoologischer Garten or the N1 toward Hauptbahnhof then I'll be closer, at least.  I can always look for another bus once I get there.
I ask a nice young couple if they knew where I should go, just to be sure.
"Why don't you take the N6?  It's the night bus that runs the same route as the U6 does."
Perfect.  As I look around for an N6 bus stop I thank God that despite some misgendering, Berlin is a safe enough city for a non-passing translady to ask for directions after midnight by herself without fear of being attacked or even looked at strangely.
I don't find the bus stop but I do get my phone working.  Two buses and some walking.  41 minutes.  And the same plan I had in the first place: take one of these buses in the right direction and figure it out from there.
"You're going to Wedding?" a stranger asks me, having overheard.
"Yes," I say.  She looks nice enough.
"Do you want to share a taxi?"
"How much does it cost?"  (College, and all.)
"Well, I'm taking one either way.  You can come if you like.  You don't have to pay."
It is my first time in a car in Berlin.  Who knew there were these cool long driving tunnels?  My Samaritan and I discuss what each of us is doing in Berlin.  She is a young Danish and Puerto Rican mother and journalist who moved here for her husband, also a journalist.  When I explain the topic of my research, clearly a trans person myself, she doesn't even bat an eye.
How strange to not need to feel so defensive, I think. How strange not to be ever ready for an attack.
As we near my neighborhood, it dawns on me I have never seen most of it above ground before.  She points me in the right direction. I thank her again.  We say farewell.
I walk the 15 minutes home, singing KT Tunstall quietly to myself and not shrinking back from strangers as I pass them.  I get home, I walk up the four flights of stairs, I'm inside.
Time: 01:30, Thursday morning.
Location: Home.
Predicament: It's weird to feel almost welcome somewhere.

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