LETTER TO A STRANGER:
TO THE FACE IN THE SUBWAY GLASS
BY ANNIE SCHWEIKERT
To the girl on the Berlin U-Bahn who looked like me: I thought you were a mirror when I saw you. You had the same hard expression I knew had settled over my face, the same thin brown hair tucked behind your ear, the same aquiline nose that on men is called virile and on women is called “fucking huge.” I hope that people made fun of your nose when you were young, and that when you brush your hair on a dry morning, you feel like a Medusa whose snakes have worn themselves thin and limp. I hope that hard expression makes you feel invincible. I hope it’s also cost you a few dates.
To the girl on the Berlin U-Bahn who looked like me: I hope these things because I want to believe I am not alone. I saw you riding on a fluorescent-lit subway car in the country of my great-great-grandparents, where I could not quite speak the language and did not quite have a friend. I had descended into the bright clean station from a street fair hawking fresh strawberries, homemade wurst, large-grained mustards, and rhubarb juice. Before that, I had idled the afternoon away at a karaoke competition in the place where the Berlin Wall once stood. It did not feel foreign, but of course it was, and that was exhausting. I didn’t stand out but I didn’t fit in, and by the time I stepped onto the train, my mouth had been set in a line for hours.
To the girl on the Berlin U-Bahn who looked like me: You’re who I wanted to be at that moment. I’m sorry for staring.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Annie Schweikert is a film archivist who moonlights as a creative writer. She was in Berlin as part of a long delusion that she could hope to speak German better than most Germans speak English.
Photo by zoetnet