The cherry sapling bobbed precariously in the strong wind, every now and again scratching at the window. Like an oven door being opened, the front end of a summer storm blasted Berlin with a wall of thin, hot air. After a week of thirty degree heat, the sky finally split open. I watched the storm from our living room. My husband, K, still at work, was in some type of a parallel, unending storm of testosterone and stress, the accepted equilibrium for a chef.
I unlatched the terrace lock and the wind, with an impatient violence, thrust the french doors toward me. Accepting the front row seat to my own private storm show, I pulled over K’s wooden rocking chair, the one he had salvaged off some then dingy, East Berlin working class street. Sinking into the soft, worn rattan, Thor took center stage just before me, a monologue of guttural sounds which shook my own stomach. He hung there, enticingly, almost mockingly, before carrying on, inching eastward across Berlin.
All the while the rain fell heavy, fat drops like big wet slugs slapping on the asphalt one story below. I looked down and noticed my feet covered in a soft spray of water which had been bouncing horizontally through the door. My toes had curled, turned on by the touch. I tried to indulge in my senses, pleading the restless mind to turn off. I breathed deep. There was no summer storm smell though, perhaps even that unique aroma had been burnt by the heat.
A blue cracking of light finally transported me back many years to a summer storm my mother and I had become stuck in. We were driving home at dusk along a lone avenue cutting through a hay field. The scene which stretched before us was bucolic, a symmetry to be enjoyed as a painting hung above the sofa. The storm snuck up behind us, three elements suddenly clashing, electricity, our metal station wagon, and a few scattered trees. My mother panicked when the radio cut to a warning signal, a long high-pitched beep, some leftover prop from the 50’s. We pulled over, surrendering to the river running down our front windshield.
Again the radio cut out, the high-pitched beep replaced by a robotic voice prompting the public to stay indoors, to not drive… and lastly prompting all who were stuck outside to, “Hide in a culvert or ditch!”. This was the only time I have ever heard the word culvert actually spoken. My mother and I laughed at the absurdity and at our own frailty. We gave into a stomach wrenching laugh that fed off one another, the years and the constructed roles between us were momentarily washed away, just two people holding each other’s hands.
I swung back to the present moment, in Berlin, alone, wishing to tell this story to my husband. Wishing to share the storm with him, wishing to share anything with him. The cherry sapling scratched at the window, beckoning me. Its supple trunk bounced up for a moment, somewhat comically, to only be plowed down by a wind now being sucked toward the storm which reverberated in the east.
The relentless wind and heat was like nails on slate. The air was electric, my fine, pale arm hair stood on end, waiting. I could not stand my own body, and our flat, a second inescapable barrier, mocked me in all its pointless beauty. Standing abruptly, the rocking chair mirrored me, its gesture absurd in a room full inanimate objects. I stepped into the rain, into movement and nature. The breath rushed out of me. There was no culvert or ditch or hand or laughter in the space of my relationship to K anymore. There was no energy for an inhale, just complete emptiness.
I grabbed the cherry sapling, crushing a few kerry green leaves, their tender yet sharp edges crunching in my palm. With one mad movement I thrust it downward, further than the wind had dared. The persistent thing did not break, but rather splintered, a grouping of stubborn vertical strands stood upright, more erect than before. It disgusted me.
I dragged the waterlogged mass inside, both of us dripping, a trail of footprints, dirt and leaves threading through the living room, hallway and foyer, ending in a puddle in the kitchen. Snatching K’s Japanese filleting knife with one swing I brought down the tree. The elegant branches slumped toward the linoleum floor, caught partially on the terracotta pot, and only then did I notice a soft pinkness pushing itself out between bark and leaf. I detested myself. Disgust and contempt soured my stomach.