1. hospitals (die Krankenhäuser)
2. airports (die Flughäfen)
3. churches (die Kirchen)
4. that’s it.
Per a worksheet in my German etiquette class for expats,
all others are places where
man darf nicht cry.
I could have used that worksheet
For our final session, we go to a restaurant with:
1. thick cloth napkins
2. lighting that suggests intimacy
3. surgically-calibrated place settings
4. cascading silverware.
For us, no menu—each student is served a whole cooked fish, eyes and all.
In a Spanish-speaking country, this fish would be
one thing if he were alive,
and a different thing
once he was dead.
Here, he is just a fish, no matter what.
My husband, beside me, inhales sharply.
It still has its eyes, he hisses.
For months, he has been searching
for work back in the U.S.
grasping for future foothold
out of transatlantic adventure turned foggy
hovering, tenuous limbo
uncertain beings in a beautiful land, yes-no only
no space for grays, in-betweens
for that which is not one or the other.
At the table, the professor delineates
how we will contribute to das Trinkgeld
after the meal.
Picking up the deboning fork, I stare
the fish in its unseeing Baltic orb
lean in slowly
smile, covertly whisper:
- But what about restaurants?
- And what did you used to cry about?
- Did you cry when you lived in the ocean?
- Could anyone else tell?