Berlin: The Kenyan Woman in a Wheelchair.

I’m not sure how exactly we began talking.

Maybe she needed some help getting past a stretch of cobblestoned sidewalk.

Maybe. Something like that.

We’re talking.

She moved to Germany from Kenya. Moved here with her son.

All of that was a while ago now. Like decades ago probably.

I help her with some propulsion for her wheelchair.

She got involved with a German man. I think they got married.

From her story, getting involved with that man was essentially the worst decision of her life.

We keep talking. I’m curious what happened. I’m wondering what happened with this peculiar German man.

She says her son used to be very smart. Used to be very good at school. Used to be very very good.

In fact he was so good, he was enrolled in a Gymnasium.

For a brief moment I try to make sense of her statement. After a bit, I get it.

I recently became aware of the high school-esque system in Europe which involves a learning institution called a Gymnasium. Hearing someone say they did their high school in a gym would have sounded very ridiculous to me like a year ago. But now I’m kinda getting used to it.

And apparently the Gymnasium is seen as a very prestigious institution of learning here.

That’s why going to school in a Gym is such a big deal.

Okay. Okay. I keep listening.

Things were alright. Things were pretty alright.

Then the vile German came into the picture.

Withdrew her son from the Gymnasium.

Enrolled him in a cooking school.

Said in World War II, black men served as cooks on the German ships. And so that meant black men were made to be cooks.

Black men were created, or they evolved- whichever, to prepare meals for questionably-sane German men on Nazi battleships.

Hm. Interesting. I keep listening.

She says that wasn’t all. Says at some point her repugnant German began to sexually molest her son. Began to coerce him into homosexual activity.

All this while I’m wondering what sort of a power dynamic could possibly give rise to such a bewildering helplessness in the face of an intrusion that noxious.

I think it had to be financial. It had to be:

The abhorrent German was probably the one paying the rent. They were probably living in a relatively upscale area courtesy of his ancestrally-accrued European privileges.

I don’t push this line of discussion. I think the right moment just never comes along.

She says at some point her son began to behave strangely.

Says he began to steal.

Says it had something to do with the sexual abuse.

Says it messed with his head somehow.

Her son was nothing like that initially. Her son was nothing like that.

I keep pushing the wheelchair.

I keep pushing the wheelchair and listening.

At some point her son got arrested. Got caught stealing.

I think she and the atrocious German separated around that time.

She began to scamper about in a panic, in a bid to free her son.

Legal procedures. Administrative obstructions. Financial subtractions. All that stuff.

At some point she had a stroke.

Stroke left her confined to a wheelchair. To the wheelchair I’m currently pushing.

We keep talking.

She says now her foremost challenge is getting a job.

Says getting a job has been so difficult. No one wants to hire her as a secretary. Says racism definitely has something to do with it.

I keep pushing the wheelchair.

She says she doesn’t like where she lives.

Says she lives in a welfare housing apartment- something like that.

She doesn’t like it at all. She wants to move somewhere nice.

Like Charlottenburg. I think she says Charlottenburg.

She speaks with the frank dissatisfaction of someone who has lived somewhere they liked. There’s a glint of excitement in her eyes when she says “Charlottenburg”. Like someone who misses a particular life. Like someone briefly reminiscing on better times.

At some point it’s time to part ways. We exchange goodbyes and I wish her all the best- both with the job search and with the endeavour to get her son out of custody.

She warmly invites me to her church. I smile and say some noncommital things as we say our final goodbyes.

I’m not really a church guy.

I head back to the apartment at Adalbertstrasse.

I have this assignment due. This Knowledge Based Information Systems something something class.

I think I could use this evening’s experience as content around which to structure my assignment. Some sort of a precursor to a statistical analysis of African immigrants in Europe, and a nuanced assessment of their general life satisfaction.

Hm, that actually seems like an interesting idea.


I’ll also end up discussing the experience with the girlfriend. She’ll mention an analogous trend involving female Slavic immigrants. She’s Slavic, and so I imagine that’s the version of the story that’ll be most personally significant to her.

In all, she won’t be as empathetic as I’d think is appropriate. I don’t know. Or maybe Slavic immigrants are just generally bad people and inveterate freeloaders.

I don’t know.

On to the apartment.

Image: U-Bahn station somewhere.