She never stopped blaming herself, even though his destiny was beyond her control. After all, it was she who had sown the seeds of estrangement when she insisted they attend the rally in Nuremberg back in 1938. Only seven years ago, but it seemed so much longer. Hans was then only eight years old and Günter, three. Her husband Heinrich refused to come, saying he would not support fascists, a sentiment he held onto through the war in spite of all the pain unleashed on him and the family. At the university he had many Jewish colleagues, learned men with whom he worked every day. He could not accept the Führer’s dream and still sleep peacefully at night. So Anna went for the rally with her neighbors, taking the children.
The excitement was palpable as they boarded the overnight train to Nuremberg. People had come from different parts of the country excited to be part of such a great movement. The Third Reich. The spectacle at the rally was incredible, especially for the wide-eyed peasants who poured into the city from tiny hamlets far flung from mainstream Germany. Against the background of flaming torches, massive flags with the grand SS symbol flying high, they indulged in delectable wurst, watered down by the best beer in makeshift Biergartens. At the time, she was so proud to be a part of Germany’s rebirth under a powerful leader. After years of subjugation by the Austrian Hapsburgs, Germany was finally coming into her own; or, as the Führer called it, “his own.” Das Vaterland. And at night, when the anti-aircraft lights turned on and the beams shot up into the sky, it was as if the heavens partook in the glory of the Third Reich.
Machu Pichu, Peru
“Good morning Amedica (America)!”
“Good morning…Amedica!” he yelled out again, pausing this time to catch his breath. The busload of mainly American tourists cheered loudly and egged him on. Just two more turns and he would reach the restaurant at the entrance to the ruins. The sweat pouring down his face felt icy cold and his lungs were bursting, but it would be all worth it when the wealthy Americans emptied their pockets and filled his outstretched palms with shiny coins.
One Glass of Water
New Delhi, India
Salma rushed down the narrow alley, dexterously avoiding oncoming pedestrian traffic as she made her way towards the main street in Dariya Ganj. She was late. She should have been at work almost an hour ago and Salimbhai was sure to be annoyed with her. But what was she to do? Ammijan was so sick. After Hakim Sahib said she needed Angrezi medicine, Salma called the doctor who diagnosed Ammijan with pneumonia and prescribed strong medications. A sniveling cold had developed into a hacking cough and Salma feared it was too late. Her father Abbujan had passed away when Salma was four years old and Ammijan had struggled all her life to care for her. Allah had to spare her life, she was all Salma had.
As Salma walked into the tiny tailoring store, Salimbhai looked up at her. “Late again? What’s your excuse this time?”
Keeping her eyes lowered, Salma told him the truth about Ammijan’s illness and the new medicines to be purchased.
“Hmm,” said Salimbhai preempting her. “And you need an advance.”
“Tomorrow night you can stay late. I have an order for a hundred tablecloths. I will pay you four hundred rupees extra.”
Salma sat down in front of her sewing machine, happy to make the extra money. Hard work didn’t scare her and she was willing to stitch night and day if needed. That evening, Salma stopped at the pharmacy to pick up the medicines. The owner looked at her and said, “Behenji, this will cost almost a thousand rupees. How will you pay?”
It was nightfall by the time they reached Luxor and they ate a hearty meal of chicken and oven roasted bread before retiring for the night.
That was the night the dreams began.
“Who are you?” he asked, staring at her with lustful abandon.