if i lived in germany, i would live in berlin. if i lived in berlin, i would have a black cat that spent its days sitting in my apartment window and a well-behaved small dog that would follow me without a leash. if i lived in berlin, i would have a rain jacket with a hood because i do not believe in umbrellas. if i lived in berlin, i might take up tango dancing because i’d want something hot to heat up the cold german nights. if i lived in berlin, i would sit in a different old church every sunday morning, basing my selection each week on the chiming bells. if i lived in berlin, i would temper my friendly texas hellos and keep my eyes on the sidewalk like the natives i pass each day. if i lived in berlin, i would have to learn german, which is the main reason i’ll never move to germany, except that the few words i’ve picked up in the past few days bring my great-grandmother’s voice echoing in the background of my mind, and i miss her. lying on the couch at home, i rest my head on the pillow she made for me while she waited for my birth and i know that she loved me more than i can know; she loved me before i was born; she loved me with every embroidery stitch on that pillow. she loved me because i was her first great-grandchild and the only one she lived long enough to hold, to kiss, to sing german songs to shush to sleep. i suppose that learning german isn’t the main reason i’ll never move to berlin. the main reason is the cold that turns days into gray and nights long and lonely with the voices of the dead crying silently while the wind blows loudly. the voices beg me to live more boldly while i wrap myself against the cold, and i feel guiltier than usual because i am wasting this gift of life, claiming the weather is too cold, when the truth is that i am not yet warm and bright enough to live a life that honors the spirits of the dead beckoning for more life from me. the dead are too many here, too thin, too hollow. i am not strong enough, large enough, thick enough to hold them. i am not german enough, even though my heritage is practically full-blooded german. i have been made soft by america and that softness has undermined the stoicism of my german ancestry. i pause to read brass markers embedded in cobblestones in front of homes denoting names and years where people were taken from their homes, what camp they were taken to, what year they died in the camp. i read each brass marker through tears. i walk away from each brass marker with a sharp pain piercing my heart.