Das Krankenzimmer

Waking up sick this morning, I had the exact feeling that I used to get when I was sick as a child: my throat hurt in the same way, and I felt the same resignation to lying in bed for as long as it takes. My room was to become my cave. The cold must have got into my bones, or someone’s sneeze must have latched onto me: whatever the origin, I was now sick.

I had felt it coming yesterday, in the hard to ignore form of an intense headache that invaded my vision with hot, white squares. Knowing that there is no one here to bring me tissues and talking books and make me tea, I knew it was up to me to prepare. I spent the last of my remaining energy buying ingredients for pickle soup from Kaisers, and then retreated.

For most of the morning I alternated between sleeping and looking out the window. The window looks out onto a square of park and playground and carpark enclosed by Plattenbauten. This area is the domain of the crows, they waddle over the ground, they fly up into trees with scraps of food they don’t want to share with other beaks, they peck over the grass. The crows outnumber the people. I watch two men in an orange truck, some kind of maintenance vehicle. They are dressed to match the truck, in orange overalls. From my position on the fourth floor, all I can see is their arms and legs. They sit there smoking. One is turning through the pages of a newspaper from the back, as you do when you are looking at the pages rather than reading them. An old lady passes, holding a shopping bag. Potatoes are in the top of it. I go back to bed. Later, some children are playing soccer in the basketball court. There is a wet, soapy, car shaped mark on the pavement below, where someone has washed their car, and then driven off. A Krankenwagen passes, sirenless. I go back to bed. Two boys in olive green jackets run after their father, also in an olive green jacket (this is how I can tell they are related). The father opens the door of a yellow van, and they all pile in across the front seat. A man rides past on a bicycle, sitting very straight, his hands tucked into his pockets. I go back to bed.

It becomes clear to me that I will need to return to the Apothek to exercise my rudimentary German on the staff. Yesterday I was there for a Kopfschmerzen. Today, it is a Halsschmerzen. My throat feels like it is lined with shell grit, however I feel that description is beyond my translation abilities.

It felt strange to be outside. I can enjoy the weirdness of leaving the house when sick and feverish, as long as I don’t have far to go. I was to be going precisely one block, to buy some breadrolls and then go to the Apothek. I have been buying breadrolls called “Schrippen”, which I looked up in my dictionary, sure that this word must mean something else, some kind of creature or botanical oddity that somehow relates to a small white breadroll. It was not there, but I know it means something besides breadroll.

Outside the bakery I see The Girl and her Rottweiler. Yesterday I saw them hanging out outside Rossman (where one buys things like tissues, vitamins, pet food and toothbrushes). She was kissing him on the head when I went in, and when I came out she was tearing open a packet of doggy snacks for him. Today they were frolicking across Karl Marx Allee, although the Rottweiler was doing most of the frolicking, she was busy trying to stay alive: the traffic lights were out. Crossing over Strausberger Platz, which has a complicated roundabout at its heart, makes my heart race at the best of times, however with the traffic lights out it feels impossible.

As I stood stranded at the crossing, an old lady said something to me and I nodded. I was feeling feverish and weird, and the fact I could not understand her was not that I was in another country, it was the fact I was ill. I was in a dream where old ladies spoke in different languages, every old lady spoke a different one, and they all had things to say to me about minor disruptions to order.

I could see two of them inside the stationary, party supplies and greeting card store. I was outside, looking through the postcards on the rack. They had grimy edges from being looked through for the last ten years. Some were of Berlin, some were of animals, including a dingo, some were of African kiddies playing, some were motivational with pictures of castles and slogans, and some had cartoon frogs and insects on them, with messages written in cheerful lettering. What was I doing? I was far too sick to be looking at postcards. I had already paused to read an information panel about Karl Marx Allee in the 1920s, when it was called Frankfurter rather than Karl. This part of it was the area where the unemployed and low-paid clerks used to wander, while further east it was more upmarket, with department stores. Interressant!

But I must get back to bed and examine my throat lozenges. After ten minutes with my dictionary and the product information leaflet, I am convinced that they are the right thing, and I need to suck one every 1-3 hours. I should not have doubted. The ladies in the white coats in the Apothek have magic powers. Only they can negotiate the serious land of potions and concoctions behind the counter, and this gives these potions and concoctions added potency. As does the sticker on the front on which she wrote how many to take daily. At the bottom is printed: Gute Besserung! which she also said to me as I left. Now I have my blessing from the land of the white coats it is time to return to the white pillows.

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One Response to “Das Krankenzimmer”

  1. Sigourney Says:

    Hi there,

    the only other meaning of “Schrippe” I could find is this:
    Als „olle Schrippe“ bezeichnen Berliner mitunter Frauen, die nicht mehr so aussehen wie das ersehnte Frühstücksgebäck: also zum Anbeißen.
    Attempt at Translation:
    People in Berlin sometimes call woman “olle Schrippe” (olle means old), which are no longer as tasty as the desired breakfast pastry.
    Meaning you should really be annoyed if someone calls you “olle Schrippe”.
    Here you can find some more explanations (in german) of typical expressions of the “Berliners”.
    http://www.publicis-berlin.de/data/pool/d626918499.pdf

    Your view on Germany is really quite interesting, I enjoy reading your blog, thanks.

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