I have a crush on Berlin’s cops. A big crush. My Facebook inner circle has the honor regularly of seeing posts like this:
Of course, this is a “love” I abide from afar; I appreciate that these officers have jobs to do. I respect them, and I respect their professionalism. I do not try to engage. I do not flirt. I do not even gawk. But I can swoon, “privately,” in my own digital world — and so I do.
Last week, though, the unthinkable happened: one of Berlin’s impossibly hot cops noticed me too. He was young and deeply tanned, with golden-blond hair, and his eyes were the same striking blue as his uniform. I wasn’t checking him out — simply happened to spot him as I glanced toward the embassy I was passing. I looked away as quickly as our eyes met and just continued forward.
But seconds later, when I passed directly in front of him, I heard a quiet “Tsss, tssssss!” coming from right where he stood.
Did I just hear… a catcall?
And what did I do?
I didn’t stop.
I didn’t even look.
I just kept going.
Perhaps this means that I’m broken, or that I’m stupid. Or maybe (given that catcalls are sleazy) it means that I’m smart. I don’t really know. You’d think this was a fantasy come to life, given how much I’ve gushed about Berlin’s almost-mythically attractive police force. Unfortunately, though, I wasn’t capable of feeling any of the usual giddiness you’re inclined to feel when someone gorgeous notices you back and indicates that they want to talk. Instead, what I felt was a complex melange.
I was flattered, yes. I was, also, weirdly appreciative of the fact that at the tender age of almost-34, I am still apparently capable of attracting hot young men’s attention.
However, I also felt disappointed and intimidated that this guy would throw professionalism to the wind to catcall a random woman on the street. And then — since society emphatically insists that all cops deserve our consummate respect in all moments — my disappointment and intimidation blended with a splash of authoritarian social conditioning to alchemize a cocktail of guilt, self-consciousness, and near-embarrassment for how I’d handled the situation myself: Was it rude of me to ignore a police officer? Should I have given the man a smile, at the very least, to show him the benefit of the doubt? Did his nonverbal overture truly merit my complete disregard?
Maybe he only hissed because he needed to be subtle at his post and couldn’t risk using his voice — maybe he didn’t mean to come off as crude?
And perhaps one could say, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” and how else was he supposed to try speaking to a woman while on duty? Was he supposed to just let her walk on by and lose the opportunity forever, just because it was time (in the moment) to be a police officer?
Maybe I was the fool for it. Maybe, had I chosen to turn toward him and smile, we’d have had a conversation. Maybe that conversation would have become more.
Maybe he was the love of my life, and I’ll never find out.
(I don’t assume so. But one never knows.)
Amidst all the confusing and conflicting feelings, though, the one that was most prevalent was something akin to:
I remember this.
A memory of a place and a time and a way of living. Of being a teenager, leered at (and sometimes followed) by policemen and other security personnel overseas.
I recalled how the feeling of “I am not safe in my own body, even with officers of the law” had traumatized me, so much that I grew to hate what I was (physically) and became afraid to go where I most wanted to go in life.
Because when you can’t even trust the powers that be to protect you… well, shit, how do you even gather the courage to venture out the door?
This — everything — the complex melange and the memories of trauma — swirled in my head as I continued down the street, away from the handsome German officer. It almost felt like his hiss followed, disturbing the air around me and burning some kind of probably-unmerited shame onto my being.
Suddenly though, I had the thought:
But I’m in Berlin, aren’t I?
And that simple question cast my teenage memories of Ecuador in a different light:
Yes, I was traumatized once upon a time. But I have healed. I know that because I’m here.
So it hit me that maybe that’s what healing is. Maybe some pain never fully vacates the spirit. Maybe some traumas follow us years into the future, through many personal transformations, even over oceans and into new worlds, new countries, new lives. Then, the right (or wrong? no… right) thing triggers us; it pulls back the cover; and we see the source of the pain — aware also that we’ve seen it before. SO many times before.
It’s a multi-layered, clear-but-distant déjà vu of hurt.
Or of fear.
… or of both.
Except that the healing piece is this: instead of causing us to wince and curl around the hurt all over again — thus making ourselves small — the trigger one day reminds us of how big and how strong we truly are. It reminds us of what we’ve come through and what we’ve won in the battles that forged us. Maybe it even reminds us of the loves (those being the dreams, ideals, and people woven into our souls) for which we resolved to dig down deep, gather our mettle, and do what we had to do in order to keep moving forward. And so our perspective broadens as we begin to see from a new, higher vantage.
Maybe this is the place we’re truly seeking whenever we seek to “get over” pain: we’re trying to get somewhere higher. Maybe that’s what pain does: it spurs us to climb. To the place where our spirits always belonged.
Perhaps that is the point of it.
(If there is one.)
I don’t mean to make getting hissed at by a German officer sound grander than it is. It isn’t. I do still carry some of my old fears. But over the past week or so — thanks to that random, lusty young lad in uniform — I’ve been reminded that by some grace I never expected, I found the courage to put myself back out into the world after being made afraid to wander freely through it.
And I can’t imagine what my life would look like right now if I hadn’t.