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“Last Day of Class”

A raw account, the year, 2009 …

I barely slept last night. Weak as a week’s worth of ill-begotten aims, I’m drained, emotionally, having suffered panic attacks all day the previous day. The day will be hot, though certainly not the hottest day of a long summer in Europe, but I prepare myself anyway, mentally at least, to attend my last day of German class at the Volkschoschule.

Dread taps my bones. Anxiousness has turned its insidious nose up at my plea for calm. But I leave my apartment anyhow, rather early I might add, and board the train to Ostendstrasse. It’s slow, overcrowded, with blank faces unsurprisingly undisturbed by the train’s frequent stops. The sweating and onset anxiety attacks have curdled, but no matter, it will be OK, I remind myself.

When I arrive at class, everyone yells “Dave” when they see me. They want a handshake—all of them do—but I’m out of it, and I don’t want to shake hands with anyone. “I’m sick!” I say, unable to spare them the histrionics. The teacher, Christian, for all his stoicism, appears unusually bright today. He is beaming louder than the pastel-colored pullover he’s worn every third class. Perhaps Sergei, my gleeful Polish pal, upon entering the classroom smiling, had this effect on him. I don’t know.

At the back of the class, I am seated, alone, with thoughts and feelings of my infant self.

The lesson consists mostly of review and some negations: “Doch.” For one and a half hours I remain there—sweating, sighing, and sprouting into an unprecedented state of distress. Christian calls on me, about every ten minutes, maybe fifteen times total. This seems personal. His encouragement borders supplication, and like a pendulous flower, I mange only to sink lower in my seat. Keine Ahnungh (I don’t know), I say.

At one point, I look over at Solomon, my cohort, who is making faces. His broad black eyes and bushy dark hair impale my thoughts.

Before break, I confess to Christian and the others that “I can’t understand anything. I can`t think right now,” and when the break finally commences, I gather my belongings. Christian comes over. In his hand is a blue piece of paper: the class completion certificate. He presents it to me. We talk. I apologize, for having made a fool of myself in class.

ICH MUSS GEHEN (I must go)

I’m at the door, set to burst into oblivion, when all of a sudden Bisi and Geraldine pop up in front of me and ask for a picture. Then Varya requests one. Then everyone else starts taking pictures. They’re huddled around me now. Everyone shakes my hand. It’s a pleasing moment, a time to forget my misery.

As I board the elevator, Christian calls out to me in his fierce German accent. Approaching, he asks whether I speak English or German at home. I hesitate, and with a stutter, I say, It’s English I speak, though I ought to speak German. He tells me I am “very able to make it,” that I can learn German: everyone else in the class is “going home,” but I am staying. I could do well there.

“We are all beginners, we all make mistakes,” he says, before inquiring about my enrollment in course number two, of which I tell him I just don’t know.

From inside the elevator, I see everyone in the classroom, waving goodbye. The cell phone in my hand holds an important piece of pride: I hurriedly show Christian the smiling picture of my beautiful German fiancée.

“I will call you,” I then shout across the hall to Solomon.

As the elevator doors close, I wave goodbye. Goodbye to everyone.

Comments

When did you leave Germany and do you ever go back?


"we are all beginners"..now thats a kind man (and a bit late?)

somehow that reminded me of when I dropped Beginning Chemistry in college.

Getting horribly bad grades on my three tests so far and unable to get the correct answer using slide rules, I filled out the Drop the Class papers (it was way too easy, back then).

When I told the professor, he proceeded to rattle off my three test scores off the top of his head (120 people in that one class) and he said: Your Doing Pretty Good.

(37, 43 and 52..something equivalent to D minuses).

Later, struggling just as badly trying out a new class, I barely passed that as well.

This was a math issue. The tests are all math, the lecture is no math.
 
When did you leave Germany and do you ever go back?


"we are all beginners"..now thats a kind man (and a bit late?)

somehow that reminded me of when I dropped Beginning Chemistry in college.

Getting horribly bad grades on my three tests so far and unable to get the correct answer using slide rules, I filled out the Drop the Class papers (it was way too easy, back then).

When I told the professor, he proceeded to rattle off my three test scores off the top of his head (120 people in that one class) and he said: Your Doing Pretty Good.

(37, 43 and 52..something equivalent to D minuses).

Later, struggling just as badly trying out a new class, I barely passed that as well.

This was a math issue. The tests are all math, the lecture is no math.
I left Germany in 2010 and moved straight to New York City that year with my wife. The last time I was back in Germany was 2014. I got sick in 2015 and have been bedridden for over 5 years, which makes international travel quite difficult.😜
 
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