Then We Take Berlin

Arriving at Berlin, my passport is subjected to more scrutiny than it receives anywhere else. The humble requests of laissez-passer by a European partner are subjected to close reading. The intricate cross-hatching of the paper is checked for tampering, the reflective devices made to reflect light first at this angle and then that. Although the passport is invisibly laden with all my physiognomic data, that in other airports allows me to float in on a permissive vapour of radio-frequency, in Berlin a human reckoning of my character is deemed necessary. I am subjected to sudden glances to which I smile, but not so earnestly as to suggest that I have anything other than a right—enshrined in several treaties—to enter this country. But I am enough of a Cold War child to appreciate the dark glamour in all this, to relish thumbs and fingers leafing through my papers, every calculating gaze, this unexpected coda to a budget flight in plastic seats, part-funded by scratch cards and cheese baguettes. After all, there’s only one elegant way to enter Berlin: under suspicion.