Marcel Winatschek

When We Became the Past

When We Became the Past

No matter how far away we may find ourselves, in the crowded streets of New York, on the hot coasts of Australia, or under the high ceilings of Berlin’s old apartments, we return home sooner or later. To our city. To a world in which time seems to stand still. And we feel superior. Because no one there dared even come close to what we have achieved. The streets of the small community are still the same ones we rode down as kids. We know them inside and out. We still dream of the time when these alleys were the veins of our childish existence.

As I walk down the main street, my thoughts go wandering. They float up, over the city. And memories pop up everywhere. When we broke into that trailer and used helium stolen from the fair to turn our voices into Mickey Mouse. When we threw up and called the ambulance because Maria had crashed into the fence of the open-air swimming pool while sledding and blood was streaming down her face. When we sat on the slide of the nearby playground and Paula pulled up her white shirt, waving her middle fingers around, to shock the neighbors.

When I come to my senses again, I stand on a small bridge a little outside the city. We ruled this place, made it shake, and made it tremble. We passed through its gates at night, we kissed, ate, beat, cried, came, shouted, laughed, and drank. Loudly. Energetic. Courageous. So that we may perpetuate ourselves. So that our deeds would still cause murmurs a hundred years from now. So that we could not die, even though we had long since passed away. But our graffiti faded. Our legends were silenced. Our markings were erased. Time turned us into victims.

The generation that wreaks havoc in these streets today has no idea of what took place here. What we risked. Who we touched. How many enemies we made and how many friends accompanied us. It doesn’t matter to them. They don’t care about our names. Our places. Our sorrows. Our songs. And then we realize that we don’t have a single reason to feel superior. Because we have accomplished nothing. Our memories only haunt the city as vague shadows. They have no effect, no desire. But they serve as proof that we have been replaced.

By people who consider us irrelevant and write their own legends in the places that served as a backdrop for our memories. But this generation will also return to this place. And they will become aware of the fact that none of their actions, no matter how rad and passionate and dramatic, will result in eternity. That their life is a copy of a copy of a copy. And that everything falls apart once they turn around. All that remains as consolation is the dream of doing something that no one before us has ever done. Because there’s nothing else we can do.