Once upon a time there was a man who loved trains. He rode a train to work. He vacationed in old-timey steam engines, took his family on countryside train-rides. He dreamed about trains that lit up all corners of his city, that didn’t speed through dark spaces where no one got out. He built a model railroad in his basement, with trees and mountains and people and villages and trains that went wherever they wanted to.
Once upon a time a girl met the man who loved trains. He took her to his basement and showed her his little city. He walked her out back, along the traintracks as far as they went, which was not very far at all, because overgrown weeds greened over rusty red, and just beyond was a wall that could not be climbed. The man told her of a past she knew from books: airstrikes and airlifts, hunger and hope. His life was in those tracks.
Once upon a time the man and the girl danced together, smashed concrete with hammers, thumbed their noses at ol’ Erich and laughed at outdated regimes. Trains rumbled behind his house again.
Once upon a time, the man who loved trains was dying. The girl recalled the tiny free world, and the bigger walled world. She remembered Tanzen and Klopfen, the feel of history’s concrete weight in her hands. She reckoned the man had a good life, because he and his city lived a life that always got better.