The messenger’s knuckles were up to bang the door again when I opened it. He held out the damp telegram in the swirling snow, looked over my shoulder at the guests moving in the kitchen doorway, the back of a woman in a tank top, the cut tulips fallen on the table. This was Chicago, 1989. We’d watched on television that night as crowds of East Germans crossed through the Bornholmer Strasse gate into the west. Then Hendrik retold his story of being hit by a car in Berlin. He had been on a bicycle he’d rented, sweet red-cheeked Hendrik with no idea where he was or how he got there. 

“Your signature here, Mr.—” the messenger said. 

I’d never seen a telegram. 

“What do I do now?” I said.

“Nothing. Read it,” he said. “You signed for it.” 

It’d snowed three days. A frenzied group of us joined together in spite of it; our boots piled under the coatrack. 

I stepped out into the cold and watched the messenger try to make his way down the sidewalk, his bag held out, legs rigid on the ice. 

My father was sick stop. 

Then Hendrik’s voice from the kitchen—“You look as bad as I did,” he said. 

I looked up at him. The others were gathered behind him. “What?”

“You,” he smiled. “What is it?”

“Nothing,” I said. I waved the sheet a bit in the air. “A telegram.”

“Telegram?” he said. “Delivered on horseback?”

“My dad. Says he’s sick.”

“So we’ll all go out there. Who has a car?”

“No,” I laughed tiredly. “That’s not the idea.” I slipped the page onto the tabletop to dismiss it, but everybody stayed quiet and Hendrik stood with his arms raised. “He’s probably bored,” I said. “He’s been snowed in for—his whole life.”