Somebody has to do it

A man in a puffy tan jacket stops in front of the memorial commemorating the night the wall fell. It is difficult to determine his age under his white knit hat, but bits of gray hair and a roughness to his cold-chapped skin mark him as old enough to remember the night the barricades had opened and people had streamed across the bridge.

He takes a rag from his pocket and carefully wipes the last day’s accumulation of snow from the plaque. The old parking lot nearby, and even the parts of the sidewalk that haven’t been shoveled are covered in inches of snow. But the memorial has barely any, even before he begins his work. He has been here every day, making sure these words can be read, though he knows that no one else will read them today. Everyone passes with their shoulders tense against the cold and their eyes scanning the sidewalk for treacherous bits of ice. That doesn’t matter to him.

When he goes, the flakes immediately begin re-whitening the brass surface. An hour later the letters have vanished; but he will be back tomorrow.