Back in the heady days of 3G, I stepped out one evening to hit the neighbourhood bar after a particularly exhausting shift at home. While I was walking and yearning for loose shifts, which wouldn’t require any relaxation afterwards, a dainty mother and her gentle-looking son appeared before me on the pavement.
As I greeted the neighbourhood shopkeeper Günto and made my way towards them, the boy suddenly and deliberately raised his right arm staring at me. Five fingers in unison, hand open and forward, palm facing down, arm raised, the little shit was giving me the Nazi salute. The woman noticed and immediately hit the child’s hand and made him drop his arm. I was stunned.
“Well,” I said, “I suppose the boy is a Nazi?”
Poor mother, she was a little embarrassed. “No,” she said, “she was born crippled.”
It was my turn to feel embarrassed now, “Sorry,” I said.
I was just about to pass by, but this time the boy opened his mouth saying, “It is an involuntary movement, sir, I can’t help.”
“God bless you, my son,” I said.
Then his mother stepped in and said, “We are in a lot of pain, sir, I swear… There hasn’t been a single specialist we didn’t take him.”
It seemed like the woman was eager to talk, so I stopped. “What’s the name of the disease? I’ve never heard of it,” I said.
Since she must have told the same story many times before, she started to warble like a machine gun:
“Well, they call it AHS, Alien Hand Syndrome, there are only a few examples of it in the literature. It’s one-in-a-million type of syndrome and thought to be largely genetic. It has only been seen in Germany and also in some neighboring countries but very rarely. There is no cure, but at least it is possible to alleviate it with therapy. So much so that little Heinrich shouted ‘Heil Hitler’ (whispering here) every time he raised his right hand until he was 6 years old. We’ve now managed to minimize it. But we haven’t been able to find a cure for the involuntary arm movement yet.”
With my head slightly forward, trying not to show any sign of astonishment, I listened to the woman. Every now and then, I looked sideways at the boy, wondering if he will do the same thing again.
Noticing my predicament, the mother shrugged a little and said, “Sorry if I’ve been yammering. I really feel bad and that’s why I feel myself obliged to explain it at length when he does it to strangers like you.”
“God bless you,” I said again patting the boy’s head lightly. Then, just for the sake of it, and maybe also to make her feel better, I continued: ”Well, is there something special that triggers the movement, or does it happen spontaneously or for no reason at all?”
“Yes,” the woman said, “we see an increase when he is excited or stressed. Also, how can I say it… You know, he tends to do it when a foreign-looking person like you suddenly appears before him.”
After listening to the whole conversation intently, the boy raised his big head and looked into my eyes. “Sir, really,” he said, “I’m very sorry, I just can’t help it. I also fully acknowledge the fact that the Germany is now a land of migration and the citizenship must be based on a cultural rather than an ethnic basis.”
This time, I felt myself really bad as the poor kid started to make all sorts of excuses. “No no my son, that’s not a problem at all,” I said. “We are all human beings after all, I hope you will find a cure for your illness.”
Encouraged by this air of tranquility, his mother turned to me asked with a big smile on her face: “Where are you from?”
“Germany,” I said.
“No, I mean, where are you originally from? Where were you born?” she asked.
“I am also originally from Germany,” I said, although I was not. “I was born in Schweinfurt.”
“Your family?” she said.
I could have continued with the charade, but I just got bored. “My family is in camel business in Turkey,” I said indifferently.
“Like raising and selling?” asked the mother.
“To be honest,” I said, “I don’t really know either.”
Azem, my Albanian friend, was right on time, approaching from the opposite side like the lord of the abbey. As I saluted him, the boy and his mother also turned that way and the boy jerked his right arm forward again after seeing Azem, this time with the added “Heil Hitler”. Azem was not surprised at all, he came towards us with his usual excess joy, greeted the woman, patted the boy’s head, hugged me.
After they left, I immediately asked him, ”Bro, what is wrong with you? Why are you not surprised?”. It turned out he knew the family. “Oh man,” he said, “we have the junior Dr. Strangelove living in the hood and you are not aware of this?”
Then we went to the bar together. After being asked about our vaccination certificates, Azem told the waiter, “I am fully vaccinated but I don’t know about him. He has migration background, you know,” and burst into laughter.
While we were ordering our drinks, the girl still seemed to be trying to work out whether it was appropriate for someone with a migration background himself to utter these words from a political correctness perspective.