IT'S DARK WHEN I ARRIVE AT THE PENSION where I'll stay while I find a place to live. I speak in halting German to the woman behind the desk. She gives me my room key, and I lug my two overstuffed suitcases up three flights of narrow dimly lit stairs. I call my mom. We connect over 6,000 miles of crackling wire. "Everything is fine," I say. Then I crawl into bed and erupt into sobs.
The next morning, eyes swollen, I smile at the landlady who brings me apricot preserves, sweet butter, and a hard, crusted roll that shatters into a hundred pieces when I break it. Later, I crisscross the city along tree-lined boulevards and down narrow, curved streets, following every housing lead. I visit a student dormitory and try to imagine myself living inside its severe cement walls.
A week passes. Nothing fits.