I have a recurring dream. In it I fly back to Tempelhof, again and again. I pass under the giant canopy. It is raining, but I am dry. I hear my footsteps crossing the empty concourse. No-one looks at my papers; there is no-one here but me.
Outside, my car is parked, the driver waiting. We never speak. I do not know his name, but he is always the same; the back of his neck, his cap. He drives without haste along dark, wide streets like slow-flowing stone rivers. Each side stand flat-fronted houses with balconies like jutting chins.
No lights. Trees to my left and the cold, sightless, houses waiting on my right, leaning in like a shaky stage set. I look at my watch. Always it tells me twenty minutes.
I know there are many monuments in this city. At moments I think I have glimpsed one; a spike with a bauble on it striking the faint light in the West; two huge pillared porticoes; a marble statue faintly glimmering, but I am too quickly past it to know the subject. I would have liked a voice in my ear explaining which commemorate good deeds, which bad. But they are all too far away for me to hold the patterns they make before I am past, and they are gone.
The car slows. I look at my watch again. Ten minutes. The hotel, unlit, squats beside the street, narrow now and faster flowing. A few shadows move towards it. I follow them up steps that I can hardly climb, my breath is so shallow. The massive door towers over me. Will it open? I stand beneath it, search in the dark for a handle. Something pushes from the other side and a revenant in uniform allows me in.
The lift is always empty. Each time I forget which floor I should be on. I stand, looking at the buttons. If I go to the desk to ask, no-one will know. And then it comes back to me and my hand like an automaton stretches out, pushes then numbered button. The lift travels slowly, tasting each floor as it passes. When it arrives the doors slide open onto a confluence of passages: to the right, to the left, and a doubling back. This is the one I take. A long corridor, the closed doors on one side, a blank wall on the other, a wavy blue pattern on the carpet that makes me dizzy.
My room is big enough for a conference of beds but there is only one, heaped with pillows on the cold white cover. The lights are too bright; interrorgater’s lights, angled into my face.
I cross to the window. It is dark outside and I cannot tell if I am looking down at the road I have travelled on, into a sky empty of stars, moon, and city lights. Or perhaps it is only the blank wall of a neighbouring building. I seize the slender pole and rattle the curtains shut across the void.
In the bathroom the towels are on the floor. I pick one up and rub it between my fingers. Wet? Damp? Nearly dry? I turn it over. Yes, there are the blood stains.
The bar is where I eat. There should be shouting, back slapping, the gurgle of bottles being poured, the sips of wine, the crunch of crisps and crack of nut shells being prized open. Nothing. Rows of bottles, yes. and little round tables, and bucket chairs; four to a big table, two to a small one. No-one is here. I eat alone. Unwatched, I drink my wine then wipe my fingers on the napkin. I look round. No-one to say ‘good night’. When I turn back, the little table is empty. No plate, no wine glass, no screwed-up napkin.
In my room I see the scratch marks on the walls. They are words and in my handwriting, but I cannot read them. I turn on my heels and look in each direction. The window faces me whichever way I turn. The curtain is mysteriously withdrawn again to the right-hand wall. No lights. No stars, No moon. No escape. A sense of tipping forward and falling into the dark.
It is shame that brings me back. I am in the chair, the light angled into my eyes, the towel catching the blood that falls from my finger-tips. I cannot undo my words; the information I scratched onto the wall.
I look at my watch. Always the same; ten minutes. My husband gave it to me, or perhaps my lover, I forget
I walk the blue corridor, I step into the lift and out into the foyer. Someone in a blue uniform opens the heavy doors. Just as I reach the car, I hear a voice. ‘Don’t I know you?’
I say, ‘So, you believe in ghosts?’
I am here again, at Tempelhof. It is raining, but under the canopy I am dry.