In the folds of the unkempt eve of her birthday she sat all blossom and warm ashes. She gave herself with lipstick, dark and standing cold and stiff Lotte walked as if she were trying to swallow.
It wasn’t a mask for that one wasn’t left. But her eyes were deep night-dresses from which she would absently pull her hair half back from the drawstrings at the front of her mother who years later, after sex, would always talk about apartments. But that was still to come.
With a kind of innocence that has no place her grandmother had such a smooth strong purity of being. Give her whiskey in the afternoon; you could touch her. The room was dark musty and so unfathomable as to be almost arcane. As always a disturbingly biting draught flapping at the door. As the old woman took off all her own clothes and danced she stared at her toes, her careless ritual would leave her tired and the motes of dust floated awake cold and guilty. The fire before -lying back petulantly her night-gown leaving itself just tepid- and ashes behind. Dressing hurriedly she sat on the bed in a long white drunken slumber. Lotte wore the stiff cloth around her. Tugging, she hadn’t moved for hours. she told me of her childhood. A night on dear granny’s bed but being a child in woman’s lacquered eyes she saw she was Lotte Döll.
red and her eyes smudged.
Out into the burning light she had grown up with her mother an alcoholic peasant woman who was looking at her now. Again finishing the bottle that looked different every time, oppressively warm, and yet it had a fluid quality to it which slipped in through undisguised. You never quite knew who heavily slept in Lotte, gray and young. And never around the bed. Naked and silent her face told of her warm mother. Falling exhausted she would bleed to death in a small Berlin hearth.
She was so beautiful and innocent. Naiveté or calm has slipped off her shoulders and at her heart nothing walked with sadness except the sheets. They smelt of a peach little cough and breathed deeply as perched on the edge of the bed she swung her legs and gently kicked the swirl in a solid shaft of light.
I am lying in the dark. The firm roll-mat mattress fails to disguise the wooden slats that are holding my back a few inches off the ground. Eyes tight open and air stoppered into my lungs; I have not breathed out for years; I am still lying in the dark.
The first night I slept I sensed a wall above my head. The wall was extraordinary in that it was real while the rest of the room merely ghosted with the solidity of a security camera recording. The floor and ceiling, even the other walls, were blurred and smudged and makeshift. Weightless. I stayed perfectly motionless until dawn with my lips closed and lids open. My mouth was hot and dry.
On the second night I slept I was roused by a draft coming from the wall above my head. Everything else was the same. Then came movement behind the wall, a muttering which sounded like thinking aloud. I tried to look without moving and swore I saw an edge of light. I stayed perfectly motionless until dawn with my lips closed and lids open. In my mouth there was a gritty touch like my teeth were about to splinter; an ice cube dropped into warm water. The sound of cracking stayed with me until the morning.
I am asleep with my head near the wall. No matter where else I try to sleep it is only here that I can lay down and rest. It is the third night. Movement above me twists me awake as I crane round to look at the wall. Part of it, close to my left shoulder, opens like a door. Light that seems darker than the room frames a figure in silhouette. I only see it as it moves, lumbering and swift, it moves for me. A monstrous child. Taking in a lungful of air my body begs to scream, to scream as hard as my heart will give. But that is where I stop. Lying on my back, twisted at the waist, staring at the wall next to my face I lie. Air is within and without but the meniscus of my throat is frozen to burst.
With muscles set in rigor the morning has not come to bring me breath. I am lying still.
He shivered awake in bed. His legs were slick and gulping for air. He opened his eyes. Ice water slowly fought against the chill sweetness tingling in his groin. The room was dark and only partially cramped with breath, bottled up inside and around for warmth, for he was bare of comfort. He had gathered the blankets around him whilst he had slept, and uncovered where She had been stowed.