Alarmed, as if a bell inside me were ringing a warning, I jumped up this morning and found myself barefoot on the beautiful patterned carpet in the back room, saw myself throwing open the curtains and the window to the overflowing dustbins and rubble in the courtyard, which was deserted, as if abandoned for ever by the children with their bicycles and radios, by the plumbers and builders, even by Mrs G. who would come down later in her apron dress and her green knitted hat to take the boxes from the seed shop, the perfumery and the Intershop out of the big wire containers, press them flat, tie them up into handy bundles and then take the bundles to the junk-dealer round the corner in her four-wheeled handcart. She would complain loudly about the tenants, who, out of laziness, threw their bottles into the dustbins, about the people who came home late and broke open the front door almost every night because they forgot their key again and again, about the municipal housing department, which didn’t manage to install an electric doorbell, but most of all about the drunks from the hotel restaurant next door who brazenly pissed in the broken open doorway.

The little diversions I allow myself every morning: clear a couple of newspapers from the table and put them in the magazine rack, smooth out tablecloths in passing, collect glasses, hum a song, knowing that in fact, as if drawn along on a string, I was on my way to the front room, to the big bay window that looked on to Friedrichstrasse and through which no sunlight came, because there is not much sun this spring, but still morning light, which I love, and a decent supply of which I wanted to store up, to live on in dark times.

So I stood, as every morning, behind the curtains, which had been put up recently so that I could hide behind them, and looked, hopefully unseen, across to the big car park on the other side of Friedrichstrasse.


Europe in Ruins
Bolivia, 1970