Midnight at the Hotel Savaria
by Norman Jope
[ poetry - may 09 ]
It's as if the hotel's been built for my benefit. At the end of September, in midweek, the tourist season is certainly over - even Austrians with toothache are avoiding Szombathely, a city of Roman remains and cut-price dentists.
So, after my evening meal - at the bright, refurbished modern hotel down the road that I would have stayed in if I'd not come here first, and impulsively booked - I settle down in my pre-war room. Not properly heated, with a rickety chair. With oversized wardrobes and a bed with the suspension of a harpsichord. With a TV that hints at sixty-four channels but reveals only four - one shows a concert featuring Bartók's Dance Suite, but when that ends I'm down to three, two of which appear to be showing the same bicycle race. So I switch it off, at eleven o'clock, and insert myself into paper-thin sheets.
Then I write myself a letter from here to there to here, from my present self on behalf of my past self to my present self - conscious of the six-and-a-half years that have passed, but recalling the cold and hearing the creak of the door as, having put on my shirt and jeans, and having removed my wallet from beneath the pillow to pocket it in case of unlikely theft, I lock the door behind me and walk down the corridor. My room isn't en-suite and I have to turn left, as the clock strikes midnight, in order to find the toilets.
There are urinals as well as cubicles - they must date from a collectivist era of trade delegations, who would have settled for as much after a piss-up in the hotel restaurant. I seem to be alone here although all that the bored receptionist, Andrea, admitted earlier in rudimentary German is that it was sehr ruhig.
The strangeness of my being here doubles the length of my slash. And, from the other side of my time-stretched self, it is as if I could walk into those toilets, tap myself on the shoulder in the dead of that night, and re-assure me-him that I am still alive and writing on my-his, as well as my-my, behalf. I would, of course, omit the precise details of what will follow that night, those years of continuous, half-grasped presents. I would also attempt - and fail - to pit this feat against my own mortality, but the act of reaching back seems defiant enough.
As long as I live, I will always be a guest in the Hotel Savaria. Closing my eyes, I can feel myself falling - back, and back to my silence in that place, through days and years that are shed like peel.