Hotel in New York by Stephen Brockbank

One hot day in summer in upstate New York. Wait, careful now, one step at a time, this is not the moment for you to get continuous like this. Yes well continuity just doesn’t work here. Let us start at the beginning, after all most times you start at the beginning. You normally go into hospital as a patient but you can also arrive as the partner, the delivery person. So a few days ago, perhaps even a week, you take her in the BMW, your hands in hers, she delirious, almost unconscious, a bag in the back seat with completely the wrong stuff in it. You in jeans, shirt, jacket and Ecco shoes, swish, swish, swish. She is in perfect black leggings, white shoes, lilac shirt, white denim jacket with a floral print lining. Then in the casualty wards, the business of hospital, doctors and nurses. Before this telephone calls, emails, the ping of message arrival, paging her boss, the service doors closing on the outside world. At which point she gets more delirious and it is past midnight with flickering neon lights. Here then after forms, insurances, credit cards, signatures, beds, alarm clocks, nurses asleep over desks. Z is body checked, anesthetized and sleeping, a drip in her right arm. You can then relax in the easy chair which makes you think of nightmares weird dreams of cats, diagonal and white walls and cyber drift. You smoke a cigarette/you don’t smoke a cigarette outside the hospital at some point, and you’ll relax in the growing dawn, though at this time of the year in New York City it never gets really dark (4 am). Through the window another cities lights visible over the bay, and people are walking into a 24 hour convenience store. (So are you remembering the discontinuity of the everyday…?)

Sometime later he wakes up from his dream and finds himself looking at a Doctor who is saying to a Nurse “OK let’s take her into surgery at 7” He was too drowsy to recognize the voice from the previous night and sleeps through her exit and movement to and from the operating theatre. He never really knew what the surgery was for. (It’s raining in the corridor, clouds rolling down towards the balcony from the street. The doctors and ancillary staff all hold umbrellas up whilst the nurses all wear umbrella hats. He would like to be catching the ferry from Corfu to Italy and then to travel by train northwards the kilometers drifting slowly by or be on the motor boat travelling across Tokyo Bay.)

All goes well because she wakes up feeling better and more lucid than before. He jokes around with her and the doctors who are there to check out her post-operative self. There and then everything that must happen in the morning happens. He understands that that she is not going to be returning to the countryside, the hills and clean air. She sends him off to acquire clothes and other essential rations from the hospital store which is by the main exit/entrance and in trying to find it he gets lost, ending up in a dark concrete corridor dripping with moisture and what looks surprisingly like ectoplasm. Then around an extremely dark corner he finds an off duty doctor who kindly directs him down a short cut to the main exit. At the main desk he signs all the additional bureaucratic paperwork off to allow the operation, which has already taken place, to happen and then he goes into the hospital shop to perform the required hunter-gatherer acts of looking for teeshirts, toothpaste (a good sign this), deodorant, soap, towels, nightgown (bearing the legend “love kills”) and other sundry items. Modern hospitals not supplying adequate towels anymore plus some phonecards so that she can phone her friends to tell them that she is all right and he buys a couple of braindead bookstall novels and to his surprise the latest Peter Ackroyd biography. She was getting very specific by the time he left her. On the way back he tries to remember the way back along the corridors and manages only take a couple of wrong turnings.

He gets back only to discover she needs some additional things, which are mostly hygienic purchases of the sort which are not supplied by the hospital store. But also some sandals or slippers as her shoes are not suitable as her ankles have grown “disgustingly fat” . He writes up a list this time and heads back out. He is so tired that spacetime has become distorted and he is […] This time he finds the main exit over scaffolding and through a film set (the doctor looks familiar perhaps off a TV program he thinks) ending up in the main car park which seems slightly bizarre as he’d not known it existed before. Kids and other youths who are skateboarding off of ramps onto parked cars direct him round the corner to a side entrance which leads directly into the corridors which are full of overspill patients without insurance or credit cards who have no beds in the wards, past consultation rooms, radiology suites, empty stretcher trolleys and rooms vacant because of death. The woman at the information desk greets him like a long lost friend. He asks her where he can get the remaining items on his list. She tells him to walk out the main exit and walk downtown, it’ll take ten minutes because the hospital is basically a big shed in an excentric district. This would have been fine but his body hurts for some unknown reason, and he imagines cool hills, the alps and the Giono book of the hill slopes and the man planting trees. The shapes of the city begin to appear and he’s almost overcome by tiredness, his back is hurting a little and he thinks of coffee and a late breakfast but the virtual link between himself and Z causes him to continue on down into he shops. He collects the various items and heads back towards the hospital. After a number of streets, think nine or ten, then some more have passed it is obvious that he is lost.

He holds onto the mental links that always connects him across the burning hot heart of the city. Normally at home his mental connection runs through some piece of telecommunications equipment across the internet, his mobile phone, pager beeps etc. He feels better as he carries the stuff he has gathered across the city. Lost but still gathering. Brick buildings that overheat, concrete ones designed by Malmo. Wishing for sleep he comes across an art deco building dry-docked on a tarmac beach. White pyramids etched on the pillars above the doors. Lost, he still feels that mammon is dead, then around the corner a Lagonda garage, a store, wrecked cars, then a supermarket, students running down aisles looting food and videos. He wanders down the aisles and collects other things, like aromatic soap, toothpaste and lime cordial. He chats to the attendants who tell him nobody pays during a riot and send him off down the Avenue Driosse which is something like a bad dream because in this city of New York all blocks seem the same and he cannot tell up from down, “and where is the crepe place now ?” He mops his face , a bad dream, overcome at the sight of the towel and dressing gown and then searches out the hospital. “That way” he is told. Maybe a coke ? a cab perhaps ? but they are all driven by expatriate Englishmen who can’t speak American and whose ability to tell one direction from another doesn’t seem reliable.

It is his second day without sleep, he is adrift in irreversible space-time, not quite a subjectivistic view of irreversibility but close. Two or three things he knows about her, it’s take four ? less. Almost as many people as in Europe. It’s like a lizard walking across your face, like that time in Greece, but he doesn’t know anything, where is it ? NYC but this isn’t where the hospital is it ? Everything feels over. Late afternoon. The sun is high over the city across the bay he walks down 9th street, continues down Red Lion Street, then up Corbusier to 48th and right past the supermarket, since it will be raining there, first this way and its opposite the Cafe Montmarte. Arms hanging down he carries his purchases down strange streets toward the car park and then suddenly he is down by the cafe he’d been in twenty years before with a woman from Berlin he’d loved at the time. Except that in those days he’d been cool, between two points on a trip founded on Zen. Nothing of this matters as he turns down Deloite and 7th into the car park full of people in glasses, its as nice as when he first saw it. He thinks that tomorrow he must walk up the round tower. It’s 2am in the morning and inside the city limits birds do not sing or even exist here, a 200foot drop on a plastic rope that stretches attractively with the lizard moving around inside his shirt now. He can see some part of the city he recognizes through the lizards membranes. Down he walks into the hospital grounds, across the light orange (orange ?) surface, first a right foot then a left foot right foot left foot right foot left foot across in front of the street and plastic cars (oh Bowles where are you now when I need you ?) like asteroids heading down the gravity well. And then over the soft tarmac, the lizard is back on his face, he’s feeling light headed and dizzy because he’s breathing lizard. It is then that the big other arrives, the disguised real, opening like a wound in the heart. He sees people from the future walking with past lovers, futurists and historians, women, animals, cats looking at him as if he is prey. But in his trembling he smells the truth, the abyss opens up before him, to be lost and over loaded, far from the cool pillars, the citron presse, the breeze off of the mountains, the house in the hills, the kitchen devils, the everyday delights of the routines established by Z who is so close now, a mere 100 metres across the hostile plain and whilst Z isn’t herself but a wounded person in a hospital bed, precisely that is her. The lizard on his face against the discontinuity and suffering, the ultimate reality of the open maw that is the lie of being lost in the city, then found with her waiting, dependent on him rather Z in the hills with him dependent on her.

An hour has passed since he left her, his sense of panic is fading and as he walks down corridors after travelling upwards in lifts he begins to feel better. He walks into the ward and finds her asleep on pain killers. The nurse says she’s fine and just needs to sleep. [ As things are this strand of reality will not last and Z and he will leave the hospital. He will forget this moment when alone and lost , he finds himself in the absurd position of not being either alone or lost, and yet, yet, yet.] He thinks vaguely about a story he read years ago in the Polish Bar on Little Turnstile in London. There must be a similarity between the guy who thought up the story and him, who knows anyway he shrugs his shoulders easing the fear and tension from his back and ends up sitting in the hospital cafeteria drinking lemon presse, espresso and mineral water before finding Z in her bed reading a mindless woman’s fashion magazine. She has to stay in hospital for four days. Between hospital visits and delivering books to her he spends most of the time wandering the streets of New York. He extends the hotel booking by a few weeks, t give her time to convalesce and moves to a top floor suite.

This is when the big other, the always unknown, the discontinuous reality which leaps like an iguana at your face, because the iguana is fascinated by his eyes moving in the face. But now it’s years later its the middle of the road in another country, he is standing on the white line in the middle of a deserted dual carriageway at midnight waiting for oblivion. He walks down the centre of the road carefully stepping on the white lines. Before returning to the car having survived another hour. Later he sips vodka from a cut glass shot glass and reads pages of a novel about the secret life of a secretary…