Sunday, November 27, 2005

November 27


I was dreaming that New York and other Eastern Seaboard cities had just been attacked with nuclear weapons and a full-scale invasion was underway. It was reminiscent of September 11, late morning and most working folks were at their jobs, I was not. I was in Brooklyn with my younger brother and witnessed the devastation in Manhattan from just above Brooklyn Heights. My first thoughts were to evacuate my family to our cabin in the Catskills and as my brother and I moved through the smoke and chaos of smoldering Metropolis toward the Hudson River and the west side of Manhattan, I was awakened by the voice of Elmo saying he needed to go to the potty. My son must have jostled his potty-training Elmo just enough to rouse him and wake me. So here I am at 3:45 in the morning wondering why I’m dreaming about catastrophic events in the city I’ve just left.

Tomorrow morning I begin an intensive four-week German language course in Cologne and on Thursday we move into a temporary rental in the Belgian Quarter, a short walk from the school, and although a bit closer to the center of the city than I would prefer, it is a lovely apartment and just large enough for the three of us. It will do just fine for now.

We have been here less than two weeks and in that time accomplished all we set out to do – which was to find a place to live for our initial 3-6 month transition from New York to Cologne and to familiarize ourselves with the city. It can take a lifetime to know a city but in these ten days we have acquired a sense of the neighborhoods on the west side of the Rhine well enough to know that Sulz is our first choice for our first apartment. In time we may become familiar with other areas and decide to relocate. But for now, with what we know, Sulz seems like a good fit.

Somewhat ahead of schedule, we found an apartment on Nikolaus Platz in Sulz that has just about everything we have ever wanted in an apartment; pre-war, three bedrooms, a working fireplace (rare in Cologne), a small terrace, space for a piano, a decent sized eat-in kitchen, two bathrooms and a small playground in the park directly outside the front door of the building. It is a little more expensive than we would prefer, but from earlier research it is precisely what I had expected to pay for something of this size and character. We have made an application but I expect the competition for the space will be intense. So I will put my imagination on hold for now and try not to dream about how I might decorate the spacious, high-ceilinged rooms.

We have made a good start but only that and the nights are not yet round with sleep nor the days free from worry. There still much in doubt, so much unsettled business that if Elmo hadn’t awakened me with his plea for relief, I would probably be sitting here anyway. It may be a long time, if ever, before I can again sleep through the night. I don’t remember when I started having trouble sleeping but it has been years now, and in recent months the waking has come earlier. Most nights I am in bed only a few hours. It must be taking a toll on my health, on my mind, on my ability to think and function. Some days I am so tired that I nap in the afternoon, when His Holiness is sleeping. He rests so soundly and deeply. I often stand by his bed and watch him, his face relaxed, his eyes set deep in his creamy soft skull, sometimes fluttering but more often still. Yesterday morning he was laughing as he slept, chuckling, smiling, happy. I don’t recall what sleep like that might have been like. I say might have been because sleep was never anything I enjoyed. I’ve known people, women with whom I have shared a bed, who were able to wrap themselves in soft warm things, close the shades, and in so doing block out the world and sleep. Such rest in unimaginable. Mine is always brief, comes on from deep fatigue and is interrupted by the slightest event, a sniffle or a cough or a dream too frightening not to interrupt.