Translated by: Ross Benjamin
(English translation copyright © 2015 Ross Benjamin)
Monika had moved into the Ferris wheel in the summer of 2003, after she had dropped out of law school for good. Her parents, wealthy entrepreneurs, had declared themselves willing to keep helping her out financially, and had not even been surprised by the extraordinarily high rent for the apartment in car no. 21 of the gigantic steel construction on the outskirts of the city.
Built in the late nineties by Austrian star architect Albert Zmal and accompanied by some media hype, the blue wheel, with its cross braces and bicycle-like spokes shimmering through the fog on this September morning, had gradually become the new emblem of the city. At the same time, however, the demand for the apartments had declined steeply. That most likely had to do with the way you left your dwelling, which took some getting used to. Either you had to wait up to forty minutes until the car reached the ground, or you pressed the stop button and took one of the express elevators within the spokes to the central main tower, from which you could get outside by way of the stairs.
At the moment, Monika’s apartment was at the top, the highest point of the wheel, several hundred yards above the ground. Monika was sitting at the kitchen table and warming her hand, which suffered from chronically bad circulation, on a steaming cup of tea. Darjeeling. She read the label on the little teabag for the third time. A friendly, almost tender word, like darling, only stretched apart in the middle by a foreign syllable.
Her day had begun dismally. First she had tried to air her rooms, but realized that someone had once again pressed the stop button, probably was even holding it down, which always happened when someone was moving, and that she was still hovering much too close to the noise and grime of the main street. So she had taken a bath and then painted her toenails, but that had not improved her mood.
She looked out the window. The gray exoskeleton of a vacant factory building on the other end of the city park could be seen clearly. Next to it an ugly white church steeple. Everything else was more or less hidden in the fog.
The highlight of the day lying ahead of her was the visit from a technician. Monika was expecting him to arrive at ten o’clock. Yesterday, when she had pressed the button, the wheel had stopped for only five minutes and had then automatically started moving again, and she had fallen down in the slowly tilting elevator. That was dangerous, that sort of thing shouldn’t happen. She had immediately called the doorman in the main tower and explained everything to him. He had apologized repeatedly for this error in the controls and promised to send someone to her apartment the next day.Monika looked at
her watch. It was only seven. My God, she thought, what am I going to do for three hours? A walk was out of the question, because she didn’t know how much time she would idle away. Of course, there was the cafeteria in the main tower, but there she would probably run into old Frau Schuster from car She often sat there early in the morning, and Monika was in no mood for a conversation about houseplants, cake recipes and the literary success of the woman’s grandchildren. No, she would simply stay here in her apartment and try to kill time. She took another sip of tea. Still burning hot. Morosely, she went to the sink and added a dash of ice-cold tap water to the cup, stirred it with the little silver spoon and took a sip. No difference. She put the cup back on the table and went out onto the balcony. Fresh air greeted her, foggy, oxygen-deficient city air. She folded her arms over her head and tried to take a deep breath, but then this gesture struck her as much too silly and she went back into her apartment. She sat down on the small, velvet-red yoga cushion next to the heater and turned on the television. Scrolling through the digital guide with the remote control, she found a self-massage class. It began in seven minutes. Just the thing, thought Monika. She changed the channel to a hectic cooking show, then to MTV. A boy band was jumping around the stage. One of the young singers tore his shirt off his muscular upper body, and Monika shook her head. Then she switched back to the channel with the self-massage class and waited. Three minutes to go before the beginning of the show. She watched the end of a documentary on the life of insects. There was a shot of the multifaceted eye of a fruit fly, in which the planet earth was reflected hundreds of times.
The self-massage show was hosted by a woman. She was at most twenty years old and was wearing a skintight leotard. Huge tits, Monika noticed, giggling and holding her hand in front of her mouth. The first exercise consisted of a gentle massage of the neck muscles with the balls of the thumbs.
– This exercise is ideal if you work sitting down for a long time, straining your neck in the process, said the girl on the screen.
Monika tried to do the exercise exactly as it was demonstrated to her. The result was a slight dizziness.
– Make sure you don’t press too hard, said the masseuse, as if she had guessed Monika’s problem.