Monika reduced the pressure of her palms, but that didn’t make it any better. The exercise seemed only to exacerbate her tension. She stopped and waited until the next exercise began. Soon she lost patience and switched back to the music channel. An interview was being conducted. Two smiling men on a black couch, holding their microphones as casually as if they were beer cans they wanted to pour over themselves. At first she couldn’t tell who was the star and who the host, then she listened for a while and figured it out. Bored, she switched back to the self-massage.
When the show was over, she turned off the television and went to her CD rack. For a long time she let her forefinger wander over the band names, then she chose a CD she had had in mind anyhow. Suzanne Vega, Monika’s absolute favorite singer. Many years ago she had seen her live and remembered to this day what she had been wearing on that wonderful occasion. She especially liked the a cappella version of “Tom’s Diner.” That song could brighten any morning, however gloomy, in Monika’s view. Besides, it couldn’t hurt to store up a catchy tune; you never knew what silly and tormenting songs would get stuck in your head in the course of an entire day.

The simple little melody was so elegant and graceful, it almost enticed you to write your own verses, yes, she always felt like singing, or at least thinking, all linguistic expressions of the day in that melody. And the lyrics were definitely the most beautiful poem about life in a city that Monika knew.

I am sitting in the morning
at the diner on the corner
I am waiting at the counter
for the man to pour the coffee

That triple specification at the beginning, temporal and spatial. In, at, on. It was a completely simple image, a zoom-in from above on a solitary person sitting in a café. That was true poetry, not the difficult cryptic nonsense that was constantly presented to you everywhere. She sang along softly until the end of the song:
I am thinking of your voice
and of the midnight picnic
once upon a time before the rain began
and I finish up my coffee
and it’s time to catch the train

Monika played the song five times in a row, but stopped singing along (because the sound of her own voice always gave her a feeling of abandonment); instead, she merely moved her lips silently with the words. Then she listened to the whole album. Meanwhile she looked out the window. She thought about how great it would be if the window could be controlled by remote too, just like the stereo system or the television. Then, at especially wonderful moments, you could simply press pause, or speed up or slow down the course of the day, as needed. Fast forward. How light-footed and uncomplicated a city always looked in time lapse: the headlights of the cars fuse into multicolored May ribbons, which run seamlessly through the streets, the sun is a coin tossed from east to west, construction cranes do gymnastics over emerging buildings, clouds race across the sky like flocks of sheep fleeing a shepherd dog. Everything is fluid, everything merges. People can be seen for a hundredth of a second at most, flash through the picture like impurities on old film stock.

Monika was sitting there with her eyes closed when the doorbell rang. The sound ruptured her daydream and the urban poetry of Suzanne Vega’s songs. She pressed stop on the remote control, stood up and went to the intercom. On the small screen she saw a man in overalls. That had to be the technician. He was much too early, it was just ten after nine. For a moment she hesitated, then she pushed on the stylized blue thumb under the screen, and the door opened.

– Good morning, said the technician. From the Treadmill Company, I’m here because of the control box…?
– Yes, please, said Monika, stepping aside.
She was about to show the technician the way, but he found it on his own. All the apartments in the Ferris wheel had the same floor plan, only some were the mirror image of hers. The man had already been in many apartments and knew immediately where to go. Monika followed him silently. As she passed a mirror, she briefly checked whether she had messed up her hair during the self-massage. No, everything was fine. She looked the same as always.
The technician had found the control box and began his inspection without a word.
– Yeah, said Monika. Maybe some error in the time controls…
– Mm-hmm.
He removed the top cover. When that was done, he looked around with lightning speed, smiled mechanically and said:
– You have a nice apartment here.
– Thank you, Monika said with a shrug.
The technician nodded emphatically, as if she had contradicted him. Then he turned back to the control box and murmured:
– Stupid, the thing with the stop button. Poorly programmed, if you ask me. But still. You’re pretty lucky.
What exactly he meant by that was unclear to Monika. She didn’t ask either. Instead, she said:
– I don’t even want to think about what would have happened if I’d had to get out of my apartment really fast. I mean, really fast.
The technician had now removed the last screw and lifted the gossamer-thin, flesh-colored metal cover from the control module.
– Did you try pressing it again?
– What, the button?
– Yes.
– But that would have been pointless. It’s not even possible. I mean, if the wheel suddenly starts turning again while I’m in the elevator, I fall down, no matter what I do, right? Besides, there’s no button in the elevator, so what’s with that question, did I press it again?
– Okay, okay, said the technician. I only wanted to make sure.
He wiped his face with his hand, then felt for a particular tool on his belt. Having failed to find it, he bent over and looked in his leather bag. He rummaged and rummaged, and finally he found it: a long silver thing, which Monika could not identify to save her life. A thing like that might be used in operating rooms or torture chambers, but here –
She cleared her throat and looked elsewhere. It was so burdensome to have strangers in your apartment.

AuthorClemens J. Setz
2018-12-19T12:55:27+00:00 December 21st, 2015|Categories: Prose, Literature, Blesok no. 103-104|0 Comments