I chose my hotel in Prague because it was in a cobblestone alley with one way in and one way out to the larger street near the old city center. It was quiet and conservative looking with colorful summer flowers in the wooden window boxes.
Upon entering the alley to the hotel there was an Indian shop with incense burning inside. The fragrance leaked out onto the street. It smelled of a mix of jasmine, musk and cinnamon, and was complimented by all the red, green, yellow, blue and orange lights in the shop, which shone into the night through the thin golden threaded Indian veils covering the big windows.
Little Indian themed statues stood guard on the lower window sills. Yellow and orange goldfish swam in a small tank above the cashier on a shelf in water with blue sand and grey coral . This place seemed right for my mood.
The hotel I found was the “Hotel Londoner.”
I admit I was psyched because I assumed they spoke English there, which of course they did. I didn’t speak the Czech language. The owners seemed to be Indian, probably from London, which didn’t surprise me. They welcomed me and then oddly warned me the hotel was haunted, especially my room, then wished me a good night.
I thought that was some lovely Indian humor. I don’t mind voyeuristic ghosts, as long as they don’t pop out of the closet. I came face to face with a post suicidal ghost in a Belgium hotel once. That’s a story for some other time…
I settled into my Czech room which looked like any other room in any European hotel. I was on the 3rd floor. Thank God for elevators. The bed was comfortable and the room clean. I unpacked, checked the closet cabinet (which is now my habit after my Belgian ghost incident) then lay down to rest after my long journey.
I heard people speaking muffled, strange languages outside my door. I could also hear the ding-ding of the elevator across from my room.
I stood up from the bed and looked out my window with a view of the famous city square with its wondrous old Czech architecture, buildings, cobblestones, and shops, and people everywhere. I could see the Franz Kafka Museum from my window.
Ahhh yeah, mmmhhuh… I retreated, mumbling to myself. I fell back onto the bed and soon fell asleep.
In my dream I took the elevator to the lobby bar for a drink.
I entered the elevator cabin and pushed the “P” button, which I assumed in the Czech Republic meant lobby. It seemed to take a long while until… the door slowly opened to my mother’s funeral parlor. The smell of orchids was in the air. People floated around without making any sounds.
Everyone was unsure how to act or what to say to me or my brothers. Flowers and wreaths were pointing to the casket in the back. I walked in and there she lay in her casket, waxy and certainly dead. My mother was gone, replaced by a bad doll in this box.
My parents had been divorced for over 20 years. My father, who had not seen my mother since the divorce, was standing over my mom, peering into her casket. It was strange seeing them together. I thought – they are finally together at last! My father did get the last word, I guess, but it wasn’t spoken to her in life, sadly.
It was me. I was alone at the hospital, holding my mother’s hand when she breathed her last breath. She had long since stopped talking. The nurse asked me who she had been waiting for, why she wouldn’t let go. I knew who she was waiting for. I knew he wouldn’t come to visit. Daddy dearest.
After her final rattle, for some reason I looked up at the ceiling and said, “Mom, go to the light.” Why did I do that? Hmmm. She would want to stay behind for my disabled younger brother, I thought. But she needed the light.
She died. I then closed her mouth and eyes.
That was the end of my mother.
It was surreal for me. I had seen enough.
I was uncomfortable.
I returned to the elevator and decided to continue down to the lobby. I wanted two stiff drinks after this too real detour.
The elevator kept going up, however, then stopped, and the door opened to an old familiar room: my childhood bedroom. It was full of sunshine and it was Saturday morning. I was 10 years old, lying in my warm bed with my beagle snuggling up to me, and I didn’t have a care in the world.
I felt the only absolute joy I ever felt in my life in these few short minutes. I starred at how the sun reflected on my wooden bed, reflected on my arm, my dog, reflected on the dust particles as they floated everywhere, up and down, rising and falling in slo-mo.
Sun on the dust, just like us.
I suddenly remembered that it was Saturday today, no school! I was free, and the day was mine. There was no reason to get out of bed except for the call of some childhood adventures.
I remembered it like it was yesterday. I was young, warm, safe, healthy, and innocent. Little did I know the joys and horrors that life would bring, that the future would bring.
Through my open bedroom door the shadowy elevator calls me to enter.
Really, the elevator said “ENTER” in a deep reverberating sound. Shit. I didn’t want to leave my old room, the sunshine, the warmth, spooning my dog, but I did. I entered the elevator. It went down. The elevator itself was just the typical metal box with buttons and a phone we all know.
Finally the door opened and I found myself in my German family’s village. We were in the cemetery’s small stone chapel. I was looking at my young wife’s casket, my two children by my side, in their finest clothes. Again flowers.
Around us sat my wife’s family. Surprising myself, a quiet moan escaped from me.
My anguished groan for my wife came out of me fully beyond my control; the sound of my wounded soul in that tiny room full of people. It surprised me.
The reality of my lovely wife, my love, in this wooden container hit me suddenly.
All the small German female children rushed to me and whispered words of support. They touched me too. The adults respectfully ignored my despair.
Standing outside at the grave, when they finally lowered my wife’s casket into the ground, my daughter broke down sobbing and held me. My son was next to me holding my hand, in shock, staring at his young mother deep in a dirty hole. My heart was and has been broken for my motherless children ever since.
The world goes on – ding! – and forgets, but we three are seared by love and death, bonded by it. I never cried at the funeral, I was way too medicated. I’m not sure I could have stopped crying, and my kids needed me to hold together. I have cried since…
I’m back on the elevator and feeling a heavy sadness which I carry around my neck now, on my shoulders. Oh, how I wish I could feel the joy of that Saturday morning sunshine; the joy of my wedding and births of my children… being in love with my wife, her feline ways, peals of laughter from wrestling my kids in the big bed, my beloved snowy forest during the snow storm, my dog in my lap with warm eyes of love, my mother caring, my father helping, my brothers, on and on and on and on…
The doors close, the doors open.
I awaken in this strange bed in Prague and walk downstairs and go out into the night to find something.
I’m looking for ghosts. I want to see some ghosts.
Prague, room 302, 2012, © Glenn Horvath (original title: “Ding!”)